Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Luke 15:3

So He told them this parable, saying,
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Jesus, the Christ;   Jesus Continued;   Pharisees;   Repentance;   Thompson Chain Reference - Parables;   Truth;   The Topic Concordance - Losing and Things Lost;   Repentance;   Salvation;   Seeking;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Parables;   Shepherds;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Parable;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Parables;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Christ, Christology;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Gospel;   Jesus, Life and Ministry of;   Luke, Gospel of;   Mammon;   Parables;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Love, Lover, Lovely, Beloved;   Parable;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Children of God;   Gospel (2);   Ideas (Leading);   Man (2);   Names and Titles of Christ;   Old Testament (Ii. Christ as Student and Interpreter of).;   Redemption (2);   Wilderness (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Parable;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Chief parables and miracles in the bible;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Parable;   Sheep;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for November 14;  

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

This parable - See the notes at Matthew 13:3.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/luke-15.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

And he spake unto them this parable, saying, What man of you, having a hundred sheep, and having lost one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and his neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you that even so there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, who need no repentance.

THE PARABLE OF THE LOST SHEEP

ANALOGIES IN THE PARABLE

The man with one hundred sheep = Christ the Good Shepherd

The sheep which wandered away = backsliders from the faith

Finding the lost sheep = Christ saving sinners

Elevating it to his shoulders = uplifting the fallen

The rejoicing of the shepherd = joy in heaven over the saved

The fact of there having been only a single sheep is not an indication of how few were lost, but of the Lord's concern even for a single lost person. As a matter of fact, the lost sheep stands for countless millions of people.

Nothing is to be made of the wilderness except that the uninhabited country that surrounded Palestine was the place where the shepherds kept and pastured their flocks.

I. This parable may be viewed, first of all, as an argument. Jesus was being criticized by the Pharisees for associating with sinners; and Christ here showed that any of them would leave ninety and nine sheep safe in the fold and go seeking for a single lost sheep, thus demonstrating that they valued an animal more than they valued a man. Far from being critical of Jesus' efforts to restore lost men, the Pharisees should have fully engaged themselves by cooperating with such efforts.

II. The parable also has utility as a warning. The lost sheep, separated from the flock and from the shepherd, is a warning of the state of any child of God who wanders away from the church and away from the Shepherd. Sheep, as used by Jesus, always meant followers of God, goats being the designation for the sinful and rebellious. Therefore, the lost sheep here is a type of the backsliding Christian.

But notice the following facts about a lost sheep: (1) it is absolutely defenseless, not even having the gift of swiftness in flight from danger, its very cries being but the signal for the closing in of its enemies. Let the backslider behold here his danger and helplessness.

(2) The lost sheep is without any sense of direction. A carrier pigeon would find its way home, and a dog might do so; but a sheep never!

(3) The lost sheep is surrounded by dangers. There are beasts of prey, poisonous shrubs and weeds, and even the elemental forces of nature are hostile to a lost sheep. Manifold and insurmountable are the dangers confronting the lost sheep; and it is no less true of the Christian who has forsaken the flock and the shepherd.

III. This parable may be looked upon as an outline of the work God expects of his church, the Good Shepherd appearing here as the example to be followed by every Christian.

(1) The shepherd's emotions were aroused with reference to the lost. He did not merely say, "Oh well, I still have ninety-nine left!" It should be the work of every Christian to become aroused over the fate of the lost brother. It is a brother who is lost, a man made in God's own image; to despise him, or set him at naught, is to despise oneself.

(2) The shepherd went himself; he did not merely send another. Men are wrong who suppose that they may merely send their minister or elder to seek out the lost. God has commanded: "Ye that are spiritual restore such a one" (Galatians 6:1).

(3) The shepherd stayed with the search until it was successfully concluded. Here is the divine pattern for perseverance in well-doing. The search can have only one desire, that of finding and recovering the lost; not till then did the shepherd give up the search.

IV. This parable is also an epitome of salvation. The whole doctrinal spectrum of the Christian religion is briefly but powerfully suggested here.

(1) Just as the shepherd left the fold and the ninety and nine to seek the lost sheep, Christ left heaven with its glory to seek the lost of humanity (John 3:16).

(2) It will be noted that there was no safety for the lone sheep. Its safety was in the flock and with the shepherd. There is safety for the Christian only in the church and with the Good Shepherd. It may be doubted that there is any such thing as a Christian who does not belong to the church, despite the fact that such a conceit is obviously deceiving millions. Of old, "The Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved," and he has never stopped doing so (Acts 2:47).

(3) Just as the lost sheep was elevated to the shoulders of the shepherd, so the lost soul is elevated to new heights of eminence and rejoicing in Christ Jesus. "He shall exalt you" (James 4:10) is the promise to Christians; and just as the sheep found rest on the shoulders of the shepherd, men find rest in Christ (Matthew 11:29,30).

(4) Heaven itself is concerned with the salvation of the lost. "Joy in heaven!" is a pledge that the unseen creation is interested in the rescue of fallen men. There is no one who confesses Christ that angels do not hear it; and there is none who enters the fold of Christ, but there goes forth on his behalf the angels of God, "to do service for them that shall inherit salvation" (Hebrews 1:14).

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/luke-15.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And he spake this parable unto them,.... To the Pharisees, for their conviction and confutation; and to the publicans and sinners for their encouragement; and in vindication of himself; and not only this, but the other two, concerning the lost piece of money, and the prodigal son, which were said at this time, and on the same occasion;

saying, as follows.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/luke-15.html. 1999.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

This parable (την παραβολην ταυτηνtēn parabolēn tautēn). The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7). This is Christ‘s way of answering the cavilling of these chronic complainers. Jesus gave this same parable for another purpose in another connection (Matthew 18:12-14). The figure of the Good Shepherd appears also in John 10:1-18. “No simile has taken more hold upon the mind of Christendom” (Plummer). Jesus champions the lost and accepts the challenge and justifies his conduct by these superb stories. “The three Episodes form a climax: The Pasture - the House - the Home; the Herdsman - the Housewife - the Father; the Sheep - the Treasure - the Beloved Son” (Ragg).

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/luke-15.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

He spake — Three parables of the same import: for the sheep, the piece of silver, and the lost son, all declare (in direct contrariety to the Pharisees and scribes) in what manner God receiveth sinners.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/luke-15.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

And he spake unto them this parable1, saying,
    SECOND GREAT GROUP OF PARABLES. (Probably in Perea.) B. PARABLE OF THE LOST SHEEP. Luke 15:3-7

  1. And he spake unto them this parable. Jesus had spoken this parable before. See Matthew 18:12-14.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/luke-15.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

He spake this parable, &c., in order to explain and illustrate the nature of the interest which he felt in the publicans and sinners who were disposed to listen to him.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/luke-15.html. 1878.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

Ver. 3. See Matthew 18:12.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/luke-15.html. 1865-1868.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

In this parable Christ compares sinners to sheep going astray, and God the Father to a tender and careful shepherd seeking his stray sheep; wherein he secretly taxes the Pharisees for their uncharitableness in censuring him for conversing with publicans and sinners, and for their envy at the recovery of such sinners by repentance; assuring them, that they are far from the temper of the holy angels, who rejoice more at the news of one notorious sinner's conversion, than for many righteous persons who went not astray; like as a father is touched with a more sensible joy for the recovery of one son who was dangerously sick, than for the health of all the rest who were in no such danger.

From the whole note,

1. That the creature's aberration may serve for our instruction; the sheep's straying away from us, should put us in mind of our wandering away from God.

2. That Christ the Great Sheperd of his church, with vigilance and care, seeks up and finds out his lost sheep, and will never give over his search until he has found them.

3. That the recovery of one lost sinner by repentance, is matter of exceeding joy and rejoicing to Christ the Great Shepherd, and to all the blessed company of heaven: There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, or changes the whole course of his life, more than over ninety and nine just persons that need no such repentance. The opening of a sinner's heart to Christ, makes joy in heaven, and occasions triumph in the city of our God above; as when a young prince is born, all the kingdom rejoices, and the conduits run wine; so when a soul is born to Christ under the gospel, oh what mighty satisfaction is it to the heart of Christ, and to all the angels and saints, that another soul is espoused to him. "Oh sinner, Christ never rejoiced over thee before; thou has grieved him, and wounded him a thousand times, but he never rejoiced in thee until now." And if there be such joy in heaven at the conversion of a sinner, Lord, what rejoicing must there be at the glorification of saints.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/luke-15.html. 1700-1703.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Luke 15:3. τὴν παραβολὴν τάυτην, this parable) Extending from verse 4 to 10. The former part declares the solicitude and joy which the Redeemer feels in behalf of His sheep: the second part, the same feelings on the part of God.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/luke-15.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Ver. 3-7. See Poole on "Matthew 18:12", and See Poole on "Matthew 18:13", where we met with the same parable, though not related with so many circumstances. Luke 15:7, which is the epiparabole, showeth us the principal thing which our Saviour by this parable designs to teach His hearers, and us also, viz. That Christ is so far from rejecting the greatest sinners, that repent, and flee unto his mercy, that, if it were possible, he should take a greater satisfaction in such an issue of Divine providence, than in all the glorified saints. No repenting sinner, let his sins be as many and as great as they can be, shall be unwelcome unto Christ, fleeing to him with a broken heart (resolved against his former courses) for pardon and mercy. But as it happeneth to them who by study and practice make great experiments, they can hardly find out what they mostly seek for, but in the way to it they will find out several other notions, which are of great use to them; so it will fall out to them who diligently study the parables of the gospel. Though some one truth be that the explication of which our Saviour doth chiefly intend; yet the parable will also afford some other profitable instructions, not unworthy of our notice and regard.

The man here intended is Christ, who was the Son of man, as well as the eternal Son of God. The hundred sheep signifies the whole number of his elect, whether in heaven or on earth, whether yet called or hereafter to be called. The sheep going astray signifieth all the elect, who are by nature children of wrath as well as others, dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1,3. Here is mention but of one sheep so gone astray, though there be many, to let us know the love of Christ to every individual soul, that if but one of them had been to have been redeemed, he would have come down from heaven to have redeemed it.

The ninety-nine left in the wilderness seem to me to be the glorified saints, they are the only just persons, who need no repentance. The countryman’s going after the lost sheep till he finds it, then bringing it home upon his shoulders rejoicing, signifies the infinite love of Christ, both in leaving his Father’s throne, and the society of the glorified saints and angels, to come to seek and to save that which was lost, to pay a redemption price for them; then sending his Holy Spirit and the ministers of his gospel to invite and effectually to persuade them to accept of his salvation, truly repenting of their sins; and also preserving them through his power by faith unto salvation: for it is upon his shoulders that any elect soul is brought home; it is his eye must find them, and his power that must bring them home.

The countryman’s rejoicing, and calling his neighbours to rejoice, &c., signifieth the satisfaction and well pleasedness of Christ in the conversion of sinners, which is more plainly expressed Luke 15:7,

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. We have much the same again Luke 15:10, leaving out the comparative part. There also it is,

there is joy in the presence of the angels of God. We will consider the expressions in both the verses together; as to which there may arise these questions:

Question 1. What is here meant by joy in heaven? The inhabitants of heaven are, God, the blessed angels, and the glorified saints; how can they be said to rejoice, whereas rejoicing is in us the product of a passion by which we triumph in our union to some good, which we before wanted?

Answer. When terms expressive of our passions are applied to perfect beings, we must understand them so, as they alone can agree to such beings, separated from those excesses which they have in beings more imperfect. Joy signifieth nothing but the full satisfaction of the will in a good obtained. Thus God is said to rejoice in his people, Isaiah 62:5.

Question 2. Who are these ninety-nine just persons that need no repentance? (For the number, it is but an uncertain number put for one certain.)

Answer.

1. Some by such as need no repentance understand, such as think so of themselves, though indeed they do need it. Others understand it comparatively, such as if compared with others need no repentance.

2. Others by repentance understand penance; such sober persons as stand in no need of a being called to a public confession, for the satisfaction of the church offended. I had rather understand it of the glorified saints, whose society Christ left when he came to work out our redemption. For the others, it had been no great matter for Christ to have told them, that God, and the holy saints and angels, rejoice more over one repenting sinner, than over ninety-nine impenitent sinners and self righteous persons, who continually grieve him, and whom he abhorreth. But then,

Question 3. How can it be said, that God, and the angels and saints, more rejoice over one repenting sinner, than over ninety-nine glorified saints?

Answer. It is universally agreed, that Christ speaks here of God, and of the angels, after the manner of men; of whose nature it is to express more passion upon a new object that pleaseth them, than upon others that they have been long pleased with; as a parent rejoiceth more over one child recovered from the jaws of death, than over all the rest of his children. Tough nothing can be new to God, that is, which he did not see and foreknow, yet some things may be new to him in facto esse, as done and fulfilled: and though we must not imagine any mutation or alteration of the Divine Being upon any emergency amongst men; yet to express how infinitely pleased God is, in the repentance and conversion of great sinners, he is set out as receiving an augmentation of satisfaction in the effecting of it. Such expressions as these condescended to by God for our consolation, must not be so strained by us as to occasion any unbecoming thoughts of God.

Question. Some query how the angels know of the conversion of a sinner; and from hence the papists would some of them infer, that they know our hearts, because that is the seat of conversion.

Answer. Both the angels and the glorified saints also may know it by God revealing it to them.

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Luke 15:3". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/luke-15.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

He spake this parable; the three parables of this chapter contain each a vindication of the Saviour’s conduct in receiving publicans and sinners. The point of them all is, that not what is safe, but what is lost, is the just occasion of labor in finding and joy upon recovery. We are not to infer from verse Luke 15:7 that there are any who were never lost and never need repentance. The Saviour simply reasons with the Pharisees upon common principles, as much as to say, If, as you think, you are safe within God’s fold, why blame me for my solicitude to find and save the lost?

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/luke-15.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘And he spoke to them this parable, saying,’

Jesus, as He often did, answered them parabolically in front of the great crowd. The singular noun ‘this parable’ may indicate the opening parable, or it may signify ‘spoke parabolically’. ‘Them’ includes all who are in the crowd. He was being publicly criticised, He now gave a public reply.

In His parable (‘this parable’) He demonstrated that He was merely behaving like the shepherds of Israel should have behaved (compare Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 49:22; Psalms 23:1-6; Jeremiah 31:10-14; Ezekiel 34:11-16; Micah 5:2-4). He was watching over God’s sheep and seeking out those who had strayed. And as the parables advance He wants them to recognise that Heaven itself was involved, and that it was more concerned with moral purity than with ritual cleanness and was very open to sinners who repented, far more in some ways than to the self-righteous who were self-satisfied and did not recognise their need to repent.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/luke-15.html. 2013.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Luke 15:3. What shall I do, etc. In his uncertainty, he carefully considered the case, and this is the point in which the children of this world are so often wiser than the children of light

I have not strength to dig. His life of luxury had unfitted him for that.

To beg I am ashamed. Because of his past position. This graphic description presents certain points of human character, but cannot be further used in the interpretation.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/luke-15.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Luke 15:3. . : the phrase covers the second parable (Lost Coin) as well as the first. The two are regarded as virtually one, the second a duplicate with slight variations.

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/luke-15.html. 1897-1910.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

this parable. It had already been uttered in Matthew 18:12-14 with another object (Luke 15:11), and with a different application (Luke 15:14). It is now repeated, later, under different circumstances (Luke 15:1, Luke 15:2), in combination with two other similar parables, with quite another application (verses: 6, 7; 9, 10; 23, 24). Hence the change of certain words.

unto. Greek. pros. App-104.

them. This determines the scope of the three parables.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/luke-15.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 15:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/luke-15.html. 1871-8.