Published on
October 30, 2023

Luke 18

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else...”

Author Photo
Steve Wiggins
Author Photo
Steve Wiggins
Read Time
4 minutes
Luke 18
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: “God, I thank you that I’m not like other people - greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.”  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, “God turn your wrath from me – a sinner!” I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’”  Luke 18:9-14 (HCSB)

Today’s passage teaches a sobering message: Our righteousness is not based on how well we fare against other men.  Rather, how well we measure up to God’s standard.

I understand why the self-righteous prefer to justify themselves against the righteous efforts of other men because when we gaze into the mirror of God’s standard, we despise our reflections!  When we come closer to the holiness of God, our egos shrink and shiver.

But there is good news in the midst of this dilemma.  Jesus has fulfilled the Torah’s (the Law) requirements on our behalf!  

“What the law could not do because it was limited by the flesh, God did.  He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”  Romans 8:3-4 (HCSB)

Righteousness is only obtained by meeting the Law’s requirements which is impossible for us by our effort.  THAT is the great human dilemma.  We need the impossible.  Enter Messiah.  Jesus accomplished for us that which is impossible for men.  He fulfilled the Torah requirements on our behalf.  By His grace, He offers that atonement, free of charge, if we would, by faith, turn from our sin and receive Him.

“For by grace that we are saved through faith, and that not of ourselves; but it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)

The great mystery of the Old Testament is that salvation has ALWAYS been by grace, through faith.  Never through works.  Why was the tax collector justified in the Lord’s sight and the Pharisee shown as an object of rebuke?  Because the tax collector humbled himself, confessed his sin, and believed that God, by His grace, would forgive him.

A humble attitude of worship is what the Lord requires of us.  Salvation is a function of God’s grace so that when the object of our faith is Messiah Jesus and His righteous atoning work, God considers our faith in Jesus’ righteousness as if we were righteous.

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