There are always people who view Jesus as someone with good moral teachings that are worth following, but aren’t willing to trust in him as Lord and Savior. In fact, in scholarly circles, many claim that being saved from sin and hell by trusting in Jesus is a doctrine that doesn’t appear in Jesus’ teachings. Instead, they say, the doctrine of justification by faith is something added by the Apostle Paul.
I want to show you two texts from today’s reading that shows that we a saved by faith alone. Then show why it’s important to believe it.
The 10 Lepers (Chapter 17)
Notice that all 10 of these lepers believed that Jesus could heal. But only one returned. I have often heard this text applied to gratefulness. We should be thankful for what God has done for us. This is absolutely true. But when you dig a little deeper you notice something more…
First, the man acknowledges Jesus as God. In verse 16 Luke uses a verb to describe the man’s thankfulness. The verb is used 37 times in the New Testament. All referring to God. Second, Jesus responds, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Literally, your faith has saved you. This is more than a declaration of physical healing (the 9 others had that), this is eternal.
The Pharisee and The Tax Collector (Chapter 18)
In this passage Jesus speaks of two men: a Pharisee who has all the right behavior. He was even thankful to God for his supposed righteousness. Then of tax collector, the sinner of sinners in Jesus’ day. A man who betrayed his own people to make money off their Roman oppression!
But the second man, a known sinner, was so broken over his wickedness that he wouldn’t even look to heaven. He desperately cried out to God, knowing that is all he can do, “beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'” one commentator notes, The stark contrast between the contrition of the sinner and the self-righteousness of the Pharisee is key to understanding the central point of the parable.
Jesus concludes, ‘I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’
The only way man can be justified (made right with God) is by denouncing our own works and trusting in God through Christ for mercy. When we see this in the teaching of Jesus, we can better understand why Paul says things like…
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified- Galatians 2:16
Why This Is Important
Jesus is talking to religious people. They knew the scriptures, had good church attendance, practiced moral living, etc. The chances are, if you are reading this you are too. But they. Completely missed Jesus, the Son of God, because they got this wrong.
You see, works are important, they are very important. Christians do good works, they live righteously. Just think of Luke 15 where Jesus tells us we must denounce everything to be his disciple. But if you trust in your works for salvation, you are exalting yourself above God. You are the means of your salvation. Not only is salvation in this way impossible, it is also idolatry.
As you meditate on these passages ask yourself, Am I relying on my own good works to make me right with God? OR are my good works a result of a heart redeemed by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone?
Additional Resource: Did Jesus Preach the Gospel of Evangelicalism? by John Piper (Sermon Audio)