“…No one is good except God…”
We are told in (Mark 10) that Jesus responded to a rich young ruler who fell down before Him and asked, “Good teacher, how may I inherit eternal life” by saying, “Why do you call me good, no one is good except God alone. Jesus statement is not hard to understand once you understand God.
It is terribly difficult for sinful men to accept the Biblical truth that no one is good except God. The Bible places the creator God on a completely different plane than created man, which is why He is called holy or set apart. God is set apart because He is the source of all things, the eternal life who is without beginning of days or end of life. God is dependent upon nothing and no one, and all of His creatures are dependent upon Him for everything.
In the same way that God is perfectly independent He is also good. God determines what is good because there is nothing that He depends upon to help Him determine what is Good. Man needs God to determine what is good, and then He needs God to empower him to be good. Jesus said, “No one is good except God” because God is eternal and holy. It is not that man cannot ever be good with God’s help, but apart from God no man is good.
Adam was tested in the garden, and he failed the test and drug the entire human race into sin with him (Romans 5). Each man in the same way makes choices to sin during the course of his life, and for these two reason we all sin. Sin at its core is independence from the one true God; we all desire to replace God with an idol made from our own independent spirit. For this reason the Bible says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Our present text of scripture becomes easy to understand once a person grasps and appreciates the nature of God. The alternative to seeing God as the infinite person through whom all things take place, and in whom is intrinsic goodness is to see oneself as good. The young man in our text may have wanted to please God, he may have tried to please God, but his perspective was all wrong. Because he saw himself in the place of God he misread his ability to keep God’s law.
“"Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’" And he said to Him, "Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up." (Mark 10:18-20)
Jesus then tested his willingness to forsake his financial holdings in order to follow Him. The self righteous person cannot follow Jesus any more than he can let go of greed; it is not within him to do so. It takes the grace of God to turn a sinner from his ways, and it takes the power of the risen Christ to confess Jesus Christ as Lord. The rich young ruler had passion, a touch of humility (he fell down before Jesus, 10:17), and the intention to keep God’s law, but he missed the main ingredient for eternal life. The indwelling presence of the eternal Son of God is necessary to make goodness possible.
Jesus’ followers were amazed when He said it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, they were doubly amazed when He said it is easier for a camel to go through the head of a needle. His followers would have understood wealth as a blessing from God, however, Jesus understood the human condition. Man takes financial blessings and turns them into a means of exalting himself over others and puts himself in God’s place. Success is often accompanied with smugness on the part of the successful.
Jesus’ concluding remark, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God," made the 3rd of 5 events in (Mark 10) clear and consistent. Jesus’ followers asked the right question, "Then who can be saved?" The incident with the rich young ruler made Jesus 3rd point. The kingdom of God is barred to the self-righteous and self-sufficient who are blinded to God’s sovereign control over ALL THINGS and their utter dependence upon Him. To see God is to see 2 things; 1) God and not man is necessary, and 2) God in Christ and not man intrinsically fulfills the first great commandment to love.