I (Paul) did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ …. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God …. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God …. And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20:20-21, 24, 27, 32
And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was unwilling even to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 18:9-14
Today’s thoughts from today’s verses:
In conjunction with our parable from Luke 18, we have been considering the gospel of grace from both an Ephesians 3 passage at the beginning of the week and then in Acts 20 since then (it is interesting that the words from Acts 20 were originally spoken to the elders of the Ephesian church). The gospel of grace stands in stark contrast to the self-righteousness and contemptuousness dealt with in our Luke passage. Acts 20 (from which we have only looked at excerpts this week) is an account of the Apostle Paul’s farewell words to the elders of the church of Ephesus. This is why Paul begins today’s Scripture with the words, “And now I commend you to God.” He is preparing them for his departure.
Today’s highlighted portion helps us see that the goal of the gospel of grace is not just that people would be reached and receive the gift of redemption but that they would experience sanctification as well. Sanctification is a part of the message of God’s grace. Paul says that God’s grace “is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” This is a forward look to the final result of the difference Christ will make in their lives. The book of Ephesians is a follow up letter to this same group of people and in it there is an additional passage that expounds on what Paul is saying in today’s verse. It says this: “Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her, so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25B-27).
This is God’s goal for his people, every one of them. The goal of the gospel of grace is never just redemption (conversion). It is always redemption (conversion) and sanctification (transformation). While, as we said, this all stands in stark contrast to the self-righteousness and contemptuousness dealt with in our story from Luke 18, there is more to the story. The prayer of the tax collector certainly stands in stark contrast to the prayer of the Pharisee. However, as we saw yesterday, the prayer of the tax collector is exactly the kind of prayer that goes with the gospel of grace. This is clearly seen in the words Jesus uses to conclude his story, “I tell you, this man (tax collector) went to his house justified rather than the other (pharisee); for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” The gospel of grace powerfully dispels the way of self- righteous and contemptuous religious practice and puts us on the path of true righteousness in Christ. It is the path of full humility, repentance, surrender, and reliance in response to the full provision, presence and power of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today’s prayer response from today’s thoughts:
Lord, thank you for redeeming me and making me a recipient of the gospel of grace. Help me to cooperate with you fully in your goal of sanctifying me. Deliver me fully from all self-righteousness. Help me to view others as ones who can be reached for Christ, but always with a view to the whole and complete people they can become through the word of your grace. Deliver me fully from all contemptuousness. I humbly bow before you asking that by your grace I will always believe, never give up, and keep pressing onward and upward. Amen!