|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
18:9-14 This parable was to convince some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. God sees with what disposition and design we come to him in holy ordinances. What the Pharisee said, shows that he trusted to himself that he was righteous. We may suppose he was free from gross and scandalous sins. All this was very well and commendable. Miserable is the condition of those who come short of the righteousness of this Pharisee, yet he was not accepted; and why not? He went up to the temple to pray, but was full of himself and his own goodness; the favour and grace of God he did not think worth asking. Let us beware of presenting proud devotions to the Lord, and of despising others. The publican's address to God was full of humility, and of repentance for sin, and desire toward God. His prayer was short, but to the purpose; God be merciful to me a sinner. Blessed be God, that we have this short prayer upon record, as an answered prayer; and that we are sure that he who prayed it, went to his house justified; for so shall we be, if we pray it, as he did, through Jesus Christ. He owned himself a sinner by nature, by practice, guilty before God. He had no dependence but upon the mercy of God; upon that alone he relied. And God's glory is to resist the proud, and give grace to the humble. Justification is of God in Christ; therefore the self-condemned, and not the self-righteous, are justified before God.
Verse 14. - I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. And the publican was right; there was mercy even for him, all sin-stained though he was. The words with which the Lord closes his teaching are full of comfort. That prayer he tells us was heard and granted. The "I tell you" of Jesus here means, as Stier well puts it, "I tell you, for I know, I have seen, I have heard all this in many such a case, and in many such prayers." With this example of prayer favourably heard, there is surely no sin-burthened soul on earth who may not take courage in seeking God's face. One great object of this parable, we may believe, was to suggest some such thoughts, to embolden sorrowful, heart-broken sinners simply to go to God, trusting in his great pitying love. It should not be forgotten that the publican's prayer was heard in the temple; a silent approval seems given to his having thus sought out the appointed consecrated place of prayer.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
I tell you that this man,.... The publican that so freely owned himself to be a sinner, and by his carriage acknowledged he was unworthy of any favour; and who was treated with so much contempt by the Pharisee:
went down to his house; from the temple which was built on a mountain,
justified, rather than the other: accounted as a righteous person in the sight of God; justified from all his sins, and accepted by him, when the other was abhorred and neglected. The Syriac and Persic versions, and so Beza's most ancient copy, read, "than the Pharisee", who had such an high opinion of himself, and despised others: not that the Pharisee was justified at all, when the publican really was; but the sense is, that if judgment had been to have been made, and sentence passed according to the then conduct and behaviour of both parties, the publican had greatly the advantage, in the sight of God; an humble demeanour being well pleasing and acceptable to him, when pride, and arrogance, boasting of, and trusting in a man's own righteousness, are abhorred by him;
for every one that exalteth himself, shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted. This was a proverbial expression, often mentioned by Christ on different occasions, and frequently used by the Jews; See Gill on Matthew 23:12 to which may be added the following passages;
"whoever is of a haughty spirit, at last shall be made low (y).''
"whosoever humbleth himself, the holy blessed God will lift him up (z).''
(y) T. Bab. Sota, fol. 5. 1.((z) Zohar in Lev. fol. 39. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14. rather than the other—The meaning is, "and not the other"; for the Pharisee was not seeking justification, and felt no need of it. This great law of the Kingdom of God is, in the teaching of Christ, inscribed, as in letters of gold, over its entrance gate. And in how many different forms is it repeated (Ps 138:6; 147:6; Lu 1:53). To be self-emptied, or, "poor in spirit," is the fundamental and indispensable preparation for the reception of the "grace which bringeth salvation": wherever this exists, the "mourning" for it which precedes "comfort" and the earnest "hungerings and thirstings after righteousness" which are rewarded by the "fulness" of it, will, as we see here, be surely found. Such, therefore, and such only, are the justified ones (Job 33:27, 28; Ps 34:18; Isa 57:15).
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