Gospel 4-Justification B (audio file)
Here we are in the fourth week of a series of messages on the Gospel. We have been looking at scripture to understand what the gospel is, and what it does.
The first week we looked at a broad view if what the Gospel is: that God created to point us to him, we responded by worshipping the creation, God gave us the law to reveal our sinfulness, and then he responded by fulfilling the law in Jesus. We then looked at Ephesians 2 and saw how we are reborn when we are saved, that we all either were or are spiritually dead, we cannot raise ourselves, and Jesus raises us, to display His glory. last week was a bit of an abbreviated message on what it means to be Justified. To be declared righteous through Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross. We learned that God is righteous, we are not,but we can be made righteous through Jesus. Well, this week we are going to dwell on that subject a little bit more. It is one that I think we need to spend some more time on to make sure we understand how important this truth is. In almost every major Heresy of the church through history, it is usually started by a lack of understanding of justification by faith.
so we are going to be looking at a parable of Jesus today to see how He preached on justification, to help us understand further and to apply this truth to our lives.
Please turn in your Bibles to Luke 18:9-14
In this passage, we see Jesus, in the book of Luke, he is traveling to Jerusalem. He is on his way to the cross, it says several times in the preceding chapters that he is headed to Jerusalem. That was not inadvertent. He is on a mission here, and he is encountering people on his way. He has healed several people, and encouraged some others. he has spent time with Pharisees and tax collectors, and is preparing his disciples for what is to come as he is taken to the cross in a very short period of time. On his way it seems he came across some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous. So in Jesus’ typical fashion he begins to teach them in a parable. He wanted to communicate a truth to them that will change, or at least challenge the way they see the world, and God’s work. His goal here is to strike them to the core in their own self righteousness, and set them on the path to Christ’s Righteousness. He is making a distinction for them and defining how they should approach God, and their righteousness. And his point is this, “you cannot be justified by your works of righteousness, even if you see those works as God given.”
What I want to do in our time today is look at the two characters in this parable and see how we are like each and what Jesus has to say to us today through them.
So first off, lets look at the Pharisee: When we typically see the Pharisees in the Bible, we think of them as the bad guys right? Jesus is always going after them. he calls them a brood of vipers, and sons of the devil, which is a pretty serious accusation against their mothers as much as it is against them.
Well, we really have to be careful because we are probably more like the Pharisees in scripture than we are like the other characters that Jesus befriends, and shows love to. These people were the upright, church going, bible loving, sunday school attending, sharp dress wearing, fish on their car, “god is my co-pilot” sticker on their bumper first one to church every Sunday kinda people. they are the ones we would ask to lead Sunday school, or speak at VBS, or be our Pastor. These are the ones who have lots of outward righteousness, and they know it. And let me make this point clear, Jesus does not go after their righteousness in this story does he? What does he go after? the fact that they TRUSTED in THEMSELVES that they were righteous. He is not attacking the good works that they have done, he is attacking the fact that they trust in those works to gain their access to God! That is why it is dangerous to not see ourselves in their shoes. We need to let his words hit us, and not just whoever we think needs to hear them.
So lets look for a minute at this pharisee. What do we see in his prayer that is admirable?
- He believes in the sovereignty of God: he thanks GOD that he is not like this other man. he recognizes rightly that God is the source of his good deeds. He give the credit where it is due.
- He is Moral: He does a lot of things that can be commended. in business and marriage. these are things that we should appreciate in others, and attain to in our lives.
But what does he pray that is not commendable?
- he was comparing himself with others. Gods standard for your righteousness is Him, not others.
- He approached the Lord as though God was indebted to Him, and he had a right to be there based on his morality, and good works that God had granted him. He saw that the good works that he had committed by God’s grace were the grounds of his acceptance by God. One might see this akin to your neighbor’s kid mowing your lawn, and taking out your trash, then coming to you and asking for the keys to your car because he did the things that a son does, so he has the rights of a son.
So lets look at the Tax Collector. Now, even though none of us enjoy the IRS, there is really not a modern day equivalent to the tax collectors of Jesus’ time. these were seen as the lowest of the low in Jewish society. These were not just scoundrels, they were traitors! They had turned their backs on their own national identity, and had cuddled up to the occupying force. they were lining their own pockets with the money of their own people. Despicable traitorous behavior. They were seen like the dutch women who cozied up to the germans in WWII. They were treated with distain, and were seen as despicable. Not really the good guy we want to align ourselves with.
Lets look at his prayer and see how he approached God.
- He had reverence for the Holiness of God. In his posture, and his demeanor, he recognized that God was altogether different than he. He would not even lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his chest out of the recognition of his own sinfulness.
- he laid all of his life down on the mercy of God. He offered no works, no amends, no promises of trying harder next time. He simply begged for mercy from God. He had nothing to offer, he knew he didn’t measure up, so he asked for mercy. And what does it say he received? Justification. He was declared Righteous. he was innocent, pure, clean, shown mercy! and the key here that we all need to see in this text is the line after it says in v 14 “rather than the other.” this is not a concession for those who need it, this is not a provision for those who cant be as good as the church folk. He is saying here that the Pharisee was not declared righteous. So, he went down condemned. How is that? well, simply put as we saw in our first message, the law was given not to make us righteous, but to diagnose our sinfulness. these men both had the same law, that was meant to do the same thing. They just had two different responses to this law. One saw the external, and felt that he could live up, and that would gain him access, the other saw that he could never live up, and threw himself on the mercy of God.
So, what do we take from this passage? Well, there are two things that I want to drive home to us this morning.
- All the basis of our access to the throne of God is based on the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. There is no other way to be acceptable to him. You cannot earn his love, any more than you can be called my son by cutting my grass. When God laid Jesus on the Cross, it was to bear all of our iniquities, and sins. And when he lived a sinless life, it was so that righteousness could be credited to us. Just as it says in Romans 5:15-21…
- Any good works that God does in us are the fruit, and not the root of our justification. This is super important for us because as you grow in your relationship with God, if genuine, there will be fruit. We saw in Ephesians 2 that he has good works prepared in advance for us to walk in them. The danger for us is this, that we begin with an understanding that our access is all about Christ, and then we see all the fruit of his work in our life and begin to see that as the basis of our access instead of still being admitted by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Gal 3:3 says…