Life-Study of Lukeby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 18:9-30 we have the Lord’s teaching about the entrance into the kingdom of God. What is covered in these verses may be considered the condition and requirements for entering into the kingdom of God. Here the Lord mentions three steps: first, to humble oneself before God as a sinner, realizing the need of God’s propitiation (vv. 9-14); second, to be like a little child, without any preoccupying concept (vv. 15-17); and third, to follow the Savior by overcoming being occupied by riches and all other material matters (vv. 18-30). Let us consider each of these aspects of the Lord’s teaching.
In 18:9-14 we see that in order to enter into the kingdom of God, we need to humble ourselves. In verse 14 the Lord says, “Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” We should not think that we are somebody. Instead, we should humble ourselves and regard ourselves as nobody and nothing.
In verses 10 through 14 the Lord tells a parable of two men who “went up to the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector” (v. 10). The Lord often used tax collectors and Pharisees as examples. Verses 11 and 12 record the Pharisee’s prayer: “The Pharisee stood and prayed these things to himself: God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all, whatever I get.” The Pharisee’s word in verse 11, where he thanks God that he is not like the rest of men, does not sound like a prayer at all; instead, it sounds like an accusation of others. Likewise, his word in verse 12 about fasting and paying tithes does not sound like a prayer, but rather like an arrogant boast to God. Therefore, in his prayer the Pharisee was accusing others and boasting to God.
In verse 13 we see that the despised, accused, and condemned tax collector prayed in the way of humbling himself to the uttermost: “But the tax collector, standing at a distance, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, God, be propitiated to me, the sinner!” This word implies the need of a Redeemer and also the need of propitiation. The tax collector realized how his sinfulness offended God. Hence, he asked God to be propitiated, to be appeased toward him by a propitiation, so that God may be merciful and gracious to him.
Romans 3:25 says that God set forth Christ Jesus as a propitiation-cover through faith in His blood. The Greek word for propitiation is hilasterion, different from hilasmos in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 and hilaskomai in Hebrews 2:17. Hilasmos is that which propitiates, that is, a propitiatory sacrifice. In 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 the Lord Jesus is the propitiatory sacrifice for our sins. The Lord offered Himself to God as a sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 9:28), not only for our redemption but also for God’s satisfaction. In Him as our Substitute, through His vicarious death, God is satisfied and appeased. Hence, He is the propitiation between God and us.
Hilaskomai means to appease, to reconcile one by satisfying the other’s demand, that is, to propitiate. In Hebrews 2:17 the Lord Jesus made propitiation for our sins to reconcile us to God by satisfying God’s righteous demands on us. The Lord Jesus made propitiation for our sins to appease God’s righteousness, to reconcile us by satisfying the demand of God’s righteousness.
In Romans 3:25 hilasterion is the place of propitiation. So in Hebrews 9:5 this word is used for the lid of the ark within the Holy of Holies, and in Exodus 25:16-22 and Leviticus 16:12-16 the Septuagint also uses this word for the cover of the ark. The law of the Ten Commandments was in the ark, exposing and condemning by its righteous requirement the sin of the people who came to contact God. By the lid of the ark with the atoning blood sprinkled upon it on the day of atonement, the whole situation on the sinner’s side was fully covered. Therefore, it was upon this lid that God could meet with people who broke His righteous law without, governmentally, any contradiction to His righteousness, even under the observing of the cherubim that bore His glory overshadowing the lid of the ark. The propitiatory or expiatory sacrifice, which foreshadowed Christ, satisfied all the requirements of God’s righteousness and glory. This is what Romans 3:25 refers to. Thus, the word hilasterion is used to reveal that the Lord Jesus is the propitiation place, the propitiation-cover. As the propitiatory sacrifice, He has made full propitiation on the cross for our sins and has fully satisfied the requirements of God’s righteousness and glory.
It is significant, therefore, that the tax collector in Luke 18:13 said, “God, be propitiated to me, the sinner!” He realized that he had offended God and that he needed someone to be his offering of propitiation so that God would be appeased. This humble person realized that he was nothing but a sinner. Because he offered up a prayer that was based upon God’s propitiation, he “went down to his house justified” (v. 14).
The Lord’s word in verse 14 about being justified refers to the initial stage of our salvation. Every saved person should be one who humbles himself to the same extent the tax collector did. Actually, to repent and confess our sins is to humble ourselves. All saved ones are those who have been humbled and subdued.
When I was young, I was proud and arrogant, never willing to admit that I was wrong. But one day the Spirit caught me, and I was convinced, humbled, and subdued. It seemed to me that no one was as sinful as I was. My attitude was the exact opposite of what it had been before. I can testify from experience that a saved person is a humble, subdued person. We need to humble ourselves to such an extent that we consider ourselves nobody and nothing.
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