Subtitle: The Publican and the Pharisee

In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 18 and verses 9 through 14, we read the following:

"He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves and were confident that they were righteous [that is, that they were upright and in right standing with God], and scorned and made nothing of all the rest of men: Two men went up into the temple (enclosure) to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector (Publican). The Pharisee took his stand ostentatiously, and began to pray thus before and with himself: God I thank You that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, (robbers), swindlers—unrighteous in heart and life—adulterers, or even like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I gain. But the tax collector, [merely] standing at a distance, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven; but kept striking his breast, saying, O God, be favorable (be gracious, be merciful) to me, the especially wicked sinner that I am! I tell you, this man went down to his home justified—forgiven and made upright and in right standing with God—rather than the other man; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).

This parable was given by the Lord to illustrate the difference between one who was right in his own eyes and one who was wicked and knew it. He uses two characters that were well known to his audience: a Pharisee and a Publican, or tax collector. The Pharisees were considered to be paragons of virtue and the religious leaders of the nation of Israel. The Publicans were also Jews—brothers after the flesh—but they were universally despised because they were tax collectors for the hated Roman government. Anything over and above the actual taxes owed that they could swindle out of the people, they were allowed to keep for themselves. So we can see that the spiritual comparison of these two men would be enlightening, to say the least. It is very probable that those listening to the Lord were actually shocked by what they were told, because He made it very clear that the Pharisee—spiritually speaking—was no better than the Publican.

Both of these men were lost sinners and alienated from God. We might describe them as being "as much alike as two peas (P’s) in a pod!" To stress their commonality, I offer the following acrostics:

Phony Poor

Hard-hearted Ungodly

Arrogant Beggar

Rascal Lost,

Incessantly Imploringly

Seeking Confessing

Ecclesiastical Acute

Elevation Need

Both of these men are "brothers"—that is, they are Jews both racially and religiously. They are both wealthy citizens of the same nation and both (to the surprise of those listening to the Lord) are dishonest. Both are avoided by the common "man on the street", but for entirely different reasons. The reason that the Publican was avoided is obvious, but the Pharisee was considered to be so righteous and holy that the common folk felt out of place in their presence. What these people did not know about the Pharisees as a group (and of course the Lord did know) was that they were guilty of underhanded and unethical practices in gaining their wealth. In Matthew 23:14, where the Lord denounces the Pharisees in scathing terms, He mentions the fact that they were guilty of "devouring widow’s houses"—taking their houses as payment on overdue debts. The Pharisees were also guilty of declaring as "corban" funds that should have been used to support their own parents! The term "corban" denotes that which has been given to God as an offering (Mark 7:11). Therefore, we learn from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself that the Pharisees were hypocrites of the highest order!

Another thing that we must understand is that both of these men were in the same "pod" spiritually. Although both went into the temple area to pray, both are lost but only one knows it. (Sin will deceive you) The Pharisee obviously had "I" disease—notice how many times he refers to himself in his prayer. "I" disease is central to both sIn and prIde! Both of these men were lost but only one shows it. (Repentance and salvation will relieve you). The Publican was fully aware of his spiritual condition and it shows in his attitude and actions. He stood off to the side and hung his unworthy head in shame—smiting himself on the chest as he agonized in his heart. Whereas the Pharisee felt so much "at home" in his surroundings that he offered his prayer in a very conspicuous manner, with his face turned toward heaven. Notice the irony of the statement in verse 11 where he prayed "before and with himself". This man does not know God! He is so full of himself and his "religion" that even his prayers mirror the satisfaction of his own deceived soul.

As we have already pointed out, both of these men have a sin in common—they are greedy. While the Pharisee is basically greedy for social prominence and status, the Publican is just plain greedy—lusting after the "things" of life that money can buy. The Word of God tells us that "the love of money is the root of all evil." If we allow ourselves to become too attached to this world and its value system, we will be drawn into its materialistic web and our witness for Christ will be rendered ineffective. To his everlasting credit, the Publican shows that he is aware of his sinful condition by his attitude and actions. His body language speaks volumes about what is going on within his heart as he stands before God confessing and repenting of his sin. You know what I think? I honestly believe that our generation has all but forgotten the concept of repentance! If you think that repentance is merely telling God that you are sorry for your sin, you are very mistaken. True repentance does involve sorrow for sins committed, but more importantly it also involves a turning from those sins, forsaking them, and then heading in the right direction with your life. Expressing sorrow and then continuing with life as usual does not equate with repentance.

In order to show the spiritual necessity for repentance and the consequences involved where there is no repentance, we must heed what the Lord tells us in Luke chapter 13. Some people have come to Him to inform him that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, had executed some Galileans—apparently while they were offering sacrifices at the temple. In verses 2 and 3, we have the Lord’s reply:

"And He replied by saying to them, Do you think that those Galileans were greater sinners than all the other Galileans, because they have suffered in this way? I tell you, No; but unless you repent—[that is,] change your mind for the better and heartily amend your ways with abhorrence of your past sins—you will all likewise perish and be lost [eternally]" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).

Then in verses 4 and 5, using the illustration of 18 individuals upon whom the "tower in Siloam fell", the Lord reiterates exactly the same admonition. From this we must learn that repentance is absolutely necessary for one to be saved and born into God’s family. Any gospel message that omits the necessity for repentance is wrong and should be denounced! And to make matters worse, far too many Christians are clueless as to the origin of repentance—thinking that it comes from within the heart of the sinner. Not so! Consider the following verses and then you tell me where it originates:

"God exalted Him to His right hand to be Prince and Leader and Savior and Deliverer and Preserver, in order to grant repentance to Israel and to bestow forgiveness and release from sins" (Acts 5:31, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).

"When they heard this they were quieted and made no further objection. And they glorified God, saying Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance unto [real] life [after resurrection]." (Acts 11:18, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).

"Or are you [so blind as] to trifle with and presume upon and despise and underestimate the wealth of His kindness and forbearance and long-enduring patience? Are you unmindful or actually ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent—to change your mind and inner man to accept God’s will?" (Romans 2:4, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).

"(Speaking of a preacher) He must correct his opponents with courtesy and gentleness, in the hope that God may grant that they will repent and come to know the Truth—that is, that they will perceive and recognize and become accurately acquainted with and acknowledge it" (2 Timothy 2:25, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis and parenthetical introduction mine).

From these verses, we should understand that God leads us to and grants repentance—it is something, like saving faith, which we do not naturally possess! The Publican, for reasons known only unto God, was granted repentance and his broken spirit manifested itself by his outward actions of contrition and awareness of his unworthy condition. As the Pharisee "prayed with himself"—his prayers reaching no farther than the sound of his words—the Publican prayed, "God, be merciful to me a sinner". Actually, and technically, what he said was, "God be mercy-seated to me…" As a Jew, he was asking God to look upon him and his sinful condition as He would look upon the blood-sprinkled mercy-seat on the ark of the covenant.

Finally, we want to see that both men were rewarded. The Pharisee, with all of his outward piety, was seen of men and that was his actual goal. His actions while in the temple area helped to maintain his "image" and thereby perpetuate his social status. The Lord, in His scathing denunciation of the Pharisees in Matthew chapter six, mentions three times that, "…Truly, I say to you, they have their reward—in full already" (Matthew 6, verses 2, 5, and 16, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary). The Pharisees coveted the praise of men and they received it! But they went to hell when they died and that is, as they say, a sorry trade-off!

On the other hand, the Publican went home a changed man. Because of his repentance and confession of sin, he was justified in God’s sight. What does it mean to be justified? Justification is a judicial act by God whereby He declares an individual to be "just" in His sight. To be "just" is essentially the same as being righteous—saved and delivered from the eternal penalty of sin.

Has there ever been a time in your life when you saw yourself in the same position as this Publican? You realized that you were a sinner, alienated from God, and would go to hell if you died in that state? Has there been a time of repentance for you when you literally turned from your wicked ways and began to follow God? If you cannot honestly say that there has, the Bible teaches that you are still in your sins and need salvation. I urge you to pray and ask God for forgiveness and His supernatural assistance to truly repent and be saved.

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.

  If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, but have come to realize His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to accept His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can also do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you accept Him as Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.

We hope you have been blessed by this ministry, which seeks to educate and warn people, so that they can see the coming New World Order -- Kingdom of Antichrist -- in their daily news.

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God bless you.