Mark 10:23-31 | Session 39 | Mark Rightly Divided

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by Randy White Ministries Thursday, Jun 6, 2024

A downloadable PDF can be found here: https://humble-sidecar-837.notion.site/Mark-10-23-31-Session-39-Mark-Rightly-Divided-0f5c340fbff44bd19912b53ca14e57b9?pvs=4

**The Gospel of Mark, rightly Divided
Mark 10:13-31 | Session 39 | Mark Rightly Divided**

Riches And The Kingdom | Mark 10:23-31

Verse 23 -

As the rich young ruler walked away, filled with sorrow, Jesus also expressed his own grief. He took this moment to caution about the challenges the wealthy face in entering the kingdom of God. The Greek word used here, δύσκολος (duskolos), can be traced back to mean "hard to swallow" in its etymology, but in this context, it is used to mean "difficult" or "impractical". Although Jesus does not explicitly use the word "impossible", the sentiment is strongly implied in verse 23, and he comes very close to saying it outright in verse 25, both of which we will explore in due course.

When the term "kingdom of God" is interpreted in a spiritualized rather than literal sense, as is often the case in Christian theology, this verse becomes extremely difficult to reconcile without introducing the concept of works into salvation. Most evangelicals, except the most radical, will argue that this is a matter of the heart rather than wealth. However, even if it is interpreted as a call to eliminate covetousness and greed from one's heart, it is still a form of works. If the kingdom is spiritualized, the verse essentially says, "unless you rid your heart of covetousness and greed, you will not enter the kingdom." Regardless of how you interpret it, this implies a works-based approach to salvation.

For the "right divider," this issue doesn't pose a problem because the kingdom is interpreted literally as a promise to the Jews, one that is future, physical, and fraternal. This interpretation does not conflate the Kingdom of God with salvation in the dispensation of Grace. This interpretation separates right-division from the remainder of Christianity. Essentially, the right divider believes that this passage is not a universal principle for salvation but a specific covenant with the Jewish people about their future inheritance. This perspective avoids the pitfall of introducing works into the equation of salvation.

To illustrate, the Baptist Faith and Message (2000), the statement of faith for the Southern Baptist Convention, states, "...the Kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ." This is a typical evangelical position. As a result of this viewpoint, it is often expected that one needs to "clean up one's act" before coming to Jesus. This suggests a prerequisite of moral rectification before one can fully commit to Christ, aligning with the notion of a works-based approach to salvation.

The beauty and simplicity of the Bible is revealed when we interpret it at face value, rather than attempting to spiritualize basic concepts such as the "kingdom of God". When we accept these terms in their literal sense, we can better understand the context and intention of the biblical authors. This straightforward approach can help us avoid unnecessary complexities and misinterpretations, bringing us quickly to a clear understanding of the Word of God.

Verse 24 -

The disciples were already quite familiar with the notion of having a right heart before approaching God. The Hebrew Scriptures, which they knew well, emphasize this principle explicitly in many places. For instance, Psalm 51:17 states, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Another example is found in Proverbs 21:3, "To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice." These examples, and many more, highlight the importance of integrity and righteousness over ritualistic compliance or material wealth.

So, when the disciples "were astonished at his words," it underscores that Jesus really was emphasizing a new and challenging principle: wealth, in and of itself, can make it difficult to enter the kingdom of God. Their astonishment indicates that this teaching was not merely a restatement of the importance of a right heart—it was an additional hurdle that wealth can present. And just in case there was any misunderstanding, Jesus repeats the claim, reinforcing the difficulty of a wealthy person entering the kingdom of God.

In verse 24, Jesus fine-tunes the message from verse 23 by stating that the real issue is about "trust in riches." However, it's important to note that the people who generally "trust in riches" are those who "have riches," as mentioned in verse 23.

Verse 25 -

Verse 25 is one of the most recognized passages in the New Testament. In it, Jesus says, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." This verse is often explained away by a dubious story about narrow gates into certain buildings, a practice that didn't start until the Middle Ages. Moreover, this interpretation reduces what Jesus described as "impossible" (v. 27) and "astonishing" (vv. 24, 26) to merely difficult but achievable. As always, it is better to take the verse at face value. Jesus is stating that wealth creates a formidable obstacle to entering the future physical Kingdom of God.

Could it be that the reason for this is because participation in the marketplace in the days leading up to the coming Kingdom will require the mark of the beast, and those who accept this mark will not be permitted into the Kingdom? This interpretation seems plausible and is consistent with the literal interpretation of the text. Those who have no wealth will have already learned survival skills outside the marketplace.

Verse 26 -

The disciples' reaction provides further evidence that Jesus was speaking of literal camels and literal rich men. They "were astonished out of measure," suggesting that His statement was truly groundbreaking and unexpected. It wouldn't be surprising for the Lord to say, "people with internal heart issues will have a difficult time entering the kingdom of God," or even "people who trust mammon can't trust God." But Jesus has clearly stated here that "riches and the kingdom of God are incompatible."

The disciples understood exactly what He said, which is why they are "astonished out of measure." This astonishment is often lost in modern commentaries and sermons, which tend to interpret Jesus' words as referring specifically to this one "selfish" man. However, the disciples' reaction suggests that Jesus' words had far broader implications, challenging the prevailing views of wealth and its role in the kingdom of God.

The disciples then ask, "Who then can be saved?" It's crucial to distinguish here that "saved" in the Kingdom doesn't equate with "saved" in the dispensation of grace. While both promise eternal life, they are not the same. Kingdom salvation is a blessing of the covenants of Israel, according to the Gospel of the Kingdom. It is a specific promise given to a particular group of people under certain conditions. On the other hand, grace-based salvation is a gift from God that is available to anyone, anywhere, and at any time, given freely by grace and received through faith. It is a universal offer, conditioned only upon faith, and not tied to any one group or covenant. This distinction is vital to a correct understanding of the text and the broader biblical message.

The ministry Got Questions offers this commentary, which serves as testimony to the common tendency to remove the astonishing aspect of the words of Jesus, making them not-so-astonishing at all:

Jesus tells the rich young man to sell all his possessions, possibly including his land, and give everything he had to the poor. This is not a universal mandate. It is a precise command to a particular person who worships a specific idol: wealth. The point Jesus makes is not that money is incompatible with salvation. He's only demonstrating—for this person—that there is one thing he's not willing to sacrifice for the sake of obeying God.[1]

But if that is what Jesus is doing, would the disciples really have been "astonished out of measure" and asked, "Who then can be saved?" I think not. Rather, because Got Questions made a false assumption (that the kingdom of God is the realm of salvation in the dispensation of grace), they had to then make this a heart issue and not a wealth issue.

Verse 27 -

Concerning Kingdom salvation, Jesus refers to it as "impossible" to achieve "with men." This implies that human effort, wealth, or merit cannot secure entrance into the Kingdom of God. However, Jesus contrasts this by affirming that nothing is impossible "with God." This presents the idea that those desiring Kingdom salvation must abandon earthly pursuits and turn towards God's provisions. It is important to note that this statement inherently suggests a works-based concept: "don't be with men but be with God." This is a significant departure from the grace-based salvation outlined in Ephesians 2:9-10, which is received "by grace through faith" and not of one's own doing. Entrance into the Kingdom, as per the teachings of Jesus, required an abandonment of the things of man and a firm commitment to follow Christ, enduring to the end. This reinforces the notion that Kingdom salvation, unlike grace-based salvation, is linked to human effort and endurance, rather than solely on God's grace.

A Calvinistic interpretation of this passage might suggest that salvation is entirely in God's hands, meaning that it is predetermined whether individuals are among the elect or not. This perspective emphasizes God's sovereignty and power, asserting that human effort or choice has no impact on kingdom salvation. However, a closer examination of the text reveals that there is a clear element of choice involved. Jesus presents a dichotomy between aligning oneself with God's kingdom or with earthly wealth and human institutions. The question he poses implicitly asks: "Will you choose to follow me and enter the Kingdom of God, or will you stay attached to your wealth and worldly stature?" This interpretation underscores the role of human agency and choice in the process of kingdom salvation. While some, especially those influenced by Calvinism, will reject the concept of choice inherent in verse 27, I think that the response of the disciples in verse 28 gives evidence to the case.

Verse 28 -

Peter's response in this verse is significant as it affirms the interpretation of verse 27 as a call to action. He states, "we have left all, and have followed thee." This clearly demonstrates that Peter and the other disciples have made the exact choice that Jesus was advocating for - they have chosen to align themselves with God's kingdom, rejecting worldly wealth and status. This not only validates the 'call to action' argument presented in verse 27, but also provides a tangible example of individuals making the very choice that Jesus was calling the rich young ruler to make.

Verses 29-30 -

In this passage, we encounter two significant interpretive challenges. The first is found in the initial segment, and the second is a hurdle particularly for evangelicals.

The initial portion seems to promise those who have abandoned worldly possessions will receive "a hundredfold now in this time" (v. 30). Even with the addition of persecutions, this very affirmative promise doesn't seem to have ever been fulfilled, save for the persecutions, perhaps. While it is difficult to interpret, I would suggest that the phrase "in this time" refers to a coming season of the tribulation (persecutions) followed by the messianic age. This interpretation is fitting with the Greek which refers to "this season" (kairos rather than chronos), and is clearly talking about something in the future. On numerous occasions, kairos is used in a future-sense (Rom. 5:6, 1 Peter 5:6, 2 Cor 6:2, for example).

In the second portion, "eternal life" is promised based on a clear human work: leaving everything. This conflicts with the "always by grace through faith" mantra of evangelicals. However, it aligns perfectly with the "right division" approach, which differentiates the Gospel of the Kingdom (a specific covenant with the Jewish people about their future inheritance) from the Gospel of Grace (a universal offer of salvation, open to anyone, anywhere, at any time, given freely by grace and received through faith). Therefore, the promise of eternal life in this context refers to the specific covenant promise made to the Jewish people, rather than the universal offer of grace-based salvation.

Verse 31 -

The statement "many that are first shall be last; and the last first" is a reversal that frequently appears in the teachings of Jesus. It underscores the concept of sacrificing worldly possessions and status to gain the things of the kingdom of God. This principle is particularly meaningful in a Jewish/Kingdom context, where adherence to the Law and sacrificial living were central themes.

Interestingly, the Apostle Paul, the apostle of the dispensation of grace, never echoes this phrase in his teachings. This is because, in the dispensation of Grace, salvation is not dependent on such sacrifices but solely on faith in the finished work of Christ. Paul's epistles emphasize that justification and salvation are gifts of God's grace through faith, not a result of works or sacrifices (Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, the teaching about the first being last and the last being first highlights the distinct principles governing the Kingdom message as presented by Jesus in contrast to the Grace message taught by Paul.


[1]](#_ftnref1) "What Does Mark 10:25 Mean?," [BibleRef.com](http://BibleRef.com), accessed June 5, 2024, [https://www.bibleref.com/Mark/10/Mark-10-25.html.

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