Alfred H. Ackley, 1887–1960
He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. (Matthew 28:6)
“Why should I worship a dead Jew?”
This challenging question was posed by a sincere young Jewish student who had been attending evangelistic meetings conducted by the author and composer of this hymn, Alfred H. Ackley. In his book, Forty Gospel Hymn Stories, George W. Sanville records Mr. Ackley’s answer to this searching question, which ultimately prompted the writing of this popular gospel hymn:
He lives! I tell you, He is not dead, but lives here and now! Jesus Christ is more alive today than ever before. I can prove it by my own experience, as well as the testimony of countless thousands.
Mr. Sanville continues:
Mr. Ackley’s forthright, emphatic answer, together with his subsequent triumphant effort to win the man for Christ, flowered forth into song and crystallized into a convincing sermon on “He Lives!” In his re-reading of the resurrections of the Gospels, the words “He is risen” struck him with new meaning. From the thrill within his own soul came the convincing song—“He Lives!” The scriptural evidence, his own heart, and the testimony of history matched the glorious experience of an innumerable cloud of witnesses that “He Lives,” so he sat down at the piano and voiced that conclusion in song. He says, “The thought of His ever-living presence brought the music promptly and easily.”
The hymn first appeared in Triumphant Service Songs, a hymnal published by the Rodeheaver Company in 1933. It has been a favorite with evangelical congregations since that time.
I serve a risen Savior; He’s in the world today; I know that He is living, whatever men may say; I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him He’s always near.
In all the world around me I see His loving care, and tho my heart grows weary I never will despair; I know that He is leading thru all the stormy blast; the day of His appearing will come at last.
Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King! The hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find, none other is so loving, so good and kind.
Chorus: He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart ! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.
For Today: Job 19:25; Romans 6:9, 10; Philippians 3:10, 11; Revelation 1:18
Determine to greet everyone in such a way that they will know unmistakably that Jesus is alive and living in your life. Sing as you go—
April 25: Bound for the Promised Land
Joshua 14:1–15:63; 2 Corinthians 11:16–23; Psalm 54:1–7
Faith is not just about being faithful; it’s also about trusting in God’s faithfulness.
For years God dealt with the confused and waning nature of His people while they were in the wilderness. They wondered, “Will God actually do what Moses has told us?” They had seen God repeatedly act on their behalf, but they continued to grow frightened and faithless. In return, the first generation that left Egypt never saw the promises of God. Instead, a later generation witnessed His faithfulness.
In Joshua 14:1–15:63, we see God fulfilling His words. Caleb and Joshua get a chance to witness this faithfulness, but the Hebrews who doubted that God would act on their behalf did not (Josh 14:6–15; also see Num 13:25–14:45). This is an incredible moment: these two men had watched the failures of their elders and led their peers and people younger than them so that they could witness the faithfulness of God together. You can almost hear them singing, “It is well with my soul.”
Faith is a two-way street. We are to be faithful, but we must also have faith in God’s faithfulness. God will do what He has told us He will do. He will act upon His word like He did with Joshua and Caleb.
We will be able to look back upon the events in our lives and say, as the psalmist does, “I will freely sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O Yahweh, because it is good. Because he has delivered me from all trouble” (Psa 54:6–7).
Since we know that day will come, why should we not freely sacrifice to Him now? He will overcome our opposition. Why should we not boldly proclaim, as the old hymn says, “I am bound for the promised land,” and use it as leverage to say, “God will be faithful, so there is no reason why we shouldn’t be”?
God has bound us to His faithfulness; Christ’s death and resurrection shows that He blesses us beyond measure. So let’s be bound to God with the knowledge that we are bound for the heavens that He has promised.
In what ways has God been faithful to you? How can these moments be a reminder to you now to be faithful?
John D. Barry
Welcome to Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Today’s reading is Psalm 91 through 95. Our lesson is from Psalm 95:1–2, “O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” (NASU)
Today’s psalm is about praise and worship. But it also warns the people of God not to imitate Israel’s murmuring at Meribah when they tested the Lord. Let’s look at these verses.
The psalmist’s first invitation is to sing to the Lord. The Psalms are songs. Sometimes we do not realize the importance of music and especially song. All cultures have songs, although some may appear to sound strange to our ears. Songs are an expression of the heart. The beauty of the Psalms is that in the hands of a capable composer, they can be sung in many different cultures. These different cultural expressions anointed by the Holy Spirit are wonderful ways to spread the kingdom of God.
The psalmist’s second invitation is to shout joyfully to the Lord. Just like other songs, some are joyful and upbeat; others express sadness or any other human emotion. But this psalm is a summons to shout joyfully. It is an animated way of demonstrating an interior emotion. Some people do not care for this enthusiasm or think that a church service must be somber. There is room for both. At times solitude and quietness are appropriate. At other times, celebration should be expressed. In all, we must make sure that respect and honor of God prevail.
The psalmist’s last invitation is to show gratitude to the Lord. Thanksgiving is a display of genuinely being appreciative of what the Lord has done for us. There are so many things to be grateful for. Just take a moment to reflect on God’s grace and mercy in your life. You’ll probably have a list a mile long! There is no way that we could ever repay Him for what He has done for us. He truly is an unbelievably generous and giving God!
Let’s summarize. The psalmist’s invitation is to sing to the Lord. The psalmist’s invitation is to shout joyfully to the Lord. And the psalmist’s invitation is to show gratitude to the Lord.
May we be a people who love to praise and worship the Lord in all circumstances and in diverse ways. Let us not be limited by our own cultural expressions in worship.
Try to find a psalm sung in another language and listen to it. Another suggestion is to see if you can locate a recording of a psalm with a Middle Eastern flavor to it. Learn to appreciate different cultural expressions. Enjoy praising the Lord!
It has been a pleasure to share with you Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Tomorrow’s Bible reading is Psalm 96 through 100. Let’s not forget the words of the psalmist, “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Until tomorrow and may God bless you in abundance as you study the Word of God.
Messengers of Peace
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).
You are a messenger of peace!
When Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” He was referring to a special group of people whom God called to restore the peace that was forfeited because of sin. They may not be politicians, statesmen, diplomats, kings, presidents, or Nobel prize winners, but they hold the key to true and lasting peace.
As a Christian, you are among that select group of peacemakers. As such you have two primary responsibilities. The first is to help others make peace with God. There is no greater privilege. The best way to do that is to preach the gospel of peace with clarity, so people understand their alienation from God and seek reconciliation. Romans 10:15 says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!” The early church preached peace through Christ, and that is your privilege as well.
Your second responsibility is to help reconcile believers to one another. That’s a very important issue to God. He won’t accept worship from those who are at odds with each other. They must first deal with the conflict (Matt. 5:23–24). That is especially true within a family. Peter warned husbands to treat their wives properly so their prayers wouldn’t be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).
Peacemakers don’t avoid spiritual conflicts. Rather, they speak the truth in love and allow the Spirit to minister through them to bring reconciliation. If you see someone who is alienated from God, you are to present him or her with the gospel of peace. If you see two Christians fighting, you are to do everything you can to help them resolve their differences in a righteous manner.
Of course, to be an effective peacemaker you must maintain your own peace with God. Sin in your life will disrupt peace and will prevent you from dispensing God’s peace to others. Therefore continually guard your heart and confess your sin so God can use you as His peacemaker.
Suggestions for Prayer: Pray for those close to you who don’t know Christ. Take every opportunity to tell them of God’s peace.
For Further Study: Read 2 Corinthians 5:17–21. ✧ How did Paul describe the ministry of reconciliation? ✧ What was Christ’s role in reconciling man to God?
Doing Our Part
I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.
What is the way out of a circumstance created by an unwise decision? A wise decision. And who is primarily responsible for meeting the need? The person who has made the unwise decision.
What is God’s role in this?… I believe that God will give daily guidance to any person who requests it, and that He will give courage, fortitude, and willpower to any person who requests these qualities.…
He will not do our part, but He will assist us so that our efforts will succeed and we will have both the courage and the endurance necessary to see a problem resolved fully or a need fully met.
The Risen Christ
Scripture reading: Acts 2:23–24, 32–36
Key verse: 2 Timothy 2:9
The word of God is not chained.
In her book, Shadow of the Almighty, Elisabeth Elliot offers penetrating insights into the life of her husband and missionary martyr, Jim Elliot. Ever the seeker, Elliot disliked any attempt to contain or confine the fires of God in the human life. He wrote this while a student at Wheaton College:
2 Timothy 2:9 says, “The word of God is not bound.” Systematic theology—be careful how you tie down the Word to fit your set and final creeds, systems, dogmas, and organized theistic philosophies!
The Word of God is not bound! It’s free to say what it will to the individual and no one can outline it into dispensations which cannot be broken. Don’t get it down “cold,” but let it live—fresh, warm, and vibrant—so that the world is not binding ponderous books about it, but rather the world is shackling you for having allowed it to have free course in your life.
Although Jesus was not a revolutionary, what He began on Resurrection Sunday has transformed millions of men and women through the centuries.
When you are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, you are filled with the power of the risen Christ. You are joined with a Savior with whom nothing is impossible. Never be surprised at what He will do next.
Father, I claim the power of the risen Christ in my life. Renew my strength by Your Spirit.
But made alive in the spirit.
1 Peter 3:18, nasb
Today’s verse makes a specific reference to the life of Jesus’ spirit—it does not refer to the Holy Spirit. The apostle Peter is contrasting what happened to the flesh (or body) of Jesus with what happened to His spirit. His spirit was alive but His flesh was dead.
Some think “made alive in the spirit” refers to Christ’s physical resurrection, but that would necessitate a statement like, “He was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the flesh.” The resurrection was a spiritual and physical occurrence. Thus Peter’s point has to be that though Christ was physically dead, His spirit was still alive.
On the cross, Christ’s spirit experienced brief separation from God. He said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). The separation ended quickly, however, for shortly after our Lord’s lament, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). Then, His spirit was no longer separated from God; it was committed to the Father.
April 25 God Is for You
The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.
Not only is God’s Spirit in you, but also God is for you. There are amazing power and freedom in knowing that almighty God is now on your side.
Have you blown your marriage due to immorality? If you are a believer, God is still for you.
Have you backed off from your commitment to God? Have you ignored His counsel, refused His direction? As staggering as it seems, God is still for you.
Here’s why. When Christ died, God’s judgment was fully executed on His Son. His wrath against sin was vented. God’s love is steadfast for those who receive the gift of eternal life by faith in Christ Jesus. You may sin and rebel, but His love for you does not change.
Yes, He will discipline you; yes, He will chastise you if necessary. But all correction is filtered through His loyal, blessed love.
God is for you, not against you. Because of the Cross, you can abide in His presence permanently and experience His love by personal faith in Jesus Christ. Paul declared that nothing can “separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).
Thank You, Father, that even when my commitment to You is feeble, You are still for me. Thank You that nothing can separate me from Your love.
Contentment in All Circumstances
Scripture reading: Philippians 4:11–19
Key verse: Philippians 4:19
My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Our materially oriented culture is programmed to generate discontentment. That is why each year brings new cars, new fashions, new improvements, all designed to make us dissatisfied with our present status or possessions.
Cultivating contentment in the Christian life begins with understanding that things never define your value. Your job, neighborhood, or net worth does not figure into God’s equation for value and worth. Your value lies in your priceless relationship with God as your Father.
Still more, you can counter the anxious and stressful tug of discontentment with a solid understanding of several basic scriptural truths.
God cares for you. Because you are His child, He has assumed responsibility for providing for your emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. He will do so as you trust Him without reservation while you go about the routine tasks of each day.
God is in control. When a job is terminated, a mate quits, a friend deserts, God is quietly but sovereignly at work for your good. You are not a victim of the economy or another’s decision.
You can be content in any circumstance when you are sure of God’s unceasing care and absolute control of every detail. Rest in His ability, and contentment will follow.
Father, I am so thankful that You are in control of every circumstance of my life. You care for me and have assumed responsibility for me as Your child.
Forever Is Guaranteed
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 15
Key Verse: 1 Corinthians 15:26
The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
It’s a cold winter day. The canvas awning under which you sit flaps roughly. The people behind you cry silently. Those gathered around the sides are red-eyed and somber.
In front of you a preacher stands next to the casket of your loved one—the one with whom you ate, laughed, walked, and communed for all these years.
Long minutes pass. It is over. Friends hug you; the preacher consoles you; and you return to your car for the lonely trip home.
In this setting of grim, undeniable reality lie the profound and majestic hope, comfort, and assurance of the Christian faith—forever set in the scriptural jewel of John 11:25 (nasb): “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.”
Death isn’t the final act. It isn’t the ultimate farewell scene.
Because Jesus confronted death and emerged the Victor, we who believe in Him also will live—even though we die. Because of Christ’s resurrection, our forever is guaranteed. Our faith is valid; our hope is sure; our expectations are fulfilled. Christ, the Death Slayer, has won the ultimate battle and invites all who believe in Him to experience the delightful fruit of His victory—eternal life.
Dear God, I praise You that my forever is guaranteed. My spiritual journey will not end with death. It will continue for eternity.
After the Cross
Scripture Reading: John 14:16–19
Key Verse: John 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
It is possible that we can walk away from the Holy Spirit’s control and endure a life that is less than Spirit filled. This is one of the reasons many believers endure defeated lives even after experiencing great joy for a period after salvation.
The Spirit-filled life is not about how much of the Holy Spirit a believer can gain. At salvation, God indwells you fully, forever, with His Holy Spirit. The Spirit-filled life is about how much of you the Holy Spirit can gain.
Many believers are defeated because they have not been properly taught about the Holy Spirit. Some refer to the Holy Spirit as an “it” and fail to recognize Him as a person. He is a person of the Trinity who comes into the life of the believer at the moment of salvation. There doesn’t have to be an accompanying experience, feeling, or manifestation.
The Bible clearly states that the Holy Spirit is a person, and God is not going to equip you with a partial person or with a person who darts in and out of your life based on your successes or failures in the Christian walk. But if we are not taught properly, or if we burn out by attempting to walk and serve in our own power, we naturally are going to become discouraged and defeated.
Praise the Lord that the role of the Spirit is to enable us to live as God desires, after our lives are changed at the Cross.
Holy Spirit, help me to seek not what I can get from You, but what Your power can enable me to do for You.
The Resurrection: So What?
“If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
1 Corinthians 15:19
Without Christ’s resurrection, our individual Christian lives would be pathetic exercises in futility.
In ancient times the strongest swimmer among the sailors on a ship was called the archegos, a Greek word that means “front–runner” or “pioneer.” If as the ship approached shore, it got caught in waves so strong that a safe landing was doubtful, the archegos would fasten one end of a long rope to the ship, tie the other end around himself, jump into the water, and guide the ship to land. Once on land, he would secure the rope to a rock or tree. Then the other passengers could disembark and use the rope as a safety tether to reach the shore.
Jesus is our archegos. If He didn’t overcome death and make a way possible for us to do the same, we would have nothing more to look forward to than life on earth, which would leave us with no brighter hope than the typical unbeliever (Rom. 6:23).
The archegos illustration shows us once again the crucial importance of Christ’s rising from the grave. Without the Resurrection, Christianity loses its doctrinal strength, as we saw in yesterday’s study. Furthermore, the Christian life would become futile and pathetic if we could not point to the truth of the Resurrection. If our Lord were still in the tomb, He could not help us regarding eternity or our earthly ministry. We would have nothing to justify our efforts in Bible study, preaching, teaching, witnessing, or any activity of Christian service.
However, God the Father did raise “Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:24–25). Because Christ lives, we too shall live (John 14:19). This great certainty should give us all the confidence and motivation we’ll ever want or need as we serve our Lord and risen Savior, Jesus Christ.
Suggestions for Prayer: Based on the reality of the Resurrection, ask God today to give you fresh incentive to be His faithful servant.
For Further Study: Read Luke 24:1–12. What immediate effect did knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection have on Mary Magdalene and the other women? ✧ How did their reaction differ from most of the disciples’?
Numbers 2; Psalm 36; Ecclesiastes 12; Philemon
Among the insights the Psalms convey, some of the most penetrating deal with the nature of wickedness and of wicked people. Rarely are these put into abstract categories. They are almost always functional and relational.
What lies at the heart of the “sinfulness of the wicked”? “There is no fear of God before his eyes” (Ps. 36:1). This means something more than that the wicked person is foolishly unafraid of the punishment that God will finally mete out (though it does not mean less than that). It means that the wicked are so blind that they do not see the ultimate realities. They either do not see God at all, or, scarcely less horribly, they do not see God as he is.
All appropriate behavior and outlook for human beings made in the image of God find their reference point and measure in God himself. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of both knowledge (Prov. 1:7) and wisdom (Prov. 9:10), for “knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). The converse is utter folly: “fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Prov. 1:7). Small wonder the psalmist insists that it is the fool who says, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1). Scarcely less foolish is the conjuring up of domesticated gods we can manage, or of savage gods that are brutal and immoral, or of impersonal gods that depersonalize God’s image-bearers. When one is blind to the true God, including his glorious holiness that must rightly instill fear in image-bearers as rebellious as we, there is no stopping place in our descent into the abyss of folly.
The blindness of the wicked extends to their assessment of themselves. “For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin” (Ps. 36:2). If he could see well enough to detect his sin, to see it for what it is—rebellion against the living God—and hate it for its sheer vileness and utter arrogance before the majestic holiness of his Maker, inevitably he would also fear God. The twin blindnesses are one.
This, of course, is why philosophical debates about the existence of God can never be resolved by reason alone. It is not that God is unreasonable, still less that he has left himself without witness. Rather, the tragedy and ignominy of human sin leave us, apart from God’s grace, horribly blind. Yet this blindness is culpable blindness: the wicked have no fear of God before their eyes. Paul understands the point so well that he makes this the culminating proof-text in his proof of human lostness (Rom. 3:18). Thank God for the next thirteen verses the apostle pens.
Numbers 2; Psalm 36; Ecclesiastes 12; Philemon
Although the teacher never arrives at the fullness of perspective that characterizes the writers of the new covenant Scriptures, his skepticism now shrinks as he encourages some fundamental stances that depend absolutely on a just God who knows the end from the beginning, even if we do not. In this vein, he has already told his readers two things: (a) refuse to live just for today; boldly invest in the future, remembering that this world is God’s (11:1–6); (b) live gratefully and joyfully with the good gifts you have received (11:7–10).
In Ecclesiastes 12, Qoheleth offers one final exhortation: be godly, beginning in your youth; for whether or not we find meaning “from below,” we may be certain that God brings everything to judgment. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (12:1), the Teacher writes. To “remember” God is not simply to recall the bare fact of his existence, but to abandon all illusions of independence and self-sufficiency as God regains his rightful centrality in our lives. God made everything, he alone sees the entire pattern, he is the One who has put eternity into our hearts (3:11). He is the One who made everything good, and we are the ones who have done so much damage with our schemes (7:29).
So remember him, Qoheleth exhorts us, “before the days of trouble come” (12:1)—and then in graphic terms he spells out what old age looks like. In advanced years we may no longer find pleasure in our days (12:1). We reach the winter of life (12:2); we become like an old, decaying house, falling apart, with only a few relics left (12:3). Our hearing fades (12:4b); instead of robust walking or skipping over rocks, we are afraid of heights and fearful of being jostled in the streets. The almond tree has a dark head in winter and turns white with spring blossoms, just as our hair turns white (12:5). Suffering from arthritis and worn-out joints, we hobble along like an ungainly grasshopper (12:5). The silver cord is probably the spinal cord, the golden bowl the skull; the pitcher is the heart: everything decays, and we return to the dust from which we sprang—as God himself, this side of the curse, has said we would (Gen. 3:19). It is far from clear that by “our eternal home” (12:5) and “the spirit returns to God who gave it” (12:7) Qoheleth means everything that New Testament writers mean by such expressions, yet even he is now quite certain that “God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing” (12:14). So, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13).
April 25 – A Perspective on Non-Retaliation
“‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, do not resist an evil person’” (Matthew 5:38–39).
Christians are to “resist the devil” (James 4:7; cf. 1 Peter 5:9) and all that his evil world system stands for (Matt. 6:13; Rom. 12:9; 1 Thess. 5:22). This proves that, although Jesus refuted the Jewish leaders’ wrong teaching that people should take revenge in personal matters, our Lord did not teach that His followers simply had to tolerate all sorts of sinful misconduct and evil.
The resistance of evil and wrong, if done properly, will occur within the church. Jesus’ instruction on church discipline concludes with this command: “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17; cf. 1 Tim. 5:20). A sinning member who rejects one-on-one reproof as well as reproof from two or three others and from the entire church must be excluded from the fellowship. Concerning unrepentant immorality in the church, Paul instructed—quoting the Old Testament—“Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Cor. 5:13).
In contrast to this, Jesus clarifies that His followers must not resist or take vengeance regarding supposed harm done to them personally. Such retaliation has no place in society at large, much less among Christians. Paul later wrote, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone” (Rom. 12:17; cf. v. 19). Instead, God calls us to overcome others’ bad treatment of us by doing good to them (Rom. 12:21).
What are the main reasons for this kind of rebuke and discipline? What are its goals and objectives? When do circumstances become necessary to perform it?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, http://www.moodypublishers.com.
Reading for Today:
Judges 16:20 he did not know that the LORD had departed from him. Here was the tragedy of the wrath of abandonment. His sin had caused him to forfeit the power of God’s presence. This principle is seen throughout Scripture (Gen. 6:3; Prov. 1:24–31; Matt. 15:14; Rom. 1:24–32).
Judges 16:24 they praised their god. It is tragic when a person’s sin contributes to the unsaved community’s giving praise to a false god, for God alone is worthy of praise.
Psalm 51:1 lovingkindness. Even though he had sinned horribly, David knew that forgiveness was available, based on God’s covenant love.
Psalm 51:4 Against You, You only. David realized what every believer seeking forgiveness must, that even though he had tragically wronged Bathsheba and Uriah, his ultimate crime was against God and His holy law (see 2 Sam.11:27).
Psalm 51:5 brought forth in iniquity. David also acknowledged that his sin was not God’s fault in any way (vv.4b, 6) nor was it some aberration. Rather, the source of David’s sin was a fallen, sinful disposition, his since conception.
DAY 25: Why is human righteousness so insufficient for salvation?
The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9–14 is rich with truth about the doctrine of justification by faith. It illustrates perfectly how a sinner who is utterly devoid of personal righteousness may be declared righteous before God instantaneously through an act of repentant faith. The parable is addressed to Pharisees who trusted their own righteousness (vv. 10, 11). Such confidence in one’s inherent righteousness is a damning hope (see Rom. 10:3; Phil. 3:9), because human righteousness—even the righteousness of the most fastidious Pharisee—falls short of the divine standard (Matt. 5:48). Scripture consistently teaches that sinners are justified when God’s perfect righteousness is imputed to their account (see Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:4, 5; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:4–9)—and it was only on that basis that this tax collector (or anyone else) could be saved.
For the Pharisee to fast twice a week (v. 12) was more than is required by any biblical standard. By exalting his own works, the Pharisee revealed that his entire hope lay in his not being as bad as someone else. He utterly lacked any sense of his own unworthiness and sin.
The tax collector’s humility is notable in everything about his posture and behavior (v. 13). Here was a man who had been made to face the reality of his own sin, and his only response was abject humility and repentance. He contrasts with the Pharisee in virtually every detail. “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” He had no hope but the mercy of God. This is the point to which the law aims to bring every sinner (see Rom. 3:19, 20; 7:13; Gal 3:22–24). He was “justified” (v. 14), i.e., reckoned righteous before God by means of an imputed righteousness.
From The MacArthur Daily Bible Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Bibles, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville, TN 37214, http://www.thomasnelson.com.
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