Pursuing the Humility of the Gospel: Conclusion

Friday, June 29, 2012


The conclusion of this parable is that the publican went back to his house justified that day he prayed, not the Pharisee. The perfect passive tense of this Greek verb is used. 

The passive voice shows us that the publican was an object whom someone else justified. And we know who that was. It was the One  whom he was asking for mercy. It was God. 

The passive voice shows us that only God can justify a soul. Otherwise, a person could justify himself and self-righteousness would be a good thing. 

Does your theology and life give preeminence to this most important truth, that God alone is the justifier and you are the object on whom He acts? Or do you possess a theology which says that you are the deciding factor in whether or not you are justified?  One gives glory to God and the other does not.  

The perfect tense shows us that the moment the publican took his first step to go back home he was justified, made right with God, forgiven, cleansed, and declared not guilty. The act of justification was accomplished in such a way that the publican was from that moment on in a permanent state of being right with God. 

Never again would he be thought of in God’s mind as a sinner, but as a saint. From that point on, the publican would be the recipient of eternal grace and blessing.  And to prove that he is justified, he turns around and goes home. This is meant to show us that his soul was at that point delivered from the storm of despair he had been experiencing.

There is only peace in his heart from that moment on, because he is deeply convinced that God’s approval rested on him. God was indeed satisfied, mercy was granted, and the publican could rest soundly that night knowing he had been made right with God. He went home because he was at peace with God. And his humility was the road that led him there.  It is no different when considering your own justification. 

But the Pharisee goes on and has nothing! He might as well have stayed home that day, and never gone to the temple at all, as one pastor suggests.  It might have been better for him all together to have done just that. When he got home all he had was himself. And this is true of those who are not justified. They go home from church and have no Lord for their friend, but only themselves. However, when the publican got home, he had his God, his friend, his Savior, his Lord, his Brother.

So how do you know if you are truly justified? 

Measure yourself by the men in this parable. Jesus says the whole point of the story is that those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. The Pharisee exalted himself, and the Publican humbled himself.  

Does the pattern and overall tenor of your life up to this point look more like the Pharisee or the Publican? 

Do you think more about the sins of others?

Or do you think more about your own sin? 

Do you judge the behavior andlifestyle and problems of others? 

Or do you focus on the mercy of God inyour own life? 

You must measure yourself by these two men if you would know the answer for sure. But there's one more thing you must do. You must measure yourself by what God observes in your life. You must ask Him if you have been truly justified and ask Him what He sees in your life and listen carefully to Him. Why should you do this? 

Because the parable of the Pharisee and Publican was told from an outside perspective. It was told by Christ, from His perspective. He looked on them both and knew them better than they could ever know themselves.  Likewise you must ask Him what He think because He will know you better than you know yourself. 

An unbeliever's heart is deceitful above allelse and desperately wicked, as Jeremiah tells us. The Pharisee listened to himself too much, which is why he was self-righteous. So listen to the Spirit.  Ask Christ first. As the one who looked on these two men’s lives and identified which one was justified, ask Him to look on your life and tell you whether or not you are justified.  

Romans 8 teaches us that the Holy Spirit will mysteriously speak deep to us deep in our hearts telling us that we belong to Him. But this cannot be the only measure because anyone can step up and say Christ has told them that they are a justified child of God. Their claim to justification may be contradicted by a consistent life of sinful behavior. And this may be something they cannot see for themselves. And that is why they need others to point it out to them.

You need it pointed out to you. So ask others, too, but only after you have asked God.  Ask them, “From what you know about me, are the qualities evident from the publican’s life evident also in my life?” Don’t let them go light on you. Make them be hard on you, for no matter how hard they are, they will not be harder than God is.  Listen to them, trust them if you truly know they are justified.  

My greatest aim in this blog is to know that everyone who reads it are truly justified. It is the goal of every biblical local church, as well as every leader in a local church who has come to truly believe the good news of Jesus Christ.  True justification by faith happens only as we pursue the humility of the gospel. 

My grandest goal is to see people living moment by moment in a humble sense of need for mercy of God, no matter how old we get to be.  For when mercy is all we ask for and hope to get, mercy will inevitably produce a field of roses in our local churches in which the beautiful aroma of mercy meanders through every home, every conversation, every meal, every minute of every day. May we seek this as the priceless pearl, casting everything aside until we have it.  Amen.

About the Author: Rob is a entrepreneur in Statesboro, GA, where he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 18 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.

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