by J. Angus Harley

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a famous parable, for the example of the loving Samaritan touches the heart strings. How self-deprecating, self-sacrificing, kind, and sensitive. He shows such extreme kindness and concern for a battered and bruised stranger. Even the most atheistic and obtuse individual cannot deny the emotional and moral power of the Samaritan.

Yet, this Parable has been misunderstood and misinterpreted by Christianity defined broadly. Even evangelicalism has too often missed part of its fundamental lesson. For that reason, I wish to shed light on the Parable, drawing out the true source of the energy behind the love and example of the Samaritan. In this article, I reason that evangelicalism has, in part, incorrectly read the Parable, for instead of seeing the Samaritan as an example of Messianic love fulfilling the Law, they cite him merely as an example of Christian care and love for one’s racial enemy, and outrightly reject any notion that the Samaritan was fulfilling the Law. The implication of Jesus’ comments in the Parable is that only Messianic followers fulfill the Law of God and love him and their neighbors- even their enemies- and in doing so, they demonstrate they are heirs of eternal life. This is the same teaching as proclaimed by Paul in Romans 8:4 that states that the requirement of the Law is fulfilled in Christians by the Holy Spirit. Also, in Galatians 5:14 and 6:2, it refers to Christians fulfilling the Law. James 2:8-13 is another block of Scripture indicating the same teaching. The preface to the Parable pits Jesus against a Jewish lawyer, just as the Parable itself pits the Samaritan against the Jews. The parallel is obvious: Jesus and his Messianic community are represented by the Samaritan; whereas, the two Jews of the Parable represent the lawyer and the Jewish community. Two views of law are indicated: the one is the Jewish adherence to, and interpretation of, the Mosaic Law; the other is the Messianic reading of the Mosaic Law. The latter strips the Mosaic Law down to two commandments: to love God with all one’s heart, and to love one’s neighbor, even if he is an enemy, as oneself. In stripping down the Mosaic Law, Jesus was in effect creating a new law, which Paul later calls “the law of Christ” (Gal.6:2). The Samaritan fulfilled the Law of Moses by loving his neighbor, and in doing this, he demonstrated that he was an heir of eternal life. This is to say that the Samaritan kept the law of Christ. The Samaritan did not keep the whole of the Mosaic Law, but he kept its principle commandments of love and in so doing fulfilled the law of Christ.

Before I come to my exegesis of the Parable, I will provide a general critique of modern ‘Christian’ renditions of the Parable, including the evangelical reading. After this, I will begin my exegesis. I will do it in reverse, however, and will begin with the Parable per se, and then work out from it to its context, rather than working from the context to the Parable. This, admittedly, is not proper exegetical procedure, but due to prevalent misreadings of the Parable, it is necessary to draw our attention to its simple message. The two central aspects of the Parable are quite evident, namely, the selfishness of the Jews, and the Messianic love of the Samaritan. Once this core of the Parable itself has been established, in the third section I will trace out the same themes from the context of the Parable. The fourth section of the paper responds to the evangelical reading in greater depth and reveals how, in interpreting the Parable, it does not make a proper distinction between the doctrine of inheriting eternal life and the false belief of justification by works. To complete my answer to evangelicals, in the final section I draw out the most fundamental failure of the evangelical reading: its misinterpretation of the role of the Law. Evangelicals forget that the Law is Messianically fulfilled through divine love. Such a theological misstep by evangelicals causes them to reject the plain force of Jesus’ words to the Jew, “ “You are correct” ”!

So, let us begin the Parable by critiquing common ‘Christian’ readings of it.



In a Roman Catholic website, a summary of the Parable concludes with two applications. First, the Pope construes the entire continent of Africa as the beaten man, and the northern hemisphere of rich countries is the Jews who bypass the unfortunate fellow battered and bruised. Second, the battered man is modern-day Palestine.[1] In reading the Parable these ways, Roman Catholicism has strictly limited itself to socio-economic and political answers- it is all about this world and its problems. Eternal life, fulfilling the Law, Christ, the Jew-Samaritan divide are all ignored, just so that Catholicism can look the part in caring about global abuses.

The contemporary Christian rendition of the Parable given in states that the “central message” is the need to be financially strong to help others, “The implied message is to get strong financially and stay strong financially so we can have the means to act on our good intentions.”[2] In this interpretation, a Parable about loving one’s enemies by Messianic love is disastrously distorted into financial planning!

The Church of the Latter-Day Saints (aka, the Mormons) seems to get a little closer to the spiritual, or salvific, core of the Parable. The Samaritan is a “Christ-figure” who will “ “come again” ” to take care of the wretched Jew. This is an allusion to the Second Coming of Christ. The phrase “come again” is used only one other time in the New Testament, in Luke 19:15, and it refers to Jesus’ Second Coming. The Samaritan said to the innkeeper that when he returned he will pay, or “reward”, him for his care of the unfortunate Jew.  The Mormon reading says that disciples will act as “physical rescuers and as saviors on Mount Zion” who join with the Samaritan and help bring about “the salvation and eternal life of mankind.” Like the innkeeper, disciples should serve, too, and act as longtime caregivers for the spiritual welfare of injured souls.[3] The Mormon article does not join the dots together, but I think we are to understand by it that by following this model of Christian service that Christian disciples will receive the reward of eternal life upon the return of Jesus Christ, just as the innkeeper received his ‘reward’ when the Samaritan returned to the inn. In this the Mormon reading of the Parable, what starts of as a promising interpretation of the power of the Messianic love of Christ via an ‘ungodly’ Samaritan, ends up being a story about salvation by good works. As evangelicals, we know that salvation is by grace, through faith, but the Mormon reading puts the main focus upon Christ paying the innkeeper. By a sleight of hand, so to speak, Mormonism turns the comment about payment to be about a reward, so that the innkeeper is being ‘rewarded’ for his loving service to God. Gone is any notion of the innkeeper merely making money for rendered services. Not only is this muddleheaded theology- for we are not saved by our works- it reads too much into the details of the Parable. The Parable does not stress the good works or service of the innkeeper, for he was paid for doing a job. Rather, the Parable’s concern is the supernatural and Messianic love shown by an ‘ungodly’ Samaritan to his enemy, a Jew. The innkeeper, like the donkey, is a mere prop in this scene, who serves to shine a light upon the main character, the Samaritan.

At Carm, an evangelical website on apologetics, the Parable’s lessons are summarized:

  • This parable teaches the impossibility of earning one’s salvation. The standard, which is perfect love, is too high.
  • It holds up an ethical level for us to strive for, see Matthew 5:48.
  • It attacks racial prejudices.
  • It teaches that love is something you feel and do.[4]

In the Protestant world, sola scriptura is the watchword. I will immediately concede- and have already stated- that one cannot earn salvation by works. But this is not by any means the primary emphasis of Jesus’ mind as he teaches the Parable. His ultimate concern is to reveal to the Jewish lawyer that he has a view of God’s Law that is missing its core, namely, Messianic fulfillment demonstrated by Messianic teaching and love. In other words, the Parable is about true discipleship and who qualifies as part of God’s Messianic people. Matt Slick believes that the Parable attacks “racial prejudices”. The Jews were racially prejudice, and they were not. It all depended. The old chestnut asks, ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg?’. In this case it is the egg, for the Jewish hatred of the Samaritan does not stem from prejudice, but it springs from a revulsion of the Samaritan religion. If it were pure racism, then there would not be Jews from all over the then ‘world’ gathering in Jerusalem (see Acts 2), and no Ethiopian Eunuch traveling to, and from, Jerusalem (Acts 8:27). The Jewish problem with the Samaritans was not at its base racial but religious. Any person, from any race, could be a Jew. The Samaritans, however, rejected the Jewish Law and, with it, the Jewish view of God, as I will explain ahead.

Ultimately, there is a tension in the evangelical rendition that evangelicals do not feel the weight of: it rejects all ideas of inheriting eternal life by obedience to the Law; yet, cannot avoid maintaining that the Parable is fundamentally about ‘doing’, “It holds up an ethical level for us to strive for, see Matthew 5:48….It teaches that love is something you feel and do.” It never asks itself if the doing bit is actually connected to the inheriting part that Jesus is discussing with the lawyer. And my argument will show that inheriting eternal life is a fundamental Christian teaching, and that eternal life is given as an inheritance to those who love God, his people, and his enemies. The Samaritan was prime proof of how someone qualified to inherit eternal life: by fulfilling the Law through love. This brings us to the second section and the Parable itself.



Now, as I said in my introduction, I will not begin with the context of the Parable, but with the Parable itself. I am doing this for effect, in order to draw out the main concerns of the Parable, so that we do not go on to confuse the context and its purpose. Hopefully, this technique of ‘reverse engineering’ will open up the context to us.

The two main aspects of the Parable are quite straightforward, namely, the selfishness of the Jews, and the love of the Samaritan. The Jews represented in the Parable are ‘ritualistic’, whose service it was to keep the Law especially as it related to work in the temple. So, we read about a priest and a Levite. The Good Samaritan, as he has been forever called, effuses love upon a nameless man, most likely a Jew (both Jerusalem and Jericho are in the heartland of Judea, with Samaria above it to the north, beyond Joppa). So, it is most likely that the Samaritan is demonstrating love to his cultural and religious enemy, for, as we all know, both groups hated each other (but a bit more on this later). As far as ABCs are concerned, Jesus plays the Samaritan off against the two Jews.

Let us look a little closer at the Jewish angle and at selfishness. There, lying on the ground, is a battered and beaten man. I think we should assume that both Jews (the priest and Levite) surmised that this man had been robbed, beaten to a pulp, and left for dead. The Law of Moses, in Leviticus 21:1-3, instructs priests not to touch a dead body. Touching a dead body brought all kinds of problems to do with ceremonial purity (see Num.19:2-13; Eze.44:24-27). The Levites were temple custodians, doing the mundane jobs within, and around, the temple. The Levite knew his job, according to the Law of Moses, too. From the lower stratum (the Levites), to the highest stratum of temple Law and worship, Jews zealously defended ritual purity, and in so doing obeyed the ritualistic laws of the Mosaic Law. It is wrong to think, therefore, that the Jews were unconcerned about God’s will. Their zeal for God’s Law consumed them, and so they could not go near the ‘dead’ man. The Jews believed that they were therefore obeying the Law.

This circumstance is set in sharp contrast to the Samaritan. Samaritans were ‘enemies of the state.’ When Jesus’ Jewish detractors attacked him, they called him a ‘Samaritan’ and added that he had a demon (John 8:48; see John 4:9).[5] Even though the Samaritans had the highest view of their own temple in Shechem, had their own form of the Mosaic Law (called the Samaritan Pentateuch), and claimed the fathers for themselves (see John 4:12), Jesus never once endorsed the Samaritan religious system, its law, its temple, or the Samaritan claim to the fathers. So, we can summarily dismiss the notion put forward by some scholars that the Samaritan, in the Parable, was chosen because Samaritans had an affinity for the Law. The Samaritans are not considered part of the community of promise given to the fathers of Israel, and that is why, initially, Jesus forbids his disciples from going into Samaria (Matt.10:5).[6]

Nonetheless, the Messiah did reach out to the Samaritans and saw converts (John 4). Even though Jesus and his disciples were hated by some Samaritans (Luke 9:51-53), the events of John 4 take place before the historical context of Luke 10. Consequently, we know that there were Messianic Samaritans before the events of Luke 10. It is such a Samaritan that Jesus portrays in the Parable, and not the ‘native’, supposedly Law-loving, Samaritan that some scholars put forward. The Samaritan is patently revolutionized. He is not concerned with, or afraid of, the Mosaic Laws of ceremonial and cultic purity. Upon seeing the battered man, he immediately sets to helping him, knowing that he is a Jew, the dreaded enemy of the Samaritans. We know that this must be a Messianic Samaritan, from the Parable itself, because of the nature of his love. Look at the extreme measures the Samaritan goes to. He had pity on his enemy (Luke 10:33). He then bandaged his enemy’s wounds and poured on oil and wine (quite expensive and yet seemingly necessary for his own journey) (Luke 10:34). He then put the man on his “own donkey”. What did he travel upon? It would seem that the Samaritan walked whilst his enemy traveled in relative comfort upon the donkey. He brought the man to an inn and “took care of him”, his enemy (Luke 10:34). The Samaritan did not just help the man and then leave him behind. Nor did he take the man to the nearest home for help. He took the man to an inn, and there he personally ministered to this man who was his enemy. The Samaritan had to go about his business, yet he was not done showing love: he instructed the innkeeper to take care of the man, his enemy, and the Samaritan would later reimburse the innkeeper (Luke 10:35). Wow! Can you imagine Geisinger doing this?!! The point is this: no one- Jew or Samaritan- is capable of pulling off such love. It takes the supernatural grace of God to transform a person, and the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit, to love in this way. THE SAMARITAN WAS DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE BECAUSE HE WAS A MESSIANIC FOLLOWER, A DISCIPLE OF CHRIST.

Now that the two aspects have been described from the Parable, we will go to the context. Again, this is not kosher as far as exegetical procedure is concerned, but I am deliberately employing it to create an effect.



To remind the reader, the two aspects were the selfishness of the Jews and the love shown by the Samaritan. We may broaden the language of both categories to say that the Jews focused upon the Law in a limited fashion, which prevented them from showing compassion and love. Whereas, Samaritan-like believers in God demonstrate their faith with love, even love for their enemies. This dichotomy has been building up within Luke 10.


Luke 10:1-24

Verses 1-16. The idea of Christians going in amongst their enemies is brought out from the beginning of Luke 10. The Lord sent forth disciples in the villages, and tells the disciples, “ “I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” ” (10:3). Plainly, there are enemies of the Messianic community. Jesus continues this theme when he concludes that part of his speech by saying:


“But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.” (Luke 10:9-12)


After this section, Jesus continues to denounce the enemies of the kingdom of God, in Luke 10:13-16:


13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!

16 “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”


From the above we see that, the message of God and his Gospel was proclaimed by

Christ’s disciples, and that those who rejected it were rejected by the disciples, by Christ, and by God the Father. To reject the disciples was to reject Christ, was to reject God. Miracles had been done, yet whole cities had not repented. So, Jesus declares woes on those cities. Remember, it is the world of the Jews and religious Judaism that is rejected by the disciples, Jesus, and the Father. They are the enemies of God; but, the disciples of Christ are the true followers of God.

Yet, running alongside the theme of enmity is that of peace. After all, the disciples were appointed to preach the Gospel and do miracles, and surely this was all good news. Christ even dictates that the harvest is plentiful (10:2), indicating that God had destined some to salvation, who were waiting to be harvested. The disciples were to pronounce peace upon any house that accepted them as followers of the Messiah and the Good News. If a city were to accept the disciples, they were to heal the city and preach to it the nearness of God’s kingdom (11:5-10). Peace came through listening spiritually to the disciples and their message, which was tantamount to listening to Christ and to God. Again, the good guys are the disciples of the Messiah.

Verses 17-24. According to Luke 10:17, the disciples eventually returned from their mission, delighted that they had power over demons. Christ proclaims that Satan was smacked down from heaven. In other words, the entrance of the authority and power of the kingdom of God in the world of the Jews, displayed in the miracles, and passed on by the Messiah, was proved by the dethroning of Satan. The prince of the power of the air (Eph.2:2) was kicked out of the heavenly places by Christ and his disciples through the Messiah’s kingdom authority (see Luke 11:20-22).[7] Yet, it was never about the miracles or being able to do flashy acts; nor was it about controlling demons. The real deal, so to speak, was that the disciples were true believers whose names were written in heaven. Satan could no longer attempt to tamper with this fact, as he had been cast down from heaven. Paul the apostle puts the same teaching from the angle of the church, “and raised us up with [Christ], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph.2:6; see Eph.6:12): Satan, having been dethroned, is the occasion for Christ and his own to reign, which his disciples share in.

Jesus instructs his disciples to rejoice that they are children of heaven, and then, in Luke 10:21-22, begins his own prayer of praise and rejoicing for the same things. He rejoiced that things were hidden from the “wise and intelligent”. What things? These: the presence and authority of the kingdom of God in the message and power of the disciples and of Christ himself. The various Jewish cities, with their people, that rejected the Messianic authority, were wise and intelligent in their own eyes, and had foolishly rejected him and his disciples. For that reason, the Father would not show to them the reality and truth of the kingdom. Only infants, namely, individuals with no spiritual pride, received Christ and his disciples; to them alone will the Father reveal the things of the kingdom. Jesus then declares that it is impossible to know the Son or the Father, for only the Father knows the Son, and only the Son knows the Father. By this Jesus means that it is impossible to know the truth of God’s kingdom except through the Father-Son relationship given in the Gospel. Even the disciples are reckoned as “children”, for to the disciples is given the eyesight to see the kingdom, to hear its message and receive it. The disciples were privileged, for they got to see what the prophets and kings did not (Luke 10:23-24).

What are we to take from all of this in application to the Parable? We see the enmity and hatred of the Jews, how they incessantly, in their own wisdom, reject Christ’s disciples and cast-off Christ himself. We also see the running theme of mercy. To those who welcome the disciples, peace is pronounced on them, they are healed, and are told that the kingdom is close to them. But we also notice what it takes to truly belong to God’s community and people: one must be a disciple of Christ. The priest and the Levite of the Parable represent the continuing Jewish hostility to the Messiah and the Messianic community; and the Samaritan represents the Messiah, the Messianic community, and its ministry of love.

Please note that the Messianic community is a ‘doing community’. Specifically, in the context of Luke 10:1-24, there is not a great deal of attention paid to the preaching and teaching of the Gospel as such. Certainly, it is mentioned and implied, but only briefly (Luke 10:16). The stress is upon the power of the Messiah and his followers to heal and to cast out demons, not as an end in itself, but because it, in its turn, clearly demonstrates the fundamental truth that the kingdom of God extends to those who welcome the Messianic community, its Messiah, disciples, message, and healing. Thus, the disciples are instructed to rejoice that they, too, belong to the Messianic community. Consequently, the Messianic community is, in Luke 10, a healing community, and in that sense, a ‘doing’ community. Contrast that to the Jewish community, which showed no signs of Messianic activity, nor did it heal anyone. Ironically, the Jewish community was meant to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation before the Gentiles (Exo.19:6); but it is the Samaritan ministering to the Jews. So, the Jews brought upon themselves the pain and hurt of the heavenly judgment.

Normally, we would go straight to Luke 10:25-29, but in the interest of continuing the ‘reversed engineering’ method of this paper, I will jump to Luke 10:38-42 to note the two aspects as spoken of before.


Luke 10:38-42

Often this story is read as saying that Mary chose the right thing to do by listening to the Master; but Martha chose the wrong thing, for she did not sit at the feet of the Master and decided to cook food instead.

How does this comply with the two aspects, contemplated in a wider form, of Jewish selfishness and Samaritan kindness? If we cast our minds back to the Parable, the Jews swerved around the beaten body on the ground. In an ironic twist, Mary is on the ground, sitting at the feet of Jesus, the Messiah, yet along comes Martha, so to speak, and fails in her responsibility to her ‘neighbor,’ ‘swerves’ round her, and, instead, claims a kind of procedural priority: Mary should be helping her, rather than sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to him. Jesus then responds by teaching, essentially, that devotion trumps service, and mercy trumps sacrifice: Mary is busy serving and sinning, whilst Mary is locked into devotion and love. What a solemn warning for evangelicals, for in case we think we are incapable of swerving round our responsibility to love, based upon devotion to God’s will, we are told that sometimes a preoccupation with mere duty gets in the way of dutiful love and devotion.

Or so the dominant reading goes. There is another option, however. Martha did swerve around her Messianic obligation to love her neighbor and her God (Jesus in the flesh). And instead of some robbers beating up a man, here is Martha lashing out, not only at her sister, but at…here it is…the Messiah! However, Martha’s failure to love her neighbor, her choice of turning her neighbor into her enemy, came from a perverted notion that her obedience came before Mary’s.

Was this not the Jewish problem? Did they not put their duty to the Law before compassion and mercy? And did not Martha think that her service was more important than Mary’s? Martha was not wrong in preparing a meal. How could this be wrong? She was serving her Master. Her Master needed sustenance and care, just like the beaten man in the Parable. Is this not love? In John 12:2 we read, “So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him.” Martha was serving! And, behold, Lazarus, just like Mary, was right beside the Messiah. Also, in John 12:3, Mary lavishes devotion on her Lord by pouring expensive perfume on his feet. Mary metaphorically pours out her love to her Messiah, which is her way. Martha busies herself in action, which is hers. Both combined together form the perfect service of love.[8] Thus, in Luke 10, Martha started out just fine- no doubt- but soon her service soured and turned into hatred and enmity, all due to pressure and a false sense of priority in regard to obedience to the will of God.[9] Both ladies were ‘doing’: one was listening to the Messiah; the other was cooking. But both were doing! You see, the problem was an act of duty that lacked love. In the same way, the Jews misunderstood the nature of the Mosaic Law. They did not understand that at the heart of obedience to God’s will was love, especially love to the Messiah (but more on this later).

I prefer the second reading because it best fits the ‘doing’ theme of the Parable itself, wherein mercy and love are described in terms of action and healing. Martha was not serving out of love; she was not being a neighbor. So, the stress is upon the non-neighborliness of Martha, rather than the devotion of Mary. The devotion of Mary mainly offsets Martha’s soured service. This is a necessary counterbalance, for complacent believers, to the Parable’s emphasis upon dutiful Messianic love shown by the Samaritan.

The final exegetical sub-section is Luke 10:25-29.

Luke 10:25-39, 36-37

A Jew, a lawyer- an expert in the Law of Moses- tests Jesus by asking what he- the lawyer- should do to inherit eternal life. Evangelicals universally interpret this as the wrong question to ask the Messiah. You do not ‘do’ anything to inherit eternal life; you receive it by faith in Christ, and by faith alone. This is called justification by faith alone. Sola fide. Consequently, Jesus’ reply to the lawyer, from its beginning to its end, is deliberately shaped to destroy the Jewish man’s reliance upon obedience to the Law as the way to obtaining eternal life. No one can love God with all their heart, or their neighbor as themselves. We all break the Law, and if you break one Law, you break them all (James 2:10-11). The Jews might have kept certain Laws, but others they did not. And we Gentiles are equally sinners with the Jews (Rom.3:1-20). So, by observing the Law, no man can be justified, but only through faith in Christ Jesus are we saved and justified (Gal.2:16; 3:11; 5:4).

I have no objection to the doctrine of sola fide. Long may it prosper! And there is no doubt that Jesus is parrying any thought that eternal life is inherited by Judaistic good works through adherence to the Law. However, this is only ‘one side of the coin’ and misses the greater portion: namely, that in parrying the Jewish belief in salvation by adherence to the Law, Jesus is introducing the New Covenant principle that the Mosaic Law is fulfilled by true Messianic followers through them loving their enemies. In other words, the Jewish doing, which was in an Old Covenant setting, was based on the flesh and the mere Law itself. Whereas, Jesus is teaching that the Law of Moses is fulfilled through, what we would call, Christian love.

When we consider the two themes of the Parable, namely, Jewish selfishness and Samaritan love- considered broadly now- both aspects are here in the immediate preface to the Parable. Jewish selfishness is evident in that the Jew tests the Messiah and defends himself against him. In doing this, the Jew is arrogating interpretive authority concerning the Law. The lawyer completely misses the point, just as Martha did: right before your very eyes is the Messiah; therefore, follow him, his teaching, and his example! There is no doubt the lawyer could not keep the Law, for he rejected the Messiah, swerving round his responsibility to him. Jesus was about to demonstrate, through the Parable, to the lawyer that he (the lawyer) was not truly a man of Law. Jesus never corrected the disciple; he even said the man was correct, “ “You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE” ” (Luke 10:28).  This makes it crystal clear that Jesus indeed believed that eternal life was inherited by doing the Law. However, he specifically endorses the two greatest commandments: to love God and to love one’s neighbor. It was the latter with which the Jews demonstrably struggled (of course, they struggled with the former, too), for they hated so many people, especially the Samaritans. In this setting, the true mark of a disciple was not faith (for the Jews had a form of faith); the true mark was love. But no one could love without accepting the Messiah, the Messianic community, its message, and its healing. This is what Luke 10:1-24 taught us. The contemporaneous attitude of all Jews was such that they hated, rather than loved, the Messiah and his disciples; they spurned Messianic love and healing. Whole cities stood condemned! Then along comes a hypothetical Samaritan, and he does the entirely impossible: he loves those who are his enemies! Patently, to any of those who accepted the Messianic disciples, and their presence, message, and healing, the kingdom of God was near.

Verses 36-37 corroborate the above interpretation. Here Jesus shifts the emphasis away from the lawyer’s understanding of inheriting eternal life to the New Covenant manner of inheriting eternal life. The Jewish, Old Covenant, model focused upon the Jews and their attitude of piety over against the darkness of the Gentile world. To the Jew, it was radically important, then, to define who was an actual valid neighbor worthy of love. Neighbors were defined by the commandments of the Mosaic Law. In that Law, one does not find a slither of a comment commanding Jews to love their enemies or to help a ceremonially unclean man. On the contrary, those who rejected God and were unclean according to the Law must be spurned. Jesus destroys this covenantal model through teaching a new covenantal model. The true heir of eternal life was not the Jew, not even the so-called pious Jew, but one who did love the Lord his God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself: only the Messianic believer could do this; only the Messianic believer was a true neighbor.

My view will be rejected by evangelicals because I say that Scripture does teach that eternal life is inherited by godly living. I will now demonstrate that this is the Scripture’s teaching.



 There are two elements to this section on inheriting eternal life: the first concentrates upon the different dimensions of eternal life taught in the New Testament; the second explicates the theme of Christian obedience and its relation to the inheritance of God.


Different Dimensions of Eternal Life

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the theme of eternal life is exclusively tied to the future (see ahead): one inherits eternal life on Judgment Day by due obedience and love to God and his Messiah. However, our understanding of eternal life, as evangelicals, is predominantly taken from John’s Gospel and from Paul. In John, it explicitly says that the one who believes in Jesus has eternal life now, in the present (John 3:36; 5:24). And Paul’s teaching clearly identifies the believer as already justified by faith. What is going on? Is there a contradiction between John and the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)? Not at all! John’s Gospel strongly asserts the presence of eternal blessing in the present. The Synoptics put much more stress on the ‘end of time’ element of eternal life. Scholars call this the ‘already, not yet’ tension of the kingdom of God: we are already saved, already have eternal life; we are yet to experience eternal life in its fullness. The Synoptics themselves recognize this theme, not under the name ‘eternal life’ but under the phrase ‘kingdom of God’, “ “But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” ” (Luke 11:20; see Luke 17:21). The kingdom of God and its king, Jesus and his authority, were evident and at work in the present; even so, the kingdom of God was yet to come in all its fullness (e.g., Luke 13:29; 14:15; 22:18-19).

As to Paul, he puts a heavy stress on salvation in the present and upon receiving God’s inheritance through justifying faith alone. For example, Romans 4:13-15 says:

13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no Law, there also is no violation.


Faith is diametrically opposed to Law here, and the sinner is justified by faith alone. Yet, as we see in the above quote, even faith is preparatory and will give way to the realization of the promise. For justification is by faith alone- righteousness is through faith alone- so that it may serve as the entrance gate to the ultimate blessing, namely, becoming the heir of the world as a son of Abraham (Gal.3:29).

More relevant, even Paul categorizes ‘eternal life’ as an end of time blessing, so that, if one can say that the believer receives eternal life in the present, he or she does not experience its fullness until the end of days:


…to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; (Rom.2:7)

Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. (1 Tim.1:16)

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1


…in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, (Tit.1:2)

…so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Tit.3:7)


Note how Paul’s logic flows in Titus 3:7: the believer is justified in the present, in order to be an heir in the future; consequently, the heir hopes for his inheritance, namely, eternal life.

From this we see that, the New Testament portrays eternal life as a blessing in the present, but also a prize in the future. And as our present concern is the Parable of the Good Samaritan, it fits into the Synoptic emphasis that eternal life is a future blessing.


Christian Obedience and the Inheritance

Again in the Synoptics, Jesus himself makes it abundantly plain that inheriting eternal life upon acts of obedience is essential to the Christian life and future:

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” (Matt.19:29)

Notice how Jesus does not say that by faith in him you receive an inheritance that is eternal. Nor is this a statement concerning a once-for-all act in the Christian’s life. The condition for receiving the inheritance of eternal life in the future is leaving behind houses, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, children, and farms for the name of Jesus.

We read again:


“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My

Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ ” (Matt. 25:34)

Here Jesus identifies himself as the king. For what reason was the gift of the kingdom given by the Father? Was it for justifying faith, faith which believed in Christ and that brought justification before the Father? No. The reason is immediately stated by Christ:


35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (Matt.22:35-40)


In other words, the inheritance was given because the righteous loved those believers who were sick, in prison, thirsty, and the righteous were kind to strangers who were believers. Each one of these forlorn Christians was the embodiment of Jesus himself. To have loved the needy believer was therefore to have loved Christ himself. Only by such obedience will the righteous inherit eternal life.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 conveys similar theology but from a different perspective:

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor.6:9-10)

Which kind of people inherit the kingdom? Well, it is not sinners! Who then?

11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor.6:11)

The point to be made here is that, it is not merely those who have been justified by faith, in a once-and-forever act at the beginning of the believer’s spiritual life, who inherit God’s kingdom; it is those who have been washed, justified, and sanctified, and who patently are not swindlers, revilers, etc., but the exact opposite. Only those ones inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Similarly, Hebrews 6:9-12 states:

9 But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:9-12)

Observe how the writer says that the Christians demonstrated work and love, having ministered to the saints. These are the “things that accompany salvation”. Thus, work, love, and ministering to the saints accompany salvation. They do not earn salvation, or merit it in any form. The energy for this service and love comes from faith and patience, modeled in previous saints. Through faith and patience, the believer will endure and will demonstrate love and ministry to the body of Christ. Only then will the Christian enter into his inheritance.

The character of the Christian as vital to the inheritance is brought out in 1 Peter 3:9:

9 .…not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

The Bible ends with identical teaching:

7 He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Rev.21:7-8)

It is precisely the above teaching that is behind Luke 10 and also Luke 18:28-30:

28 Peter said, “Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.” 29 And He said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.”

It is evident from verses 29-30 that believers will inherit eternal life in the age to come. For what reason do they inherit eternal life? Because they have left homes, wives, parents, and children for the sake of the kingdom of God. Again, this is not a once-for-all act at the beginning of the believer’s life. The tremendous value of Luke 18:18-30 is that it begins in an almost identical way to Luke 10:25, for a leading Jew asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. In Luke 18, Jesus replies with stating the commandments of God in their traditional wording: do not commit adultery, etc.. But the ruler believed in his heart he had kept all these commandments. Jesus goes way beyond a prima facie understanding of the Ten Commandments, or any other Old Testament commandment, and strikes at the heart of the Jew’s sin- his love of money. It is impossible, says Jesus, for a wealthy man to enter heaven; yet, with God all things are possible. And how do we know that? For Jesus himself immediately goes on to refer to the blessedness of those who have left all behind to follow him; they alone will enter into eternal life. If the rich ruler had listened properly, he would have heard Jesus saying, in effect, that by giving up his riches to the poor, and following Christ, the ruler would thread the needle and enter into eternal life and the hope of the inheritance of God.

From this section on the inheritance and eternal life, it is readily apparent that eternal life is taught, in the New Testament, as an already-not yet blessing: believers have already received eternal life through faith in Jesus; and believers have not yet experienced and received the fullness of eternal life, which is to be given on Judgment Day. This blessing of eternal life given on the Last Day is the result of Christian obedience to God and to Jesus Christ. Only those who are true believers and who persevere to the end will receive the fullness of eternal life on the Last Day; only those who love God’s people and love God will participate in the full manifestation of the blessing of eternal life. It is most certainly this teaching that is presented by Jesus in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Or, conversely, the Parable is not teaching salvation by works. It is not advocating that salvation is gained by obedience to the Mosaic Law. Rather, it is teaching that the inheritance is given to those who love God and to those who demonstrate Messianic love. The lawyer was meant to leave all behind and follow the Messiah, but he did not. Instead, he mocked the Messiah and justified himself. The Samaritan, on the other hand, was a man of Messianic love and obedience, who will inherit the blessing of God.

The evangelical reader will still have a question or two about the Law and its fulfillment. It is to that subject I turn now in the final section.




When Jesus stood before the Pharisee two different readings of the Mosaic Law were clashing with one another. The Jew clung to the Old Covenant and its very Jewish understanding of obedience via the Mosaic Law. Jesus came with the New Covenant and its understanding of the Mosaic Law: the Law was fulfilled through love alone. This is the new law of the New Covenant that the New Testament writers refer to. I will expand upon this distinction in interpretations of the Law.


Two Different Readings of Law

The Jews had a literal or wooden interpretation of the Mosaic Law. If it was not spat out directly and specifically in the Mosaic Law, it was not valid. At least, this was the initial stage of Jewish interpretation of the Law. From that point, they went to an oral Law, supposedly divinely inspired, which explained the written, Mosaic, Law. There are many instances of the oral Law in the New Testament, which will not detain us here. It is the interpretation of the Mosaic, or written, Law that is of immediate importance. The Pharisees and lawyers are correctly identified as legalists. Yet, this applies in the first place to the Jewish attitude toward the written Mosaic Law. And it is not Judaistic tradition Jesus is wrestling with in Luke 10, but with the Old Covenant and the Jewish abuse of it.

The Jewish hermeneutic had a ring of logic to it. To the Jew, it was simple: loving God and having mercy on one’s neighbor was defined by the other Mosaic Laws, such as the Sabbath, kosher diet, etc.. In this way, the Jew reversed God’s polarity in the Law, putting the cart before the horse. The Jewish rationale was that the abstract concepts of love and mercy could not sit by themselves, floating in mid-air, so they were filled out, or explicated, by those other commandments, the concrete ones involving duties, ceremonies, sacrifices, and the senses. What was a loving Jew? A loving Jew was one who zealously kept the Sabbath commandment not to work. What was a merciful Jew? It was the Jew who was kind to those (their neighbors) who accepted the Jewish God. The Law does not specify that one is allowed to touch a beaten person on the ground, especially if that person has all kinds of blood, boogers, spit, and grime on him. What the Law does specify is that the Jew must keep ritual purity and avoid beaten and dead bodies and all kinds of gross things that issue from the body. Therefore, to the Levite and the priest, it was the ‘righteous’ thing, by the standard of the Law’s explicit commandments, to leave the body alone that was lying on the side. The Jew did not have to, on this level, go to Judaistic tradition; it was a matter of allowing the Law to interpret itself. Thus, the Levite and the priest were therefore fulfilling the first and second commandments, albeit according to the inverted logic of Judaism.

Saul was an expert in observing this type of wooden, inverted righteousness that reversed the polarity of God’s Law, putting the cart before the horse, ceremony and observance before love and mercy. Or, to state it another way, Saul was faithful to the Jewish model that reinterpreted love and mercy via the commandments concerning ceremonies, duties, observances, and so on. Thus, the laws advocating the Jewish identity and peculiar nature of the Jewish nation, such as the Sabbath, the sacrificial system, dietary restrictions and so forth, were the meat and potatoes of Judaism, and, most importantly, were the sole basis for measuring one’s love to God and love to one’s neighbor.

That is why Paul scolds the wooden reading of the Law:

 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain

(Gal.4:9-10). 20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. (Col. 2:20-23)

Yes, Paul is speaking to Gentiles, but the principle is the same: there are those who claim to follow God but who are tied up in the ABCs of the Law- those commandments that involve the senses- and are weighed down by them and enslaved by them. Certain so-called Messianic Jews and Gentiles had majored on passing, temporary, and empty commandments, thereby ignoring the meat: union with the Messiah and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5). These are the ‘mature’ expressions of a mature people of God.

Let us take one example, in the Sabbath, of the clash between God’s view of the Law and the Jewish reading. The Sabbath was perhaps the cause of most hostility and confusion. A Jew could tell you exactly how to observe the Sabbath, but lacked mercy on the Sabbath and would not heal people on the Sabbath. For the Jew, the Sabbath command said you must not work; so, any form of work was forbidden. As if to support the claim of Judaism, one cannot find any Sabbath commandment permitting mercy. So then, 1+1=2 for the Jew, and it was not proper to work on the Sabbath via an act, or ‘doing’, of mercy.[10] In Luke 13:10-17, we read of Christ healing a woman on the Sabbath. The synagogue official raged at Jesus for breaking the Sabbath, and said to him that he should confine his healings from Sunday to Friday but leave Saturday out of it, for it was the Sabbath (v14). Jesus replied to the man that he untied his ox to water it on the Sabbath, but hypocritically refused to have mercy on a woman who was bound by Satan for 18 years (vv15-16)! A literal, wooden interpretation of the Sabbath naturally excluded any form of work, including works of mercy. Yet, Jesus said to the Jew that he breaks his own Law (those Sabbath laws he clings to) by hypocritically delivering animals.

Consequently, what Jews miserably failed at was dealing with life circumstances that

‘violated’ the hermitically sealed Jewish reading of the Mosaic Law. On an interpretive level, they had no clue that mercy extended outside of the Law of Moses’ specific wording. Thus, they could not observe the purely moral commands such as loving God and one’s neighbor. In that suffocating atmosphere, actual mercy and compassion were dispelled. Consequently, the Old and New Testaments rebuke the Jews for observing ritualistic law but having no mercy (Hos.6:6; Matt.9:13). Although the Pharisees were expert Law-keepers, in that they kept those commandments that detailed specific actions, they were incapable of keeping the heart of the Law, with its unspecified actions, that is, to love God with all one’s heart and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

Perfection and the Law

We evangelicals maintain that the Law demanded the impossible, perfection, but the Jews failed to achieve it. This is true, but not in the eyes of the Jew. Legal perfection was foundational to Jewish living. Paul said that he was formerly the perfect legalist Jew:

If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. (Phil.3:4-6)

Paul kept the written Law blamelessly and was a righteous Jew. What does this mean? We can say, very quickly, what it does not mean: it does not mean that Saul the legalist was justified by faith and clothed in the righteousness of God in Christ. It has typically been taken to mean that Saul was perfectly in step with the Pharisaical interpretation of the Law. No doubt! But that does not account for Paul’s exact wording, “as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” In respect of the Mosaic Law in its general complexity and force, Paul kept its commands peerlessly. If you went to the Law of Moses and asked Saul the legalist if he were keeping this or that command of Moses, he would easily demonstrate that he were. Indeed, he was keeping the whole Law. He was perfect! Of course, this is Saul the Jew we are speaking about, but we know the Jews reversed the polarity of the Law, neglecting the greater things of love and mercy.

The desire to be perfect was demanded by the Mosaic Law. It demanded perfection of the Jews. The Jews could not attain to it. Yet, the New Covenant obedience demands perfection based on law, too. Through the Parable, Jesus’ simple aim is to demonstrate which kind of person inherits eternal life: it is one who is a ‘neighbor’ and who loves God with all his heart and who loves his neighbor as himself. To do so is, in Jesus’ estimate, not an impossibility but an absolute requirement of inheriting eternal life. The implication is that only a true disciple of the Messiah will love God with all his heart and love his neighbor as himself. There is no other way to love God than with full devotion. This is the same perfection Jesus refers to in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt.5:48), similar to the sinlessness of the Christian in 1 John 3:9, the perfect man of James 3:2b, and the Christian who fulfills the whole law through love (Gal.5:14; 6:2). Only the Messianic disciple can love in this manner, one who has previously been justified by faith in the Messiah. Douglas J. Moo writes, “Christians who love others have satisfied the demands of the law en toto and they need therefore not worry about any other commandment.”[11]

One system of perfection (the Old Covenant and its Law) was pitted against another (the New Covenant and its law). This is behind Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:20, “ “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” ” Typically, this verse is read as saying that the Christian must be much, much more holy than the Pharisees. However, Jesus does not mean a surpassing degree of righteousness but a surpassing quality of righteousness. To the Pharisee, perfect righteousness was through the Mosaic Law alone. To Christ, perfect righteousness pleasing to God came through following the Messiah and his teaching. Thus, Jesus declares in Matthew 5:48, “ “

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” ” Perfection! Too often commentators force this verse to mean that the Christian is to attain unto perfection. However, this removes the plain force of the text: Jesus is commanding his disciples to be perfect…just like the Father is perfect! It is such perfection that fulfills the New Covenant law.

But how can this be, since even the Christian is a sinner and is not perfect? We must distinguish between the Christian as a sinner and in his fallen nature, his Adamic status, and the Christian as perfected in and by Christ. The Apostle Paul instructs the Ephesians to put off the old man and to put on the new man (Eph.4:22-23). The new man is what the church is in Christ; it reflects his perfection and is therefore his image. The type of growth indicated is not that of gradation, going from one level of holiness to a higher grade, as if we were 50% holy, then 52% holy, and so on until perfection. When the New Testament describes sanctification it means the growth of perfection. A child is born and has all the working parts: its body is fully formed, but not fully developed. The child is declared healthy, even perfect, but is yet to grow into his full, adult, stature. In Christ, the church is considered perfect, a perfect body, for it reflects Christ’s own spiritual life. Yet, the church is still maturing, growing. It is the growth of perfection, the perfecting of that which is already perfect. The church as a body ‘fills out’ or grows. This has to be the case, for the life the church receives is the life of Christ himself. Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal.2:20); and, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil.2:13). The church and the individual Christian who is a member of the church are filled with Christ and his perfection. As it is Christ who is living and working in me, it is the perfection of Christ that is worked out in me.

Messianic Love vs the Mosaic Corpus

I am not suggesting by any of this that Jesus was teaching justification by works. On the contrary, the believing disciple of the Messiah will ‘naturally’ demonstrate his salvation by his works (see Jam.2), and, more appropriately for the Gospels, reveal that he is a true son worthy of his eternal inheritance. But, I am firmly stating that Jesus’ disciples fulfill the Law of Moses by acts of love empowered by the Holy Spirit. The two foundational commandments of the Mosaic corpus, the body of law called the Law of Moses, were, first, to love God with all one’s heart, and, second, to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Yet, the Mosaic corpus itself was entirely incapable of bringing forth such love. A new law was required that did bring forth this love. It is this that Jesus is referring to: the Mosaic Law is being stripped down to its most basic components of love and mercy; everything else is discarded. It is the stripped down version, contained in love and mercy, that forms the basis of the New Covenant ethic and law, that is, the Law of Moses ‘fulfilled’ or brought to its proper spiritual terminus in Christ Jesus. This is a new law, what Paul calls the “law of Christ” (Gal.6:2). Moo comments, “And central to this new law is a command that Christ himself took from the Mosaic law and made central to his new demand: the command to love our neighbors as ourselves (cf. Gal.6:2 with 5:13-14).”[12] Moo contrasts New Covenant love and its fulfillment, as expressed in the Good Samaritan, with the Jewish Old Covenant view of loving one’s Jewish neighbor.[13]

It had to be this way for Gentiles and Samaritans to be included into God’s heavenly community. The Good Samaritan could not, by the nature of the case, observe the Mosaic Law. Nor could any Gentile. Yet, the Parable focuses on a Samaritan doing the impossible: loving his Jewish, Law-bound, enemies with full perfection. In the same vein, Paul says of the Messianic Gentiles in Romans 2:14, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a Law to themselves”.[14] Paul says the same things a few verses later, “So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?” (Rom.2:26). This is not a hypothetical scenario, for it teaches us that certain Gentiles, namely Messianic believers, will essentially keep the core of the Law, even though they do not follow any of its literal commandments. Thus, a Gentile who believes in Christ and who loves his beaten Jewish neighbor to all intents and purposes is keeping the essence or core of the Law. This allows Paul to make the rather bold statement, in the same context, that God will give eternal life to each man who perseveres in doing good and who seeks for glory, honor and immortality (Rom.2:6-7). Such a man is not an unbeliever, but a believer, even a Gentile Messianic-believer who does not have the Law.

The whole of Jesus’ own ministry and teaching anticipated this epochal shift in interpretation of the Mosaic Law. On numerous occasions, Christ, as the Lord of Moses, bypassed various commandments and laws within the Mosaic Law, and in so doing indicated its temporary nature, pointing toward a new version of law in and through faith in his teaching and work. Just like the Samaritan, he constantly touched dead bodies and people who were unclean and had all kinds of bodily fluids issuing, all of which was forbidden by the Mosaic Law (Num.9:6; 19:11-13; Matt.9:25; Lev.15:25-27; Luke 8:42-48). The most outstanding example of his contravening ways is his interpretation of the Sabbath (Luke 6:1-5; Matt.12:1-7). In doing this, Jesus is not discarding the whole of Moses’ Law, as I have already maintained, but he is stripping it down to its ethical essence: love and mercy. In this manner, Jesus is clearly not ‘obeying’ the Law of Moses, but fulfilling it, bringing it to its final, consummated form, as the expression of law for the new Messianic community comprising Jew and Gentile.



From this we see that the Gentile or Samaritan believer did fulfill the Law, for he loved his neighbor, his enemy, as himself. This Samaritan was not a non-believer, but a Messianic believer, the same type of follower put forth by Paul in Romans 2. The Samaritan is chosen because of his non-allegiance to the Law of Moses and its literal commands. After all, Jesus’ church was going to extend to the Gentiles, and they had no knowledge of the Law of Moses and its literal commands. However, Gentiles were in a position, as believers, effectively to follow the Mosaic Law, as its whole structure was fulfilled in Christ Jesus and his work and person. In particular, this fulfillment focused upon love and mercy and obedience to the Messiah and his apostles. In so doing, the entire Mosaic Law, in all of its commandments, was lifted out of its Jewish setting and placed into a heavenly setting. That way the universal church, comprising believing Jew and Gentile, could fulfill the “Law’s” commandments. Unbelieving Jews, however, were stuck in the Old Testament and a literal, wooden reading of the Law of Moses. Their rabid devotion to the concrete commands of the senses led them to interpret the primary commands concerning love as mere extensions of the commandments of the senses. Love, to the Jew, was keeping up precision in the observance of sacrificial offerings, for example. The lawyer that Jesus tackles in the context of the Parable is one of those literalist Jews. He knows not how to put mercy and love first, nor how to step outside of the Mosaic Law and its literal demands. And due to this blockheaded and narrow reading of the Law, he cannot even see the Messiah standing right before him. If he had, he would have believed in the Messiah, and, as a consequence, began to fulfill the Law- not as merely given to Moses, but as fulfilled in the Messiah himself, who is the Lord of Moses. If the Jew would have believed in Christ, the lawyer, full of the Spirit, would have loved his enemy, and in so doing fulfilled the Law. By persevering in this love, and by rigorously fulfilling the law of Christ, a Jewish believer would indeed inherit eternal life. This is eternal life granted in the immediate present, but, as the Synoptics teach, most properly experienced in its future unveiling. For this reason, we must reject the common evangelical rendition of Jesus’ words to the lawyer. After all, Jesus said the lawyer was “correct”. Truly, by demonstrating love that is required by the Law as fulfilled in Christ, the believer will be accepted by Christ into his inheritance of eternal life in the Father’s presence.


[1] Raniero Cantalamessa, “Father Cantalamessa on the Good Samaritan”, Catholic Online, accessed 7/8/2017, The pope in question was Pope Benedict XVI, for Cantalemessa, according to the webpage, preached his sermon in 2007.

[2] Joe Plemon, “The Parable of the Good Samaritan: 5 Lessons Learned,”, February 5, 2013,

[3] John W. Welch, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, “The Good Samaritan: Forgotten Symbols”, February, 2007,

[4] Matt Slick, “The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37,” Carm, accessed 7/10/2017,

[5] Back in 128BC, the Jews destroyed the Samaritan temple in Shechem. The Samaritan hatred bubbled and seethed until 6 or 7AD when they retaliated by scattering bones in the temple precinct in Jerusalem, during the Passover.

[6] This is in sharp contrast to the Samaritan woman’s perception of the importance of Jacob for Samaria, stated in John 4.

[7] Jesus’ record of Satan recalls various images. The most fundamental is that Satan is kicked out of his spiritual stronghold, which was at that time in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 does, however, refer to evil spiritual forces in the heavenly places. Can these views be reconciled? I think so. What we have is a two-stage fulfillment: Satan and his power is formally broken by the introduction of the kingdom and its power in the ministry of Jesus; at the Second Coming of Jesus, this authority and power will extend its full influence and bring about the final stage of

Satan’s demise.  The illustration of D-Day is suitable here. D-Day was the beginning of the end of Nazi forces in Europe. The completion of this destruction came about in the fall of Berlin and the surrender of the Nazis. Likewise, the victory of Christ in the heavenly places came about with the dethronement of Satan; however, the greater victory will be finalized in Satan’s surrender and destruction at the end of time, when Christ returns.

[8] A similar scenario is possibly evident in Luke 5; it relates that the new disciple Levi holds a reception for Jesus. Jesus, this time, was surrounded by disciples, ‘sinners’, and the Pharisees and their scribes. Jesus preaches to the Pharisees, and the crowd listens. But who was maintaining the reception? Surely it was Levi and his associates.

[9] This view does not take into account that in John 12:2 it is said that “they” made Jesus food. Who is indicated? Perhaps Mary and Martha.

[10] The Talmudic writings are replete with Rabbinic discussions concerning whether a Jew should show mercy on the

Sabbath, and what a Jew could and could not do to help someone who is ill. It was not uncommon for a rabbi to teach that a Jew should not minister any act of mercy on the Sabbath. Even modern orthodox Jews are faced with the dilemma of whether they should work as nurses and doctors on the Sabbath.

[11] Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 814.

[12] Moo, Romans, 817.

[13] Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 112.

[14] Often this verse is considered to indicate ordinary, unbelieving Gentiles. This is rather a stretch considering that Romans 1-3 concludes all men, in their natural status, under sin. Rather, what we have in Romans 2 is a reference to the Messianic Samaritan, one who outstrips the ‘privileged’ Jew by his obedience to the requirement of God’s Law, namely, love.