Songs and Praise



Luke 18:9-14;

Lesson 181 Senior Lessons

MEMORY VERSE:  "There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness" (Proverbs 30:12)

I The Penitent's Prayer

The publican prayed, 'God be merciful to me a sinner,' Luke 18:13; Hosea 14:2  The sinner's prayer of repentance for sin is an acceptable one with God, Proverbs 28:13; I John 1:9; Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 66:2; II Corinthians 7:10; Ezekiel 18:21 God's mercy and forgiveness are extended to all who pray with godly sorrow and repentance for sin, Micah 7:18,19; Ephesians 2:1-7; Exodus 34:6,7; Psalm 103:8 Full pardon for sin is promised to the penitent, Isaiah 44:22; 55:7; Jeremiah 3:22; Hosea 14:4; Luke 15:21-24

II Prayer of Self-Justification

The Pharisee sought to establish his own righteousness and not the righteousness of God, Luke 18:10-12; Isaiah 58:2; 65:5; Romans 10:2-13

The Pharisee extolled his own works in contrast with the works of the publican who prayed for mercy, Luke 18:13; Ephesians 2:8,9; II Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5; Romans 3:24-28; I Corinthians 1:29

III Exaltation and Abasement

The publican went home justified before God because he prayed with repentance, with faith, and asked for mercy, Luke 18:14; Romans 4:5 The Pharisee could not see the necessity for repentance and God's saving grace in his behalf, and so was not justified before God, Luke 18:14; Romans 4:2-4; I John 5:10


Two Prayers

We learn from the parable of the Pharisee and the publican that not all who pray to God are accepted by Him. Jesus described two men of vastly different character, one a Pharisee and the other a publican. Their social standing in their community was widely different. The Pharisees were usually thought to be of a better class of people, and were often Men of high repute in the Temple worship. They considered themselves teachers and interpreters of the Law. Many of them were men of muchlearning, and their standard of religion was of the strictest the nation of Israel afforded.

The publicans were tax collectors for the Roman government, which caused them to be heartily disliked by everyone. This dislike stemmed from the fact that the publicans received a percentage of all taxes they collected. They contracted with the Roman government to procure a certain amount of taxes from the people. This privilege of tax collecting was greatly abused by the publicans because the Roman officials seldom were concerned about any of the methods the publicans used to gather the taxes. Official Rome cared little if the amount of taxes the publicans gathered was an exorbitant amount — which it usually was — so long as the Roman government received its desired amount of taxes.

It was these two men, of such widely separated positions in the community life, that Jesus used as an example of two methods of prayer. Both of these men went to the Temple to pray. Their mode of praying and their attitude toward God were as different as their lives. The results of their prayers were different also, for one went away justified and the other did not. The reason for the difference was in the attitude they took toward God.

Our Just God

With God there is no respect of persons, and He will hear the prayer of one man as soon as He will hear the prayer of another. 'Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked? and to princes, Ye are ungodly? How much less to him that accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor? for they all are the work of his hands' (Job 34:18, 19). 'For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him' (Romans 10:12). (Read Acts 10:34. 35; James 2:1-9.)

Therefore the publican, though he was despised by his own countrymen, was not rejected from petitioning God because of his wickedness. Neither was the Pharisee more readily accepted of God because of his so called high religious standing.

Exalting Self

The Pharisee prayed: 'God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.' The Pharisee recited to himself his abstinence from the flagrant sins of the world, and congratulated himself in that he was not as the publican who was near by, also praying. By such a recitation the Pharisee thought to call God's attention to his worth as a true follower of God.

The Pharisee was using others as a rule of measure by which to measure himself. Paul spoke of this: 'For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise' (II Corinthians 10:12). The only rule of measure by which we dare measure ourselves is the revealed Word of-God. Jesus Christ was the Perfect Man, of full stature before God (Ephesians 4:13). He, and no other, is to be our example.

While the Pharisee was not guilty of the sins he enumerated, he was guilty of some that were equally as grave, and perhaps more insidious and damning. The majority of the Pharisaical sect was guilty of hypocrisy and of perverting judgment. (Read Matthew 23:23.) This Pharisee was guilty of the same sin as many in Israel of whom Paul spoke: 'For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the right¬eousness of God' (Romans 10:2, 3).

Furthermore, this Pharisee, as a self-styled teacher of the Law and an expounder of its spiritual truth, had missed completely the main pur¬pose of the priesthood and the Tabernacle sacrifices. Their purpose was the demonstration of the need of a perfect Sacrifice for the sins of mankind, and the Divine provision to be made that they might be received by God, and be justified before Him.

The whole economy of the Mosaic Law was to prove that by the works of the Law no man could be justified (Galatians 2:16). Furthermore, 'the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith' (Galatians 3:24).

As this Pharisee prayed within himself, thinking he would be justified before God because of his good works, he was rejected of God because of his self-justification.

Prayer for Mercy

How different was the prayer of the publican, and his approach to God. 'God be merciful to me a sinner.' There was no boasting of his good deeds. He hung his head, and could not so much as look up. He could only smite his chest in the agony of the weight of his guilty conscience which had driven him to the house of God that he might obtain solace for his soul. The Temple was a place in which the publicans were seldom seen, yet the house of God was a proper place for the publican's soul to find peace.

God places no premium on sin. Sin is sin, and one wrong deed is as worthy of condemnation as another. The Pharisee was no better than the publican, and was equally as guilty. This publican had opened his heart to God; God had faithfully convicted him of his sin, and he was praying the best prayer a sinner can pray: 'God be merciful to me a sinner.'

The publican went down to his house justified before God because he confessed his sin. He asked God for mercy, and mercy was granted. 'He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy' (Proverbs 28:13). The Pharisee, not willing to confess or enumerate his own sins, not willing even to admit the presence of any, received no mercy or justification, for he not only failed to confess his sins but was unwilling to forsake them. However wicked the publican had been in the past, he prayed with a confessing heart; he was sorry for his sins, and was willing to forsake them all and live according to God's commandments.

'For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted' (Luke 18:14). Only those who approach God with a true conception of their own unworthiness of any favors from God, and of their own unrighteousness, shall ever be pardoned. God spoke to Job on the subject of righteousness: 'Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?' (Job 40:8). The Pharisee thought to prove his own righteousness in spite of what his own religion taught him, and so had no righteousness at all. The publican knew he had no righteousness, and sought the only righteousness there is — God's righteousness!


1 Describe the mode of life of the publican and the Pharisee.
2 What was a publican's duty?
3 Why were the publicans so disliked by everyone?
4 Of what class of people were the Pharisees?
5 How did the publican's prayer differ from the Pharisee's?
6 Who was justified before God?
7 What is justification?

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