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  • Writer's pictureMatt Beaney

#1030. Avoid the trap of self-justification (9/4/24)

This week, as we continue in our Luke series, we will be reflecting on The Parable of the Good Samaritan. Today we see how this parable humbles us so as to seek justification by faith alone. 

‘On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’ He answered, ‘ “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, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’ ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’ But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’’ (Luke 10:25-29)

Lesson: We all need to keep coming back to the cross so as to avoid self-justification. 

To listen to this devotional, go to:

I’m sure we all have those times when life feels miserable. Life can feel overcast because something has gone wrong or, oftentimes, for no obvious reason at all. At such times, our grasp on grace is revealed. Rather like our faith in aeroplanes when you hit turbulence, so our faith in the cross of Christ is revealed in the dark clouds of depression and sadness. 

This religious leader knows that in order to be saved, one must love God and people with all that we are. To this, Jesus responded, ‘“do this a you will live”’, which, in effect, was Jesus telling him that he was failing! Rather than humble Himself and ask Jesus the true way of salvation, we read, ‘But he wanted to justify himself.’ 

Like many, this man thought that the success of His standing with God - his justification - and his hope of eternal life was dependent upon what he must do. Many people think that they are basically a good person and that God would accept them because of this. At the other extreme, some feel so bad about themselves that no matter how hard they try, they never feel justified and accepted by God. Even a parable like this Parable of the Good Samaritan could be mistaken for a guide to living a good life so as to be accepted by God! This parable should leave all of us with a nagging discomfort in our consciences - a discomfort that should lead us to the cross! 

The first thing that this parable is designed to do, is to show us that we have not loved God and people as we should. We’ve all ‘walked by on the other side’! We’ve all shown favouritism and been judgmental!  The first thing that this Parable teaches us is that we are not as righteous as we may think, and nowhere near as righteous as God wants! None of us can say, “I’ve done this so I live!” Jerry Bridges writes that all, no matter our good or bad performance of God’s Word, need to rest in the justification that are ours in Christ alone: 

‘Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace.’ (Jerry Bridges: The Discipline of Grace)

To this expert in the law who seeks to test Jesus, He gives this Parable of The Good Samaritan to pop his bubble of self-righteousness. This man’s failure to love God and others is revealed through this story, which shows us the true nature of these two commands about love; this parable reveals that to love God and people involves sacrificial service to our enemies! I’m sure that all of us can see that we’ve failed and could never ‘do this and live’ and therefore we must be justified by faith alone. 

To be justified is at the heart of the gospel. To be justified includes forgiveness but it can’t stop there.  God doesn’t just forgive, He also gives (imputes) Jesus’ righteousness to us when we put our faith in Him. Jesus has kept these commands having loved God perfectly and has loved His enemies! He’s done what this Samaritan has done, but perfectly. He’s never walked past on the other side. He’s paid for our recovery; and, in Christ, Jesus perfect performance is gifted to us! Robert Letham writes about justification by faith:

‘Justification entails a right standing with God, in which he declares us righteous, forgiving our sins and imputing or reckoning to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is only by faith, since faith looks exclusively to Christ for salvation; faith contributes nothing but merely receives from God. Consequently, nothing in us contributes to justification...Justification is no legal fiction; in our union with Christ, his righteousness is now ours. We are constituted righteous.’ (Robert Letham, Systematic Theology) 

Justification by faith does not remove the need to get practical with this Parable. However, it is vital that we understand God’s gift of righteousness to us before we seek to apply it and get sucked into self-righteousness or failure. 


We all need to keep coming back to the cross so as to avoid self-justification. May a text like this Parable convict us and remind us that we’ve failed. However, may it also remind us that Jesus has succeeded and He is our righteousness! If you are feeling better than others, let this story humble you. If you are feeling worse than others and rejected by God, let this story humble you so as to stop being so proud as to believe that your sin is more powerful than God’s grace. 



1. Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.

Please ensure that the members of your group are aware and familiar with using the daily devotionals which is accessed in Church News, the Teaching button on the website and are now available on the major podcast platforms. 

2. Icebreaker

How has God been speaking to you from His Word this week and how has this helped you? 

3. Worship together

Let’s begin our time together by lifting our eyes and hearts to worship our great God. Perhaps you have readings and songs that you would like to use together. Let’s be open to the gifts that the Spirit wants to give in order to encourage one another.

4. Study and pray together

Our message from our series in Luke on Sunday, based upon The Parable of the Good Samaritan was entitled, 'Go and do Likewise'. Jesus uses this parable to show us how Christians are to live in order to please God, serve Him and become effective in reaching this world with the gospel.  

Please read Luke 10:25-37, and discuss: 

  • Did God speak to you about anything specifically from Sunday’s message?

  • What does the man’s question, “What must I do to be saved?” and the phrase, ‘he wanted to justify himself’,  reveal about his approach to religion? 

  • How do we see Jesus and the gospel in this story? 

  • How is this parable designed to humble us before we seek to apply it? 

  • How are we to live in response to this parable? 

  • SIV - What does this parable teach about SIV (Serve, Invest and inVite)?

  • SIV - Do we have any stories of how we have ‘Served, Invested, and inVited’ recently?

  • Let’s pray together that, this week, we will have opportunities to SIV; and pray for anything else that’s came out of our time in God’s Word.

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