This past Sunday we studied Luke 10:25-37, which many of you know is the parable of the Good Samaritan. The traditional interpretation promulgates the idea that Jesus addresses the man’s question as to who his neighbor is by exhorting him to respond like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:36,37). In other words, everyone is His neighbor and he should show God’s love to everyone, whether he likes them or not. I certainly agree that every follower of Jesus Christ should love unconditionally. BUT, I do not believe that to be the only interpretation of the passage.
Let me remind you that the young expert in religious law did not ask a sanctification question. His initial interrogation was about salvation. He asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” As Tullian Tchividjian postulates, this was a vertical question and not a horizontal one. (http://tinyurl.com/kzbr4bh). This truth is further emphasized by the fact that he tried to justify himself by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ response, then, is dealing with his salvation and not his Christian service. This man first and foremost needed to realize that he like the beaten traveller needed to be rescued from his sinful condition. He could never be good enough. He needed Jesus!
Here are a few additional truths from this wonderful teaching.
- Man is justified by faith and not by works.
If not carefully exegeted, the traditional approach to this passage lends itself to a work based interpretation. Why would Jesus tell this man who is asking how he might inherit eternal life to go out and do good works? That would contradict everything He and the New Testament teach about salvation by grace.
Romans 3:10 – For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
Galatians 3:11 – So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “it is through faith that a righteous person has life.
No, the point of the parable is that we like the beaten traveller are in need of grace. We need Jesus to come to our rescue. It is only after we have been rescued that we can be the good neighbors that God intends for us to be.
- Sanctification is the result of justification and not the cause of it.
If we are not careful it is easy for us to get the order of how God works out of sequence, i.e. being a good neighbor will grant me favor with God and eternal life. I do not believe that is what Jesus is saying. Sanctification never precedes justification. It is the transformation that occurs as a result of justification that causes the believer to love the despised and the rejected.
David Platt in his book, Follow Me states, “As we trust in Christ, He transforms our tastes in such a way that we begin to love the things of God that we once hated, and we begin to hate the things of this world that we once loved.” (Follow Me, page 29). How true is that? Through the work of grace in our lives, God enables us to love the unlovely and to do the unthinkable.
- The justified believer will become like Jesus
For the believer, becoming like Jesus is not an option. It is a reality. When we trust Christ as our personal Savior, we not only receive the forgiveness of sins, but we receive the Savior. He indwells us! He lives inside of us and changes us. We become like Him! Thus, it is only when we turn to Jesus that we are transformed from the beaten traveller to a representative of the Good Shepherd, a representative of the true Good Neighbor.