Daily Devotional: Two Sinners Saved


There is no doubt that the Pharisee is a good man. God gave the commandments to Moses as the heart of discipleship, and the Pharisees were those who did their best to keep them in strict fidelity. There is no doubt that the publican is a bad man. He had thrown his heritage over and schmoozed with the pagan occupiers of their country so he could extort money for himself from his own people. Yet as we look deeper, we see that both men are sinners, but in very different ways. The sins of the one are obvious to everyone; the sins of the other are veiled, even to himself. 

In the witness of the New Testament, there are two such real persons. Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) is a publican who had a driving desire to see Jesus, even at the cost of casting aside any sense of self-dignity — he climbed a tree to make sure he could see him. He repented with exultant joy, and Jesus acknowledged him as a “son of Abraham.” And there is Saul of Tarsus, self-described as “a Pharisee … under the law, blameless” (Phil. 3:5-6). He had no desire to see Jesus, though Jesus granted him that vision just the same. 

After his conversion, Paul realized that being blameless under the Law was not enough; he learned what was truly essential, and wrote, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have no love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor. 13:3). He wrote that he counted all his blamelessness under the law as “garbage,” and his rectitude under the law as “loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Both the real-life Pharisee and the real-life publican gained the immortal joy of “the grace of God [that] has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Titus 2:11).

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