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The Father of Two Lost Sons

The Gospel Project  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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God delights in granting the gift of repentance to the undeserving and desires that all human beings to whom he has granted repentance also delight in God's gift of repentance to others.

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The Gospel Project

Matthew Barrett, in the new book, Reformation Theology, writes:
The authoritative Word, which necessitated proclamation, brought with it not only law but also gospel. Sola Scripturabestowed gifts on the people, gifts called sola gratia, sola fide, and sola Christus. Once God’s Word was at the center, supreme in its authority and infallibility, it gave birth to the gospel.
As Martin Luther said, the Scriptures are the swaddling clothes in which Christ lies.
The Gospel Project is designed to help us see Christ everywhere we ought to see him in Scripture. And Christ is everywhere in Scripture.
In the book, Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah and fellow sociologists surveyed religion in the United States:
They concluded that it is best described as “Sheilaism,” named after one person they interviewed who said that she follows her own little voice. Every American is the founder of his or her own religion, following the dictates of his or her own heart
If you cannot feel the weight of God’s law, cannot sense the incomprehensible majesty of God’s righteousness, and do not appreciate the profound wickedness of your sinful heart, you cannot know the surpassing riches of divine grace! Grace is unavoidably and necessarily diminished by modern attitudes that neglect or weaken God’s law, fail to elevate and emphasize God’s righteousness, and that downplay and marginalize sin. A lack of concern for holy living is the logical outworking of a presumptuous attitude toward grace and it is an obvious mark of many modern, supposedly evangelical churches, not to mention, not a few professing Christians.
The gospel project seeks to recover the gospel from the Scripture as a whole for it is the Scripture as a whole that is the gospel. Apart from recovering Scripture as a whole, there is no recovery of the gospel. The safest way for you and me to avoid being the creators of our own individual religion is to fully embrace sola Scriptura. And we do not embrace Scripture alone by importing our modern experiences and ideas and biases into the text and interpreting the Bible through our own life. We also do not embrace Scripture by subjecting its claims to the authority of science and reinterpreting it accordingly. We must stop reading ourselves into the text and start allowing the text to speak to us, to threaten us, to make us uncomfortable. Only when we appreciate the unique nature of Scripture and the events it records will we begin to experience the transformation that is described therein.
The gospel project is about recovering the unifying theme of the gospel across the entirety of Scripture. By recovering the reformation principle of sola Scriptura the gospel project seeks to recover the true gospel
What are the five solas of the reformation that Clint referenced last week?
One of the ways that some evangelicals have abandoned the doctrine of sola Scriptura and subsequently distorted the gospel is demonstrated in the way they understand the doctrine of repentance and their rejection of law as a component of the gospel.
This lesson focuses on God’s delight in granting true repentance to undeserving sinners.
No one wrote more NT revelation than Luke, other than his travelling companion, the Apostle PaulTheir eyes were being restrained to recognize him. The voice of ἐκρατοῦντο (ekratounto)and διηνοίχθησαν (dienoichthesan) is passive. T

What is Luke Doing

An orderly account to Theolophilus.
Who opened the disciples’ eyes in ?
ANSWER IN YOUR ALL WORDS AND PROVIDE YOUR REASO
So that Theolophilus would have certainty concerning the things that he had been taught.
Having Certainty
To know - ἐπιγινώσκω
If your life is not defined by repentance, there is no reason to think that you know and love God.
Διὰ τοῦτο
John never uses this word in his literature
Matthew and Mark use it but without much theological significance
Of the 44x it appears in the NT, 20 belong to Luke
If you were sitting on a jury that was deciding whether or not someone is truly a Christian, what evidence would you need in order to find them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?
“But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”
But their eyes were kept from recognizing him
“ And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”
Who opened the disciples’ eyes in ?
And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.
Their eyes were being restrained to recognize him. The voice of ἐκρατοῦντο (ekratounto)and διηνοίχθησαν (dienoichthesan) is passive. T
We learned that Luke included this arable in his project in order to provide Theolophilus with certainty regarding the things that he had been t
διηνοίχθησαν is passive. This was happening to them.
ἐκρατοῦντο

Learning Objectives

Be able to identify the basic principles for interpreting parables.
Provide you with an understanding of the cultural setting to better understand the parable of the prodigal son.
Help you identify the primary and any subordinate lesson(s) expressed in this parable.

The Basics of Interpreting Parables

What are parables?
Are parables allegories? [Irenaeus, Augustine, Gregory the Great]
The first problem with conflating a parable with allegory is that it can lead to highly subjective interpretation
The parable of the wheat and the tares.
The field is the world, NOT the church.
The wheat is the children of God.
The tares are the children of the devil, unbelievers, not false Christians.
Why? This interpretation contradicts the very possibility of church discipline in ; .
The second problem is that it tends toward anachronistic interpretations of parables
The Good Samaritan is a perfect example
Many Christians use this parable to talk about caring for the poor and things like social justice or the evils of racism.
The tree bears no spiritual fruit
But when the tree
Finally, there is no safeguard against parallelomania - everything has a corresponding referent
The Function of Parables
Parables reveal and conceal
And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “ ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’ ”
“ ‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
It is best to think of parables as having one main point or lesson to which other points must be subordinate
and may indeed hear but not understand,
Most parables project a familiar world, but then introduce an element of surprise which provokes the hearer to reexamine his/her worldview
Parables are didactic - they serve to instruct but with an eye to provoking thought and action.
Parables defined
Parables are short stories that demand a response from the hearer.
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’ ”
Where does the parable begin?
What is the catalyst for the parable?
Who are the actors in the parable?
What cultural issues need to be understood?
How does the parable end?
What follows the parable?
Can we make a parable mean anything we want it to as long as it seems to help someone who may be in a spiritually challenging position?
We conclude then that there are valid rules for interpreting parables and that those rules must be respected.
Parables have one main lesson to which any other lesson(s) must be subordinate.
Parables are not quite the same thing as allegories but should be understood as teaching devices containing one primary lesson to which any other lesson(s) must be subordinate.

The Parable

The context
How do we determine the context of this parable?
What is the occasion for the parable?
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Sinners and Tax Collectors are in a different category from those who “keep the law.”
So he told them this parable...
Εἶπεν δὲ: “So he told...
“Or what woman... Ἢ τίς γυνὴ”
“And he said...Εἶπεν δέ
Look at the first parable (v 6):

And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’

Look at the second parable (v 9):

And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’

Look at the final words to the older son (v 32):

It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’

The transfer of wealth
Tablets recovered from Mesopotamia indicate that birthrights could be exchanged among members of the same family.
Are parables allegories? [Irenaeus, Augustine, Gregory the Great]
The first problem with conflating a parable with allegory is that it can lead to highly subjective interpretation
The parable of the wheat and the tares.
The holder of the birthright appears to have been in possession of the teraphim, household idols. This reinforced the position and authority of the firstborn.
The field is the world, NOT the church.
The wheat is the children of God.
The tares are the children of the devil, unbelievers, not false Christians.
The older son would be due twice the amount of every other son.
Why? This interpretation contradicts the very possibility of church discipline in ; .
The second problem is that it tends toward anachronistic interpretations of parables
The Good Samaritan is a perfect example
In this case, the younger son would be due 50% of what the older son was due or 33%.
The holder of the birthright appears to have been in possession of the teraphim, household idols. This reinforced the position and authority of the firstborn.
Many Christians use this parable to talk about caring for the poor and things like social justice or the evils of racism.
Finally, there is no safeguard against parallelomania - everything has a corresponding referent
The Function of Parables
This typically would not happen until death.
Parables reveal and conceal
And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “ ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’ ”
It is best to think of parables as having one main point or lesson to which other points must be subordinate
Commentators believe that the younger son was in his late teens.
Most parables project a familiar world, but then introduce an element of surprise which provokes the hearer to reexamine his/her worldview
Parables are didactic - they serve to instruct but with an eye to provoking thought and action.
Parables defined
Rabbinic law discouraged the practice of inter vivos transfers and cautioned against giving too much to younger sons for obvious reasons.
The older son would be due twice the amount of every other son.
Parables are short stories that demand a response from the hearer.
Where does the parable begin?
What is the catalyst for the parable?
The birthright could not be transferred to the oldest son of your favorite wife according to .
Who are the actors in the parable?
What cultural issues need to be understood?
How does the parable end?
The birthright could not be given to the oldest son if his mother was concubine or slave.
What follows the parable?
Can we make a parable mean anything we want it to as long as it seems to help someone who may be in a spiritually challenging position?
We conclude then that there are valid rules for interpreting parables and that those rules must be respected.
How much of the inheritance would be allotted to the older son in comparison to other sons in the family?
In this case, the younger son would be due 50% of what the older son was due or 33%.
Parables have one main lesson to which any other lesson(s) must be subordinate.
Parables are not quite the same thing as allegories but should be understood as teaching devices containing one primary lesson to which any other lesson(s) must be subordinate.
Human rebellion against God is universal - ;
This typically would not happen until death.
Commentators believe that the younger son was in his late teens.
Rabbinic law discouraged the practice of inter vivos transfers and cautioned against giving too much to younger sons for obvious reasons.
The birthright could not be transferred to the oldest son of your favorite wife according to .
The birthright could not be given to the oldest son if his mother was concubine or slave.
How much of the inheritance would be allotted to the older son in comparison to other sons in the family?Human rebellion against God is universal - ;
Father
Older Son - the subtle sinner
Younger Son - the not-so-subtle sinner
What are the ways “not-so-subtle” sinners rebel against God in American culture?
Reject God outright - Atheism
Reject God’s Word - Science trumps the Bible
The cognitive respect once extended to Christianity and the Bible have been transformed into a pugnacious hostility.
Doctrinal minimalism unavoidably leads to doctrinal indifference.
Traditions displace Scripture or are appended to Scripture without so much as a wink.
68% of Christian men admit to viewing pornography regularly.
We scream against gay marriage while we wink at divorcing members.
We are in the process of determining what parts of the Bible we can make “not required to believe” in order to be a Christian - Andy Stanley saying that you can reject the virgin birth as long as you believe in the resurrection.
The point is that there is more than one way to rebel against God.
What are the ways that subtle sinners rebel against God in American evangelicalism?
Doctrinal minimalism unavoidably leads to doctrinal indifference.
Traditions displace Scripture or are appended to Scripture without so much as a wink.
68% of Christian men admit to viewing pornography regularly.
We scream against gay marriage while we wink at divorcing members.
We are in the process of determining what parts of the Bible we can make “not required to believe” in order to be a Christian - Andy Stanley saying that you can reject the virgin birth as long as you believe in the resurrection.
The point is that there is more than one way to rebel against God.
What is it about God’s seeking the lost that makes it so mysterious?
Traditions displace Scripture or are appended to Scripture without so much as a wink.
68% of Christian men admit to viewing pornography regularly.
We scream against gay marriage while we wink at divorcing members.
We are in the process of determining what parts of the Bible we can make “not required to believe” in order to be a Christian - Andy Stanley saying that you can reject the virgin birth as long as you believe in the resurrection.
The point is that there is more than one way to rebel against God.
Tablets recovered from Mesopotamia indicate that birthrights could be exchanged among members of the same family
The older son would be due twice the amount of every other son.
The older son would be due 50% of the estate.
In this case, the younger son would be due 50% of what the older son was due or 33%.
The younger son would be due 50% of what the older son was due or 33%.
This typically would not happen until death.
This typically would not happen until death.
True repentance is a gift from God - ;
Metanoeo: to change one’s mind, feel remorse, be converted. It falls within the semantic domain of behavior and the sub-domain of changing behavior. Another lexicon says it means to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness.
Commentators believe that the younger son was in his late teens.
Inward change - regeneration
Commentators believe that this son was in his late teens.
Preceded by faith - a complete and full trust of God and all God says
Involves obedience - The one who says he knows God but does not keep his commandments is a liar.
Accompanied by obedience
Entails good works - So you believe in God; the devils believe and tremble
He loves the brothers & sisters - the one who does not love has not seen or known God
False repentance
Rabbinic law discouraged the practice of inter vivos transfers and cautioned against giving too much to younger sons for obvious reasons.
The birthright could not be transferred to the oldest son of your favorite wife according to .
False repentance is merely external
The birthright could not be given to the oldest son if his mother was concubine or slave.
Just as Esau

The Parable

False repentance ignores God’s word
Is not preceded by genuine faith

THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;

11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,

THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;

12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;

THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,

THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”

13 “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE,

WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,”

“THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”;

14 “WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”;

15 “THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD,

16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS,

17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.”

18 “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”

THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;

11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,

THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;

12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;

THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,

THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”

13 “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE,

WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,”

“THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”;

14 “WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”;

15 “THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD,

16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS,

17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.”

18 “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”

Belittles obedience - downgrades God’s law
Ignores works altogether (unless it is something you personally care about)
What this parable is NOT teaching
It is NOT teaching that the older son represents the religious leaders who are hypocrites in general.
Father
Older Son
It is NOT teaching that there is a better life for you if you will just return home to God.
Younger Son
It is NOT teaching that eating out of the pig trough is living in sin.
Who do the three characters represent?
Finally, it is NOT teaching that all there is to becoming a Christian is making a decision or choice to believe in Jesus Christ.
What the parable IS teaching
Jesus is right to associate with sinners because God loves and accepts the repentant sinner.
How do we determine the context of this parable? What is the occasion for the parable?
It is wrong always and everywhere not to rejoice with those whom God has forgiven.
From this we can conclude that God delights in granting repentance and that God desires that the objects of his gift of repentance celebrate and rejoice when God grants repentance to others.
So he told them this parable...
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Εἶπεν δὲ: “So he told...

Ἢ τίς γυνὴ

Ἢ τίς γυνὴ

“Or what woman... Ἢ τίς γυνὴ”
Εἶπεν δὲ

Ἢ τίς γυνὴ

Ἢ τίς γυνὴ
“And he said...Εἶπεν δέ
Ἢ τίς γυνὴ
Εἶπεν δέ
Look at the first parable (v 6):

And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’

And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.

Look at the second parable (v 9):

And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’

Look at the final words to the older son (v 32):

It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’

From this we can conclude that God delights in showing mercy and that God desires that the objects of his mercy delight when God shows mercy to others.
Is God’s mercy extended to all men equally?
The sole basis for whether or not God grants repentance to any human being is God.
The context of the parable of the prodigal son was a self-righteous attitude displayed by the Pharisees and scribes toward sinners and tax collectors.

Appropriating the Parable

What was the attitude of the younger son?
What was the attitude of the older son?
The primary lesson of this parable is that we should rejoice when God graciously grants repentance to those who are undeserving. The subordinate lesson of the parable is that all human beings are equally undeserving of God’s gift of repentance and that we should always rejoice with those to whom God grants it.

Summary

The gospel project is about recovering the unifying theme of the gospel across the entirety of Scripture and seeks to recover the true gospel by recovering the reformation principle of sola Scriptura.
We learned that Luke included this parable in his project in order to provide Theolophilus with certainty regarding the things that he had been taught.
There are rules for interpreting parables to which every Christian has an ethical obligation to know and respect.
Parables are not quite the same thing as allegories but should be understood as teaching devices containing one primary lesson to which any other lessons must be subordinate.
The context of the parable of the prodigal son was a self-righteous attitude displayed by the Pharisees and scribes toward sinners and tax collectors.
We learned that the primary lesson of the parable is that it pleases God to grant repentance to those who are undeserving. The subordinate lesson of the parable is that all human beings are equally undeserving of God’s gift of repentance and that we should always rejoice with those to whom God has granted it.
God is merciful. God delights in granting repentance. God delights in granting repentance to undeserving human beings. All human beings are undeserving to receive God’s gift of repentance. God delights when we delight in God granting repentance not just to us, but to others as well.
Which one of the 99 essential doctrines does this lesson entail?
If there is time:
The parable serves as a riposte to the challenge of the Pharisees to Jesus’ practice of associating with tax collectors and sinners. The main character of the parable is the Father, not the prodigal son.
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