Luke 18:18-21 records the following occasion “Now a certain ruler asked Him (Jesus v16), saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” v19 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. v20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honour your father and your mother.’” v21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”” (These verses are also recorded in Matthew 19:16-20, and Mark 10:17-20).
Having been asked the question, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus Christ then replies concerning the title of “Good Master” that He has just been given. He did not refuse the title but used it to begin to reveal to the questioner where the questioner really stood concerning faith in God. Jesus Christ was in fact asking, “On what ground are you giving me the title of ‘Good’ because there is none good but one, and that is only God. So as you have called Me ‘Good’, you are implying that I am God. If I am not God, then I cannot be good, but if I am good, then I am God. Are you affirming a greater truth than perhaps you are aware of, that I am the one true God? Do you understand what you are saying?”
Jesus then continued with the young ruler on the ground that Jesus claimed for Himself. By quoting the law Jesus confirms that the young man has asked a great and good question about how he might have eternal life and go to heaven. Jesus affirmed that the young man knew the ten commandments and quoted some of them. The young ruler answered with conviction, “All these have I kept from my youth”. It was quite possible that to all outward observances he had kept these commandments. The apostle Paul made the same claim about his pre-Christian life as a Pharisee when he said; “concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:6).
However we informed by James 2:10 “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” James explained that the law is a complete whole. With one wrongdoing a person is guilty of not keeping the whole law, but not of breaking each particular command. The whole law is broken, although not the whole of the laws. As it takes only one blot on a page to ruin the copy or if one tears a part of a seamless garment it is considered a torn garment, or if in a chain one link breaks then the whole chain is broken, so it takes only one sin to make a person guilty of not keeping all the law.
The apostle Paul could do the same as the young man by looking down the list of the ten commandments and they would not trouble his conscience. But when it came to tenth commandment: “You shall not covet,” that is “You shall have no evil desire,” then Paul’s defense crumbled. He declared, “For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet” (Romans 7:7) That was the one weak link in his morality and religion and the rock upon which he made shipwreck. “But when the commandment came, sin revived and I died” he added (Romans 7:9). The commandment came with its righteous requirements, against which his sinful nature rebelled, and he became conscious of the sinfulness of his sin and that he was in a state of separation from God. Also he died as far as reaching salvation by his own character or efforts were concerned.
So returning to the young man, Jesus was bringing home that if he knew the accuracy of the law and his own weakness, he would soon find that it was not his own doing that could bring him eternal life and salvation. So the only option left was faith in the Lord Jesus Who was the only “man approved of God among you (Jews) by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22). At the cross Jesus Christ “when He had by Himself purged (made purification for) our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). “That whoever believes in Him should not perish (go to hell) but have eternal life” (John 3:15).