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Bible Commentaries
Luke 15

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

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Verses 1-32



Though discipleship to Christ is a wonderful privilege, yet man would never choose a path of true discipleship if God did not seek him first. In this chapter we see that all the blessing for man originates in the heart of God, and therefore God's great joy predominates in the repentance and restoration of sinful people.

In the person of Christ there is drawing power to bring tax gatherers and sinners to hear Him. The Pharisees and scribes resented this, and in proud self-righteousness denounced Him for receiving and eating with sinners. Sad indeed that they can discern the sin of others while blind to the sin of their own hearts.

How appropriate therefore is the parable He speaks to them. It is one parable, though in three sections, the first showing the heart of the Shepherd, the Spirit of God; the second, the heart of the Spirit of God using a woman, type of the church; and the third, the heart of the Father.

The value of one soul is great in the eyes of the Shepherd. The ninety nine were left in the wilderness while the Shepherd sought the one lost sheep until He found it. He laid it on His shoulders, bearing it home with rejoicing, and expecting his friends to rejoice with him. The simplicity of this is both attractive and easy to be interpreted, particularly when the Lord spoke of the joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. The home is heaven; the recovered sheep is carried safely all the way there, dependent entirely on; the strength of the Shepherd. So the believer is perfectly secure.on the shoulders of His strength.

This is clearly the case of one who has gone far from God, lost in his sins. The ninety-nine however, do not picture believers: they were left in the wilderness, and they are said. to be those "who need no repentance." For the Lord spoke this to the Pharisees who considered themselves in no need of repentance: there was therefore no occasion of joy in heaven on their account. Only one who realizes his lost, ruined condition will appreciate the grace of God. The emphasis is on repentance. How many there are who have no concern about this whatever, so that it seems that only one out of a hundred will be brought to this self-despairing place of repentance and therefore find salvation through the seeking Shepherd. Does it not teach us that there is more real value in one repentant sinner than in nine-nine self-righteous Pharisees?



The woman losing and seeking the silver coin illustrates the energy and grace of the Spirit of God in seeking the lost sinner. The woman is not a picture of the Spirit, but of the Church of God in which the power of the Spirit works in seeking the lost. The lamp being lit speaks of testimony. The sweeping of the house reminds us of the broadcasting of the gospel of grace; while the diligent search is the special care of personal concern for individual souls. Wonderful it is that the Church is given the great privilege of sharing with the living God in His care for souls, and in His rejoicing in the repentance of the lost, for the lost piece of silver is clearly a picture of a lost sinner who, when found, is said to be a sinner who repents. Of course the silver itself, being inanimate, has no such feelings, but it pictures the dormant state of the unbeliever -- valuable, yet lost, and worth the labor of seeking. The woman too expected others to rejoice with her in her finding the silver. So in the presence of the angels of God there is joy in the contemplation of one sinner repenting.



In verse 11 the two sons of a certain man do not picture true believers as sons of God, but rather those who by creation are God's offspring (Acts 17:28). In the younger son we see the publicans and sinners of verse 1, and in the elder son the self-righteous Pharisees. The younger son demanded what he could get, and went far from the father to enjoy it. Yet we must observe that the living of the father was divided between the two sons (v.12). The elder received his full share, but remained in close proximity to his father, where his living would not be squandered. But he had no real heart for his father, let alone for his brother (vs.2-30). His nearness to his father was only outward, just as was that of the Pharisees in relation to God. The elder son therefore represents Israel in all her outward blessings as the people of God, and the younger son, the Gentiles in their being without God and without hope in the world.

The Lord did not make the slightest excuse for the younger son, who indulged in riotous living. Doubtless he had many friends until he spent all his money and was reduced to poverty. His case is a striking picture of how sin brings one down. We may characterize this experience in eight words: (1) demanding -- v.12, (2) departing -- v.13, (3) dissipating -- v.13, (4) destitute -- v.14, (5) dependent -- v.15, (6) degraded -- v.15, (7) desiring -- v.16, and (8) denied -- (v.16). The independent young man had become dependent on one whom before he would have scorned, and to feed swine would be to the Pharisees a most repulsive occupation. In common with many like him, the young man came down to this, even to where he craved the husks that were good only for swine. Former friends were gone and no-one cared for him.

It is in such a case that divine grace begins its wonderful work. The young man "came to himself." He was stirred to remember his father's house with its plenty, even for servants. A change took place, and the pride of the young man was finally broken. He decided to go to his father with an honest confession, "I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son." He hoped to be taken in merely as a hired servant.

But his father saw him coming from a great distance and ran to meet him, embracing him and covering him with kisses before a word was spoken. This is the only indication in Scripture of God running. How gladly He welcomes a returning sinner! Then the son spoke the words that had been formed in his heart by the exercise of being brought so low. But the father did not even allow the last of those words to be spoken -- "make me like one of your hired servants."

Instead the father called immediately for the best robe with which to clothe him, a ring for his hand and shoes for his feet. This was no treatment for a hired servant. The best robe is Christ our righteousness, for every believer is "in Christ." The ring (being endless) speak of eternal life, but being applied to his hand indicates that eternal life has a present effect on the works of our hands. The shoes speak of protection as to our walk in the world. What wonderful provision the grace of God makes for every believer!

The fatted calf was killed that his hunger might be satisfied and that others too might eat in communion with him. The calf pictures Christ, the perfect sacrifice on whom we are privileged to feed, the solid food that gives sustenance and strength. The whole house rejoiced in the restoration of the son, but the food of that rejoicing is typically Christ and Him crucified, for this is the basis of all blessing to mankind.

Verse 24 proves that this case is one of a lost and ruined soul being brought to God and saved. He was dead, having no spiritual life, but now alive. He was lost, totally away from God, but now found. These things could not be said of a believer who simply needed restoration. "And they began to be merry." Such joy begins with conversion and goes on for eternity. But there are eight points that describe the conversion of the young man: (1) revived -- v.17, (2) remembering -- v.17, (3) resolved -- v.18, (4) repentant -- vs.18-19, (5) returning -- v.20, (6) received -- v.20, (7) restored -- (v.22), and (8) regaled -- (v.23).

However, the elder son spoiled everything for himself by his self-importance. Returning from the field (typical of the world, for the world can have a religious side too, outwardly in near proximity to God), he heard music and dancing in the house. He had not been near enough to know the father's joy, so he inquired of a servant (v.26). But the glad reception of his brother only angered him and he refused to enter the house (v.28)

The father's attitude toward the elder son was just as fully in contrast to the elder son's haughtiness as it had been in contrast to the folly of the younger son. As he had shown kindness to the returning prodigal, so he showed kindness to his critical brother, entreating him to share his own joy (v.28). How sadly self-righteous, independent and intolerant was his answer to his father! He claimed to have served him for many years, never transgressing his commandment, just as Pharisees liked to think they were rigid law-keepers. He complained that his father had never given him a kid so that he could make merry with his friends (not with his father). Yet the father had before divided his living between both sons! Again, if the son had faithfully served him, it was certainly not without renumeration! He had far more than enough to buy a young goat if he wanted it. Moreover, he would have been welcome to eat just as much of the fatted calf as did his brother. But his intolerance toward his brother was bitterly expressed. In fact there was no need of comparing himself with his brother at all, but this illustrates the pride of the Pharisees in despising Gentiles.

Let us suggest eight words also to summarize what is said of the elder son: (1) inclining -- v.25, (2) inquiring -- v.26, (3) informed -- v.27, (4) indignant -- v.28, intreated -- v.28, (6) inflated -- v.29, (7) independent -- v.29, and (8) intolerant -- v.30.

The brother did not say, "my brother," but "your son." Yet the father still addressed him as "son" and spoke to him of the younger son as "your brother." He reminded him that he was ever near to the father, sharing all the father's goods. This was true of Israel in an outward way (Romans 9:4-5), though their hearts were far from God (Matthew 15:8). But the father had the last word, firmly insisting that it was appropriate that his brother's return should be an occasion of great joy, for it was virtually life from the dead, one lost being found. How penetrating a parable for the Pharisees, if they would but listen, and how encouraging a parable for a repentant sinner!

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 15". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/luke-15.html. 1897-1910.
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