Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Mat 19:16-17
There is a mini chiastic structure in this passage:
1A: Mat 19:16, What good thing may be done to gain eternal life;
CENTRAL AXIS: Mat 19:17a, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.”
2A: Mat 19:17b, To gain eternal life, keep the commandments.
The central axis puts neon flashing lights around the fact that no one is good but God. The rich young ruler specifically asked the GOOD Teacher what GOOD thing he could do, and Jesus’ reply to him was that no one was GOOD but God alone.
However, Jesus did affirm that if someone were to keep the commandments, they could gain eternal life on the basis of merit.
The problem is, if no one is good but God alone, who can do enough good to gain eternal life? Who can keep the commandments without breaking even a single one, so as to gain eternal life based on merit? That is why the central axis points out with neon flashing lights, that NO ONE is good but God alone — no one can keep the commandments well enough so as to gain eternal life based on merit.
Isn’t it interesting, that right before this exchange, the Scripture records Jesus welcoming the little children, for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Mat 19:14). In other words, the kingdom of heaven will be populated with children – God’s children. We are citizens of that kingdom, not based on merit, but on (to use an old theological term) election – in other words, because of who God has made us to be, not because of who we have made ourselves to be. Children do not birth themselves, but they are made by their Father.
So, do we throw out the commandments because we cannot gain eternal life by keeping them? No – fathers have the right to give commands to their children and expect to be obeyed. Fathers give commands to their children, not to benefit the father, but to benefit the children. How does eating vegetables or doing homework or going to bed at bedtime benefit the father? It benefits the children. When children do not obey their father, then it is his responsibility, if he loves his children, to discipline them, to bring them into obedience. Fathers want their children to obey because obedience blesses the children!
But fathers do not give commands to their children, in order to make them members of his household. They are already members, and because they are members, then they have the responsibility to live in a manner set by their father for his household.