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What does “with men this is impossible” mean (Matthew 19:26)?

with men this is impossible

On His final journey to Jerusalem before His death, Jesus encountered a rich young man who asked what he must do to receive eternal life (Matthew 19:16–30). Jesus took the opportunity to teach His disciples about the dangers of acquiring wealth and possessions, which can often hinder one’s faith. Anything that gets in the way of our commitment to following God must be forsaken (see verse 21). When Jesus stressed how hard it was for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of heaven, the disciples were utterly astounded. They had adopted the prevailing belief that wealth was evidence of God’s favor. “Then who in the world can be saved?” the disciples asked (verse 25, NLT).

Looking at them intently, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26, NKJV). Jesus presented the key to salvation. In and of themselves, humans do not have what it takes to enter the kingdom of heaven. A person may possess every earthly blessing but remains powerless to save himself. Salvation is God’s gift alone (Romans 5:15–16).

Riches tend to make us self-reliant, self-centered, and distracted by worldly pursuits. We put too much confidence in ourselves and our wealth and lose our childlike trust and reliance on the goodness and mercy of God. Nonetheless, it is humanly impossible to earn our way or work our way into heaven: “But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life” (Titus 3:4–7, NLT).

When Jesus said, “With men this is impossible,” He meant that it is only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ that a person can be saved (Ephesians 2:4–9; see also Acts 15:11; 16:30–31; Romans 3:21–24; 5:1–2; 11:5–6). Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6; John 10:9; Hebrews 10:19–20; 1 Timothy 2:5). “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Belief in Jesus changes what is humanly impossible into unlimited possibilities with God. Through faith in Jesus Christ, mere mortals receive “the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12–13). As God’s children, we receive the indescribably good gift of eternal life (John 3:15–16; Romans 10:9; 2 Corinthians 9:15).

Job and others in Scripture asked similar questions as the disciples, “How then can a mortal be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure?” (Job 25:4; see also 1 Samuel 6:20; Job 4:17–19; 9:2; 15:14–16; Psalm 130:3; Psalm 143:2; Malachi 3:2; Revelation 6:17). Apart from the Lord’s intervention, becoming righteous before God is hopeless. With men, this is impossible! But with God, “we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory” (Romans 5:1–2, NLT).

With men this is impossible means there’s no place in God’s kingdom for boasting about our own righteousness (Romans 3:27–30; 1 Corinthians 1:28–31). The apostle Paul expounded, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:20–21). Paul continued, “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died” (Galatians 6:14, NLT).

With men this is impossible affirms that any form of self-justification is useless. We can’t buy our way into heaven or work our way into God’s kingdom. The believer’s only hope of salvation—his only confidence in drawing near to God—is in God Himself, with whom all things are possible.

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What does “with men this is impossible” mean (Matthew 19:26)?
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This page last updated: November 11, 2023