Here is an exchange between Jesus and a certain young man.
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22, NJB; emphasis added)
Once again, and not for the first time, Jesus’s words about how one may obtain eternal life do not come close to anything like the Protestant idea of sola fide, according to which we are saved by trusting in Christ alone, with nothing else added. But in this passage with the rich young man, the subject of faith is never even mentioned, never mind made the focus of justification. No. Jesus tells the man what he must do in order to be saved, and it is not “trust Me, that’s all.” It is not “You don’t have to do anything. Just have faith in Me.” It is “sell your stuff, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Me.”
We could conceivably argue all day about whether or not follow Me is crypto-speak for having faith. And as I have said before, I am by no means saying that faith is unnecessary. But it is flatly absurd to look at a passage like this one and then deny that whether we obtain eternal life or not depends to some extent on what we do. It can’t rationally be done.
Oh, and as an aside…did you notice how, when the young man said he had kept the commandments his whole life, Jesus did NOT contradict him? Our Reformed friends would have us believe that no one ever does good, but here we see Him accept without question the claim to having obeyed one’s entire life. That was not the problem. It baffles me how the Reformed can claim that this passage does not blast their doctrine of total depravity into tiny little jots and tittles.