The Pharisee and the Publican

Luke 18:10, “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.”

There is an important teaching in the Scripture concerning the self-righteous Pharisee and the humble publican. Here is the Biblical account of these two very different men...

Luke 18:10-14, “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.”

Jesus said that the Pharisee did not receive forgiveness, because he failed to see his own wickedness. Instead, the Pharisee focused on his neighbor's sins, condemning him, and attempting to please God as Cain did in his own self-righteousness. In sharp contrast, the publican went up to the temple to pray, comparing himself only to the Law of God, and cried out for mercy from God. Whereas the Pharisee was looking horizontally, comparing himself to other sinners, the publican only looked vertically in his heart to God.

There is a timeless truth here to be learned, i.e., that no self-righteous sinner can be justified with God. The Pharisee didn't repent of his wicked ways, he merely boasted of his only self-righteousness. Biblical repentance is the recognition of one's sinnership—the owning before God that I am as vile a sinner as he hath declared me to be in His Word. The publican had a repentant heart and cried out... “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Praise God! Salvation happens when a person sincerely acknowledges their guilt of sin, coming to God on the basis that they are a hell-deserving sinner, believing on Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, to forgive their sins.

Salvation is rooted solely in Christ's righteousness. We read in Romans 10:3-4, “For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Many people today, as the Pharisee in Luke 18:10-14, are ignorant of God's righteousness. The righteousness of God is solely by faith in Jesus Christ, Who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Romans 10:4).

John 8:32,36, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free ... If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

Jesus Came to Save Sinners