What shall I do to inherit Eternal Life?

An Extemporaneous Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

And behold, a certain laywer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (LUK 10:25)


There are two places in the New Testament where people, not disciples, approach the Lord and ask Him straight out, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

First answer to the lawyer [“It was those skilled in the Law in the Lord’s time who least of all believed that there was anything written in the Word concerning the Lord.” (AC 2135)]

Love the Lord

Love your neighbor

And just in case you don t know who your neighbor is, here s the parable of the “Good Samaritan”.

The fact that it was a Samaritan who is the hero of the tale would not be lost on His audience either.

Second answer to the rich ruler

Love the Lord.

Love the neighbor (but with a little more detail)

Follow the commandments

Then shun worldly things

Be kind to others

And, most importantly, do this because of Me.

Taken together, these two incidents lay out four principles of life in the world that, if followed, will prepare us for eternal life in heaven.

The first principle Believe that the Lord is God.

(John 3:14-17) “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, {15} “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. {16} “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. {17} “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

(John 6:66-69) From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. {67} Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” {68} But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. {69} “Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

TCR 2 The Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world to subjugate the hells and to glorify His Human; and without this no mortal could have been saved; and those are saved who believe in Him.

The second principle Stop focusing on the things of the natural world; stop allowing your hereditary evils and proprium to lead you.

(Mark 10:29-30) So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel s, {30} “who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time; houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Cf. MAT 19:29; LUK 18:29-30)

AC 48435 Anyone unacquainted with the internal sense of the Word will think that house , brothers , sisters , father , mother , wife , children , and fields mean house, brothers, sisters, father, mother, wife, children, and fields. But the meaning here is this The kinds of things present in a person which are properly his own must be forsaken by him, and instead of these, spiritual and celestial things which are the Lord s must be received by him. This change is effected by means of temptations, which are meant here by persecutions’. Anyone can see that if he forsakes his mother he is not going to receive mothers, nor likewise to receive brothers and sisters by forsaking these.

AC 5886 [5] In Luke, Jesus said to the young ruler, You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, then you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. (Luke 1822). In the internal sense these words mean that everything completely a person’s own, which consists of nothing but evil desires and false ideas, ought to be alienated from him, for such desires and ideas are meant by ‘all that he has’, and then he will receive from the Lord good desires and true ideas, which are ‘treasure in heaven’.

The Third Principle Do good works, be kind to each other

(Luke 10:25-29) And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” {26} He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” {27} So he answered and 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. “ {28} And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” {29} But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

To answer this key question, the Lord told the parable of the good Samaritan.

Your neighbor is not someone of your family, town, or race. Everyone is your neighbor and deserving of your care.

God does good in the world through us! Our care for the neighbor is HIS care for the neighbor. Just as He uses us to create new angels, He uses us to do good in the world.

For example, Aaron reaching out with his rod to bring the plagues of Egypt into effect.

The Fourth Principle Take up the cross and follow Him, that is, endure in temptations, and do this things not for yourself, but because He has asked it of you.

(Mat 25:31-46) “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. {32} “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. {33} “And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. {34} “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world {35} for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; {36} I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. {37} “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? {38} When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? {39} Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? {40} “And the King will answer and say to them, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.

If you do these things, the reward will be great.

(John 12:24-26) “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. {25} “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. {26} “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. Amen.

1st Lesson LUK 10:30-37

Then Jesus answered and said “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. {31} “Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. {32} “Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. {33} “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. {34} “So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. {35} “On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you. {36} “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” {37} And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Amen.

2nd Lesson Mark 10:17-22

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” {18} So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. {19} “You know the commandments Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother. “ {20} And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” {21} Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” {22} But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Cf. MAT 1916-22; LUK 1818-23) Amen.

3rd Lesson TCR 287

The literal sense of the Ten Commandments contains general instructions on doctrine and life; but their spiritual and celestial senses contain universal instructions.

It is well known that the Ten Commandments are called in the Word the Law par excellence, because they contain everything concerning doctrine and life, not only everything which concerns God, but also everything which concerns man. That is why the law was written on two tablets, one dealing with God, the other with man. It is also well known that the whole of doctrine and life relate to love to God and love towards the neighbor. The whole of these loves is contained in the Ten Commandments. This is the teaching of the whole Word, as is evident from these words of the Lord Jesus said, You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. The law and the prophets depend upon these two commandments. Matt. 2235-37, 40. The law and the prophets mean the whole Word. And further A lawyer testing Jesus said, Master, what must I do to inherit everlasting life? And Jesus said to him, What is written in the law? What is your reading of it? And he in answer said, You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. And Jesus said, Do this, and you will live, Luke 1025-28.

[2] Now since love to God and love towards the neighbor are the whole of the Word; and since the first tablet of the Ten Commandments contains in summary form the whole of love to God, and the second tablet contains the whole of love towards the neighbor, it follows that they contain the whole of doctrine and life. A look at the two tablets makes it plain that they are so linked that God from His tablet has man in view, and man in his turn from his has God in view. Thus there is a reciprocal viewing, such that on God’s part He never fails to keep man in view and perform the actions needed for his salvation; and if a person accepts and does the things laid down in his tablet, the link becomes reciprocal. Then, as the Lord’s words promised to the lawyer, ‘Do this, and you will live.’ Amen.

Copyright © 1982 – 2005 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009


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