Focus Text: Luke 15.22-24

When the prodigal returned home, he was thoroughly and totally penitent. His father directed his servants to “…Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry.” (Luke 15.22-24). The point of today’s message is to demonstrate that God has no penitent children whom he treats as second-class; with God it is either complete fellowship, or no fellowship!

Let one thing be clearly understood: God has children with whom He is not in fellowship. These are in the same state as the prodigal before he came to himself; they are impenitent and therefore outside of God’s grace (grace is appropriated through man’s reaction to the proffer of it). Notice what the father said of the son while in that impenitent state: “This my son was dead…; he was lost…” The prodigal did not cease being the father’s son, but he ceased sharing in the benefits the father had to offer in his house.

The son strayed from home and in so doing removed himself from the blessings that were available in the father’s house. No one forced him to leave or kidnapped him; the father did not force him to leave. His departure was a matter of his own free will. In a similar fashion, his return was just the opposite of his departure. He made the choice to return (or as we would say in a religious context, he repented!). He left an impenitent son, and he returned a penitent son! While one can press a figure too far so that it ceases to teach truth, these conclusions are consistent with the figures presented as well as with all other biblical passages.

The penitent son hoped only to be treated as a servant. The older brother was angered by his father’s reaction and felt as though he should have been much more reserved in his treatment of the returning prodigal (see Luke 15.28-30; to be developed more fully later). To put it succinctly, everyone except the father failed to understand how he would react to the son’s return. And just how did he react? The text speaks for itself! Total and unbridled joy swept over the father and he wanted everyone around him share in his joyous elation. He created an environment (music, dancing, food, festivities, etc.) that reflected his jubilant spirit and invited others to share with him in his overflowing emotions.

The father would have no penitent second-class sons! Either, his sons would be penitent and in his total fellowship, or they would be impenitent and outside his fellowship. Notice the change in the father’s view of his son once he came home and contrast that with his view prior to his return: “This my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” The change in the son’s heart enabled him to participate in the grace being extended to him; he did not earn his way back in, nor could he have personally paid the penalty for his sins.

God spared no expense in preparing the way for His erring children to come home; He gave His Son, Jesus Christ. It follows that He spares no expense in celebrating the return of even one prodigal. “Bring the best robe, put a ring on his hand, shoes on his feet, and kill the fatted calf!”

Questions:

1. What did the father do to create an environment of celebration upon the son’s return?

2. What more could the prodigal’s father have done to celebrate his return?

3. What do these facts demonstrate about how God treats penitent sinners?

4. If we are in fellowship with God, how will we react when a lost child comes home?