Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Luke 15 - The Parable of the Lost Son

I apologize for the length of this post. I had thought of doing it in two parts, but I wanted to get it all out before any commenters got ahead of me. ;~)
11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired
servants.”’
20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

I think with this parable, as with any, there is a message to the immediate audience and that it is vital to understand what Jesus was saying to the people that he was said to be speaking to. What was his purpose? If one looks at the beginning of the chapter, one can see that he was speaking to the Pharisees and addressing their objections to his receiving tax collectors and sinners. This is the narrow focus of the immediate communication. However, there is always a greater application to these things that Jesus said. For me, it is easier to get to the application without making a lot of wild assumptions and reading into things, if I focus on the specific message to the immediate audience. I will enter my thoughts on the immediate message to the Pharisees in BLUE and I will enter my thoughts on the application for today in GREEN.

11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
Obviously, the sinners he was sitting with were represented by those who had discarded the law and the seeking for God through Himself revealed to the nation of Israel. These were just living to please self. They are the lost son. As J. Vernon McGee (and others) points out, eating the food of swine with swine was the lowest thing a law-conscious Jew (Pharisee) could imagine doing.

In the church, we have sons. I am not thinking of nominal Christians, but those who have been born-again – they are true sons, all of them. Sometimes, we sons decide to do things our own way. We take the life we have been given (and are supposed to be stewards over) and we squander our time on ourselves. We can even get down in the pigpen and eat the food that is fit only for the world. Sin can delude us into thinking this is great! Sin is very enticing and lust is not gone from a Christian.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
The sinner came to his senses. He thought of the privilege and the blessing in his father’s house. These sinning Israelites Jesus is sitting with are this son. They were part of a nation that had been given the law and the prophets – God’s chosen people. The were Jews and their nation was given the most complete revelation of the one true God to that point. Yet, they had squandered their chance to look for the Messiah and learn of his coming, etc… They were just wasting their lives with riotous living, indifferent to who they were – sons of Israel.

What a beautiful thing it is when a true son of God who has the life of God through Christ comes to his senses!! I am thinking of several people right now – I believe they are born-again, but they are living like pigs. Oh, how I wish these would turn from their sin, come back before the church and repent. Christians are sons.

20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
The sinners were humbled before Christ, sitting at his feet. One sinful woman, we are told in another place, had fallen at his feet and washed those feet with her tears, drying them with her hair. These sinful outcasts are not "demanding their living," but are openly coming to this teacher sent from God. It is a given that they and everyone else realizes they are sinners - this is very humbling.

God will receive these sinners who had been saved by grace right back into His house. They will be restored to full fellowship. Would they need to become sons again? No – that is absurd – they were already sons, but they were not in fellowship, they were not experiencing the relationship with their father as they should and could. Being restored does not mean that no consequences would be present. (On the next psot, I am going to post some thoughts I received in an email about what the consequences of such a wayward son in the parable would be). You and I may lose a limb or have a scarred memory from times spent in the pigpen. (The lost sheep would often have his legs broken so he wouldn't leave the shpeherd again.) This will not be taken away until glory. BUT – we are sons! Praise the Lord.

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
Jesus is saying that he will receive these sinners and restore them to a place of fellowship such that was meant for their people, regardless of where they had been.

There is much joy in heaven when a wayward Christian repents.

25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
These are the Pharisees. They are sons in this parable. Does this mean they are saved? Again, I don’t think the point of this parable is about salvation. This is about the house of Israel. They are the self-righteous members of the house. They have been working for God. They are not happy that God receives sinners and rebels. They are not happy about what God is happy about. They are rather angry at the Father. The Father is pleading with them. Jesus has told all of this to them. I believe Jesus loved the Pharisees too. I believe Jesus was pleased when some of them turned to him and left their angry, self-righteous attitudes behind. This story was meant to show them that they were not right in their attitude. They were not in tune with the Father.

Are they Pharisee-like people in the church? I know of people in my own church, who would be disgusted and not look joyfully on the aforementioned sinners if they repented and stood before the congregation. They would not be able to get the sin of the person out of their mind and they would hold it against the returned prodigal brother. May we not be like that. We should be joyful over what God is joyful over – this is also an important indication of our own fellowship with the Father.

31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.

Does this mean the Pharisees were “saved?” No. It is not the point. They are leaders of Israel. Romans 9:4 tells us “…Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God.”

As Christians, all that God has is ours, every spiritual blessing. We are rich sons ... and when someone repents and is restored, that doesn’t take away from us who weren't in the pigpen as Christians. We need not fret over what we perceive as the shame of it. God is pleased to receive repentant Christians back into fellowship. We should be happy also!!

32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

What an awesome verse! He is telling the Pharisees that they should rejoice for these sinners tuning toward God. They were dead to Israel, outcast, now they were coming home, as it were. What could be better?

Dead – separated from God. When we jump in the pigpen, we are separated from God. We can’t hear his voice so well. We can’t feel His presence as readily as when we are in right fellowship. This is not the eternal separation that that is spoken of in Ephesians 2:1-3, (a son is always a son, once born into the family) but sin in our lives is deadly!

Galatians 6:1
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

NOTES: I discovered that John A. Martin, Th. D. sees this parable the same way as I do in it’s immediate message.

I tried to find John MacArthur’s views in print, but I found a
post that seems to describe a recent lecture, Mar 1, 2006, given by JMac on the parable. It seems he equates this with salvation, if these words are a quote from him:

It is God who seeks the sinner and initiates. He finds the sinner before the sinner could ever find Him. It is God’s love for the penitent that is lavish, loving, gracious and apart from any work. God finds His joy in the salvation of one lost sinner. He runs and He embraces and He restores the contrite sinner.


This parable is very beautiful to me. I believe it illustrates the open arms of God and his ever-acceptance of us. It goes along with the first two parables in the chapter, and I would say that the theme is the same: God wants to restore His children who go astray and wander from His guidance. For our application today, unbelievers are not God’s children, so this is not about them. It is just that simple to me.

18 Comments:

  • A very thoughtful post. Excellent stuff.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 7/25/2006 10:53 AM  

  • Another great addtion to the RCSB (Rose Cole Study Bible). ;-)

    By Blogger Kc, at 7/25/2006 12:33 PM  

  • This is really nice work, Rose. I preached from this parable myself recently and I can say that we are in complete agreement with the application of this.

    By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at 7/25/2006 3:38 PM  

  • Good thought here> I know of people in my own church, who would be disgusted and not look joyfully on the aforementioned sinners if they repented and stood before the congregation. They would not be able to get the sin of the person out of their mind and they would hold it against the returned prodigal brother. May we not be like that. <

    There is a Christian familly that we often visit. If we do not visit them then they get upset if we don't, but everytime we visit they remind me and my father of his sin in the past and feel a need to let us know how much it hurt them in the past.

    It makes me not want to visit their house, but I must remember that they need to be loved. So we visit. They also bring up other stuff. This past summer my wife and mother were livid, but oddly I felt love and for some reason realized finally how much they have been hurt. We all have to remember that Love keeps no record of wrongs and that our Old Adam's have that nasty habit.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 7/25/2006 10:14 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I like the dual approach you've used in this parable, pertaining to the specific audience but also finding a broader application. Well done!

    I also agree with Brian about people repenting and not truly being restored in the minds of other Christians. For example, I once had a friend who confided in me that, before he became a Christian, he had been gay -- but the Lord had delivered him. And now he was thinking about offering his testimony publicly.

    I told him that unfortunately, it was in his best interest to keep it to himself. It takes a very mature Christian to see him as a true fellow Christian who had once been gay; most would just see him as a gay person who says he became a Christian, but time will tell -- and unfortunately that closure will never probably arrive will in this lifetime.

    I told him, instead, to make it a very private testimony when he meets someone else who is facing the same struggle, who can relate to him.

    Anyway, I degress. Again, an excellent posting!

    By Blogger Cleopas, at 7/25/2006 11:36 PM  

  • Hi Rose,
    You have been doing a superb job, not only in rightly handling the Word of truth, and articulating your thoughts, but especially in ministering and displaying God’s heart of compassion.

    We all have to remember that Love keeps no record of wrongs…” So true Brian.

    Cleopas, you have spoken sound wisdom. It is sad that when a new believer or any believer opens up to his family about his or her dark past we are judged instead of encouraged in our walk of grace, but thank God that there are mature believers who come along side.

    Rose again, superb job. I am blessed this day, with knowing and walking with our Lord and I am blessed to know you too. Thanks for doing this post.

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 7/26/2006 6:14 AM  

  • Hi DF,
    I love the word "stuff." Thanks!

    KC,
    hahahaha! Very funny! Thank you for your kindness. :~)

    Hi Gordon,
    I would've liked to hear your sermon. I have heard many sermons and they all take a little different angle, getting very creative with this parable. God bless.

    Brian,
    That would be hard to visit them. You are right, though, they need help and love, too. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Cleopas,
    Our former pastor told us something similar about a situation. We were in a small group and John was sharing a prayer request about an unsaved brother and he gave a specific about something the brother had done. Our pastor told us afterwards that it is unfortunate, but we have to be careful because if he were to become a Christian and come to church, some of those people would hold that one incident against him. I was surprised, but I figured Pastor knew what he was talking about. That was about 13 years ago - I have become less naive and I see the reality of it. All we can do is have the right spirit ourselves.
    Thanks for the very nice compliment.

    J. Wendell,
    I am glad you are blessed today. I am blessed today also - to know you! Thank you for your very kind comment.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/26/2006 8:44 AM  

  • 'Stuff' is in the King James Bible. Jacob says to Laban "Thou hast searched all my stuff."

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 7/26/2006 11:45 AM  

  • DF,
    Chapter and verse.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/26/2006 11:57 AM  

  • Genesis 31
    37 Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? set it here before my brethren and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 7/26/2006 11:59 AM  

  • Thank you. Now, reading "betwixt" has made me hungry for a candy bar. (that may or may not make sense to you, based on your candy selection in Worcester)

    "Stuff" is such a precise term!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/26/2006 12:02 PM  

  • Yes, we have Twix bars here. They are quite nice. I think it is a bit to hot for chocolate at the moment, however.

    God Bless

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 7/26/2006 1:08 PM  

  • A small peice of chocolate in the heat of summer gives one a cooling sensation. Give it a try!

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 7/26/2006 2:06 PM  

  • Thanks Rose.

    Good points Loren. I guess a great deal of my dirty laundry in the past was brought up that I grew so used to feeling rejected. I faced discipline and counsel years ago over an issue...perhaps you are right. I used to think it was helpful and would be healing to others...but perhaps you are correct. I should start considering privately being an encouragement to others who have faced similar temptations.

    However it has helped to break sinful habits of the past as I know I am accountable to certain bretheren now. Also some of my sin drove me to the deapest despair and going back to it....well it is kind of horrifying to think of now.

    Anyway...good post Rose.

    I do think that originally and foremost this parable should fit in comparison to Israel and the Pharisees and the tax collecters.That is the proper context. I do think it can also be applied to the family of God as well. I think many parables are twofold in that regard.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 7/26/2006 9:09 PM  

  • BTW, one of the things that was said this past visit was, "I am starting to think this eternal security thing over again. People just think they can go off and do anything and ..oh God will forgive them!"

    How ironic that this was said by a historically strong free-gracer, graduate from BJ and family member.

    Actually it was that comment that made me realize how hurt he was.

    He is also a pastor. Pray for him. Of course that was just one comment and one family member:-)

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 7/26/2006 9:13 PM  

  • I am enthralled at how the conversation turned to the weightier matters of chocolate in the summer time.

    If you don't believe those matters are weightier, try eating a bunch of Trix bars daily and see how weighty they are.

    Nevertheless, on a lighter note, I really have enjoyed this parable series.

    By Blogger Joe, at 7/28/2006 9:23 AM  

  • Thanks for sharing, Brian.

    Joe,
    Yes, I was thinking the same thing about the mood of the discussion. I was hoping for a few more outside thoughts on this post, but maybe people aren't blogging so much this summer. (Or maybe they are just boycotting RR? Nah!)
    Thanks for your kind words.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/28/2006 11:07 AM  

  • The following is what came to mind when I read your post. It is actually a section of Zane Hodges' (who else everyone is asking!?) book entitled "Harmony with God: A Fresh Look at Repentance", where you can find it here Chafer Theological Seminary Journal Back Issues in three installments.

    ----------
    An Enormous Waste

    Once one properly understands this parable as applying to the restoration of a straying Christian, its vital lessons leap to life. To begin with, just as the Prodigal wasted his possessions with prodigal living (15:13), so also the straying Christian wastes the resources God has placed in his possession. Time spent out of touch with God is an enormous waste of time, energy, strength, ability, and opportunity. When such a Christian is restored to the Lord, he often experiences profound regret for what has been wasted during his period of separation from God. This is especially true when the separation has lasted for years, as it sometimes does.

    I actually know fellow Christians who have expressed exactly this
    realization to me.

    A Deep Sense of Unworthiness

    In returning to God, particularly after a long separation from Him, repentant Christians are likely to experience a deep sense of unworthiness. They may feel that they have disgraced the Christian
    name and they may be all too aware of bringing disrepute to God their heavenly Father. Such Christians need to be reassured of the full and gracious acceptance God extends to them when they return. Their forgiveness is complete and they need not feel as if they are forever second-class Christians, as if they now served God as mere hired servants. Instead they should be encouraged to enjoy
    all the privileges of sonship, symbolized by the robe, the ring, and the sandals.

    Lost Opportunities

    But as is transparent from the story, though the Prodigal returns to the full experience of sonship, he does not get back the possessions he has foolishly squandered. Restoration for the straying Christian is real, but the loss of time, potential, and
    opportunity is equally real. The portion of any Christian’s life that is spent away from God, as well as the rewards that might have
    been earned during that time, are permanently lost.

    A Time to Rejoice

    But though all this is true and sobering, it does not destroy
    the reality of the joy that should always be a part of the “homecoming” of a repentant son. The parable assures us that God our Father always rejoices when one of His sons comes home. And if He does, so should we.

    No Grounds to Doubt

    Finally, as this story shows, if one properly understands the
    gospel of grace, the backsliding Christian will have no grounds to
    doubt his salvation, even when he is in the far country of sin. Like
    the Prodigal himself, he will still know that he is a son of the
    Father whose fellowship he has left. Needless to say, this assurance can be a powerful incentive for the backslider to “go
    home!”

    Years ago, I heard a young man in a Baptist church up north
    give his testimony about returning to God from a deeply backslidden condition. But he assured us that he always knew he was a Christian because he had learned with regard to salvation that “there was nothing I could do to earn it, and nothing I could do to lose it!” If all churches taught the gospel that clearly, they would lay a solid foundation for the return of more than a few prodigal sons!
    -----------

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at 7/28/2006 10:02 PM  

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