Stylos is the blog of Jeff Riddle, a Reformed Baptist Pastor in North Garden, Virginia. The title "Stylos" is the Greek word for pillar. In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul urges his readers to consider "how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar (stylos) and ground of the truth."
Image (left side): Decorative urn with title for the book of Acts in Codex Alexandrinus.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
The Vision (1.16.14): Jesus on Justification by Faith
Scene: Lord's Day lunch at CRBC (1.12.14)
Note:I preached last
Sunday on Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, noting that
Jesus teaches justification by faith here in a way that sounds very much like
what Paul would later proclaim.Here are
Luke 18:13 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.
14 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
In nearly complete contrast to the prayer of the Pharisee is
that of the publican (v. 13).The
publican is also standing, but he stands “afar off.”His distance from the center of the temple,
reflects the spiritual distance he feels from God due to his sinfulness.And the temple was very much designed to give
a physical representation of sanctification.It all centered around “the holy of holies.”If you were not holy, you had best not come
close, lest you suffer the same fate of others who have acted presumptuously
and suffered the consequences (Nadab and Abihu in Lev. 10; Uzzah who committed
the “error” of reaching out to steady the ark in 2 Sam 6:6-7).Whereas the Pharisee boldly mouthed God’s
name, though he was really speaking to himself, this second man, Jesus says,
“would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven.” And instead, he smote or
struck (typto:to strike to beat; it can even mean to wound,
as the root verb indicates, to leave a “type” or mark) upon his breast (v.
13).Notice, as well, that the verb here
is in the imperfect tense.It refers to
repeated action in the past.He did not
just strike himself once but multiple times.
And then, if this stance was not enough, there are his words
which match perfectly his posture. His prayer is:“God be merciful to me a sinner.”The verb here for “to be merciful” is hilaskomai.It is not the root word that is typically
used in the New Testament to describe the giving of mercy in the sense of
allowing someone to escape some penalty he is rightly due.This root word does not appear, for example,
in Luke 6:36 where Jesus taught:“Be ye
therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (there the adjective oiktirmon is used).The word used here (hilaskomai) literally means to make propitiation for sins.Compare:
Romans 3:24 Being justified
freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God
hath set forth to be a
propitiation [the related noun hilasterion]
through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission
of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation [the related
noun, hilasmos] for our sins: and
not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 4:10 Herein is love,
not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation [hilasmos] for our sins.
There are a couple of things that secular Bible scholars
don’t like or understand about this passage.First, they don’t like the fact that Jesus teaches not only that man
needs his sins taken away (expiation), but that he also needs those sins paid
for by someone else in order to satisfy the wrath of God (propitiation).Second, they don’t like the fact that what
Jesus teaches here sounds so much like what the apostles Paul and John
teach.They want to drive a wedge
between Jesus and the apostles (particularly Paul).Jesus, however, presents the publican as a
man who knows he is a sinner and who knows he needs a propitiatory sacrifice
for his sins.
To round it off, Jesus closes:“I tell you this man [the publican] went down
to his house justified rather than
the other” (v. 14).Here is that great
Pauline expression—a Pauline thunderbolt— on the lips of Jesus.Jesus speaks of a man being justified by
faith and not by works, the great article of the faith upon which Luther said
our religion either stands or falls.Jesus teaches just as Paul did:
Romans 5:1 Therefore being
justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
Galatians 2:16:Knowing that a man is not justified by the
works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ….
the righteous deeds, the good works, of that proud Pharisee were nothing but
filthy rags in God’s sight (Isa 64:6).One man went home lacking justification, because he thought much of
himself and his own righteousness and little of God, while one went home
justified because he thought little of himself and his own righteousness and much
given a model here of what we are to avoid:The self-trusting, self-justifying disposition of the Pharisee, which is
accompanied by a looking down upon others.
are given a model of what we are to follow:The publican, who comes to the Lord empty handed.“Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy
cross I cling.”
only man who can truly pray is a saved man.And the only way a man can be saved is if he understands his sin and his
desperate and profound need of a Savior.He must come with a publican-like spirit and not with a Pharisee-like
spirit.This is the mark of a man who
has been justified by faith.