The Parables of the Love of God

Luke 15  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 9
THE three parables of Luke 15, are familiar to almost every Christian. They are generally termed, The Parable of the Lost Sheep-the Parable of the Lost Piece of Money-and the Parable of the Prodigal Son. But there is a grand leading thought in the chapter, viz., The manifestation of what God is Himself in the peculiar joy of His heart, in seeking, saving, and welcoming the sinner to His home of joy. The rather, then, should the Parables be termed, The Parables of the Love of God, whether as Father, Son, or Holy Ghost.
It is often thought that the teaching of the chapter is, restoration from backsliding and alienation in heart of those Who are His. There is no doubt at all but that the same gracious God it is who seeks for, saves, and welcomes the sinner, who restores the soul of a wandering child; but I feel that this is not the lesson here; and more so, because it would be a positive encouragement to backsliding, to find that God loads the returning one with greater blessings than ever he possessed before; and besides, if he sinned away anything it must be that he sinned away grace, which is simply impossible.
I do not purpose to enter into the marvelous disquisition of the Love of God-Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; but merely to notice some of the peculiarities of the parables, with the view of leading others to see that line of truth which our blessed Lord teaches us in them.
The occasion of their delivery was, that some poor publicans and shiners, perceiving that they were welcome, had drawn near to hear Him. This awakened the murmuring of the self-righteous and religious leaders. The Lord then unfolds the wonderful thought (yet not at all wonderful when we know what God is), that He would be God, and thus have His own peculiar joy in receiving sinners, and passing by the pretensions of man. This is the point pressed and taught us. The shepherd had his own desire gratified, that for which he undertook the toil,-when he had the sheep on his shoulder conveying it home. It was what he wanted and desired and toiled for. The purpose of his heart was satisfied. Not a word of upbraiding to the sheep for the trouble it cost.. The shepherd's heart was gratified. Thus it is with Jesus towards those whom He finds.-He came to seek that which was lost.
Again, in the next parable the 'diligence of the woman-intent upon her object-lights the lamp-sweeps the house-seeks with diligence and perseverance till she is rewarded by finding the piece. The grace of the blessed Spirit of God, in the unwearied light and testimony and diligence which never stays itself till the piece which was lost is found.
But the sheep was passive, as was the money, and these parables did not show the state of conscious misery in which the sinner found himself when grace began to work in his heart; for did they show the love of God the Father in meeting, receiving, and welcoming the returning one, and the new condition of things to which he was introduced-so much better than those he had sinned away and lost..
We must not suppose that because the-figure of a father and his two sons are used by the Lord Jesus; that the relationship as child, by the Spirit of His Son, which is the believer's portion is here intended. In a certain sense Adam was God's son (see Luke 3:3838Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God. (Luke 3:38)); and Israel was "His" firstborn-His "son" (Ex. 4:2222And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: (Exodus 4:22), &c.); but neither were sons as the believer is now by the Spirit of His Son which is given to us. "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," and "because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." (Gal. 3:26;4. 6.) The younger son-the Gentile here I believe-man as at the beginning, who in the self-will which he substituted for God's will, chose to have his portion apart from God. Man at the beginning received his portion in creation blessings from God, but soon he sinned them away. Reduced to misery in the land of his alienation, his wretchedness does not drive him to God, but he seeks to relieve it in the land of his degradation. He joins himself to a citizen of that country. In the midst of his poverty, the thought of God's goodness is remembered- "he came to Himself"-faith in God's goodness is awakened in his heart-the goodness of God leads him to repentance (Rom. 2:44Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (Romans 2:4)); and he judges himself in the light of such a thought,-he says, " I perish with hunger." He then says, " I will arise and go"-he is converted, or his heart turned towards God. He does not say, " I will arise and return," which would be restoration, but " I will arise and go." He "taketh with him words," uncertain as to how he will be received-but he has no peace. Many souls are in this stage, and are seeking to get peace by progress on the journey- instead of peace by surrender of all pretension. He arranges a confession, and also the terms in which he is to be received by the Father-the former was right-we hear no more of the latter when the father met him.• It is positively beautiful to see the energy of love which leads the father outside the house even before he came and knocked, to go out and meet him; and to see the love of God who waits not for the sinner to ask for admission. He must have him in the house worthy of Himself, as it was worthy of himself to go out to meet and embrace a poor ragged filthy sinner., Ile directs them to bring forth the first robe, to invest him-the ring to adorn him-and the shoes to give him the sense of at-home-ed-ness in His house, and all came from within, and "All things were ready" for the moment of need. This was the learning of the gospel for the first time. These were not blessings he had sinned away, he could not sin away grace. He is then in the communion of the father's house, eating the fatted calf with the father. And God does all this because of the perfect work of Christ.
The elder brother is any self-righteous one who cannot bear the thought of the vile ones being the subjects of grace, while his pretensions are passed over. In fact, it was the way in which the poor selfish Jew took the news of God's grace to the Gentiles when declared by Paul. (Acts 22:21,2221And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. 22And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. (Acts 22:21‑22); 1 Thess. 2:1616Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. (1 Thessalonians 2:16).) The first-born was "in the field"-the place where there bad been care and culture, as to the Jew. The younger son had been in the "far country." He was nigh to the house-never in the house. He Could not abide the thought of grade to one who was far off, and who had nothing but rags and disgrace and penury, getting such a place, and filling the father's heart with joy. But God went out in grace to him too-His message was always " to the Jew first"-but he would not come in. God told him, through the yearning heart of Paul, that His gifts and calling are without repentance (Rom. 11:2929For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (Romans 11:29)), and so here the father says, " Thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine." He never has lost his national place, though set aside for the while. But he would not come in, and God has shut him up in unbelief that he may have mercy upon him in like way as upon the poor Gentile.
The words " lost" and " dead" could never be applied to any but a sinner.
May these few remarks lead us into a spiritual understanding of what the parables convey, and may we learn the heart of Him who has been thus pleased to reveal Himself in Christ.