Pharisee, Publican, and a Man in Christ

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 4
We read in Luke 18 that "Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican." Now it is not as easy to dispose of this Pharisee as people think; there is much to be said for him. He was in the temple, the right place for a religious man such as he, the place that God had appointed for worship. There is no temple now. Men have indeed tried to make imitations of it, and very poor imitations they are, but God has not ordained any place of worship on earth. Where is the place of worship now? Heaven, where Christ is.
The Pharisee was in the temple, and his first words are, "God, I thank Thee." This sounds well. What have creatures to do but to praise God? "That I am not as other men." Here he gets on rather dangerous ground, but you will observe that he thanks God for this: that he is not as others. There was not only what was negative in his case, but something positive also: "I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." The Pharisee's mistake was that he stood on the ground of self in the presence of God who knew the material that was before Him; He prefers the position taken by the publican. The mistake of the Pharisee was to stand before God in the value of self. When we think of what God is—when we think of what the judgment will be—which of us would not join in David's prayer, "Enter not into judgment with Thy servant"?
There are more Pharisees than people think. Have you peace with God? If not, are you on the ground of the Pharisee? is not self before you in some way? You see some who have been looked on as devout people all their lives, and yet when they come to die, they are all at sea. Is that Christianity—to leave people at sea just when they most need help? It is that bit of self they are standing on that does all the mischief.
The Lord commends the publican's prayer, "God be merciful to me a sinner." My heart goes with the utterance, but it is not Christian language—it would be unsuitable language for a Christian—but, beloved friends, it was a blessed utterance. It was extracted by God from a soul overwhelmed by a sense of his miserable, wretched condition. It was not a Christian's standing, but it was a blessed state.
If in the case of the publican we do not find Christian ground, where shall we get it? In 2 Cor. 12 where we read of a man in Christ. But it may be said, Surely there is something between the publican and the man in Christ. Nothing whatever. If you have said with the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner," and accepted Christ as your Savior, the next position for you is a man in Christ. There is no halting place, no half-way house, no borderland. If you are not in Christ, you perish. Does anyone dare to say that if you are a man in Christ you will perish? "They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.... I and My Father are one." You must not expect to find a declaration of the gospel in the account of the publican. The publican would certainly have been material for the blessing of which we speak, but Christ had not died; the blood had not then been shed.
Is it not a strange thing that people still like that old covert of Adam in the trees of the garden, where they can indeed hear the voice of God, but are not near Him. They prefer shade and distance to nearness and sunshine.
"A man in Christ." This explains it all. If "in Christ," I am out of self. I am looked at by God as having died, having gone under judgment; and ah, dear friends, there will be a resurrection of everything, but not of my sins or of my evil nature. I stand now, not on the merits of Christ, but in Christ. I am in a place of unalterable value. No panic of my wretched heart can cause any fall in the value of Christ. Satan may charge me, my own heart may charge me, but it will not alter the value of Christ. I believe in a peace that nothing in the present—nothing in the future—nothing in the world—nothing in hell
can ever alter. Christ is everything to the Christian. He stands in the simple excellency
oh! who would add to it?—of Christ. The Christian up there is according to the value of Christ; down here he is a poor weak creature.
The eye of God rests with eternal complacency on Christ, and on me because I am in Christ. Faith is no credit to me; as to. myself, I am nothing. Paul says of himself, "Though I be nothing"; and if he could say it, you and I may. Is it that the flesh gets any better by the believer breathing the air of heaven? No. As has been said, if taken up into the third heaven, a thorn is added as soon as one comes down again. If this were so with an old saint—a veteran like Paul—what about poor things like ourselves? And sincerity makes it no better. There are no more miserable people in the world than these sincere people. But in Christ, higher you could not be, holier you could not be.