Jesus is Our Greater Good Samaritan

This past Sunday I preached on the fruit of compassion in the Christian life. My primary text was the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The point of that parable is not first and foremost, “stop being so cold and callous to your neighbors and start being more like the Good Samaritan.” No doubt we are commanded by Jesus to “go and do likewise” (v. 37). But this parable is given in the context of a lawyer (an expert in the Old Testament) who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life (v. 25). Indeed, it’s emphasized that he was seeking to justify himself (v. 29). And so, the point of the parable in the first place is to drive people who want to justify themselves by their own works to seek eternal life outside of themselves and to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, because Jesus is our Good Samaritan. We fail miserably at loving others as we would ourself and by works of the law no one will be justified (Gal. 2:16; Rom. 3:19-26). But if we believe in Him, we already have eternal life and will be raised on the last day when Jesus returns (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:40).

So the parable of the Good Samaritan is a parable of the second greatest commandment, love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39). And the parable is meant to drive us to our knees in repentance and to seek our salvation outside of ourselves through faith alone in Christ alone as a gift of free grace. But not only is Jesus our Good Samaritan, he is even greater than the Good Samaritan for us. This is a point that Phil Ryken puts beautifully in his commentary on Luke:

“When Jesus came to our aid to give us life, we were not merely dying but dead, dead in our trespasses and sins. Jesus came out of his way to help us, not just crossing the road, but traversing the infinite distance from heaven to earth. Furthermore, it took him more than a day or two of his time and a couple coins from his pocket to gain our salvation. It cost him the sufferings of earth, the blood of his body, and the agonies of his soul on the cross. Jesus traveled a much greater distance, to help people in much greater need, at much greater cost. He is equally committed to seeing our salvation through to the end, for he has promised to come back and carry us all the way to glory.”

AMEN! Jesus is the Greater Good Samaritan! Indeed, He’s the greatest and the only one who has ever lived who is perfectly good! And so, when Jesus says, go and do likewise to us, it comes to us in a different context. It comes to us not as those who are seeking to justify ourselves by our own good works, but as those who are already justified by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. We are clothed in his perfect righteousness and we have already passed from death to life through faith in Him. And so, our motivation to “go and do likewise” is “we love because He first loved us” when we were beaten, bloodied and left for dead. And if he had such compassion and mercy towards us, let us show the same kind of compassion and mercy towards others out of thankfulness for God’s amazing grace in Christ!

In the Spirit’s strength and with the gospel fueling every effort, let us love anyone in need, anyone at all, whom in the providence of God we may be able to help, no matter what social status, no matter what religion, no matter what political party, no matter what nationality, no matter what gender, no matter what age, no matter if we like them or not, no matter if they are deserving of our love or not, no matter if its convenient or not to love them, and no matter if they have done us wrong in the past. Every person has been created in the image of God and by reason of their dignity as image bearers and even more by reason of the love of God that has been poured out upon us in Christ, we are to have compassion on them and love them as we would want them to love us if we were in need. But let us always remember that we are justified by faith alone, we have the Spirit’s enabling power, and we love because he first loved us (Rom. 3:28; Gal. 5:16, 22-25; 1 John 4:19).

Faith is a Gift: Don’t Give Up Praying For Your Loved Ones

This is the first point of a sermon I recently preached in two parts entitled “We Believe: The Doctrine of True Faith.”

The first thing that we confess about faith is that faith is a gift from God.

Saving faith is not something that we can, in and of ourselves, conjure up from within. Remember that the Bible describes our condition before conversion as being dead in our sins and trespasses. And so if we are to ever believe, God must first regenerate our hearts by his Holy Spirit. The way the Bible describes this is as a new birth or a spiritual resurrection, both of which are images of something that we can’t initiate or do.

What were you doing before you were born? Did you decide to be born? Did you say, you know what I would really like to be born and I want these parents over here and I want to be born in this country in this location (perhaps you would or wouldn’t have chosen Saskatchewan if you had a choice!)

The same could be said of dead people. Dead people don’t do anything. They can decide to be raised. Lazarus didn’t say, “you know what I would really like to be resurrected by Jesus today, and so, I have decided to make myself alive again.” Nor did he say, “I hear you telling me to rise up and come forth Jesus, now that you’ve done your part, I will now do mine.” I mean these things are just funny and absurd to think about.

You see the new birth is a miracle! And faith is a gift from God. If you believe in the person and work of Christ, it’s because God made you alive and gave you the gift of faith. This is the clear teaching of the Bible:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul tells us that faith comes, not of one’s strength or virtue, but only to those who are chosen of God for its reception. Paul puts it this way: “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”

“Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 6:23).

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Phil. 1:29)

“One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14).

More verses could be given. But these are enough to prove that our confession is based on what the Bible clearly teaches. And so we confess that: “We believe that, to attain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts an upright faith” (Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 22).

One Qualification

That doesn’t mean that God believes for you. Rather, once God makes you alive you are the one who believes. It’s like when a blind person is given the gift of sight again. Once that miracle takes place they are the one’s seeing. But without the miracle in the first place they would never see.

Two Applications

1. Give thanks to God for the faith that you have! If you believe in the person and work of Christ it is because God loved you unconditionally before time began in Christ (Eph. 1:3-6). It has nothing to do with anything good in you but everything to do with God’s unconditional electing love in Christ. To God alone belongs the glory in your salvation (Rev. 7:10)!

2. Pray for God to open the hearts of others like he did Lydia in Acts (Acts 16:14). It should give you hope for your loved ones who do not know Christ, no matter how stubborn they are, that faith is a gift from God. If he could open the heart of Saul of Tarsus, who was once one of the greatest enemies of Christ and His church, and transform him into Paul the Apostle, who wrote most of the New Testament and suffered and died for the faith, then surely he can open the heart of your friend or family member who does not know Christ and refuses to repent and believe. And so don’t give up praying for the salvation of your loved ones, (even your enemies!), who don’t know Christ. Faith is a gift from God. May He be pleased to “kindle in [their] hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ with all His merits, appropriates Him, and seeks nothing more besides Him.” Amen!