Saturday, April 29, 2006

Salvation and Lazarus & the rich man

“As a Christian, I still get confused about Luke 16:19-Lazarus and the rich man. Salvation rests in faith in Christ alone and we cannot earn our salvation. But, when I read the footnotes explanations in many Bibles, it says that the rich man went to hell because he was selfish and did not care about Lazarus? It doesn't say he went because of not believing in Jesus. Could you please explain why Bible footnotes would say this?”

Great question! The passage does not specifically tell us why the rich man was in hell or on what basis Lazarus could be carried to Abraham’s side. We just know that the rich man was in hell and Lazarus was taken to Abraham’s bosom, which was a way of referring to paradise. The point of the story was to show that the wealthy man was not righteous simply because he was rich and that God did not forget Lazarus just because people had neglected him. Apparently, the rich man relied on himself and his wealth while Lazarus depended on God.

One thing to keep in mind is that when this parable was taught, Christ had not yet completed His death, burial, and resurrection. Therefore, the listeners would not yet have comprehended the full perspective on salvation that we have today. Please see "How Was Salvation Achieved Before Christ?" for further insight into how someone like Lazarus would have gained salvation before Christ’s death and resurrection.

To address why a Bible footnote would have explained this parable the way they did, there are many types of Bibles published today. Some Bibles are marketed to teens, some to “Reformed” believers, others to “Charismatic” believers, and so on. For the most part, trusted, well respected Bible-teachers and scholars write these footnotes. There will always be disagreement over what certain passages mean. It is wise to consult a commentary or two to see how another teacher has interpreted the same passage. This can be a good way of helping us to see something we did not consider before or to simply acknowledge that other believers have come to different conclusions on the subject. It’s always a good idea to ask your pastor for guidance as well.

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