Lectionary Calendar
Friday, May 17th, 2024
the Seventh Week after Easter
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
Luke 15

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-7



Luke 15:1-7. Our Lord is still in Perea, east of the Jordan, with His face toward Jerusalem, traveling slowly, accompanied by vast multitudes, to whom, daily halting, He preaches the living Word. “ And all the publicans and sinners were drawing nigh to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes were murmuring, saying, He receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” Jesus associated freely with sinners, showing Himself kind and loving, and eating at their tables. He did this for the sole purpose of doing them good. We should do likewise, associating with them only to save them, diligently utilizing every opportunity, by prayer, appeal, exhortation, and brotherly kindness, to bring them to repentance and draw them to the Savior.

And He spoke this parable to them, saying, What man of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after the lost one until he may find it? Having found it, he places it on his shoulders, rejoicing, and coming to his house, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, because I found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you that there is joy in heaven over one sinner repenting, rather than ninety and nine just persons who have no need of repentance.” This is a beautiful symbolism of the faithful pastor Jesus frequently called the Jews “sheep without a shepherd,” not that they were aliens and heathens, for they were all bona fide members of the visible Church; but He simply means that they were destitute of the much-needed spiritual guides, i.e., they had plenty of preachers, but no one to care for their souls. The sanctified pastor, filled with the Holy Ghost and endued with His gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-11), has very acute spiritual discernment, so as to readily detect a backslider in his congregation. John Wesley pronounced every one back-slidden who did not pray orally and testify. O how the Church needs faithful shepherds this day, endued with spiritual discernment, competent to detect the wandering sheep, courageous enough to pursue it into every hell-den, and at the peril of his life rescue it from Satan’s prowling wolves; and then grateful enough to the Great Deliverer to hold a jubilee meeting over every reclaimed backslider! Let not holiness people make the mistake of resting with the flock safe in the fold, while some poor wanderer is already bewildered amid the crags and precipices and on the brink of destruction. Scripture is unlike uninspired literature, in the fact of its multifarious significations, light radiating out from every segment of the gospel globe, reflected from the glorious Sun of righteousness. The Bible corroborates astronomy and geology in the hypothesis of multitudinous celestial worlds. One hundred is a round number, and here used representatively. The blessed Second Person of the Trinity is the revealed Creator of all material worlds. (Colossians 1:0.) Now conceive our Great Shepherd having created a hundred worlds, and one of them wanders away from the house of God i.e., the Celestial Kingdom lassoed by Satan in view of adding it to hell, to augment the unsatisfactory limits of the pandemonium. The Good Shepherd leaves the ninety and nine bright, unfallen, celestial worlds, comes down to earth, battles with the powers of darkness, defeats the hosts of hell, and rescues the wanderer. This is a stupendous work, and even now in progress. Wonderful victories lie out before us, when the Millennial Theocracy shall inundate this fallen world with celestial glory, sweeping on a thousand years, with no devil on the earth, finally to be followed by the sanctifying baptism of celestial fire, utterly expurgating out of this world all the debris of sin, having accumulated during the reign of Satan six thousand years, thus making earth and firmament all new. (Revelation 21:0.) O what a shout will roar and reverberate through the one hundred celestial worlds, when our lost planet, in the glorious and triumphant finale shall be brought back within the immediate illumination of the city of God, the New Jerusalem, there, in glorious harmony with all celestial spheres, to wheel in beauty, and splendor around the throne of God, pursuing undeviatingly the very orbit in which the Omnipotent Hand located her when first from shapeless chaos, responsive to the Divine bidding, she wheeled into line, and took her place in the heavenly ecliptic.

Verses 8-10


Luke 15:8-10 . A certain woman having ten drachmae, if she may lose one drachma, does she not light a candle and sweep the house and seek diligently until she may find it? And having found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, Rejoice with me, because I found the drachma which I lost. So I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” This drachma was a Grecian coin, worth fifteen cents. So the woman has a dollar and a half, equivalent in our time to about ten dollars. This woman, as uniformly in the Bible, symbolizes the Church, whose the and power is the Holy Ghost. This coin, of course, typifies the sinner, whose soul is of infinite value, yet utterly lost and covered up with the rubbish of human depravity, and overshadowed by the thorns and brambles of actual sin. See this woman with her broom, alertly moving into all parts of her house, searching every nook and corner, removing all the dust and trash; going out into the premises, and ransacking every place where there is the slightest probability that she may have dropped the money in her precipitate haste. This is precisely what the Church, filled with the Holy Ghost, would do in the case of every lost soul. While this piece of money was intrinsically as valuable as ever, so long as it was lost it was utterly destitute of commercial value; thus beautifully illustrating the soul of the sinner, destined to live through the flight of eternal ages, and of so infinite value that it cost the blood of Jesus, and yet utterly lost, worthless, and unavailable i.e., destitute of commercial value in all the heavenly bazaars so long as it is thus lost. amid the soot and rubbish of sin. How quickly would the world be captured for Christ if every Church member would do like this woman! And they would if they only had the Holy Ghost. Really, all of this searching is done by the blessed Holy Spirit, but largely through human instrumentality. O what a grand open door, to take our brooms and join this woman in the search for these infinitely valuable coins, which are lying all around us, covered up in the dust and trash which demons have piled on them! The angels around the Throne are ready to rejoice with us whenever we find a piece of this lost money. This is the treasure we are to lay up in heaven, where it will accumulate new luster. and shine in our crowns of rejoicing when gold, pearls, and diamonds shall have lost their glitter and ceased to sparkle.

Verses 11-32


Luke 15:11-32 . But He said, A certain man had two sons. The younger of them said to the father, Father, give me the portion of the estate which falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.”

a. This has been pronounced by exegetes “the pearl of our Lord’s parables.” It was delivered in Perea, east of the Jordan, about nine or ten days before our Lord was crucified. As patriarchal law always gave the first-born two portions of the patrimony, the younger son could only claim one-third of the estate. The Bible is God’s looking-glass, not only showing up Redeeming Love and Omnipotent Grace in their grandeur and glory, but human character in all its weakness and mistakes Though the father here symbolizes God, methinks he made a mistake in yielding to the importunity of his dear boy, whom he so tenderly loved. Let us profit by his mistake, and learn how to refuse our children apparent blessings, which are calculated to imperil their spiritual security by exposing them to insurmountable temptation.

b. Not many days afterward, gathering all his possessions, the younger son departed into a far country, and there wasted his substance, living recklessly.” The father’s house, in which both the sons were born, is the kingdom of grace, in which all of Adam’s race are born in innocency, justified by the work of Christ alone, who tasted death for every, one (Hebrews 2:9), so gloriously redeeming the whole race as to superinduce the prenatal justification, regeneration, and adoption of every human being, so that none are born under condemnation, but all freely justified by the wonderful vicarious atonement of Christ. Hence you see these two sons were both born in their father’s house i.e., the kingdom of grace out of which they could only fall by willful transgression. Now what is the estate of this younger brother? It is the precious grace of his infantile justification, which he inherited from a merciful Heavenly Father through the atonement of His Son. The epoch in his life, when every one receives his part of the father’s estate, is spiritual adultage, when we all know good from evil, and become personally responsible for our acts of thought, word and deed. This young man goes away from God’s people, the Jews, far out into the Gentile world, and dwells among the heathens, whose precept and example are calculated constantly to draw him away from the law and the prophets, and make him a practical heathen. Unfortunately, he gives way to the influence of social environment, casting off the rigid discipline of his father’s home, and living recklessly; i. e., without parental restraint.

c. “And he, having spent all, a sore famine prevailed throughout that country, and he began to be in want.” This marks the epoch of his consummated apostasy from the precepts and example of his father’s home. He has gone out there with the rich legacy of his infantile justification, the innocency of his babyhood, and the purity of his early boyhood. He has expended all by neglecting and ignoring the precepts and laws of his father’s home, the bright day of his childhood having evanesced, and the black night of condemnation enveloped his sky in the dismal clouds issuing from the bottomless pit, while the blessed Holy Spirit, still pursuing him, quickens his appetite for the soul-pabulum on which he subsisted in his father’s home, but which is now all gone, while gaunt famine stalks before him night and day, turning on him her ghastly visage, like a dismal demon eloped from the regions of woe, and claiming him for her hopeless victim.


d. And going, he joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.” It’s a great mistake to think the heathens have no churches. They have more than we have. They dot the country everywhere. There are said to be four hundred Mohammedan mosques in the city of Cairo, Egypt. I am witness to the fact that their minarets dot the metropolis from center to circumference. The antediluvian world was full of Churches of the anti-holiness type, founded by Cain, which eventually, under the increasing wickedness, swallowed up the holiness people, except one family. The swine, a notoriously unclean animal, by Jehovah interdicted to the Jews, symbolizes anti-holiness religion. Fortunately, this young man had not remained long enough amid his vicious environments to utterly grieve away the Holy Spirit, who still following him, fastens on him an awful conviction of that spiritual famine fast preparing him for hell. Responsive to this awful realization of starvation, he goes and “ joins himself to a citizen of that land. who sends him to feed his hogs.” I have all my life seen a predominant predilection of dead carnal Churches to catch all the convicted people they can, lingering about and following after Holy Ghost revivals in order to gobble up the penitents before they get converted. In that way they labor indefatigably to build up their Churches, “compassing sea and land to make a proselyte.” I have frequently known them thus capture convicted sinners and promote them to office at once, in order to encourage and stick them fast. I have seen more of this than you would think. If they can only in that way get them satisfied without salvation, they are just about certain to effectually hoodwink them, fill them with bigotry, and lead them to hell. There is vastly more of this than you apprehend.

e. And he was desiring to fill his stomach from the pods which the swine were eating, and no one gave unto him.” This passage is woefully misunderstood. “Husks,” E. V., is an utter mistake, as the Greek keration has no such a meaning. Besides, the hogs couldn’t live on husks, much less fatten, as you must remember that dead, carnal Churches are Satan’s hog-pens, in which he is fattening swine for the barbecues of the bottomless pit. I always heard that the prodigal wanted to eat with the hogs, but was not permitted. This is a mistake. He did eat with them. The Greek is the same here as in fine case of Lazarus eating the crumbs, and we know he got them. The statement, “No one gave unto him,” means that no one gave him anything else to eat, and having nothing but the hog-feed, which he daily carried to the to the animals, he ate of it bountifully. Now what was this hog-feed? I have seen it, and know whereof I affirm. Keration, which I translate “pods,” is the fruit growing on the carob-tree, which is indigenous in Palestine, Syria, Italy, and the Argentine Republic of South America. Keration means a horn, because the fruit is in pods, resembling that of the honey-locust in this country. These pods are about ten inches long, and one to two inches in diameter, running to a sharp point, resembling a horn. Consequently they call it the horn-fruit and the horn-tree. These pods contain a juicy pulp, of a sweet taste, and have kernels dispersed along through them about an inch apart. This fruit is devoured by hogs with great avidity, making them fat for the slaughter. It is also eaten by the poor people in all the countries where it grows. If you ever visit the Holy Land, you will find nice specimens of this tree growing on the slopes of Mount Olivet, along the road from Jerusalem to Bethany. If the prodigal had been satisfied with this food, he would have lived and died at the hog-pen. In the mercy of God his convictions would not down. O how frequently do the dead, worldly Churches get hold of people, and by promoting them to office, as in this case, succeed in flattering them till they drown out all of their convictions, grieve away the Holy Spirit, and seal their doom in endless ruin!

f. And having come to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father have an abundance of bread, and here I famish with hunger!” The prayers of his father and mother still follow him in all his dreary wanderings, bringing down the Holy Spirit, who keeps on his track, fastening the conviction so tight that all the rites and ceremonies of carnal Churchism, the vanity and pomposity of official promotion, can never drive them away. Now, in the good mercy of God, the Holy Spirit augments his lingering conviction by a sunburst of illumination, shining into the deep interior of his spirit, revealing to him the silly futility of all his hopes through carnal religion, and flooding him with the heart-breaking reminiscence of the delightful home he once enjoyed; i.e., the sweet peace, rest, joy, and hope which thrilled the pure spirit of his infancy and childhood, when, uncontaminated with the vices and follies of an ungodly world, he lived in the sunshine of the Father’s approval and heavenly anticipation. The result is, that he comes to himself ruined, debauched, condemned, hopeless, and on the brink of hell. All come to themselves at some time; if not sooner, when the devil comes after them, and they are dropping into the burning pit. Now and then, like this prodigal, one comes to himself in time to escape. But I awfully fear chat where one escapes, ninety and nine die at the hog-pen, dragged by demons into hell. Who are these servants of the Father? They are Christians, in the justified state, having not yet received the clear witness of the Spirit to adopting love and sanctifying power. (Romans 8:15-17, and Galatians 4:1-7.) In these Scriptures you will find that people in spiritual infancy are denominated “servants.” But the same, having passed majority and entered into spiritual adultage, are designated “sons;” not that all born into the spiritual kingdom are not sons, nor that spiritual adults are not the servants of God, but servant and son are here used contrastively, the latter predominating in the sanctified experience, and the former in the justified; yet the participants of both experiences being simultaneously servants and sons.

g. Having risen, I will go to my father, and say to him, Father, I sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.” Here we see resolution after a long sleep, awakened by the Holy Ghost, and suddenly leaping into life, the auspicious harbinger of coming deliverance. Simultaneously, the blessed and indispensable grace of humiliation accompanies this Herculean resolution. These are the grand, salient steps which every penitent sinner must take. He must command a resolution that can not be intimidated by men or devils. Here this man has that whole carnal Church, as well as the powers of earth and hell, to hold him fast at the hog-pen. He flings to the winds all the pseudo consolations and honors of this worldly Church, and resolves to fight his way through platoons of devils back to his Father’s home. Here you see the work of repentance. It must travel every inch of that long, devious journey if it would get back to the Father’s house. But wonderful is the velocity of the truly convicted sinner because the Holy Ghost furnishes him wings, which distance men and devils with astounding expedition.

h. And he, having risen, came toward his father. And he, being a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion on him, and having run, fell upon his neck and kissed him copiously.” The Omniscient Eye of redeeming love and Fatherly affection follows every sinner in all his wanderings in the land of famine and death. Here you observe that the father saw him a great way off, because he had wandered a vast distance into the land of sorrow and doom. When the father saw that: he was homeward bound, he runs to meet him. O what a glorious consolation for every poor sinner! If he will only bid adieu to the hog-pen and start home, his loving Heavenly Father will run to meet him. The true reading here is katephilesen, which means “kissed him copiously;” i.e., kissed his face all over, washing it with the saliva of a father’s tender and unutterable love for his poor wandering boy. Somehow, in the Textus Receptus, from which the E. V. was translated, the kata, “copiously,” connected with the verb “kiss,” was omitted by some transcriber, thus detracting much from the force and beauty of this wonderful transaction. Of course, you know this is the kiss of peace, and means a free pardon of all his sins. O what a happy surprise to the poor prodigal, who, in the depths of his humiliation, only asked a servant’s place!

i. And the son said, Father, I sinned against heaven, and I am no more worthy to be called thy son. And the father said to his servants, Bring hither the first robe, and put it on him; and give a ring to his hand, and shoes to his feet; and lead out the fatted calf, slay it, and eating, let us be merry, because this my son was dead, and is alive again; was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.” Here it says the “first robe,” which is the robe of holiness, washed whiter than snow in the blood of the Lamb. The first experience, justification, gives you the second robe, and a place at the second table; while the second experience, entire sanctification, gives you the first robe, and a place at the first table. Here we see a very rapid succession of the two works of grace, and but a brief interval elapsing between that copious, fatherly kiss of pardoning mercy and redeeming love and the investment with the robe of holiness, the brightest and the best for us in probationary life. Not only is this robe of holiness a confirmation of entire sanctification, but the ring of the covenant placed on the hand illustrates the spiritual wedlock. We are betrothed to Christ in regeneration, and married to Him in sanctification, the ring, in Oriental countries, being the especial confirmation of the matrimonial covenant. Now that he has received the robe of holiness and the ring of heavenly wedlock, it becomes pertinent that he should be a swift witness, a bold herald, going to the ends of the earth, and telling the wonderful story of redeeming love and sanctifying power. Consequently the gospel shoes are put on his feet, and he is a commissioned evangelist. Now we have passed through the negative side of the sanctified experience, and come to the glorious infilling of the Holy Ghost, so grandly and vividly emblematized by the fatted calf, which had been fattened in the stall, and kept for some great and important occasion. Now you see the royal festival. Does any one deny the grand and glorious realities of experimental religion, peace flowing like a river, righteousness like the waves of the sea, and the unutterable joy of the Holy Ghost thrilling our spiritual being? Come and gaze upon this festal revelry. See the poor prodigal, after long and torturing starvation, now feasting on the farted calf! The tenderloin is between his teeth, and the gravy has painted his face, while the fat is dripping from his lips. Is not that a matter- of-fact experience, which even a wooden man can see?

j. And the elder son was in the field, and when, coming, he drew near the house, he heard music and dancing; and calling one of the servants, he asked what these things might be. And he said to him, Thy brother has come, and thy father hath slain the fatted calf because he received him well. And he was angry, and was not willing to come in; and his father, having gone out, continued to entreat him; and he, responding, said to the father, Behold, so many years I serve thee, and never did I transgress thy commandment, and thou hast never given me a kid, that I may make merry with my friends; but when this thy son, having devoured thy living with harlots, came, thou didst slay for him the fatted calf.”

The elder brother, as well as the prodigal, had been born in the father’s house i.e., in the kingdom of grace and while his brother had strayed away, and wandered long in the bleak wilds of Satan’s kingdom, he had spent all his life in the patriarchal home, with all the comforts of domestic life, every conceivable want supplied. As a clear demonstration that he had never forfeited his infantile justification, we hear him certify to his father, “I have never at any time transgressed thy commandment.” If he had been mistaken, the father would most assuredly have corrected him. Therefore the silence of the father at this point is ample proof that the statement of the eider son is correct, plainly illustrating the gracious possibility of retaining the infantile justification clearly out into discretion and responsibility, till actually superseded by the justification through faith of intelligent adultage. However, we see very dearly the survival of unholy tempers in the elder brother, manifested in the jealousy, envy, peevishness, and pusillanimity which he clearly shows in the complaint he offers, observing, “All these years have I served thee, and never at any time transgressed thy commandment, and thou hast never at any time given me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.” Observe the contrast: A kid is a very little animal comparatively with the fatted calf, which was slain by way of congratulating the returned prodigal. You see clearly that the elder brother needed sanctification to take out of him all the fret and worry. If he had been truly sanctified, instead of complaining and fretting, he would have joined in the general jollification over his rescued brother. You also observe that the younger brother had actually gotten out ahead of him, having not only been converted, but sanctified. As the father well says to the elder brother, “ Thou art ever with me, and all mine is thine.” While the prodigal had received his portion of the estate and wasted it, the elder brother had two portions i.e., double the amount which the prodigal ever had and never expended any of it; but on the contrary, by his faithful service under the wise supervision of his father, had added much to it. Consequently the facilities of the elder were decidedly superior to those of the younger; while the possibilities of redeeming grace, regenerating and sanctifying the poor victims of sensuality, debauchery, iniquity, crime, degradation, and debasement are wonderful, eclipsing all human anticipation, becoming the astonishment of men, angels, and devils, yet the availability and possibilities of a soul who has never passed through Satan’s flint-mills of enervating and emasculating misery and degradation are decidedly superior to all the facilities and feasibilities of the former. While the victims of sin and misery, through the wonders of redeeming grace, may rise and shine like luminaries in the firmament of truth and righteousness, yet the same would shine with a far brighter luster, and grander effulgence if they had never been smashed and crashed into smithereens by platoons of merciless demons, and ridden by old Diabolus till they became gaunt as infernal specters. Hence, while we all rejoice over the saved and sanctified, we recognize still grander possibilities of broader, deeper, higher, and more enduring achievements on the part of the elder brother, who, having twice as much as the younger to begin with, had retained it all, and doubtless augmented it, till perhaps his patrimony at the time of his brother’s return was double or treble the original amount. However, he much needed the sanctifying baptism of the Holy Ghost, to consume all the debris of original sin which he had inherited from Adam the First, retained through his infantile justification, and now, that he is evidently enjoying the justification of intelligent manhood, we observe suggestions of an unsanctified condition still rising up, marring his peace, disturbing his soul-rest, and threatening defeat in spiritual conflict. As the Greek here says the father continued to exhort him, the imperfect tense showing indefinite perpetuity, we conclude that the persistent exhortation culminated in his conviction for entire sanctification. I am sure that grand holiness revival, which had broken out in the patriarchal home on the prodigal’s return, was an auspicious time for the elder brother, as well as others, to get gloriously sanctified. I take it for granted that, pursuant to the father’s exhortation and the happy influences of the holiness band, shouting round the returned prodigal, he actually fell in, received the first robe and the matrimonial ring, like his brother, and like his brother fell into the jollification, rejoicing, feasting, and shouting till three worlds were attracted by the sensation.

k. Child, thou art always with me; all mine are thine. It behooved us to rejoice and be glad, because this thy brother was dead, and is alive; was lost, and is found.” Satan sent a thunderbolt of sin through Eden, and slew the whole human race. Unfallen humanity had no posterity. Therefore all the teeming millions of Adam’s universal family have been born spiritually dead, as Adam and Eve could not transmit what they did not possess. Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, His omnipotent redeeming grace reaching every individual of the mined race so soon as soul and body united constitute personality. (Hebrews 2:9.) While in Adam all die, in Christ all are made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22.) The death in Adam is seminal, affecting the race as such; while the revivification in Christ is personal, reaching the individual. Therefore personality must obtain in order to the availability of the Messianic redemption. In the case of the prodigal, having been born in the kingdom of grace i.e., his father’s house through the redemption of Christ, he had yielded to temptation, and committed actual sins, which have sent a death-blow through his immortal spirit. Consequently he was dead till the father’s copious kiss restored him to life; and lost from the kingdom of grace and glory till the father’s loving arms rescued him from the realms of Satan’s dismal midnight, in which he had wandered and suffered weary years.

l. This parable ranks pre-eminent in the estimation of exegetes, beautifully, vividly, illustratively, and demonstratively revealing the gracious economy, from infantile justification, through the dreary meanderings of apostasy, degradation, and dead Churchism, back to a glorious reclamation, through justification and regeneration, and culminating in triumphant sanctification, illustrated by the robe of holiness, and confirmed by the wedding-ring, the gospel shoes outfitting him for the evangelistic field; the elder brother lucidly revealing; the gracious possibility of indefinitely retaining the infantile justification clearly out into adult, intelligent, and responsible harmonization with the Divine law, amid the approval of the Heavenly Father, rendering him eligible to the glorious grace of entire sanctification.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Luke 15". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/luke-15.html.
Ads FreeProfile