Luke 15 Outline:
IV. The Repudiation of the Son of Man by Men, Luke 9:51-19:27.
I. Instruction in the Light of Rejection, Luke 12:1-19:27.
13. Concerning God’s love for sinners, Luke 15:1-32.
a. The Parable of the Lost Sheep, vs. 1-7.
b. The Parable of the Lost Coin, vs. 8-10.
c. The Parable of the Prodigal Son, vs. 11-31.
1) The wayward son and waiting father, vs. 11-16.
2) The repentant and restored, vs. 17-24.
3) The resentful brother and insightful father, vs. 25-32
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3) The resentful brother and insightful father, vs. 25-32.
Luke 15:25, “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.”
We are introduced to a new character in this parable, the “older son,” PRESBUTEROS HUIOS, for older or elder son. This is in comparison to the younger son who is the main character. Apparently, the elder son did not see his brother return home nor his father’s initial reception of the repentant brother, because he was out “in the field,” EN AGROS. “Field” once again speaks to living inside of sin and Satan’s cosmic system. In vs. 15, we saw that the younger brother sold himself into slavery in the world, where he was “in the fields to feed the swine.” There, the younger brother was living in immoral sin, (lasciviousness), inside of Satan’s cosmic system.
Here, the older son was out working in the fields of his father, telling us that he maintained close proximity with the father. Therefore, this is the picture of the believer who is not operating in immoral sin like the younger brother was, but of the believer who is operating in approbation lust, (Asceticism), and human good, which is still part of Satan’s cosmic system. Approbation sin is the lust of praise for the things you do, which amounts to human good works. Therefore, the elder brother is also living in sin and Satan’s cosmic system, as we will see also in the following verses.
Now, when the elder son came back to his father’s “house,” OIKOS, after the days works, he “heard,” AKOUO, “music and dancing,” SUMPHONIA KAI CHOROS.
SUMPHONIA, συμφωνία is where we get our word symphony from and means, “music.” It is only used here in Scripture. In classical Greek it means, “concord or unison of sound,” the idea of “harmonious union” applied to music. Its cognates mean, “agreement.” So, we understand that there was a band or orchestra playing music at this occasion of celebration.
This reminds us of the analogy of Rom 6:13, which we noted above. When we are operating in sin, human good, or evil, we are playing in Satan’s band; we are instruments of unrighteousness. When we repent, are restored to fellowship with God, and remain there, we are playing in God’s band once again, and are “instruments of righteousness.”
Rom 6:13, “And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”
CHOROS, χορός is where we get our word choreography from. It means, “dancing, company of dancers, chorus, troop, or dance.” It too is only used here in the NT. Whether these where performers dancing for entertainment or the people partaking in the celebration we do not know. But some were merrily dancing. Dancing is seen in the OT for preceding the men returning home from some victory, Ex 15:20; Judges 11:34. There, it represents our victory in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins that we should celebrate when we or someone else rebounds and recovers.
It was also primarily used in religious worship for the Israelites, as we see David dancing at the arrival and placement of the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem, 2 Sam 6:5, 12-19. A synonymous but different word is used in Luke7:32; Mat 11:17; 14;6; Mark 6:22, that emphasizes non-religious and sometimes seductive dancing, especially the latter two passage that spoke of Herodias dancing for Herod.
Therefore, this music playing and dancing is a picture of the scene in heaven where God, the elect angelic race, and humans celebrate at the restoration of a wayward son, just as we too should celebrate here on earth.
Psa 150:4, “Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.”
Luke 15:26, “And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be.”
When the elder brother heard the celebration and did not know why it was occurring, “he summoned” a servant. “Summoned,” is the Greek Verb PROSKALEOMAI, προσκαλέομαι that means, “summon, call to oneself, or invite.” He did so to “one of the servants,” HEIS HO PAIS. PAIS does mean servant but it is also used for “child, son, or daughter.” So, this might have been another brother or sister. In analogy, he’s calling a fellow believer.
Next, he “began inquiring,” which is the Ingressive Imperfect, Middle, Indicative of the Verb PUNTHANOMAI, πυνθάνομαι that means, “ask, inquire, question, or learn.” The Ingressive Imperfect stresses the beginning of the action that continues for some time. From this we see the anxiousness of the elder son in his questioning about the situation. Therefore, we do not see a relaxed mental attitude (RMA) here.
“What these things could be,” TIS HOUTOS EIMI. EIMI is in a rare construction here in the Present, Active, Optative Mood. There are fewer than 70 Optative moods in the NT. Here, it is an Oblique Optative that is used as the direct question giving it an added degree of emphasis. Therefore, we see the anxious nature of this inquiry once again, and we see the sin of jealousy starting to boil up.
Luke 15:27, “And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound’.”
Here, the servant or other brother or sister answers the elder brother’s question. It has three parts:
1) “Your brother has come,” HO ADELPHOS SU HEKO that means, “has come or is present.” It is the announcement that the wayward brother has returned home / repented through rebounding with the start of recovery. This should have caused the elder brother to be excited with much joy. But, as we will see, it does not.
2) “Your father has killed the fattened calf,” SU HO PATER THUO HO SITEUTOS HO MUSCHOS. As in vs. 23, the literal meaning is that his father has called for and provided a celebration for the returning of the wayward son. As we noted in analogy, God the Father has provided the sacrificial lamb for our sins through His Son Jesus Christ upon the Cross that we are to partake of and celebrate in.
3) “Because he has received him back safe and sound,” HOTI APOLAMBANO AUTOS HUGIAINO. “Safe and sound,” is one Greek Verb HUGIAINO, ὑγιαίνω in the Present, Active, Participle, Accusative that means, “be in good health, be sound, wholesome, or correct.” In the Septuagint, this word is used often for SHALOM in greetings, salutations, and farewells. It means, “peace or well-being.” Therefore, not only does this word mean the younger son was in physical good health, but also “correct or sound,” spiritually, in that he had repented to get back into a right relationship with the father. Jesus used this word also in Luke 5:31, for the statement, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.” As such, the fact that someone is restored to a right relationship with God should be celebrated.
Therefore, spiritually we see that the repentant wayward son or daughter of God returns home into a right relationship with God the Father, having been restored to fellowship, having been cleansed of all unrighteousness, and is now walking soundly in the light of Jesus Christ, which is to be celebrated. Yet, this arrogant, approbation loving, elder brother did not see it that way, because he was blinded by his own human good and personal sin. The believer with true humility is delighted to see other people repent and become successful.
Yet, this older brother is full of blind arrogance. We will see this in vs. 29, “I have never disobeyed your orders.” This is human good being parlayed into evil by arrogance. Also, in vs. 30, we will see the older brother slander the younger brother; “we don’t know how the wealth was spent.” Therefore, the older son is in self‑righteous, mental attitude, and moral arrogance, along with having the arrogance of unhappiness. This has made him the enemy of grace and leads to further sins including anger within his soul.
Remember that the elder son is representing the Pharisees and scribes here, who had been criticizing Jesus, cf. Luke 15:2. Jesus used the figure of the older brother to condemn the attitude of the Pharisees and Scribes who condemned Jesus for unacceptable fraternizing with tax-collectors and sinners.
The lesson we learn from this is that we must be careful not to not accept the repentance of our fellow believers, where we hold their past sins and failures against them for many reasons. Instead, we are to forgive and forget, and move on with them in harmonious chorus.
But in this parable, it is out of jealousy that the elder brother thinks and acts in sinful ways. He thought that he was doing everything right, yet his comparison was against himself, rather than against the righteousness of God.
2 Cor 10:12, “For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.”
We must be careful to compare our behaviors and actions against God’s standards and not to our own standards. Instead, we are to have the Divine viewpoint of forgiveness of sins for the repentant wayward son or daughter, where we do not hold grudges against them looking for further proof of their repentance. Nor should we not forgive them out of some self-righteous jealousy, where we think they should be punished or damned because of their sin, where we should be exalted because of our “righteousness.” That form of thinking amounts to self-righteousness which is sin, human good, or evil in God’s eyes. God is not willing that any sinner should remain alienated and lost, cf. 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Tim 2:4. He welcomes back the lost sheep into the fold, the lost son into His household, the repentant sinner into His fellowship, just as we should too.
“Our view of sinners should be one of great sorrow, for they have rejected the grace of God and are lost. Likewise, our attitude when a sinner repents and is restored to God should be one of great joy. Too often we find that these attitudes are reversed.” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary)
Luke 15:28, “But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.”
Here, we see the emotional revolt of the soul of the jealous older brother, as “he became angry,” which is the Aorist, Passive Deponent, Indicative of the Verb ORGIZOMAI, ὀργίζομαι that means, “to be angry or to be angry at someone.” It is used 8 times in Scripture, which is the number the means, “superabundant,” and signifying a new beginning. Here, we see the extent of the brother’s anger and the indication that there is a new sin begun in his soul at this moment. As such, we see that the sinful mental attitude of jealousy leads to receiving the sinful mental attitude of anger, which will lead to a further sinful action as noted below.
Prov 6:34, “For jealousy enrages a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance.”
ORGIZOMAI represents an inner mental attitude of indignation, wrath, hatred, and fury usually targeted at a specific person, thing, or event. As, you know there can be righteous anger or indignation, but that too must be controlled within your soul. Yet, here we have the unrighteous or sinful type of anger. Here, the older brother of the Prodigal Son was very angry because of his uncontrolled contempt for his wayward younger brother and because of his discontent with his father for celebrating his brother’s return. Nevertheless, we are not to have this type of anger in our lives because, as here, it leads to further sin and wicked behaviors especially towards others.
Mat 5:22, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
Eph 4:26, “Be angry, and yet do not sin (Psa 4:4); do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
Eph 4:31, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Col 3:8, “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”
Eph 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Next, we see that due to his anger the elder brother “was not willing to go in,” OUK THELO EISERCHOMAI
THELO means, “to wish to have, desire, to purpose to do, or to be willing.” With the negative OUK, the elder son was “not willing” to enter the house party. Here, it is in the Imperfect tense for incomplete / ongoing action, the Active voice to indicate the elder brother performs the sinful action, and the Indicative mood for the reality of the situation. Therefore, we see his free will decision to take negative action because of his sinful mental attitude of jealous anger towards his brother and father. This tells us that mental attitude sins lead to negative actions, either verbally or mentally, if the anger goes unchecked. We also see that it is the elder son’s free will volition to act upon his sinful mental attitude, just as it is our free will that chooses to sin.
As such, we see that the elder son’s attitude did not coincide with his father’s. Instead, the elder son was furious and bitter. He did not welcome his brother back, and in fact, refused to enter the house while the celebration was going on.
Ironically, when the prodigal brother was “out,” the older brother felt “in.” Yet, now when the prodigal was celebrating within, the older brother refused to join and stayed out. This tells us that our spiritual life should never be based on others, either good or bad. In other words, we should not think that we are in a right relationship with God just because someone else is in wrong relationship with God because of their sin that we think is worse than ours. On the flip side, when we see the love, mercy, grace, and compassion of God in the life of a previous sinner, we should never be jealous, angry, or bitter towards them thinking that they do not deserve it, especially compared to your perceived “good spirituality.”
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In our parable, anger is a mental attitude sin. It stems from temptations of the Old Sin Nature, “the flesh,” Gal 5:19-21.
Gal 5:19-21, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
It is a negative mental attitude reaction to some thing or someone, or it may be directed toward no one or thing in particular. As a mental attitude sin, it expresses antagonism, hatred, exasperation, resentment, irrationality, etc. It can be mental, emotional, or both. There are two Greek nouns that refer to anger both as a mental attitude and as an emotional revolt of the soul. They are ORGE and THUMOS. They also have cognate verbs to describe the action of anger.
ORGE, ὀργή that is translated, “anger or wrath,” is related to the inner disposition as evidence by passion, impulse, and especially outward expressions of displeasure or anger. It can be used to describe being under the influence of passion or anger. We are warned in James 1:19, not to have the sinful type of ORGE in our lives.
James 1:19, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”
THUMOS, θυμός means, “great anger, wrath, rage, or passion.” Only Luke used THUMOS in the Gospels, Luke 4:28, to describe a typical response of the opponents of the gospel as rage, see also Acts 19:28.
Luke 4:28, “And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things.”
Acts 19:28, “When they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’”
Paul used it 5 times. On four of these, it is a deplorable human condition, combined with other such base sins, 2 Cor 12:20; Gal 5:20; Eph 4:31; Col 3:8.
In Eph 4:31, both types of anger are related to bitterness, clamor, slander, and malice.
Eph 4:31, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Therefore, anger is a sin which motivates other sins like gossiping, maligning, slandering, judging, etc. It is unjustifiable and becomes a reaction of antagonism, which makes it a sin that leads to the sinful reaction of irritation, exasperation, and irrationality. If your reaction to a situation is from emotional revolt of the soul, then it leads to emotional anger and you react in a sinful way towards others. As such, anger is never an isolated sin, Prov 29:22, “An angry person stirs up strife, and a hot tempered person abounds in transgression.”
If anger continues and you have bitterness or vindictiveness, your vindictiveness will come out either verbally or as some form of retaliation or revenge. In addition, jealousy motivates anger and anger motivates cruelty. A person cannot be angry without being cruel and unfair, cf. Prov 27:4.
Prov 27:4, “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy?”
Anger is also related to foolishness, Eccl 7:9, “Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools.” Satan had anger and it turned a genius into a fool. Anger turns any person into a stupid fool. A person is never smart when angry, which is why many stupid and embarrassing things are said and done in anger. Most people who spend their time in anger have a temporary loss of self-esteem or it is a manifestation that no self-esteem existed in the first place and therefore they have self-pity that leads to all kinds of foolish behaviors and actions. If you have to deal with some problem, you must have your senses about you. Do not lose your temper!
In fact, many criminal activities are the function of the arrogant, angry, and foolish person. Anger always adds wrong to wrong, sin to sin, as anger destroys the virtue in the subject. Therefore, anger destroys the function of impersonal love. Impersonal love maintains the virtue of the subject, but sinful anger destroys the function of impersonal love that then leads to causing harm against others in anger.
We also see:
- In Eph 5:26, that anger destroys marriage.
- In Amos 1:11, anger can destroy a nation, Amos 1:11, “So decrees the Lord, ‘for three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not revoke its punishment. Because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually and he maintained his anger forever.’”
- In Eph 4:30-31, anger is associated with grieving the Holy Spirit. Eph 4:30-31, “Stop grieving the Holy Spirit, the god by whom you have been sealed to the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and slander be removed from you, together with all evil.”
- In Col 3:8, anger is a violation of the Royal Family Honor Code. Col 3:8, “But now you also put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”
- In 1 Tim 2:8, anger hinders effective prayer. 1 Tim 2:8, “Therefore, I desire that men in every place pray, lifting up holy hands without anger and without dissension.”
- In Prov 22:8, anger results in self‑induced misery. Prov 22:8, “He who sows iniquity will reap vanity, and the rod of his fury will perish.” You fail to interpret history or your circumstances correctly, become frustrated and then angry, which results in self‑induced misery.
- In Heb 12:15, anger is the source of chain sinning. This is hidden, hypocritical anger. Heb 12:15, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”
- Anger causes misery to those in your periphery, Amos 1:11; Prov 21:19; 22:24; 25:24; 29:22; 30:33.
Prov 30:33, “For the churning of milk produces butter, and pressing the nose brings forth blood; so the churning of anger produces strife.”
As an irrational sin of emotion, mental attitude anger expresses antagonism, hatred, resentment. It often expresses itself in slander and even violence and murder. Anger violates the following principles of the Royal Family Honor Code.
- Two wrongs do not make a right. Anger plus another sin is not right.
- You cannot build your happiness on someone else’s unhappiness. This is exactly what retaliation tries to do. You will never become happy by getting revenge.
- To punish someone else by revenge modus operandi, such as verbal sins or violence, is synonymous with obstruction of Divine punishment and blasphemy toward Divine justice.
- Anger coupled with arrogance opens the gate to all of the manifestations of arrogance and sin.
Therefore, when maltreated, never let reaction to maltreatment become sin in your soul, because if you become angry and retaliate, then your reaction becomes sin. As such, you will violate the Royal Family Honor Code.
Believers with arrogant subjectivity look down at others and hide their anger until one day they explode. This is a flawed character. This is a hidden anger that results in an outburst of anger. As such, never let reaction become sin. Instead, in the face of unfair treatment, maintain your righteousness by saying no to the temptation of anger and apply God’s Word to the situation, turning it over to God.
Prov 14:29, “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.”
Prov 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Prov 15:18, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.”
Prov 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”
Prov 19:11, “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.”
Prov 22:24, “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man.”
Pro 29:8, “Scorners set a city aflame, but wise men turn away anger.”
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Enter the wise man. Next, we see the father taking action once again to rescue a sinner, this time to address the elder son’s sin, “and his father came out and began pleading with him.
Once again, we see that the “father,” PATER, takes the initiative to pursue a wayward son, by “coming outside,” EXERCHOMAI. This time it was the elder brother who chose to remain “outside” of the fellowship. Therefore, we see that God our Father comes to us too when we are outside of fellowship with Him living in our sins. In addition, we see that we can choose to accept our heavenly Father’s entreating to remain or get back into fellowship with Him, or we can choose to remain outside, remain out of fellowship with Him, by refusing to repent / confess our sins and be restored to fellowship with Him. We should always choose to repent!
Here, the father “began pleading with him,” the Ingressive Imperfect, Active, Indicative of the Verb PARAKALEO that means, “call for, exhort, or encourage.” Included in the usage here, it has the idea of consoling and comforting. We have noted this word in Luke’s gospel in Luke 3:18; 7:4; 8:31-32, 41, and we will see it in 16:25. Therefore, he was imploring him to come in, while at the same time reassuring him, as we will see below. By analogy, God our Father pleads with us to return to fellowship through His Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of others to teach us, reprove us, rebuke us, and encourage us.
Therefore, when the prodigal son came home the father went out to greet him. Now, the father went out a second time to bring in the elder brother. Yet, due to his jealousy and anger, the elder brother refused to come in because he disapproved of the father’s treatment of the younger son. One of the great contrasts in this parable is between the attitudes of the older brother and the father. When the father came to the younger brother, there was harmony and restoration. When the father comes to the older brother, there is self-pity and rejection of reconciliation. This is the great tragedy of the older brother who represents the Pharisees and any other self-righteous legalistic believer. All the older brother can see is his own righteousness. He is missing out on the repentance of others, including the need for his own repentance. That is what arrogance and anger do to a person. Leon Morris writes, “The proud and self-righteous always feel that they are not treated as well as they deserve,” (Luke, 267). Therefore, we see that even with all of the older brother’s good works, they were not accompanied by a loving attitude. That is the great tragedy of religiosity.
In addition, as the older brother is analogous for the Pharisees and Scribes, they too rejected the Father’s invitation to enter the kingdom of God when it was offered to them. They thought because of their good works and adherence to the Law, that they were participating in the Kingdom. Yet, because of their arrogance and refusal to accept the repentance necessary for salvation, they refused to accept the Father’s invitation.
Luke 15:29, “But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends’.”
Here, we have “Operation Self-Pity Party.” The elder son is about to launch into a rant of self-justification for why he is angry and refusing to be reconciled. “Rather than allowing his heart to be softened by his father’s entreaties, the older brother snapped back an answer loaded with bitterness. The self-righteous, jealous, angry, hurt feelings of the elder brother tumbled out in a torrent against the father. The words revealed not just a momentary anger but pent-up feelings that had accumulated for years. His father’s treatment of the prodigal was the last straw. So, his complaint toward the father was a laundry list of everything he had self-righteously done and which had not been rewarded.” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary)
This is also his excuse making for why he is refusing to enter into the celebration for his younger brother. And remember, “excuses are like rear ends, everyone has one and they all stink.” In other words, there is no excuse for any of us to hold grudges against others and refuse to forgive them and be reconciled to them.
The interjection, “Look,” is the Verb EIDON in the Aorist, Active, Imperative. Personally, I do not like when people use this command to get your attention. It comes off as crass and arrogant, as it does here with the elder son. By giving his father a command here, it tells us right off that he does not have respect for his father. This shows us that when we are operating in sinful arrogance, we are not respecting God our Father. And if we ever get into “demanding or commanding” our Father to do something, it is an indication that we are way off in our spiritual life.
After this the son goes on to whine and complain. Just as we have had many “3’s” throughout this parable, there are three aspects to his whining complaint.
1) “For so many years I have been serving you.” This is the self-justification of his human works.
It uses the Demonstrative Pronoun TOSOUTOS that can mean, “so much, so many, so great, etc.” It emphasizes the plural Noun ETOS, “years,” for length of time. Then we have “serving you,” DOULEUO SU, where DOULEUO in the Present, Active, Indicative means, “to be a slave, be subject to, serve, or obey.” He was trying to use his service to his father as justification for his emotional revolt of the soul. Unfortunately, he was doing a right thing but in a wrong way, because his motivation was all wrong. Rather than serving for the sake of serving, or for the sake of his love for God and His Word, or for the sake of his love for his father, he was serving for approbation. He was serving so that he would be paid back. When that is our attitude, God tells us that when men pay us back, we have received our reward in full, Mat 6:1-2, 5, 16.
This also shows his self-pity, as he speaks of his relationship with the father as being less than that of a son, and one as being a “slave or servant.” This reveals he did not know what being a son really meant. He considered service to his father a duty, not a privilege, just as all self-righteous legalistic arrogant believers do in relationship to their spiritual life; it’s a duty, not a privilege.
In addition, by not understanding what it meant to be a son that is loved by his father, he could not then understand how his father truly loved him and his younger brother. As such, he could not understand the joy it gave his father to have his son return to fellowship in repentance. Not understanding the joy, it gave his father to have restored fellowship with a son, indicates the callousness of his heart about his own sin and the lack of understanding as to the importance of repentance, thereby remaining in his own sin. These are principles we as believers need to understanding in our relationship with God our Father.
2) “I have never neglected a command of yours.” This is the self-justification of keeping the commandments, e.g., “honoring your father and mother.”
It uses the Greek negative Adverb OUDEPOTE, (not, but, ever), that means, “never,” with the Aorist, Active, Indicative of the Verb PARERCHOMAI that means, “gone by, passed by, elapsed, neglected, etc.,” and the Noun ENTOLE that means, “command, order, decree, etc.,” with the Genitive Personal Pronoun SU meaning, “of yours.” Therefore, he is insisting that not once in his life did he not do what his father wanted him to do, which is highly unlikely. It is like saying “I have never broken one of the commandments,” or “I have never sinned.”
This is another phrase that turns my stomach, “I have never!” In it, we hear the self-righteousness of the speaker and their indignation towards others. This is the process of comparing their spirituality with that of others, as they find fault in others, while in comparison theirs is superior. As stated above, we should never compare our spirituality to that of others to determine where we are in the plan of God, just as we should not compare ourselves against ourselves. We should always compare our spirituality against the Word of God or against the life of Jesus Christ. If you think your spiritual life is superior, just take a look at the life Jesus lived and then ask yourself that same question.
This is the hypocrisy of religiosity, coupled with the arrogance complex of sins that thinks “I am always right,” and therefore, I do not need to repent of my ways, because I am always right and holy. As you know, this is an impossibility, as we are all sinners and “there is none righteous, no not one,” Rom 3:10, cf. Psa 14:3b; 53:3b. Just as the Pharisees saw no fault in their service and worship, this son sees no fault in his. This is the epitome of arrogance and hypocrisy. It is the mode of operation for the self-righteous.
Luke 18:11-12, “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get’.”
Therefore, we see that the older son has two, (the number of division), pieces of self-justification, 1) I have always served you; 2) I have never neglected your commands. “His justification of himself was as proud and arrogant as the younger son’s was humble and contrite,” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary). Next, comes his self-pity complaint.
3) “And yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends.” This is the self-pity of not getting something you think you deserve, as he bitterly accused his father of having never rewarded him properly for his loyal obedience.
“And yet,” which is only KAI in the Greek, goes along with “look,” and “I have never,” to lodge his self-absorbed grievance. “You have never given me,” is the Aorist, Active, Indicative of the Verb DIDOMI, “to give,” with the Negative Adverb OUDEPOTE, “never,” once again, with the Dative Personal Pronoun EGO, “to me.” “Never given me,” is also part of the elder son’s hyper-sensitive exaggeration of the matter. Whether true or not, it shows a long smoldering discontent on the part of the elder brother. I’m sure that at some point in this son’s life, the father threw him a party. But in hyper-sensitivity and self-pity he exaggerates the issue trying to get the father to feel sorry for him, just as he feels sorry for himself. This is another outcome of arrogant anger within our souls.
The thing that the father allegedly never gave to his elder son was, “a young goat,” ERIPHOS, ἔριφος that means, “kid or goat.” Interestingly, this word is only used here and Mat 25:32. In Matthew, it is used for when Jesus “will separate the sheep from the goats,” upon His 2nd Advent. The goats are the unbelievers and unbelieving nations of the world that remain at the end of the Tribulation. Jesus will remove them and their nations for also being antagonistic to Israel throughout their history. The unbelievers will be cast into Hades until the Millennial reign of Jesus is completed. Therefore, I am sure our Lord used this word for its poignant meaning related to Mat 25:32, to drive the point home even further, that the elder son’s behaviors are like that of the unbeliever.
By using goat here, the elder son is also pointing out a difference in the means of celebration from the “fatten calf,” SITEUTOS MOSCHOS in vs. 23, to now a “goat,” ERIPHOS. ERIPHONS is a far less costly animal than a fatted calf, which too is hyper-sensitizing this situation and points to the elder son feeling sorry for himself.
“So that I might celebrate,” uses the Conjunction HINA and the Aorist, Passive, Subjunctive of the Verb EUPHRAINO, which was also used in vs. 23-24, that means, “to make glad, be happy, glad, rejoice, or be merry.” It tells us of the purpose of the action of giving a goat; to celebrate! The principle here is that many blame their lack of joy and happiness on others or their situation, when in fact their lack of happiness is based on their lack of fellowship with God and His Word.
“With my friends,” META EGO PHILOS, “friends or loved ones.” There is nothing stated about who the other people were at the younger son’s celebration, but apparently family and friends were invited too. Here, the elder son is claiming he never was given a party with his family and friends. This continues the exaggeration, which is typical of hyper-sensitivity. Not only do they criticize for the things that people do, but they also criticize people for what they have not done. You cannot win with hyper-sensitive, self-righteous, legalistic, arrogant people; especially when they get angry. Therefore, he was like the Scribes and Pharisees who said in vs. 2, about Jesus, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” He considered that his father was degrading himself in treating the prodigal son the way he did. Therefore, in his self-pity party, he whined and complained about his “hard knocks life,” and chose to remain in his own self-pity party, rather than to repent and join the celebration with God.
“Similarly, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law were angry with the message Jesus was proclaiming. They did not like the idea that people from outside their nation as well as outcasts and sinners in the nation were to be a part of the kingdom. Like the older son who refused to go to the feast, the Pharisees refused to enter the kingdom Jesus offered to the nation.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty).
Luke 15:30, “But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him’.”
Operation “Self-Pity Party” continues with more whining and complaining, now turning to venomous attacks against his father. After the hypersensitive angry person gives their list of “good deeds” they think they have done, which justify their actions that they think should be rewarded, they turn their anger onto others. Here, the elder son launches an attack against his father, which is done in part to blame the father for the younger son’s sinful behavior, while at the same time is self-justification for the elder son’s perceived righteous indignation.
Once again, we have three aspects to this sinful attack:
1) Disassociation with a family member.
2) False accusations – sinful judgment against his brother.
3) False accusations – sinful judgment against his father. In this we also see God our Father’s plan for our salvation.
1) Disassociation with a family member. “But when this son of yours came.”
“This son of yours,” HO HUIOS SU HOUTOS, tells us that the elder son avoided acknowledging his younger brother, the prodigal son, as his own brother. This is a disclaimer the father corrects by saying in vs. 31, “this brother of yours,” which tells us that all believers are one in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, Rom 12:5; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11.
Gal 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
This continues to show the arrogance, bitterness, anger, hatred, etc., that the older brother has for his younger brother. He speaks of him with contempt and disassociates him as his brother.
Also, by associating the younger brother with the father in this manner, he is throwing sharp criticism at the father, accusing him of being a bad father in many ways. Therefore, the elder son was dishonoring his father, breaking the 5th of the 10 Commandments, Ex 20:12. So, we see him operating in sin once again, where he is blinded to his own sin because of the anger that is within his soul.
Now, referring to the self-righteous legalistic Pharisees, who the older brother represents, we see the amount of disdain they had for the sinners in their own society, as well as the Gentile peoples who they considered sinners and not worthy of God or His salvation. This is the point of the message. We, as believers in Jesus Christ, should love the sinner rather than disparage them for their sinful behavior, especially when they repent. Therefore, it represents the lack of compassion and love we should be having and expressing towards the repentant sinner, as Jesus had done on many occasions when dining with tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes. By doing so, the religious leaders accused Him of being a sinner too, as is also mentioned in vs. 1-2.
The point is; we should remember that we are all one in Christ Jesus and that we all have some form of sin in our lives that needs repentance. Instead of being angry towards the sinner with disdain, judging and accusing them, we should be compassionate with grace towards them, as we express our impersonal and unconditional love to them.
Luke 6:41-42, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”
Unfortunately, when there is blind arrogance, like the older brother and Pharisees displayed, they do not see the log in their own eye and go right to taking the speck out of other people’s eyes. Therefore, it is best to not even get involved in speck removing and just live your own spiritual life unto God, searching for the specks in your own life that need to be removed.
As I mentioned previously, unfortunately for the older brother, (and the Pharisees), we never see him coming to repentance as the younger brother had, cf. Mat 21:28-32.
2) False accusations – sinful judgment against his brother. “Who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes.”
Now, because the older brother did not see the log in his own eye, he continues on his tirade of anger towards his repentant younger brother with compound sinning; this time with false accusations.
“Devoured” is the Greek Verb KATESTHIO, κατεσθίω that means, “consume, devour, eat up, or destroy.” Yes, the younger brother did use up all of his money, but this word is used to intensify the analogy by the older brother to elicit a sympathetic response from his father. He is exaggerating the situation of the younger son using up all of the father’s wealth.
“Wealth,” is the Noun BIOS that means, “life, livelihood, or possessions.” Here, it is speaking of the estate that the father had given to the younger son. As we noted in vs. 11, the father divided up the estate, therefore the young brother only had a portion, 1/3 in fact. He did not use up the entire estate. In this rant, the older son once again disparages his father by saying “your” wealth. In fact, the father had legally given 1/3 of his estate to the younger son. When that transaction was complete, the funds were no longer the possession of the father. They were legally the sons. Therefore, this is a false accusation because the wealth that the son squandered was his own, no one else’s.
Next, remember that this parable makes no mention of hiring prostitutes. It only stated that he “squandered his estate with loose living,” (ASOTOS), vs. 13. Yes, it was some form(s) of immoral sinning, but we do not know of any “prostitutes,” PORNE. How did the older brother know what sins he committed? Was he there, did someone tell him? Even if this was something the younger brother did in the past, it does not mean he did it here.
Maybe he was thinking in terms of Scripture, Prov 29:3, “A man who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but he who keeps company with harlots wastes his wealth.” Yet, even Satan was able to think in terms of Scripture, but falsely, trying to twist them to meet his own needs and goals, cf. Luke 4:10-11. This is another warning sign for the self-righteous. We are not to “use” God’s Word to gain some advantage over others by misapplying it, twisting it, or by taking it out of context. We do not use Scripture to puff ourselves up while beating others down.
Therefore, these are false accusations that the older brother is making up in exaggeration to intensify the issue of his brother’s sin with his father. As noted above, he is exasperated to the point of dishonoring everyone.
Interestingly, he was all too willing to confess the sins of another, while refusing to acknowledge his own. We see in Scripture that the Pharisees were experts at confessing the sins of others, e.g., vs. 1-2, while refusing to admit their own, cf. Luke 18:11.
Luke 18:11, “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.”
Yet, the Word of God tells us to forgive others of their sins and confess our own as well, Mat 6:12, 14; Mark 11:25; 1 John 1:9.
Mark 11:25, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.”
In conclusion, “who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes,” is a false accusation similar to the ones railed at Jesus by the Pharisees for associating with sinners. But that is why He came, to forgive the sins of the sinner so that they can be healed / freed from their sins and be reconciled, restored to fellowship, with God the Father.
3) False accusations – sinful judgment against his father. “You killed the fattened calf for him.”
“You killed,” is once again the Aorist, Active, Indicative of THUO, as in vs. 23, 27, that means, “sacrifice, slaughter, or kill.” It is also used in Luke 22:7, “Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.”
“The fattened calf,” SISTEUTOS, is only used here and vs. 23, 27, in the NT, with MOSCHOS, “calf or young bull,” also used in these three verses and in Heb 9:12, 19, Rev 4:7.
“For him,” AUTOS, is speaking of the younger brother.
Like Satan’s third temptation of Jesus Christ in the wilderness when he quoted Scripture, Luke 4, this comment is true. Yet, in the light of its context from vs. 29, “you have never given me a young goat,” it is used as an antagonism towards the father. The older brother is comparing what the father did for the younger son to what he allegedly never did for him. He is comparing a greater with a lesser that never occurred, trying to gain sympathy for his cause.
We can only assume this is a true statement, but in reality, it is probably an exaggeration at best and a lie at worst. The father most likely had given many parties for many occasions, and the older son was most likely the subject for some of them.
Nevertheless, the point here is the whining exaggeration with false accusations that the older son brings against his father. In these verbal sins, they are motivated by an oscillation between self-righteous arrogance and self-pity in emotional revolt of the soul. By judging his father in this manner, he is committing at least three sins; dishonoring, judging, and maligning him; all because he felt sorry for himself in jealous anger.
In this section, we see pride, entitlement, and self-righteousness continues to keep him from repenting. If we think we have something to boast about before God, then we will not see our need for turning to God in repentance. This son thinks his obedience justifies him before his father, just as the Pharisees through their self-righteousness made them right before God. How many of us have a difficult time detecting the fault in our own thinking?
Therefore, in the whining complaint of the elder son, due to the anger within his soul towards his brother and father, we see how the self-righteous, legalistic, arrogant believer can have contempt for his fellow believer and God. Because things do not always go their way, they get angry and lash out at them both! And, because of their self-righteousness, they cannot stand it when a fellow believer repents and God forgives them giving restoration to fellowship with a celebration.
In conclusion: “But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him’,” symbolically tells us of the great plan of Salvation God the Father has for all of mankind through His Son, Jesus Christ.
1) “But when this son of yours came,” speaks of the First Advent of Jesus Christ, where he came to earth in humanity to take on the sins of the entire world.
2) “Who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes,” tells us that Jesus took on (i.e., devoured / was consumed with) the sins of the world upon the Cross. There, He bore the sins of every sinner, (i.e., prostitutes) – every member of the human race. He gave His life (i.e., wealth, BIOS) for the sinner. He gave His livelihood, (temporarily set aside His Deity to become man), for the sinner. And, oh by the way, (follow the logic here), it was God who gave physical life to the body Jesus had here on earth. Because God gave Him that life, it was God’s life. As such, it was God’s life (in ownership) to give. Therefore, it was God’s life, (in the person of Jesus Christ), that was given as our sacrifice.
3) “You killed the fattened calf for him,” tells us that it was God the Father’s plan of salvation for His Son to be sacrificed for the sinner. Therefore, God the Father killed, (i.e., THUO, sacrificed), the fattened calf, (Jesus Christ), for him, (the sinners of the world). God the Father sacrificed His Son for the forgiveness of our sins. And, through belief in Him the unbeliever is given eternal life, and the believer is restored to fellowship through repentance.
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Luke 15:31, “And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.”
Wisdom Steps In. Once again, the father steps in to reassure the older wayward son that he is still part of the family and that his estate / inheritance is still intact. In like fashion, our heavenly Father reassures us that we are always a part of His family with an irrevocable inheritance, cf. John 1:12; 11:52; Rom 8:14; Gal 3:26; 4:6; Phil 2:15; 1 John 3:1-2; Eph 1:11, 14, 18; Col 1:12; 3:24; 1 Peter 1:4.
Rom 8:14, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
Gal 3:26, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Gal 4:6, “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!””
1 John 3:1-2, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.”
1 Peter 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Interestingly, the father does not use the typical word for son HIOUS here, instead he uses the term TEKNON, τέκνον that means, “child, descendant, or posterity.” It particularly connotes the child-parent relationship. Not only was the father using this term to reassure his son of his family and financial status, but he was also subtly reminding him of his relationship with the father. From the basis of the 5th Commandment, the NT stresses the responsibility of children to obey their parents, Eph 6:1-3; Col 3:20, which this elder wayward son was not doing at this time. Therefore, with all the grandstanding the elder son was performing, his father was lovingly and compassionately trying to get him to realize his own sin and repent by using this phrase. As such, we see the tender touch of our heavenly Father towards us too, when we fall into any form of sinning including moralistic sinning.
The compassionate address of the father to the son includes three aspects here and in vs. 32a.
1. “You have always been with me.”
2. “All that is mine is yours.”
3. “We had to celebrate and rejoice.”
1. “You have always been with me,” SU EIMI PANTOTE META EGO. EIMI is in the Extending-from-Past Present tenses, Active voice, and Indicative mood for action that began in the past and continues into the present, with emphasis on the present time. Literally it says, “you have been, are, and always will be with me.”
This is the analogy of once saved always saved, which means regardless of the sins we commit post-salvation, we do not lose our salvation. In other words, once we are saved, we have been, are, and always will be with God our Father as members of His family; as His sons and daughters.
As for the analogy of the Pharisees represented in the elder son, the Jews are God’s chosen people and He will never abandon them. They will always be His chosen race. Though individual Jews will not believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior, including the religious leaders, God will not abandon His promises to the Jewish people and will honor His unconditional covenants to them. They will always be God’s chosen race with unconditional covenant promises to be fulfilled.
Beginning with Abraham, God made a covenant with him that he would be the father of a great nation. It would be fulfilled through his son Isaac, and grandson Jacob, who would be changed to Israel by God. From Jacob/Israel the covenant would be fulfilled. Later, God made more covenants with the people of Israel at the time of King David. God promised to give Israel an eternal king, with an eternal throne, with an eternal kingdom, to go along with the Abrahamic covenant of an eternal people.
The covenants to Israel are God’s gracious promises and provision for Israel as the new racial species called the Hebrews or Jews, and as a client nation to God. These covenants are fulfilled to all born again Jews as the possessors of eternal life, Rom 9:6, “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.”
Covenants are defined in the OT scriptures in terms of favorable disposition. God, as party of the first part, made a favorable disposition to Israel as party of the second part. Because God made these promises to Israel, the covenants or contracts cannot be conditional, because it is an agreement between two parties with the first party favoring the second party. The primary issue is favor or GRACE. The key to the covenants to Israel is based on two doctrines: the Jews as a new racial species and Israel as a client nation to God.
As noted above, the Jew had to believe in Jesus Christ in order to qualify to receive the blessings of the unconditional covenants. The Jew cannot enter their spiritual heritage until they first believe in Jesus Christ. All the covenants to Israel have an eternal life clause based on the fact that Israel has a future in both time and eternity. Being born racially a Jew is not enough to benefit from these covenants. Spiritually dead persons cannot inherit eternal life or benefit from these unconditional covenants. Those who benefit from these covenants must have eternal life. In addition, the covenants to Israel cover two dispensations when Israel is a client nation to God: the Jewish Age and the Millennium. These contracts apply to both dispensations. Unconditional covenants are given to Israel in three categories:
1) To Israel as a new racial species.
2) To Israel as a priest nation to God.
3) To regenerate Israel as true Israel.
The unconditional covenants include: the Abraham, Palestinian, Davidic, and New Covenants to Israel.
1) The Abrahamic covenant defines the race for client nation Israel. Abraham became a Jew at age 99; circumcision was the sign, Gen 12:1‑3; 13:15‑16; 15:18; 22:15‑18; 26:3‑4; Ex 6:2‑8.
2) The Palestinian covenant defines the land for client nation Israel, Gen 15:18; Num 34:1‑12; Deut 30:1‑9; Josh 1:3‑4. This is the real estate of the client nation.
3) The Davidic covenant defines the dynasty for client nation Israel, 2 Sam 7:8‑16; Psa 89:20‑37.
4) The New Covenant defines the restoration of the client nation Israel at the Second Advent and the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ, Jer 31:31‑34. This part of the contract is not operational until the Second Advent. It will be fulfilled in two parts.
a) During the great power experiment of the hypostatic union, the New Covenant is fulfilled in the provision of a Savior. The New Covenant cannot be fulfilled to any Jew unless he has eternal life, Mat 26:28; 1 Cor 11:25; Heb 8:8, 13; 9:15; 12:24. The point of the Cross fulfills this salvation requirement. This is taught in Isa 61:1.
b) During the Millennium and the eternal state. This is taught in Isa 61:2‑11; 59:20‑21, quoted in Rom 11:26‑27.
All unconditional covenants have an eternal life clause based on the fact that Israel has a future both in time and in eternity. Therefore, we see in the prodigal son’s father’s address to the elder wayward son, that his elder son has been, is, and always will be with him, just as true Israel has been, is, and always will be with God the Father in fulfillment of the four unconditional covenants made to Israel.
2. “All that is mine is yours,” PAS HO EMOS EIMI SOS. This has to do with the father’s wealth. That which remained after the younger son took his 1/3 is the inheritance of the elder son. Therefore, all that the father currently owned was the property of the elder son. The reassurance was that the elder son in reality and actuality has not lost a thing. What he will inherit has not changed one bit.
On a side note, with some supposition, it is interesting that 1/3 of the inheritance went to someone besides the elder brother, who is in analogy for the people of Israel in this parable. Therefore, by analogy, we could say the 1/3 went to believing Gentiles. We could also narrow it down to say the 1/3 of the inheritance went to Church Age believers, of which we are a part of, as we too have an unconditional inheritance in Christ. This is interesting also when we compare it with Rev 12:4, “And his (Satan’s) tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.”
In this passage, the woman is Israel (Mary) and the child is Jesus. The 1/3 of the “stars of heaven” are angels, which we assume is an indicator of all the fallen angels that stayed in rebellion against God with Satan, as compared to all the angels God created. Now, here is the supposition part. Some suppose that until there are enough believers from human history to replace the 1/3 angels that fell, Christ will not return. So, if we look at the Gentiles of all time and of the Church Age who are believers, could they be the ones that take the 1/3 of the inheritance leaving 2/3 for the elder son, Israel? Just an interesting analogy, that cannot be backed up, but interesting none- the- less comparing the 1/3 and 2/3 of the inheritance.
Now, getting back to the parable, this is the analogy of the covenant promises made to the believing people of Israel. Even though God has also blessed the believing Gentile people, especially during the Church Age, the believing Jewish people would not lose one thing of the promises God has made to them. They will still receive all of the blessings of the unconditional covenant promises God made to them, cf. Heb 9:15; 11:8. They too will inherit the Kingdom of God, where they would have an eternal Jewish kingdom with a land promise, with a Jewish throne, and a Jewish king to sit upon that throne for all of eternity. Jesus Christ will fulfill those covenants in His Second Advent and on into eternity. Gal 3:18, “For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.” Sadly, the One who the Jewish leaders would reject is the One who would fulfill those promises they were eagerly looking for.
This also reminds the Church Age believer, made up of both Jews and Gentiles, that we will never lose the promised inheritance that Jesus has made to us, His bride, Acts 20:32; 26:18; Eph 1:11-19; Col 1:12; 3:24; 1 Peter 1:3-5.
Paul quoted Jesus in Acts 26:18, “To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.”
Eph 1:11, “Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”
Eph 1:14, “Who (the Holy Spirit) is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”
Eph 1:18, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”
Col 1:12, “Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”
Col 3:24, “Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
In a final note, this is another indicator that “Replacement Covenant Theology” is a false doctrine and false system of interpreting the Bible. The Gentiles of the Church Age have not replaced the position true Israel has with God, nor are the unconditional covenant promises made to them now made to the Church Age. The covenant promises made to Israel will be fulfilled for Israel through Jesus Christ during His Second Advent, Millennial reign, and into eternity. There are separate and unique promises of blessings and inheritance given to the Church, and in no way has the Church replaced Israel regarding the covenant promises.
Luke 15:32a, “But we had to celebrate and rejoice.”
3. “We had to celebrate and rejoice,” DE DEI EUPHRAINO KAI CHAIRO. DEI is a Verb in the Imperfect, Active, Indicative that means, “it is necessary, must, has to, or should.” The Imperfect tense is used for incomplete and ongoing action. It expresses what one ought to do because of the demands of custom, law, etc. In other words, this was the customary thing to do when someone returned home after a long absence; it was nothing out of the ordinary.
The thing that was customary to do was to “celebrate,” EUPHRAINO, in the Aorist, Passive, Infinitive that means, “to make glad, be happy, glad, rejoice, or be merry,” as we have noted in vs. 23, 24, 29. It is especially associated with banquets and their consequent merriment. Therefore, it was customary to celebrate the return of a relative with a celebration of merriment, as well as to “rejoice,” CHAIRO, also in the Aorist, Passive, Infinitive that means, “rejoice or be glad.” We noted CHAIRO in vs. 5, in the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd “rejoiced” when he found it. Interestingly, CHAIRO also served as a greeting like “welcome or good day.” So, we see the rejoicing when someone is met after a time of absence. Using these two words, our Lord was stressing both the outward form of rejoicing, EUPHRAINO, in celebration at a banquet, and the inward emotion of rejoicing, CHAIRO, having joy and happiness in your soul, especially when greeting someone. Therefore, the father was trying to show the elder son that what they were doing was not a slight against him, but what was customarily done and felt when a family member returned home. The father’s explanation left the son with a decision: either continue in his own brand of rebellion or repent and join the celebration.
In the previous two explanations, “You have always been with me and all that is mine is yours,” the father conveyed to the elder son his family status and privileges that were always his, unconditionally, and with the third, “we had to celebrate and rejoice,” showed what was the customary or lawful thing to do that in no way negatively affected the elder brother. Paul demonstrated this when teaching on the assurance of the believers’ inheritance in Eph 1:15-16, “For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers.”
In the analogy to the religious leaders of Israel, Jesus too was conveying their privileged position as members of God’s chosen race, especially as recipients and guardians of the covenants and the Law, Rom 3:1-2; 9:4. Having been given that privilege and responsibility, they should be confident in their relationship with God and openly welcome with celebration the sinners of the world, whether they are Jews or Gentiles, rather than feeling jealous and angry towards them. And, with that, they should rejoice that others were joining them and would be a part of the kingdom of God.
In addition, by staying outside of the house party, the elder brother humiliated his father and his brother. The father could have commanded him to come in, but he preferred to go out and plead with him. That is what Jesus did with the Jewish religious leaders, yet they too would not be persuaded. They rather stay in their rebellion outside than to repent and join the celebration of fellowship with their heavenly Father and fellow believers both Jew and Gentile. This is also the sad story of all who refuse to believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Luke 15:32b, “For this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.”
In this verse, we are given three reasons why the older son should be rejoicing and celebrating.
1. “For this brother of yours,” in the Greek, it is HOTI, “because, since, for,” HOUTOS HO ADELPHOS SU. This is the father’s correction of the older brother’s previous disclaimer in vs. 30, of his family association with his younger brother. This alone should be enough emphasis for the older son to rejoice when his brother returned home. Once again, this is a reminder that all believers are part of the family of God whether Jews or Gentiles, Gal 3:28, and we are to have joy and celebrate when one repents.
2. “Was dead and has begun to live,” in the Greek, it is the Verb EIMI in the Imperfect, Active, Indicative, NEKROS, “dead,” KAI, “and,” with the Verb ZAO in the Ingressive Aorist, Active, Indicate, “has begun to live.” Some manuscripts have ANAZAO that was used in vs. 24, which is an intensification of ZAO. But here, it is just the root word ZAO, that means “to live, be alive, be well, or recover.” In vs. 24, the father was expressing his joy because his son had returned. Here, he is simply stating the case or the fact of the occurrence to his older son that his younger brother had repented, was restored to fellowship, and is actively part of the family once again, (i.e., he has begun to live again). This alone should be enough information for the older brother to rejoice and celebrate.
This is analogous to all repentant believers. Once we confess our sins to God, (i.e., Rebound, 1 John 1:9), we are “cleansed of all unrighteousness,” restored to fellowship with God, walk in the light once again, 1 John 1:7, and are filled with the Holy Spirit, Eph 5:18, so that we can live in and execute the spiritual life. When we walked in sin, we cut ourselves off from God and could not live or execute the unique spiritual life He gave us. We were living experientially as if we were dead spiritually. But when we rebound, are we are restored and can now live the unique spiritual life that God has given to all believers. In others words, we live again experientially.
3. “And was lost and has been found,” in the Greek, it is KAI, “and,” APOLLUMI in the Perfect, Active, Participle, Nominative, “destroyed, ruined, killed, lost, perished, put to death, etc.,” KAI HEURISKO in the Aorist, Passive, Indicative, “found, discovered, obtained, etc.” As in vs. 24, we have the double emphasis where “was dead,” equates to “was lost,” and “begun to live,” equates to “has been found.” “Dead and alive” emphasizes the action and status in relation to the son, while “lost and found” emphasizes the action and status in relation to the father.
Being lost, means you do not know where you are or what direction to head in. This is the reality of the believer who is walking in sin. They are in the darkness, without fellowship with God, and unable to apply their GPS, “God’s Power System,” to find their way. This means that when we are out of fellowship with God, we cannot apply His Word through the power of the filling of the Holy Spirit to our lives. If gone uncorrected through repentance, the confession of your sins, it will only lead to further sinning within our lives.
On the other side, we “have been found,” which uses the Passive voice for HEURISKO, “found,” which means this is the action we received. In other words, the younger son received the action of being found, (i.e., restored to fellowship by God). As we have noted previously in this parable, this too tells us that God meets us preemptively prior to and when we are on the road of recovery to give us all the resources necessary to have a full recovery from our sins and restoration to fellowship with Him. This is the grace of God for the repentant wayward sinner.
APOLLUMI is the Verb that bridges the two idioms, as it can mean, “lost or killed,” and is the action that leads to being “dead,” NEKROS. Therefore, being lost in your spiritual walk is equivalent to being dead experientially in the spiritual life. When you are lost you cannot find your way. When you are dead, you can do nothing! Yet, here we see the recovery that God provides for the repentant wayward believer from being lost and dead in the spiritual life so that they are found and made alive experientially once again to live inside of God’s plan, care, and provision for their life.
This last example alone should have been enough information for the older brother to rejoice and celebrate, yet the father gave him three reasons to do so. As such, there is no excuse for not rejoicing and celebrating. Remember, according to the law, you need two or more witnesses to convict, Deut 17:6; 19:15. Because there are two, even three pieces of evidence here, the elder son is without excuse and guilty of sin.
Deut 17:6, “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.”
Deut 19:15, “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.”
In the double emphasis, the father is pleading with his older wayward son to understand the situation of his younger brother that should give him cause for rejoicing. The father was expressing the cause for his own joy in simple terms. For him, love was the stronger motivation over justice. Yet, for the self-righteous arrogant and angry older son, justice was more important than love. Therefore, the father was trying to persuade the older son, in the wisdom of God’s Word, to see what was most important; to have love. This is the message Jesus was trying to convey to the Pharisees regarding their attitude toward the Gentiles and other sinners within their own society.
Notice that the father did not deny the younger son’s sins or actions that might have had a negative affect toward him and his older son. He was simply focused on the fact that his boy was back home, the one he loved and had lost had returned! In like manner, our heavenly Father does not deny or make excuses for our sins and their negative affect upon Him, yet He knows that justice has already been served regarding our sin in the person of His Son Jesus Christ upon the Cross. So, now the only issue is, “are we living in fellowship with Him or are we not.” When we live in fellowship with Him, He rejoices; when we do not, He is grieved. Therefore, because justice has been served at the Cross of Jesus Christ, the issue for the Pharisees and us today is “love.”
Gal 5:14, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.”
James 2:8, “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.”
Luke 10:27, “And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself”.”
Rom 13:8-10, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9For this, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Jesus did not tell them, or us, what the final reaction was of the older brother, because He had made His point. The point is, serving God involves more than slavish adherence to a legal code, it includes love for one’s brothers and sister, (i.e., fellow man). We have no right to be self-righteous and have self-pity when it comes to the love and blessings of God towards others. We have no right to be upset at another man’s good fortune. Instead, we are to rejoice in the blessings God has for others, especially when they repent from their sins and enter back into fellowship with God. As John stated in the opening of his letter to the early church in 1 John 1:4, “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.” And in 1 John 1:7a, “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another…”
This type of love is what the Pharisees were lacking that Jesus so desperately wanted them to realize, so that they too, like their sinful Gentile, prostituting, or tax-collecting brothers and sisters, would repent of their sins and enter back into fellowship with God. This is the lesson for us too. If we have sinned, we need to repent of our sins and confess them to God, so that we are entered back into fellowship with Him and with others, where we can once again love them as we should, cf. 1 John 2:5, 9-10.
1 John 2:5, “But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.”
1 John 2:9-10, “The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.”
“If you are the son who went away to a far country, you can come back to the Father by confessing your sins to Him. Perhaps you are like the elder son who was out of fellowship. He had no concern or love for his brother. He thought he was serving God; he had never transgressed as his brother had. Yet he had never enjoyed a feast with his friends. The Father says to you, “All that I have is thine.” How wonderful to have a Father like this!
Sinner friend, if you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are not the Father’s son. You can become a son only by putting your faith and trust in Christ who died for you. If you accept Christ and come to Him, God becomes your Father and He will never throw you overboard. If you leave Him and one day return, He will be waiting to put His arms around you. How wonderful He is!” (Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee).
“Interestingly, I rarely encounter people who see themselves reflected in the older son. Almost everyone identifies with the prodigal’s need for grace, and they long for the father’s response to their sinful, selfish wanderings. As Christians mature, they often identify with the father as they must learn to forgive deep hurts caused by estranged loved ones. But only a rare few recognize that they, too, share the older son’s arrogant sense of entitlement. In truth, we play all three parts. We are foolish sinners in need of God’s forgiveness, and we owe many apologies to the people we have harmed and hurt. We also know many people who need our forgiveness. The father’s example calls us to extend grace to others with eagerness and to restore them as quickly as wisdom allows. But let’s not overlook the ugly reality that lurking in the shadows of every heart is the sulking older brother who feels entitled to just rewards for good deeds. We resent trials when we feel like we have been so faithful. We consider grace an entitlement, and we dispense justice like it’s our right. How seldom do we rejoice when others rejoice! How suspicious we can be of another’s repentance! Beware the pointing finger of the older brother. The finger is yours, and it invariably points to everything resembling yourself.” (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary).
Two Rebels, One Repentance
“The parable of the Prodigal Son tells the story of two rebellious sons, not just one. Whereas one sinned openly, the other maintained a respectable façade to conceal his prideful, selfish, condemning nature. Both needed to seek the forgiveness of the father, albeit from different sides. Therefore, I find two principles at work to help guide the actions of those who love wayward sinners.
First, detestable rebels must face the painful reality of their insanity before they will repent. For those of us who love a detestable rebel, patience is key. We can nag, pressure, cajole, beg, or bribe, but that simply distracts them from the truth they need to face. Instead, without adding to their burden, we must allow the consequences of their sin to crush their foolishness. And then, when the detestable rebel is ready, we must receive them in grace.
Second, respectable rebels must face the awful ugliness of their pride before they can repent. For those of us who love a respectable rebel, courage is key. We must be willing to say what needs to be said, regardless of the backlash or the manipulation or the browbeating. And while they don’t appear to hear the painful truth of their pride, our words—wrapped in love—can become tools in the hands of the Holy Spirit to crack the defensive barrier they have erected around their sin. And when respectable rebels are ready to repent, we must show them tenderness.” (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary.)
Just as the Prodigal Son had died and come to life again, was lost and had been found, so too did our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ experience these things on our behalf once and for all time, so that we who were dead could come to life; we who were lost could be found.
As such, Jesus Christ died and lived again in order to be Lord over both the dead and the living. Here the fullest sense of “re-life” is conveyed, Acts 2:24; 5:30; Rom 6:4, 9; 8:11; 14:9; Rev 1:18; 2:8.
Rom 14:9, “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”
Rev 1:18, “And the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”
Rev 2:8, “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this.”
Rom 6:9, “Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.”
Acts 2:24, “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”
Acts 5:30, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.”
Rom 6:4, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
Rom 8:11, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”