There are two ways to be saved: believe in Christ or keep the commandments. Yes, I mean what I just said. A person could be saved by keeping God’s commandments. The passage we look at today makes this crystal clear.
An expert in the Law of Moses came to Jesus to test Him (Luke 10:25) and asked, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The context shows that the lawyer was referring to gaining eternal life.
Jesus turned the questions back on him and asked what the Law of Moses said about that. The lawyer said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:17, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18).
How would you have responded to the lawyer’s answer? I probably would have said something like this, “Well, that may sound good, but that is wrong. Keeping God’s commandments can’t save us because we are all sinners. There is only one way to be saved, by believing in Christ and Him alone for eternal life.” While that answer is right in one sense, that isn’t the way the Lord answered. He chose a completely different way to respond.
The Lord Jesus said, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” Rightly? Do this and you will live? What’s up here? The answer can be found by taking the Lord’s reply seriously.
An Impossible Way Is Still a Hypothetical Way
If a person could keep the Law perfectly, he would gain eternal life. The fact that no one can or does keep the law doesn’t mean this isn’t hypothetically possible. The Lord Jesus unmistakably holds out obeying God’s commands as the legalistic way to gain eternal life. Of course, in His illustration of the fallen man and the priest and Levite who pass him by, He makes it clear that the best of religion and good works can’t measure up. No one can perfectly fulfill the role of the Good Samaritan. No one but the Person telling the story, that is.
The apostle Paul spoke of this hypothetical method of justification too. He said, “Not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified” (Romans 2:13). However, he goes on to show that absolutely no one is a doer of the law (cf. Romans 3:10- 20, esp. v 20, “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law comes the knowledge of sin”).
This Is a Good Method of Pre-Evangelism
If the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul used this method, then we can too. Whenever we are faced with a person who thinks they can gain eternal life by their works, we can help them by showing them the impossibility of this hypothetical method of salvation. Once a person is stripped of this false hope, they must look elsewhere for eternal life. Then their only hope is the one Person who indeed fulfilled the entire Law and who died in our place.
Jesus Is the Good Samaritan
We miss the point if we think that the application of this parable to us who believe is that we are to identify primarily with the Good Samaritan. It is important that we realize that it is the Lord Jesus who is the Good Samaritan! He is the One that rescues the helpless and defenseless and pays for his stay at the inn. It is the legalist who is on the ground in need of a redeemer.
Jesus died on the cross. He paid the price. We don’t pay the price for our salvation. Nor do we pay the price for anyone else’s salvation. In this parable we are to identify primarily with someone else, the innkeeper.
The Believer Is the Innkeeper
Like many of Jesus’ parables, this one involves the lead character going away for a time and returning later. In each of these parables this Person is the Lord Jesus. He has already come the first time and ascended back to heaven. He’s coming back, and it could be very soon.
Who does He leave in charge of people whom He rescues? The church! He leaves you and I responsible for the care of those whom He redeems. And as in many of His other parables, He promises to reward us if we do what He asks, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you” (Luke 10:35).
We are privileged to enter into the work, which Jesus is doing. And we will be held accountable for how we carry out our responsibilities. If we do well, then we will hear those blessed words, “Well done, good servant” (Luke 19:17).