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In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus gave a parable about a Pharisee and a Publican. What is He teaching by it?

All parables are illustrations of some point the teacher is trying to make. We must first determine the point in question otherwise we can teach about anything from them.

In the case in question the point is very clear as it is given in Luke 18:8 "...Unto Certain that trusted in themselves that they were righteous..." The pharisees were very religious and often very moral. They were the leading religion of Jesus day. Many thought that they would be saved because they were good living temple going people. They paid their tithe and fasted, Luke 18:12. Their lives were morally clean as seen in Luke 18:11. They literally despised (Luke 18:9) the publican; who were crooked tax collectors for the Roman government.

I believe the Lord is teaching us the same today. We cannot be saved by self-righteousness. Titus 3:5 says "Not by Works of Righteousness which we have done but by His mercy He saved us". This seems to be a hard lesson for many to learn, especially religious people. We cannot merit or earn salvation by works. Ephesians 2:9 "Not of works lest any man should boast."

On the other hand the publican had no works of righteousness to offer. He could only cry "God be merciful to me a sinner." This is the only approach to God that He can accept. When sinners come through Calvary's sacrifice they are accepted in Luke 18:14 Jesus makes it clear the publican was saved and the pharisee was not.

All comments and questions to: Harold Smith

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Updated March 13th, 2014 by Sandra Felix