The Book of Luke, The Mercy and Forgiveness of God - Lesson 197
Luke 18:9-14, And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are,
Isaiah 64:6, But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Isaiah 53:6, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Romans 3:22,23, Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Romans 5:12, Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Romans 10:12, 13, For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Our Lord Jesus Christ taught on many occasions by contrast.
He told us to look at this in light of that.
Compare A with B.
Get an understanding by looking at the differences between two things or two people, or two ideas.
Many times he asks us to look at the extremes of two things.
We see this worked out on television when we watch so called fair and balanced news commentary programs where we hear the ideas of the far right and the far left.
The hope is that we will get a better understanding of the idea by looking at the extremes.
In this parable there are two men brought to our attention.
One is an extremely religious man and the other, most would think of as an extremely worldly man.
One is a Pharisee and the other is a publican, a tax collector.
The Lord takes care in his opening statement to address this parable to a certain group of people for their learning.
9And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
This parable then is for those who trust in themselves and are confident that they are upright and in right standing with God and who also scorn and despise others for their lack of righteousness.
He does not address this to those who have the same spirit as the publican for we learn from Christís conclusion that the publican is where God desires him to be.
God addresses this to the self righteous man in order for him to move to the same place as the tax collector.
God also loves the Pharisee and desires for him the same forgiveness and the same uprightness and right standing before God as has the tax collector.
The first part of chapter 18 concerned persistence and perseverance in prayer.
In the first parable it was the character of God which gave value to persistence and perseverance of the saints in prayer.
If you are going to ask someone for help you chose to ask someone of character do you not?
That is why we can always be confident in asking God.
God is faithful and he always hears our prayers.
But in our parable for today it is the character of those praying who are identified.
In the first parable it is justice that is highlighted but in the second parable it is mercy and forgiveness that is emphasized.
Both men came to the same place to pray.
Both men came to the temple.
The first man we are told trusted in himself and not in God.
He trusted in his own righteousness as sufficient to please God.
He thought that his own righteousness was sufficient and therefore had no need of Godís mercy and forgiveness.
He saw himself above others for he had so many good attributes and qualities as he compared himself to those around him.
In particular he compared himself to the tax collector whom God placed in the temple for that very purpose.
Now from the outward there would be no question as to who was the righteous man and who was the sinner.
Man judges by appearance and this Pharisee had so enhanced his pious appearance as to guarantee him first place in any contest where righteousness is judged.
His ways of praying, his dress, his reputation for keeping the law would put him in good stead as being included in the kingdom of God.
But there was no doubt in his mind as to the standing of the tax collector relative to the kingdom.
In his mind there would be no way this tax collector would dirty up the streets of gold nor sully the mansions that God had prepared for the likes of this Pharisee.
But as we know from study of Godís word our view of things often conflicts with Godís view of things.
Jesus saw through the outward and gives us a glimpse of the inward.
Jesus knew the thoughts of men and therefore he knew the thoughts of this Pharisee as he prayed thus with himself.
We understand that this means that these are not spoken words but words which he thought to himself.
God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
The first thing about this prayer is to note the focus on judging himself relative to other men.
He did not use the Law as his standard of measuring righteousness; rather, he compared himself with the publican.
He saw himself as righteous simply because he was, in his opinion, better than the publican.
He sees not the standard of God but places himself as the standard by which other men are judged.
I donít do this but other men do this.
I do this but other men do not do this.
He set himself up as a standard which other men could not meet.
This is the self righteousness and contempt for others which our Lord introduced to us in the beginning of this parable.
All of these comparisons were based on the external.
He focused his comparison on his outward deeds compared to the outward deeds of robbers, and adulterers, rather than the state of his or their hearts.
He accentuated the positive about himself while accentuating the negative about others.
We do this all the time when we relate things about those who may have done us wrong, do we not.
We even relate what they said to us by mimicking their voice in an evil voice which is intended to bias the listener in our favor.
His prayer also neglected to regard Godís holiness in favor of promotion of his own holiness.
He thanked God for nothing other than what he was and because he was so self satisfied he asked God for nothing.
There was no mention of Godís graciousness, no realization of having been blessed by God, no request for Godís mercy or forgiveness.
He saw that obedience to the law as that which he had attained and that other men had not attained.
He did not see the law as a standard of righteousness, to show all men they are sinners.
He did not see that the law presents men with an impossible standard, which shows that works cannot save and that men must cast themselves upon the mercy and grace of God.
Paul writes of this in Romans 3:19-25, 19Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
But the Phariseeís mouth was not stopped by the law for he only saw the law as attainable and that he was one who had attained.
And because of his self love he saw no need to love others but only saw a need to have contempt for others who did not come up to the level to which he had attained.
This is always the result of self love, a contempt for others who do not match up for there is always the comparison of oneself to all others in such a way that all others are found wanting.
After showing us the heart of the Pharisee Jesus then directs our attention to the tax-collector as the one in contrast to the Pharisee for he is just the opposite.
The Pharisee was interested in drawing attention to himself from men but the tax-collector is only interested in Godís attention.
13And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
The tax-collector saw himself as unworthy to draw near to the temple as Jesus tells us he stood afar off.
He did not look around for the approval of men and would not even lift up his eyes to heaven as he addressed the only one in whom he could find relief.
When he simply says, ďGod me merciful to me a sinnerĒ he says all that God wants to hear for he has entered onto the narrow way of Godís mercy and forgiveness for that is the only place where God will hear you.
The Pharisee thought of others as sinners.
The publican thinks of himself alone as the sinner and not of others at all.
He draws in no others to hide behind or compare himself to but presents himself to God naked and open to do with as God determines.
In his mind, there is none who compares with him in his sinfulness, while in the mind of the Pharisee, there is none to compare in his righteousness.
His repentance is genuine for he calls only upon Godís mercy and admits to no entitlement whatsoever for the only status he claims is the status of a sinner.
And because of this admission He is blessed for he fits the category of those who will be saved by God.
He is one that mourns over his condition and has come to the conclusion for which the law was given, that of a school master to bring him unto Christ.
He looks not at any righteousness which he has earned for he has none but only looks for salvation which God will grant out of grace and mercy alone.
By Christís answer we know that this short prayer from the publican was from a heart of humility, honesty, and genuine repentance.
And because of this, because of the fact that God looks on the heart the publican will go home justified, because he has come to God as a sinner on the basis of Godís character ó Godís grace, Godís mercy ó and Godís provision of salvation through Christ.
But the Pharisee who came in his own character with his own impressive laundry list of good works will go home just as he came, proud, self-righteous, and condemned.
He will go home as unclean as he came.
He did not call upon the mercy of God for in his mind he did not need it, believing his righteousness as sufficient.
But not only sufficient but probably much more than enough to enter the kingdom of his own making.
For the kingdom of the Phariseesí was a kingdom from which ďsinnersĒ were excluded.
In their kingdom there would be none the likes of the tax-collector, nor would it be populated by the Samaritans or the Gentiles.
Their kingdom encouraged them to look down on those who were not so clean on the outside.
Their kingdom had nothing to do with grace and mercy, but only with merit, and so those who failed to live up to the standards of the Pharisaic system were shunned, and rightly so in their minds.
A works-oriented system of salvation always leads to pride, and pride leads to contempt for others.
Grace is the opposite.
It sees all men as condemned by the law, without distinction, without exception.
It sees all as being saved only because of the grace of God, by means of the shed blood of Jesus Christ: