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How Can You Be Righteous Before God?

October 26, 2014

Topic: Special Service Passage: Luke 18:9–18:14

Luke 18:9-14


  • The Reformation is known for its 5 Solas - Scripture alone, Grace alone, Faith alone, Christ alone, Glory of God alone. 
  • It marked a rediscovery of the key biblical truths were distinct and different from the prevailing Roman Catholic views in the 16th Century. Then, it was believed that works accompanied faith in Christ in order to be counted as righteous. In the Reformation, the Reformers went back to the belief that faith in Christ alone saves us and we are counted as righteous not because of what we have done, but because of what Christ has done. 
  • Luke 18:9-14 helps us to see the difference between these two views, in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. 

One Parable (v.9)

  • Here, we are introduced to a Pharisee that trusts in himself in his righteousness.
  • What does it mean to be righteous? To be righteous is to be in a right relationship with God, and the Pharisees believe that they can attain a right relationship with God through their own effort.

Two Persons, Two Prayers and Two Postures (v. 10-13)

  • In 1st century Israel, the Pharisees were highly regarded. In contrast, the tax collector is highly loathed.
  • In the parable, the Pharisee was described to be standing away from others as a sign of their contempt towards others. This Pharisee also talks to God about himself, and compares himself to others and continues to try to convince God that he is a good person. He provides details of his good works -- "fasting twice a week and giving tithes of all that he gets". Btefore God, he Pharisee is trying to boast and he is too good to need saving.
  • In contrast, the tax collector is standing far off too, but with a posture of contrition. He will not even lift his eyes to heaven and instead pleads with God for mercy. He beats his chest in an expression of sorrow. He admits his guilt as a sinner. He recognises that he has nothing to commend about himself to God. All he could do is to ask God for mercy and plead for atonement for his sins.

How are you counted as righteous before God? (v.14)

  • At the end of this parable, God declares the tax collector to be righteous before God. His sins are forgiven and he is restored to a right relationship with God. For the ones that exalt themselves will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
  • It is faith in Christ alone that justifies us before God, not our works.

So What?

  • You trust in God's mercy for your forgiveness of your sins
  • You trust that you are in a right relationship with God through faith alone
  • You fight the sin of trusting in your own self-righteousness

God's love and acceptance of us is NOT though our actions. We do not need to be worthy and get our act together before we can come to Christ. The gospel message is for unworthy sinners, and Jesus came to seek and safe the lost, because we could not save ourselves. Romans 3:25 reminds us that we have all sinned, but Christ has become the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and our sins have been paid in full. This good news also transforms our relationships with others, removing any basis for treating others with contempt, but instead, calls for humility, love and grace also towards others.