“In” or “Out”?

“You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34).

The “teachers of the law” (also known as “scribes”) are the second most often mentioned opponents of Jesus. While not of the ruling class themselves, they were none-the-less advisors to the ruling class and perhaps the most influential class in Jewish society. No one knew the law better than they did.

They may also have been the instigators and leaders of the plot against Jesus’ life (compare Mark 11:18 and 12:12). Jesus knew it, so when he says this to a teacher of the law (who had the honesty to agree with him that loving God with all heart, soul, mind, and strength – and loving your neighbor as yourself — is the greatest command), it was high praise indeed. In fact, it is the only time Jesus ever praises a teacher of the law in Mark.

But Jesus’ compliment was not just praise. It was instruction (and a bit of an insult). Not being “far” from the kingdom of God is not the same as being “in” the kingdom of God.

It’s an important point to remember ourselves. One can know God’s commands, know even the greatest of commands and all the intricacies of scripture. But knowing is not the same as doing, and the only way one can be in the kingdom of God is by doing. It’s not a “salvation by works” thing. It’s a “salvation that works” thing. The only way to come under the rule of God is to let Him rule in your life, and that means doing as He has said.

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