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77: The Lord’s Will

May 14, 2009

Major Text: Luke 15:1-32

Outline:

  1. T he Question Luke 15:1-2
  2. Answer #1 Luke 15:3-10
  3. Answer #3 Luke 15:11-32

Context/Discussion/Comments:

Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law as to why He is spending so much time with sinners and tax collectors. They were considered of little or no value to the proud Jews. The Pharisee’s and teacher’s values were not in sync with Jesus’ values or with His Will. Jesus desires that all men come to “believe in Him” and be saved.

According to the Pharisees, these sinners and tax collectors were not worth saving. Even though the Pharisees and teachers did not like Jesus, they thought He ought to be asking for their opinion and advice, ignoring these cultural outcasts. The Pharisees had access to Jesus but they did not have the attention of Jesus because of their pride and arrogance.

Jesus tells two simple parables about a lost sheep and a lost coin. Both were highly valued as “individuals”, livestock and money. The shepherd and the woman search diligently to find the lost sheep and the lost coin to bring them back into the fold, into the hand, into contact with their owner, the Lord Jesus Christ. Their return is reason to celebrate because the lost was found, the sinner was redeemed.

I view these parables the same [Answer #1] but some commentators say the woman in the second parable represents the Church searching with a light, the Word of God; doing the work of God.

The third parable, commonly called The Prodigal Son, is more complex. Parables usually speak of a simple truth so we must be careful not to over interpret. You have probably heard many excellent sermons on this parable along with some different views.. Having said all this, allow me to flirt with over-interpretation.

The simplistic approach is to view this parable no differently than the first two parables; just a different set of characters and circumstances. It is a story about a wayward son returning home and receiving a huge family celebration. The only difference in this parable from the first two parables is that the owner willingly releases the son and awaits his return instead of frantically seeking the lost item. This third parable also has another active character, the older son, similar to the 99 sheep and the 9 coins which were not lost. So let’s consider some possibilities.

Example # 1
Example #2
Example #3
Father
God, Jesus Christ God, Jesus Christ God, Jesus Christ
Older Son
The Church, other believers, and/or you The Church, other believers, you Pharisees, Jews
Prodigal Son
A wayward member, a straying denomination, your brother or
sister
Jews, Pharisees and teachers Gentiles, sinners and tax collectors

Let’s look at Example #3 first. I found one commentary which quoted this example but it probably misrepresents the parable’s intent in that the Pharisees and Jews did not consider Jesus the Son of God, were leading the people astray with their teaching, and consequently were not considered part of God’s inheritance by Jesus. It does reflect their attitude toward God in that they could not accept His desire that Gentiles, sinners, and tax collectors are just as welcome into His Kingdom as the Jews.

Examples #1 and #2 are really the same if one expands the Prodigal Son analogies. The fact that the Prodigal Son may refer to the Pharisees and Jewish leaders makes sense in the context of this whole dialogue. They held the keys to the Kingdom but squandered them on false interpretations of Scripture and legalities. The Lord did not seek them out. He is letting them go to run their course. One day they will realize that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, their Messiah. Some do accept now but it won’t happen in mass until the tribulation when the two witnesses preach in Jerusalem and the 144,000 other Jews begin their ministry. When that happens and assuming the Church is still around, how will it react? Like the older brother? Pre-tribulation rapture believers would probably reject this interpretation.

This leads me to my final analogy saying the Prodigal Son could refer to a wayward individual or even a church denomination. We would probably rejoice for a wayward brother or sister who has returned to Christ. But what if the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Unitarians, or Universalists renounced their strange unorthodox doctrines and simply proclaimed faith in the Triune God, Jesus as God’s Son Incarnate, and the Bible as the infallible inerrant Word of God. How would we react? It took years for the Church to become comfortable with Paul and, more recently, years for some to become comfortable with Chuck Colson. It’s natural. We need to be cautious and see that a person’s conversion is genuine. Our Father has an advantage. He knows the heart.

This parable will be interpreted differently by those who do and those who do not accept the doctrine of eternal security. The Prodigal received his inheritance as a member of the family. He squandered it, gave it up for worldly pleasure. Graciously the Father welcomed His repentant son back. Such would seem to be in conflict with Hebrews 6 but the pros and cons of such interpretations will be taken up separately. The Prodigal willingly left. But he also willingly returned. God is definitely in the restoration business. Thank God or we would all be in grave danger.

Lessons/Applications:

  1. We are to make sure we line up with the Lord’s Will. Reevaluate your priorities if you find yourself continually on the side of cultural or political correctness. Such is not likely to be the Lord’s Will. God seems willing to allow our free will to circumvent His Sovereign Will much of the time so be careful if you are getting your way too often.
  2. To be His witnesses we are going to have to leave our comfort zone. His work is directed toward reaching outsiders, not insiders. Those you dislike the most are those who will be most receptive to the Gospel.
  3. Jesus is more concerned about the lost than the saved; those that are wandering more than those who are in the fold. Jesus comes to save individuals; not nations or communities. He died for your sin and my sin; not a community’s sin or a nation’s sin. Individuals change a community and a nation.
  4. What is important is that you belong to the Lord. Be thankful and celebrate with those who return. Don’t let your pride get in the way of a party.
  5. The Lord’s Will is that you are found and that you return Home. Sometimes He is searching and other times He is waiting.
  6. God is merciful, full of grace, loving, patient, and persistent with those who desire to belong to Him. He wants the best for us and He has given His best for us.
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