Sunday, December 23, 2012


Luke 18:9-14

Morning Meditation 12/23/2012

“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And 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. I 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.”

This publican’s prayer is probably used more to illustrate the kind of prayer that needs to be prayed by the unsaved in order to be saved than any other. This is a parable given by the Lord Jesus in order to illustrate two different attitudes. A parable (parabole) is when a comparison is made. It is a comparison of one thing with another. Two men with two different attitudes are compared in our Lord’s illustration.

The one is an arrogant self righteous attitude that is confident in his own righteousness and feels completely worthy of God. He thinks God is very fortunate to have him on his team and doesn’t mind listing some of the reasons. He is more than willing to point out his virtues and the other man’s failings. None of us want to be compared to this man. Even though it is easy for us to adopt this man’s attitude, we will always call it by a different name. We are the same man in a different suit. But we would debate the issue of our likeness. We will argue our humility and are very proud of it! It is kind of like naming our daughter’s Jezebel and our son’s Judas. We are just not going to do it. We may raise a Judas or a Jezebel but that is not going to be their name. So it is with being a Pharisee. I have been this man. I have an idea you have been too. Now, if you say you haven’t. Remember the words, “I thank thee, that I am not as ...” Oops. I better leave the further discussion of that alone!

The other is a man who has just discovered that everything that the Pharisee said is right. I have not done those good things that the Pharisee has. I think the publican was thinking, “I sure am glad that the Pharisee does not know the whole story. It would really be embarrassing. It is bad enough as it is. We are right here in the Temple and the people standing around have already heard him.” The publican said to himself, “I am here to worship. I can’t lie to God. He knows all things (the theologians call it omniscience). I’m just going to have to admit that the Pharisee is right about me. I am a sinner.” Suddenly, this man who has just admitted that he was a sinner and that the things said by this hardened Pharisee is right, felt an easing of the tension. He felt the burden of the sins he had committed lift. He actually felt that God had forgiven him. When he left the Temple that day, he actually felt he had been to worship. There was a strange peace that had invaded his soul. He didn’t know how to explain it, but he knew that he had become God’s child. He had forgotten all about what the Pharisee had said about him. In fact, when he went out the door he met this Pharisee and he put out his hand and shook it and said, “God bless you sir.”

What was different about the two men? I just want to take a look at verse 13 and see if it reveals the secret.

The words “And the publican, standing afar off.” describe the true nature of the sinner. Eph. 2:13 says “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” The sinner is on death row. He is under the sentence of eternal death. He is not near the kingdom of God. He is afar off. The word “standing” is a perfect tense verb. This is completed action in the past with the result that it is still true. Where in the past did this become true? The answer is in Adam. It goes all the way back to the sin of Adam. And this sin of Adam was passed to him. This was also true of the Pharisee. But he did not admit it. He was busy trying to clean up a nature where the stains run so deep it is impossible. The publican “stood afar off.” He knew that is where he belonged. The greatest step toward salvation is the recognition that we are “afar off.” Sinners are candidates for grace. Jesus did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. So this man qualified.

The words “would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven but smote upon his breast” indicates an attitude. This man was smitten to the ground. He was decimated to us a modern term. HE was brought low to use another. This is the emotional side of repentance. Repentance is literally a change of mind. I like to think of it like this. It is when I take God’s view of me against myself. God has said “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Repentance is when I say, “God you are absolutely right. I refuse to defend myself. I have discovered you are right. You know all about me and remember every sin I have ever committed. So I must confess without any defense.” This attitude will bring remorse, i.e., the bowing of the head and the smiting of the chest. This sets the stage for the prayer.

The words “God be merciful to me a sinner” is a short prayer. But it caused Jesus to say, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other...” The words “be merciful” (hilaskomai) mean “ to expiate, make propitiation for.” It is an aorist passive imperative verb. The aorist tense means to do it at a point of time in a once-for-all act. The passive voice means that he is asking God to act on him. The passive voice is where the subject (the publican) is acted on. The imperative mood is a command and speaks of urgency. The whole spirit of this verse speaks against the publican giving an order to God. The imperative mood is used here to express urgency. This is completely in keeping with the sinners prayer as he calls in desperation for salvation. The word “sinner” is literally “the sinner.” A.T. Robertson says, “The sinner, not a sinner. It is curious how modern scholars ignore this Greek article. The main point in the contrast lies in this article. The Pharisee thought of others as sinners. The publican thinks of himself alone as the sinner, not of others at all.” It is the attitude of Paul who said, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

Another important thing is that the publican actually asked the Lord to be propitiated to him a sinner. In other words he is asking God to do the saving. The word “mercy seat” is in other places translated “mercy seat.” “God would you please be my mercy seat.” The Pharisee was the theologian and prayed like an illiterate and the publican was an illiterate, theologically speaking, praying like a theologian. He went down to his house justified.

God bless each of you.

In Christ

Bro. White

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