A Complete Man

We proclaim Christ, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)

When Jesus was approached by a rich young ruler who wanted to know how to inherit eternal life, he responded: "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Matthew 19:21)  This incident in the gospels has confused many, causing them to wonder if Jesus was requiring some kind of works in addition to faith in order to enter heaven.

It is important to note that the man did not ask Jesus how he could enter heaven, he asked how he could inherit eternal life.  That Jesus understood his question is clear by his answer.  He did not say, "If you wish to be saved;" he said, "If you wish to be complete."  The word translated "complete" is variously translated complete, perfect, or mature, depending on the context in which it is used.  In the scripture above it is translated "complete", and refers to those who not only have believed in Jesus, but who are also walking humbly with their God.

So Jesus' answer to this rich and powerful man, covered more than just entrance into the kingdom of God, it included what he might inherit as well.  An examination of the use of the concept of inheritance in the scriptures reveals that this is something that is earned, not just given upon the death of another.  So to inherit eternal life (as is found in the gospels of Mark and Luke), refers to the fulness of what one might possess in the kingdom of God, as opposed to simply entering into the kingdom.  That this is what Jesus meant is clear by virtue of his reference to the possibility of obtaining treasure in heaven through the giving of it on earth.  

So why didn't Jesus just say, "Believe in me and you will be saved"?  Because that was not what the young man asked him.  This was an arrogant man who was full of self-confidence.  He said, after all, that he had kept all of the commandments from the time that he was a boy.  Jesus knew that unless he was willing to humble himself, he would neither inherit eternal life, nor even enter into the kingdom of God.  So he challenged him at the point of his greatest weakness: his dependence upon himself and his possessions.  If he was not willing to give up his possessions, he would also be unable to believe.  The proud, you see, simply will not believe.

So, if you've humbled yourself, and have understood and embraced in faith the simple yet magnificent gospel message, you have become a child of God.  You have entered the kingdom but you have not inherited eternal life; you have received the gift of life, but have not obtained the prize; you have been born again but have not become complete.  The rich young ruler asked for that which many Christians don't even understand.  He was interested in not just getting into God's kingdom, but in gaining an inheritance there.  The apostle Paul wanted the same thing: "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12)

How about you?  Are you satisfied to just be in the kingdom of God, or are you striving for the prize?  Are you merely a saved man, or are you becoming a complete man?

© 2010 - mortalmusings.com