The God Who Saves

Buy this resource in:
the Australian store
the US online store

Study 4

Trusting God

This study could also be called ‘Faith’. The way we receive God's gift of salvation is through faith (Eph 2:8). However, like the word ‘grace’, ‘faith’ can mean different things to different people. Faith, for some religious people, is a good work which is rewarded by God with further grace. To avoid confusion, the word ‘trust’ is used in this study instead of the word ‘faith’.

Luke 18:18-30 has been chosen because it demonstrates clearly what trust looks like. It also re-emphasizes the point made by Study 2—that we are helpless to save ourselves (vv. 26-27).

However, another reason why this passage has been chosen is that it addresses the issue of prioritising God even over family relationships. For many religious people, religion functions like culture: it is their family identity. Saying you belong to a particular religion can be a bit like saying, “I'm American”, or “I'm Lebanese”. Sometimes you see this sort of thing when you approach someone to talk to them about God and they say, “No thanks, I belong to x religion”. For people whose religion is their family identity, understanding the gospel can involve painful family conflict, particularly if it involves changing churches.

The overall aim of these studies is to enable a religious person to hear the gospel clearly and give them an opportunity to respond to it. While this may have implications for their family relationships and where they go to church down the track, it is not the aim of the study to raise these issues directly. In fact, it is probably not wise to raise these issues early on as it can distract them from hearing and understanding the gospel clearly. However, as the gospel does its work in a person's life, these issues may well come up, and it may be helpful to refer back to this passage then.

Read Luke 18:18-30.

1. What did Jesus initially tell the rich ruler to do?

Follow the commandments (v. 20).

2. a) What does Jesus ask the rich ruler to do next?

Sell everything, give to the poor, and follow Jesus (v. 22).

b) Looking at your answer to question 2a, where is Jesus now telling the man to put his trust?

In Jesus.

3. What does the rich ruler put his trust in?

His own good works, and his ability to do what Jesus commands him to do. (Note: he fails!)

4. Is it possible for a person to be saved by him or herself?

No. This would be a good place to remind people of the message of previous studies. Also, the passage says that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (v. 25). Given our relative wealth on a world scale, most people doing this study will struggle at this point. Notice Jesus' solution to the incredulous question, “Who then can be saved?” (v. 26). He doesn't introduce a new requirement, or urge hearers to try harder, or reassure people that God's standard is not really as high as it seems. Instead, he points to God's action and power: “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (v. 27). It is only through God's will and power that we can be saved.

5. What are the reasons why we can trust Jesus enough to give up our money, even our family if necessary?

The text at this point of the study says:

God calls us to put our trust in Jesus for everything, but particularly for receiving eternal life. God wants us to trust that Jesus' death has completely dealt with our sins—past, present and future. God did this while we were still sinful, completely, without our help!

We can put our complete trust in this because God is trustworthy.

6. a) If we trust that religious rituals (e.g. being baptized or attending church) make us right with God, are we putting our complete trust in Jesus?


b) If we trust that going to a particular church makes us right with God, are we putting our complete trust in Jesus?


c) If we trust that we must do something to contribute to being right with God, are we putting our complete trust in Jesus?


In response to each of these three scenarios, people might say, “Surely we need to do A, B, or C to please God, even if he does save us by grace”. Sometimes your answer might be “No” (especially in relation to certain types of religious ritual). At other times, it might be helpful for you to clarify that any good thing we do comes as a response to our salvation, not in order to gain it—just as treating our husband or wife well flows out of our marriage relationship but doesn't bring that relationship into existence.

7. What are we saying about Jesus if we put our trust in things apart from him?

We are really saying that his death on our behalf was unnecessary, and that his teaching about why he came to die was wrong. This calls into question either his wisdom or his integrity, or both.