Faith and Justification

Luke 18:9-14

9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This parable was addressed to the Pharisees who thought their practice of religiousness and their obedience to the law made them rightness before God. The Pharisees were confident that they were superior to everyone in their observance of the law that they were guaranteed salvation but in reality in dammed them.  By stating that he fasted twice a week, the Pharisees was pointing out that he did more than required by the law. He lauded what he did and by doing so exposed that his salvation was in the fact that he was not like the tax collector. What the Pharisees did was substitute faith righteousness for righteousness in the law.  In this parable Jesus is again illustrating to Jewish religious leaders they must approach God in faith and humbleness like the tax collector.

The fact that the tax collector stood some distance away and would not even look up to heaven meant he understood his sin and unworthiness.  He had nothing to bring to God but his hope that God would be merciful. Jesus says the tax collector was justified as are all of us when God’s perfect righteousness is imputed to us. Notice that Jesus also says the Pharisee did not go home justified.  Both the tax collector and the Pharisee could be considered somewhat well off in terms of economic status, in terms of social status, the tax collector was considered a traitor to Israel for selling out for money.  But the tax collector goes home justified by his faith. That’s because wealth or social status does not matter with God.  Faith in Christ is the great equalizer for every person regardless of where we live, what we look like, what we earn, or what we achieve. Ephesians spells this out in chapter 2:8-9. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, an that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”. Amen

Very Respectfully,

Matthew Schneider

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