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The Futility of Justifying Oneself

September 15, 2019 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Self Righteousness Verse: Luke 10:25–10:37

 “The Futility of Justifying Oneself”

Luke 10:25-37


Theme: Eternal Life is granted to those who rely on Christ and His righteousness alone.


I. The Concern about Eternal Life Is Universal – 10:25

A. The Presupposition re: Eternal Life 

  • Throughout the previous section of this chapter, the Gospel had been celebrated as a means by which souls are delivered, saints are energized, Christ is celebrated, and the Sovereignty of God is appreciated or venerated.
  • In response to these things, Luke utilizes a lawyer who vocalizes what all of humanity has a core distraction – what about the life to come?
  • “And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’” – of all the questions in all the world throughout all of time, this is by far the most important question any individual could ever ask.
  • Unfortunately, in a society such as ours that has distanced itself from truth and exercises itself in the delirium that normalizes various forms of insanity, morally, scientifically, humanistically – living life without a thought for the future past the ends of their noses, thoughts of eternal accountability have been squelched – 1 Corinthians 15:32.
  • Nevertheless, God has placed into the hearts of all men thoughts of eternity – cp. Ecclesiastes 3:11
  • Regardless of how diligently one seeks to settle the matter of their eternal destinies, until a person finds the One Who is eternal life, their souls trudge through life in distress and angst – 1 John 5:20.
  • Hence, eternal life is a major preoccupation of people throughout Scripture – Matthew 19:16; Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18; John 5:39.
  • Eternal Life dominates the preaching of Christ Jesus and the Apostles – cp. John 3:16, 36; Romans 6:23; 1 Timothy 6:12; 1 John 2:25, Jude 21.

B. The Presumption re: Eternal Life

  • However, because of the ego-centrism and pride that saturates our hearts, we are repelled by the Gospel – that says that we cannot gain eternal life on our own terms.
  • Such self-righteousness is the core value of all man-made religions – we can do things to promote our value and merit far enough to gain for ourselves eternal blessing – “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
  • As such we fabricate a form of godliness that denies its power – 2 Timothy 3:5. 
  • We assert a façade of righteousness when in reality it is nothing but a white-washed tomb filled with decaying bones of depravity – cp. Matthew 23:27.
  • This lawyer was a typical Israelite who sought to establish his own righteousness – not knowing the righteousness of God – Romans 10:3; Philippians 3:9
  • In that this man “put Him to the test” suggests that he was not merely attempting to trick Jesus into exposing himself as unqualified but was seeking whether Jesus could bring some sense of relief to the nagging awareness that he was unfit for eternal life.


  1. Why do people constantly wonder what they must do in order to qualify for eternal life? 
  2. How does the lawyer’s concern remind you of when you became anxious about the destination of your own soul?
  3. How does the awareness of the universal concern about eternal life affect your sharing the Gospel with others? … how should it?

II. The Conditions for Eternal Life Are Unattainable – 10:26-29

A. The Awareness of God’s Expectations – vv. 26-27

  • Because Jesus knew the expertise of a “lawyer” – an expert in the Law of God – He replies to the man’s ostensibly sincere question with a question – “And He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What does it read to you?’”
  • Jesus directs the man back to the Law – in disproof of the accusation that Jesus was denigrating or violating the Law.
  • By this we realize that the Law was holy and properly presented the true Gospel – even as a means to drive the sinner to the mercy of God in His Promised Redeemer – Galatians 3:24
  • This second question could mean two different things [ἀναγινώσκεις] – 
  1. It could mean essentially: “How do you understand it?”
  2. It could mean “How do you recite it?”
  • The Jewish people were required to recite the Shema twice a day and the devout would do so – a text found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5
  • This Lawyer knew it well – “And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, …’”
  • “‘… and your neighbor as yourself.’” – was added from Leviticus 19:18.
  • This man knew the expectations of God – that a man love God with everything you are and have – unparalleled and unbroken affection for God with heart, soul, strength, and mind.
  • However, the Lawyer also knew that he despite his efforts, he could not do this – he fell short – Romans 3:23
  • What had caused this Lawyer to ask the question was that he was trapped between knowing what he must do to inherit eternal life and what he actually does – they didn’t match, not does it for any person – Romans 3:20.

B. The Achievement God’s Expectations – vv. 28-29 

  • Jesus’ response is telling: “And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly, do this and you will live.’” – a quote from Leviticus 18:5.
  • Jesus was not here advocating a “works-based” salvation – but was massaging into this man’s soul the impossibility that he felt in the face of God’s expectations.
  • Perfect and complete obedience is God’s standard, not intermittent success – cp. James 2:10
  • Essentially, Jesus says: “As long as you perfectly uphold the Law in every point, at all times, without exception, you got this!”
  • The man’s heart immediately felt the weight of condemnation – the despair of his feigned righteousness and sought refuge in the same old way that the religious hypocrites normally do – mind games – “But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
  • One wonders whether as soon as he uttered his question he asked: “What that my out loud voice?”


  1. Since knowledge does not equate salvation, what makes the difference?
  2. Explain the difference between faith and faithfulness (many people confuse the two and believe that they are saved through faithfulness instead of by faith)?
  3. How can you reconcile Jesus instruction to the lawyer to “do this and you will live,” and the declaration that “the just shall live by faith?”  

III. The Conduct in Eternal Life is Unnatural – 10:30-37

A. The Stumbling at of the Law by the Religious – vv. 30-32

  • Jesus continues to school this Lawyer in the meaning of the Law as he replies to him.
  • He does so in the form of a parable – a “earthly story with a heavenly meaning” – “Jesus replied and said, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.’”
  1. The mistake many people make is seeking to make every element of the story something spiritually significant and it blurs the point of the story.
  2. Unless the text itself informs us of the point of something in a parable, it is merely a detail to make the story interesting.
  • Next we see that Jesus provides his first point - evidence of typical religious conduct – a knowledge of what is right without a practical application to affect genuine righteous behavior.
  1. “And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.” – a supposed man who was a paragon of spiritual virtue and aware of the responsibility to love one’s neighbor, presented with an opportunity to show mercy and deliberately avoided do so.
  2. “Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” – a reference to a slightly more humble assistant to the priests who would likewise known the obligations to show mercy and compassion on one who is suffering – but did not love God enough to yearn to bring him glory and did not love the injured enough to seek his relief.
  3. It is likely that this man related to the behavior of these two and felt a bit of embarrassment at seeing himself represented in their responses.
  • Knowing the Law does not mean that one keeps the Law – and the point of this story doesn't even address our doing things that we ought not to do, but only the way we fail to do what we should.
  • One of the great concerns of our elders is the way in which many of us know what is right, can recite what is right, can tell others what is right, but fail to occupy ourselves doing what is right.
  • Hence, Jesus is using this story to demonstrate that none of us would have a shot at heaven if we were going to be judged on the basis of our perfect adherence to the Law.

B. The Standard of the Law by the Righteous – vv. 33-37

  • In great contrast, Jesus introduces a Samaritan who would not be expected by any Jew to come to the aid of a Jew because of the bigotry between them -  “But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.’”
  • The point Jesus makes here is that the generosity of this Samaritan toward someone who would otherwise hate him, was unlimited.
  • He cared for the man as he would have cared for himself – and spared no expense.
  • Thus Jesus said to him “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”
  • “And he said, ‘The one who showed mercy toward him.’” – confessing that the one unlike himself was righteous.
  • “The idea is that only by continuously, perfectly loving God and every neighbor on every occasion – even his worst enemy – could the scribe satisfy the first and second commandments and obtain eternal life.”
  • No one is capable of such a thing – no one except the Son of God who came and did this very thing for us – those who were his enemies, and he saved us.
  • The sad part of this story – is the conclusion – “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.’” 
  • There is no indication that the man fell to his knees and confessed that he could not, pleading for the mercy of God.


  1. What does it say about your view of sin when you seek to “justify yourself?”
  2. How does the story of the “Good Samaritan” confront you personally?
  3. When Jesus told the lawyer to “go and do the same” after the story, what do you think happened to the lawyer? What should he have done?

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