It seems to me a common thought in Christianity today is just how easy it is to be saved, or that Christianity is an easy or light thing. “Say this prayer and you’re going to heaven! That’s it!”
I believe the Bible shows otherwise, and I believe Puritan Thomas Manton makes an excellent case showing that it is no easy thing to be saved, what a true Christian walk entails, and why it is important to understand this. It comes from his sermon on Mark 10:26, which says,
And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?
Now, what they were astonished at was the saying from Christ in the previous verse,
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
I plan to break this sermon up into multiple parts and post here on our blog edited down versions from the sermon, but I hope you will take the time to read the entire thing, as it has many more examples and Scripture references, and you can find it here:
May God grant us eyes to see and ears to hear, and true desire for Christ, now and in eternity.
From Thomas Manton:
Mark 10:26 – “And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?”
In this verse you have the entertainment of Christ’s doctrine concerning the difficulty of rich men’s being saved: the effects of it are two. (1.) A great wonder or deep sense of this difficulty, ‘They were astonished out of measure’. (2.) An anxious question, ‘And they said among themselves, Who then can be saved?’
For the first branch, their great wonder, they were struck at heart, astonished out of measure: we meet with it before at the first proposal of this difficulty, ‘They were astonished at his words’; but now when Christ had rendered the reason, and reassumed the former difficulty, ‘It is easier for a Camel, &c.’ This doth increase the astonishment, and it is not barely said, they were astonished, but out of measure so. Let us a little inquire into the reason of this wonder, why should the disciples be so troubled at this speech? They were poor, or however had left all and followed Christ, as it is in the next words.
(2.) The former [point (1.)] reason was good, and argued a gracious disposition in them; but this that I shall now give, is of a worser alloy, and argues weakness: and yet I cannot but think that this had an influence upon them, viz. the hopes of an earthly kingdom, and the great emoluments and preferments they expected thence. Christ’s own disciples were deeply leavened with a conceit of an earthly kingdom which the Messiah should set up. And though they had left all, and followed him in his poor estate, yet they expected greatness, and honour, and the confluence of all worldly blessings, when the kingdom of the Messiah should begin; and therefore when they heard Christ again and again expressing himself concerning the difficulty of rich men’s entering into the kingdom of God, ‘They were astonished out of measure’; as finding all their carnal hopes dashed at once. I cannot but think this was one cause of their astonishment, because in all their converses with Christ, they bewrayed a spice of this humour [state of mind]. Two instances I shall give as a pregnant proof of it: one when they were at the Sacrament, a little before the death of Christ; ‘There was a strife amongst them, which of them should be accounted the greatest’, Luk. 22.24. … Nay, you shall see after Christ had suffered such ignominious things at Jerusalem, this conceit abode with them; and therefore after his resurrection, they come to him with this question, Acts 1.6. ‘Lord! wilt thou at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?’ They thought the Messiah would set up a temporal kingdom over all nations, and that they should at least be princes and lords under him, in the exercise of his dominion and sovereignty. … We see hence, that the best are too carnal, and too apt to mind earthly things, and please themselves with the dreams of an happy estate in the world. The appetite of temporal dominion, and wealth, and honour, and peace, is natural to us, and we think God doth us wrong, if he doth not make us flourish here. All God’s children find something of this disposition in themselves, even whilst they are under the cross, they do too little to comfort themselves with the meditation of the glory of the world to come; but are always feeding themselves with desires and hopes of an earthly happiness, and of turning the tide and current of affairs that seem to be against them, that the world may more smile upon them, and befriend them more, and when they are frustrated and disappointed of this hope, their soul faints, and they are astonished out of measure. O this is a sign that our conversation is not in heaven, and that we do not seek the things that are above, and are not perfectly subdued to the will of God, who many times sees the cross to be necessary and profitable for us: and therefore to please ourselves still with carnal hopes and dreams of a commodious and comfortable condition in the world, is not for a Christian.
(3.) The sense of this difficulty might revive the thoughts of other difficulties. Other things besides riches might obstruct them, and hinder their passage to heaven; and therefore even those that had left all, and followed Christ, were astonished out of measure, when they understood the way to heaven to be much harder than they formerly conceited. … When we hear strict doctrine pressed, we should not put it off to others, but fear for ourselves. The poor disciples were astonished out of measure when Christ spake to the rich how hard it was for them to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
(4.) Possibly this astonishment might arise from fear of the success of the Gospel, wherein they were to be employed as instruments, when they heard that rich men were not likely to prove friends, but rather enemies to the kingdom of God: alas, what should they do that had parted with all, and were like to be left destitute to the mercy of an unkind world! If the great and mighty men of the world, who should be their props and supports, should so hardly be gained; alas then how should they go abroad and preach with any efficacy for the saving of souls!
Now whether this, or that, or all caused the wonder, I will not now determine; all these have an influence upon it, and for these reasons they were astonished out of measure. This is the first effect, their wonder.
Stay tuned for part 2, if the Lord wills!