God, be merciful to me, a Pharisee!

Did Paul preach the gospel of Jesus? That was the question Dr John Piper sought to address last night at T4G in a message that became one of my personal conference highlights. The sermon manuscript and audio (forthcoming) can be found here. At one point Piper connected the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9–14 (his main text) and Paul’s words in Philippians 3:4–9. It’s quite interesting to read the two accounts together:

Jesus (Luke 18:9–12):

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

Paul (Philippians 3:4–6):

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Jesus (Luke 18:13–14):

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Paul (Philippians 3:7–9):

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.

Paul preached the gospel of Jesus–and it was this gospel that changed his life forever.

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