Consequently, after making the important clarification: “There is only one who is good”, Jesus tells the young man: “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:17). In this way, a close connection is made between eternal life and obedience to God’s commandments: God’s commandments show man the path of life and they lead to it. From the very lips of Jesus, the new Moses, man is once again given the commandments of the Decalogue. Jesus himself definitively confirms them and proposes them to us as the way and condition of salvation. The commandments are linked to a promise. In the Old Covenant the object of the promise was the possession of a land where the people would be able to live in freedom and in accordance with righteousness (cf. Dt 6:20-25). In the New Covenant the object of the promise is the “Kingdom of Heaven”, as Jesus declares at the beginning of the “Sermon on the Mount” — a sermon which contains the fullest and most complete formulation of the New Law (cf. Mt 5-7), clearly linked to the Decalogue entrusted by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. [Emphasis in original]
I commented on this passage recently myself (I was reading VS at the time, and doing so was the inspiration). The only conceivable way that the story of the rich young ruler can be made to fit into the erroneous Protestant theology of sola fide is to simply ignore it. I am convinced of this. Jesus is asked by the man what he must do in order to be saved, and He does not respond by denying any duty of obedience. To the contrary, His answer is to insist upon a duty of obedience “as the way and condition of salvation.”
And it’s not like this is the only passage like this. I can think of a few others without straining my brain even slightly:
- “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17).
- “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mk 1:14).
- The parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt 25:31-46, wherein one’s standing at the last judgment is measured by what he did for the poor).
- “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15).
- When asked on Pentecost by his listeners what they must do to be saved, Peter responds: “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38)
- St Paul writes that those who sin according to the flesh “shall not obtain the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19-21).
- “But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (Jas 2:20)
- “And by this we know that we have known Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says that he knows Him and keeps not His commandments is a liar: and the truth is not in him” (1 Jn 2:3-4).
- “He that says he is in the light and hates his brother is in darkness even until now” (1 Jn 2:9).
- “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that loves not abides in death. Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in himself” (1 Jn 3:14-15).
- “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne. And the books were opened: and another book was opened, which was the book of life. And the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Rev 20:12).
None of this is intended to suggest that we can save ourselves. We are saved by Christ alone. But it is a gross error to pretend that we may remain corrupt and still see His Face:
Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord: or who shall stand in his holy place? The innocent in hands, and clean of heart, who has not taken his soul in vain, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbour (Ps 24:3).
The upshot of all this is that Christian morality has as its end not merely the life well-lived here on earth, but rather eternal life with God.