Focus Text: Luke 15.28
Why even think about how God treats sinners? What practical application is to be made even if we know how He treats them? Doesn’t everyone already understand how God treats sinners anyway? How could a misunderstanding of this subject matter affect my life and the way I present myself to others and to God?
First, it needs to be explicitly and emphatically stated that everyone does not know how God treats sinners. That was part of the problem that Jesus addressed in the fifteenth chapter of Luke with His three-fold parable approach. Likewise, it can be observed from the parable of the prodigal, that a misunderstanding of this subject can result in the arraying of our wisdom and judgment against the wisdom and judgment of the Father!
Once again we set the stage for the conclusions we draw from scripture: When the older brother heard the sounds of joy emanating from his father’s house, he “…called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he [the servant] said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ But he [the older brother] was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.” (Luke 15.24-28). Our focus will be on the very last sentence of the text just cited; “Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.”
His father was overjoyed and the older brother literally “flew into a rage.” Herein the wisdom and judgment of the son was arrayed against the wisdom and judgment of the father. Herein we see that there are everyday occurrences when a failure to know the mind of God (e.g. how God treats sinners) can, at best, be quite embarrassing, and at worst, lead us to fight against that which God sanctions! In coming out to plead with the older brother, the father demonstrated his desire that the prodigal be accepted back without reservation by all parties affected by his falling away and by his restoration. Likewise, the father demonstrated that he wanted his older son to share in the joy that engulfed his entire household. By coming out to plead with the resentful son the father also demonstrated his wonderful grace, his merciful spirit, and his unfailing patience.
This father represents God! He does not will that our understanding of His character be flawed; the Bible was written so that we might know the mind of God and adopt that mind as our very own. He wills that we understand the nature of forgiveness and that His willingness to receive anyone back is out of Sovereign Grace and not of our own doing. He wills that we see ourselves as we truly are, i.e. sinners whose standing with Him is of His doing and not of our own. He wills that we see that His patient and loving spirit is the only reason that we have not been already tried and found guilty of crimes worthy of death.
When we understand God’s attitude toward sinners we will change our attitude towards ourselves as well as others. The unmerciful spirit does not emanate from God!
1. How did the prodigal’s father demonstrate that he wanted everyone to share his attitude of forgiveness?
2. Why was the older brother angry? Did he think he was doing right? Was he?
3. Had he understood his father’s disposition, might he have shown more mercy himself?
4. In what sense does mercy beget mercy? Can you see that those who are unmerciful simply do not know or at least do not imitate God’s attitude toward sinners?
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