The British convert to Islam, Paul Bilal Williams thinks that Jesus’ teaching on justification ( Jesus mentions justification in Luke 18:14) is different than the apostle Paul’s teaching on justification by faith. He has written several articles on this issue and Luke 18:9-14, and within one of his articles, he brings up Luke 18:9-14 here.
I also already responded to this article, and refuted Paul Williams here, at another blog that I am a part of the blogging team.
Also he asked me about what Jesus taught on justification and what Paul the apostle taught on justification recently in the com- boxes of the article, “The Qur’an Speaks about earlier Revelations”. (as of me writing this, we are almost at 400 comments. Other Christians are making comments with several Muslims. It is very interesting to see the kind of questions that Muslims ask about the incarnation and atonement especially. )
First, here is the text of the passage that Jesus Al Masih taught:
9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful (or propitious ) to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
ὁ θεός, ἱλάσθητί μοι τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ. (The Greek text of the most pertinent phrase in Luke 18:13)
“O God, be propitious toward me, the sinner!” from Luke 18:13
Usually, this is translated “O God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” But Luke uses a very technical and specific term here that is a different word than the usual concepts of mercy. The mercy here is based on propitiation or the “satisfaction” or “appeasement of justice” or the “quenching of wrath”.
The same root words from “hilasmos” (propitiation) are also used in Romans 3:25, Hebrews 9:5 – where it is used of the place of the atonement, the mercy seat in the holy of holies inside the temple in the OT, where the blood of the sacrificed lambs were to be sprinkled onto. See also at the end where propitiation is used in Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2, and 1 John 4:10.
It is really ironic that Paul Williams tries to use Luke 18:9-14 as somehow agreeing with Islam. The Greek word for “have mercy on me” is better translated “be propitious toward me” – because mercy is based on justice being fulfilled. The “hilasmos” ( ‘ιλασμος = propitiation in 1 John 2:2; 4:10 ) root in Luke 18:13 (verb – ‘ιλασθητι, from ‘ιλασκομαι = “to be merciful based on satisfaction” or “to be propitious or “to propitiate”) is also used in Romans 3:25-26, Hebrews 2:17; I John 2:2 and I John 4:10 and means “to appease the just wrath of”. (see more at the end of this article) It is translated as “propitiation” in the NASB and “atoning sacrifice” in the NIV. The prophesies in the OT and the Passover and tabernacle sacrifices and the temple sacrifices all point to this. Jesus Al Masih knows He is going to the cross to be the final sacrifice and atonement and ransom for sin – Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28; Luke 22:20; Luke 24:46-47. So deep within the cry for mercy, the reason why the sinner in the parable is justified is because
1. He confesses His sin as a sinner by nature. ( the Greek definite article, τω – “the sinner”, shows us this. (not just individual sins, but the root nature of his being “the sinner”, and at the core, “sinful”.) that is what the Pharisee missed, he thought his good works were good enough to get him justified.
Islam denies that we are sinners by nature and evil and wicked and self-righteous in our hearts. So, Paul can hardly use this passage as agreeing with Islam.
2. His confession and repentance and cry for mercy is based on the future propitiatory work of Christ in the future (the future to this parable). verse 13 All true repentance and faith all through the Bible presuppose God’s holiness and wrath against sin, His justice and our guilt; the future Messiah who would be the final sacrifice, and trust in that future Messiah. (Genesis 3:15; 15:6; 12:1-3; 22:18; Exodus 12; Leviticus 1-7; 16-17; Isaiah 53; Daniel 9:24-27; Psalm 51; John 1:29; Revelation 5:9)
Therefore, Jesus’ teaching on justification in Luke 18:9-14 is in complete agreement with the apostle Paul’s teaching on justification in his epistles – Romans 3:21-28; Galatians 2:16; 3:6-24; Philippians 3:9; Ephesians 2:8-10.
Also, verse 9 of Luke 18 is a key that refutes Islam also.
9 “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.”
The Qur’an says, “you (O Muslims) are the best of peoples” (Surah 3:110) and that Christians and Jews “are the worst of creatures” (Surah 98:6). Islamic culture seems to teach that emphasis of superiority and that they are good and righteous, thus it would seem that Luke 18:9 is speaking to the hearts of Muslims to be careful of their spritual pride and self-righteousness and thinking they are good by nature. (In Islam, they have the doctrine of the “Fitrah”(Arabic) or “Fitrat” (Farsi) ( فطرت = upright nature) – Surah 30:30) – which to them is contradictory to the Biblical and Christian doctrine of original, inherited sin in the hearts and natures of all humans. (see Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Psalm 51; Romans 5:12; Mark 7:18-23)
Because Islam teaches that all humans are basically good, and not sinners by nature, and only weak and forgetful, and if they just get the right guidance and knowledge of Islam and do the external rituals of shahada, wudzu, salaat, fasting during Ramadan, Hajj once in lifetime, zakat, etc. So, how come all that guidance and knowledge doesn’t help get rid of secret sins, lusts, jealousies, angers, adultery, hatred, pride, selfishness, etc. ??
Because of this emphasis – it is Muslims sincerely (they think, as they don’t seem to see the depths of pride, lust, selfishness, evil motives in their hearts) who trust in themselves that they are righteous – they are good and actively preach against the Biblical doctrine of original sin and internal sins as roots of external sins; it is Muslims who have the great tendency to be like the Pharisees and self-righteous, as in this parable; which is another really ironic thing about Paul Williams trying to use this parable as somehow like Islam.
Another problem is that Islam teaches people (not always, but by having this Hadith, and the nature of humans the way they are, the whole culture lends itself to this tendency) to hide their secret embarrassing sins (especially sexual sins like lusts, Adultery, pre-marital sex, abortions) – as the article that Paul wrote over a year ago, here, on “Veiling one’s wrong-doing” – January 13, 2012. I am still waiting on that Hadith reference.
NT passages where the propitiation (nouns and verbs) word group concept is used:
ὃν προέθετο ὁ θεὸς ἱλαστήριον
“which God put forward as a propitiation (satisfaction of justice; appeasement of wrath” – ‘ιλαστηριον )
διὰ πίστεως ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι
through faith in His blood
εἰς ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης αὐτοῦ
leading to demonstrating His righteousness . . .
διὰ τὴν πάρεσιν τῶν προγεγονότων ἁμαρτημάτων
through the passing over the previously committed sins,
26 ἐν τῇ ἀνοχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ,
in the forbearance of God
πρὸς τὴν ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης αὐτοῦ
toward the demonstration of the righteousness of His
ἐν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ,
at the present time
εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν δίκαιον καὶ δικαιοῦντα
leading to Him being the just and the justifier
τὸν ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ.
-of the one who has faith in Jesus
Hebrews 2:17 – He had to be made like His brethren in all things . . . “in order to make propitiation for the sins of the people”
1 John 2:2 – ‘ιλασμος
“He is the propitiation for our sins, not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world”
1 John 4:10 - ‘ιλασμον
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.