Sermon 52                                         Series: Matthew

           Title: “What Lack I Yet?”

Text: Matthew 19:16-26

Subject:    The Rich Young Ruler – Lessons about Salvation

Date: Tuesday Evening- August 1, 1995

Tape:  #61




            Here is a man who is anxious about his soul and concerned about eternal life. Such men are rare. He was rich; but he was concerned about his soul. He was young; but he was interested in eternity.   He was a ruler of men; but he came to be taught by the Lord Jesus Christ. This rich young ruler comes running up to Christ, and says, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Our Lord knew the man’s heart. He knew that this young man was thoroughly familiar with the law of Moses. And he knew that the young man thought, like most people do, that eternal life could be gained by outward morality, by obedience to the law.  Therefore he answered this young man according to the law.  He told him to keep the commandments. The rich young ruler responded, “All these things have I kept from my youth up.” Then he asked this question – “What lack I yet?” That is my subject this evening. I want, by the power of God, to press this question home to your hearts – “What Lack I Yet?”


            Perhaps some of you have been asking this very question in your own hearts. You are very moral. You are quite respectable in the eyes of men. You believe in God. You believe the Bible to be the Word of God. And you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. You believe that he is God. You believe in his death, burial, and resurrection as the sinner’s Substitute. You even know that Jesus Christ the Lord is the sinner’s only Hope of salvation before God. Yet, for all that, you know that you are not a child of God, a saved man, and an heir to eternal life. Knowing all these things the question of great concern in your heart is just this – “What Lack I Yet?”


            Many Are Very Lovely Who Yet Lack That One Thing Which Is Essential To Eternal Life.




            Perhaps you noticed, as we read the text, that there are three questions raised in this story. I want us to look at each of these three questions, as they appear in our text.


1.  “What Good Thing Shall I Do, That I May Have Eternal Life?” (v. 16).

2.  “What Lack I Yet?” (v. 20).

3.  “Who Then Can Be Saved?” (v. 25).



I.  The first question is raised by the rich young ruler – “What Good Thing Shall I Do, That I May Have Eternal Life?” (v. 16).


            Looking at this question by itself, it appears to be a very noble one, one that we all should ask.  We have seen this question many times in the Scriptures. And those who asked it became saved men. They were given eternal life. On the day of Pentecost, a large number of men, after they heard the gospel message, were pricked in their hearts; and they cried, “Men and brethren, What shall we do?” The Philippian jailor, with a broken and submissive heart cried, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”


            But there was a great difference as this rich young ruler asked this question. His heart was not broken with conviction. His soul was not humbled with a sense of sin. He was proud and self-righteous. He felt that he was sufficient in himself to meet whatever might be required of him. In essence, he was saying to the Lord, “You tell me what God requires, and I will do it! He had a zeal of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish his own righteousness, he had not (and would not) submitted himself to the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3).


            How many there are like this rich young ruler: Very Moral, Very Proud, and Very Lost!


A.  There Is Much About This Young Man Which Is Commendable.


            He was not a base, profligate rebel. He was moral, religious, and devout. He had been a respectful and obedient son to his parents. He was a good husband, a good father, a good provider for his family. He was a hardworking, honest man, who had acquired much wealth. He was a good neighbor, a respected community leader.


            In a day of abounding unbelief, he comes to Christ of his own accord. He came, not to have some disease healed, not to plead for a helpless child, not to see some great miracle, but out of concern for his immortal soul.


1.      He was earnest and sincere – Mark tells us that he came running to Christ.

2.      He was orthodox in his creed – This young man was a religious leader. He believed in God. He believed the Holy Scriptures.  He believed in the reality of eternal life.

3.      He was very strict and devout in his practice of religion. Since the days of his youth, he had outwardly kept the law of God. His life was meticulously moral and precise.

4.      And he even worshipped Christ – Again, Mark tells us that when he came to Christ, he kneeled down before him. Like Nicodemus, this young man realized that Jesus Christ was a teacher come from God.

NOTE:  He seems even to have acknowledged our Lord’s Deity. When the Lord asserted that no man is good, but God only, the young ruler did not withdraw his statement. He seems to have acknowledged that Christ is God.


B.  Yet, This Young Man Demonstrated Two Very Sorrowful Characteristics.


            Two things about this rich young ruler’s character show us that he was a lost, ruined, unregenerate man.


1.  He was Ignorant of All Spiritual Truth.


            He knew much in a natural sense, but spiritually, regarding spiritual things, he was as ignorant as a man who had never heard of God.


a.      He was ignorant of God’s Holy Character.

b.      He was ignorant of His Own Sinfulness.

c.       He was ignorant of The Law’s Spiritual Nature – He thought that the law only required outward obedience.

d.      He was altogether ignorant of The Gospel of Christ – (Eph. 2:8-9).


2.  And this rich young ruler was Dreadfully Self-Righteous.


            Children of God, beware of self-righteousness! You, who are moral, but lost, beware of self-righteousness! No sin is more deadly, and more likely to keep you from Christ than the sin of self-righteousness. And no sin is more common to man.


C.  Our Lord Answered This Man’s Question Plainly.


            The man asked what he could do to win God’s favor, and Christ told him. If you want salvation by human merit, you have got to keep the law!


            As far as he understood the law, in its outward requirement, he had kept it. He was like Paul, “as touching the law, blameless.” But he was not all that he thought he was. He did not, in reality, love his neighbor as himself.


1.       The law must be kept perfectly.

2.       The law must be kept in all points.

3.       The law must be kept at all times.

4.       The law must be kept outwardly.

5.       The law must be kept inwardly.


NOTE:  God never intended the law to be a basis of salvation.


            Its design is to show man God’s Holy Character and His Own Condemnation and Guilt.


II.  Now, this young, self-righteous man pressed his question a little more. He asked the Lord – “What Lack I Yet?”


            Who would dare be so bold! The man must be either mad or blind. This young man, like many young men, seems to be saying – “Well, if there is any deficiency in me, I do not know what it could be. I have done all that God requires of a man.”


A.  Truly, He Did Appear To Be Lacking Very Little.


            If one of our modern soul-winners could find a young man like this, he would have him under the water, dried off, and in the pulpit in no time. But our Lord was not trying to get another decision to put on his promotional charts as a “Soul Winning Evangelist.”  He labored for the souls of men.  He was both compassionate and honest. Therefore he showed the young man exactly what he lacked.


1.      He was not lacking in Morality.

2.      He was not lacking in Religious Duty.

3.      He was not lacking in Orthodoxy.

4.      He was not lacking in Sincerity.

5.      He was not lacking in Zeal.


B.  But He Was Lacking One Essential Thing. – Faith in Christ!


            “Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest” (Mark 10:21).


            The young man boasted that he loved his neighbor as himself. Therefore Christ put him to a test. “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.” (v. 21).


1.  Look at this command for a moment.  It is a fourfold commandment.


a.       Our Lord commanded this young man to Surrender To His Authority As Lord – “Go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor.”

b.       Our Lord commands the man to Trust Him.  He said, “Come.” Coming to Christ is an act of faith. “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the Rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

c.       Mark adds these words – “Take up thy cross.” That is to say, Our Lord commanded the man to Confess Him.

d.       And he commanded this young man to Obey Him – He said, “Follow me.”

·        These are the things, which our Lord requires of all his people – Submission, Faith, Confession, and Obedience.


2.  The Lord had a good reason for giving this command to this particular man.


            He was probing at the young man’s heart. He wanted to expose his point of rebellion. He was determined to show this young man exactly what he was lacking.


NOTE: God always meets the sinner at his point of rebellion – His money was his god!


a.       This command was designed to Expose The Evil of This Young Man’s Heart.

b.       It was designed to Destroy His Self-Confidence and Pride.

c.       It was designed to show The Impossibility of Salvation By The Works of The Law.

d.       This command was designed to show this sinner The Necessity of The Gospel.


By this one, pointed command, our Lord stripped away the fig leaves of this man’s self-righteousness, exposed the foolishness of his pride, and showed him his need of the grace of God and his need of a Substitute.


C.  The Rich Young Ruler’s One Fatal Deficiency Was A Deficiency of The Heart.


            Like Simon Magus, his heart was not right in the sight of God. He was yet unregenerate.  He was in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. His heart was not broken. His Spirit was not humbled.


1.      He would not surrender to Christ as Lord – God met him at his point of rebellion, and he would not bow.

2.      He would not come to Christ alone, trusting him alone for salvation.

3.      He would not confess Christ to be Lord.

4.      He would not obey Christ in all points.


D.  Are You Like This Young Man? Our Savior’s Words To Him Be Addressed To You?  “One Thing Thou Lackest.”


            You have one fatal deficiency, Your heart is not right before God.


1.       If ever you are saved, your heart must be broken – (Ps. 51:17; Isa. 66:2).

NOTE: The only way for a man’s heart to truly be broken is for God to reveal himself, in the fulness of his grace and glory in Christ – (Zech. 12:10).

NOTE: Unless God himself breaks your heart, it will never be broken; and you will never be saved.

2.       You must be born again by almighty grace. A new heart must be created within you.


III.  When the disciples saw and heard these things, they were astonished, and cried – “Who Then Can Be Saved?” (v. 26).


            That is my third question – “Who then can be saved?” Our Lord gives us a plain answer to that question. “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (v. 26).


A. Salvation Is Not  A Work Of Man – (John 1:12-13).

B. Salvation Is Altogether The Work Of God’s Sovereign And Irresistible Grace – (Rom. 9:16; Eph. 2:8-10).


1.       Only God can save sinners in a way that is suitable to satisfy his holy law – (Rom. 3:34-26).

2.       Only God can give you a new heart.

3.       Only God can break your stubborn will.

4.       Only God can give you faith and reveal Christ in your heart.


C.  And Salvation Is God’s Effectual Work – (Ps. 65:4).


            If ever the Almighty God puts his hand upon you, you will be saved. “Who then can be saved?” I will tell you who –


1.       All who are redeemed by the blood of Christ.

2.       All who are born-again by God the Holy Spirit.

3.       All who are called by almighty grace.

4.       All who come to Christ.




1.  I will finish as I began, by trying to answer this question – “What shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?”


a.       You must bow to the claims of the sovereign Christ.

Give up all your idols. Sell all that you have, and consecrate everything to Christ.

b.       You must believe on the Son of God.

c.       You must confess Christ as Lord and Savior.

d.       You must follow him – Begin with Baptism!


2.  Take these three thoughts home with you.


a.       Beware of the deceitfulness of riches.

b.       Beware of self-righteousness.

c.       Behold the love of Christ for sinners – “And Jesus, beholding him, loved him.”


3.  Will You Be Saved?


      If you are not, it is not because there is no love in Christ for sinners. It is not because Christ is not able, willing, and ready to save sinners. If you are not saved, it is because, “Ye will not come to Christ, that ye might have life.”


     If you do come, if you are saved, it will be due entirely to the grace of God.