17 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?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” [Mark 10:17-21 ESV]

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall 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.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” [Luke 10:25-28 ESV]

Did Jesus preach works-based salvation in both passages? How does salvation by faith fit into all this?

Similar question: Is Ezekiel 20 talking about works-based salvation when it says "my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live"?

  • 1
    The whole of scripture indicates that humanity has obligated itself (in Eden) to live by a legal rule but has failed miserably to do so and has an absolute necessity to be saved from that appalling state. Jesus is demonstrating this in these verses. This thread runs throughout all scripture and is the basis of a true repentance.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 17:04
  • Jesus' words all fit together. Jesus never preached work-based salvation. The good news of Jesus, preached by the Apostles and faithful witnesses, is John 3:16! One of the two thieves on the cross is the perfect example. The faith justifies is NOT a faith standalone (dead faith). It is a living faith. And just as live seeds, with proper care and nutrition, the person with living faith -hearing the words and doing them (Mt. 7:24; Lk 6:47) - will grow and produce fruits. Jesus' words all fit together if we do not piecemeal them.
    – Sam
    Commented Dec 3, 2021 at 23:30
  • @Sam Living faith in Christ brings salvation whereas the dead letter of the law brings death - indeed! It's not because there's anything wrong with God's law; it's because no sinner can keep it, therefore that law condemns all sinners. That's why Col. 2:13-14 says that believers who were dead in their sins had the written legal ordinances nailed to Christ's cross, blotting out its condemnation. Sherrie's answer is particularly good in detailing this.
    – Anne
    Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 11:45
  • 1
    Ann, Thanks! The living faith saves and takes a due course, as live seeds do. The saved - thief's life ended without due time, but we are to continue the walk of faith as long as we live. There is a cutting line between a seed and a man: a live seed does not control its due course, but a man's heart does. A man of living faith can resist and stop bearing fruit -i.e., unfruitful branches (Jn 15:2)- and become a man of dead faith -dead branches, as the characters Jesus shows in the two texts. The gospel Jesus preached, we received through the Apostles, is NOT work-based salvation.
    – Sam
    Commented Jan 1, 2022 at 3:08

4 Answers 4


The first one called Jesus a good teacher. Jesus zeros in on his basic problem when he says why do you call me good. Only God is good.

The man was still looking to himself thinking he was good enough by what he did to have life.

Jesus gives him a task that he is unable to do to prove that he is not as good as he thinks.

The Spirit of truth will convict a person and show himself the truth of who he really is. It is then when he's ready to receive Christ as his life. Jesus wants this person's eyes to be opened and gives him what is needed for this individual.

But He gives greater grace. Therefore it says: "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6

The lawyer also was focused on himself. What must I do? Jesus answered his question by saying, yes if you've fulfill the law you just mentioned then you will have life. God knows nobody can fulfill that law. The god of this world has blinded our hearts to thinking we are so much better than who we really are. The Spirit of God will show him his failures preparing his heart for coming to Jesus to have life. Not looking to himself to do something to attain life.

Ye search the Writings, because ye think in them to have life age-during, and these are they that are testifying concerning me; 40and ye do not will to come unto me, that ye may have life; John 5:39

Therefore no one will be justified in His sight by works of the law. For the law merely brings awareness of sin. Romans. 3:20

So to answer your question,

"Did Jesus preach works-based salvation in both passages? How does salvation by faith fit into all this?"

Jesus is a teacher and that's a good start for them to hear his words. He gives them each a task that's impossible for them to accomplish. Perhaps then when they see their utter failure they will come to him for life. If they truly follow him as a teacher and do as he says they may come out of their blindness and see their need for someone else to save them because they cannot save themselves. When their eyes are truly opened then they are able to come to Jesus for life, as he will freely give it to them without cost. One cannot earn this gift by anything they do.

Man's heart is so deceitful above everything.

"The heart is more deceitful than anything. It is incurable— who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9

God alone knows how dark our hearts really are and deceived by our own hearts.

Fail to admit to oneself something is true.

It truly is the grace of God that enables one to see the truth as God's Spirit enlightens one to see.

They both called him Teacher and he is teaching them and if they learn they will then later come to him for life.


Yes. In this passage, Jesus is doing exactly that. Expounding works based salvation, and teaching this rich young ruler what was required. Teaching, because this rich young ruler saw Jesus, and came to Jesus as a rabbi.

MARK 10:17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

‘Teacher’ - didaskalos - ‘one who teaches concerning the things of God, and the duties of man:’

But note - a Rabbi teaches Torah! That is, a teacher of the Law. And, the ‘law’ is a totally works based ‘religion’. Torah is religion. New Testament ‘Christianity’ is not. Christianity is by Grace!

Your question is asking if they are the same - they are not. They are totally separate.

ROMANS 11:6 And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

Jesus in this incident was being asked to be a Rabbi, a ‘teacher’, and so Jesus ‘presented’ the works that the Law required in it’s totality - to show that it was not possible (impossible) to gain salvation via the Law.

But, notice that this scripture makes special mention of the fact that Jesus loved this rich young ruler. This was stated after this young man had said he had kept all of God’s commands, which was not the truth (Mark 10:20). Jesus’ tough answer of “sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor” was not intended to hurt this young man. It was said from a heart of love and intended for his own good. This man’s money had become his god, and it had to be dethroned before Jesus could become his Lord.

  • 1
    In view of your penultimate paragraph, should you not have begun by saying, "No. Although Jesus expounded works-based salvation, he taught this rich young ruler the impossibility of gaining salvation via the Law" ? (Just for the sake of clarity, at the outset.)
    – Anne
    Commented Jan 1, 2022 at 12:21

Jesus called on the rich young ruler to give away all his possessions and to follow him (Lk 18:18-27). But the latter, attached to his wealth, could not do so. Our understanding of this wealth, however, should extend beyond his material possessions to include his claims to righteousness that were based on the law.

Despite his assertions that he had kept God’s commandments, that the ruler could not accept Jesus’ invitation is a sign that his love for God and neighbor was as yet imperfect. The problem, however, does not lie with the commandments, but with the man himself. Indeed, we can only fulfill God’s commandments perfectly when we ourselves are perfect.

But the road to perfection is singularly paved by Jesus’ footsteps – this much can be gleaned from the story. To follow Jesus means to let go of any and all pretensions that we can achieve salvation on our own. Such self-reliance underlies the notion of a works-based salvation but is antithetical to faith.

To be a follower of Christ means to place no hope in oneself but to rely completely on Christ as the sole means of salvation.

My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give them eternal life – Jn 10:27-28

It also means we cannot stand alone but must remain united with Christ and one another. Only through this union can we bear fruit “and so prove” ourselves to be his disciples (Jn 15:8). It is not what we do, but what God does in us and through us.

I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you; remain in My love. – Jn 15:5-9


Paul and Jesus were at one about the means of Salvation - it is by grace alone through faith in the merits of Jesus alone. Note Paul's neat summary:

  • Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life.

Note that salvation is NOT a result of works. However, while works do not save us, they indicate (are a result of) the transformed life that does good works!

Put another way, we do good works because we are saved, not in order to be saved.

  • 1 Thess 1:3, “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • James 2:18, “Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”
  • Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?”
  • John 14:15 - If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

Put another way, good works are the fruit of salvation, not the root of salvation.

Thus, in Mark 10 and Luke 10, Jesus is simply saying that anyone who loves Him should be generous to the poor and needy. It appears that this wealthy man kept the commandments in order to earn salvation which was OK with him provided that he did not loose any money - he was greedy. The best cure for greed is generosity - the very cure that Jesus prescribed.

APPENDIX - Providing for the Needy

Being generous to the needy, poor and weak/sick has been an integral part of moral ethics since the time of ancient Israel, Ex 23:11, Deut 10:18, Ps 41:1, Prov 3:27, 28, 11:24, 25, 14:31, 17:5, 19:17, 21:13, 22:2, 9, 16, 22, 23, 28:3, 8, 27, 29:7, 13, 31:9, 20, Isa 10:1, 2, 58:1-21, Jer 7:3-6, Amos 4:10, Micah 6:8, Matt 23:23, Acts 4:32-35, Gal 2:10, James 1:27. More specifically, feed the hungry and thirsty, be hospitable to strangers, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit prisoners, Matt 25:31-46, etc.

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