By Dennis C. Abernathy
In the last article, we considered the steps that led to the departure or downfall of the young man in Luke 15:11-12, commonly known as the prodigal or lost son. We left him in the employ of a heathen, feeding the hogs and in dire need. He is in degradation which his sin has led him to. Indeed, “the way of transgressors is hard” (Prov. 13:15).
But there is a way out; the young man can do something about his condition. Regardless of how far you have sunk into sin (remember, Paul said he was “chief of sinners” 1 Tim. 1:15), God wants you to come back. Will you do it? Remember, it is your choice. Our loving Father in heaven is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). But now, let us notice this young man’s return back to his father’s house.
1. He came to himself (Lk. 15:17). Before one can come to the Father, he must first “come to himself.” Here we see a realization of his plight, a recognition of his sin, and a reflection upon how it might have been and, indeed, can be again. This young man recognized what and where he was, and where he had been. No doubt, there was much reflection now, on what his life could have been with his father.
This is a hard task, in leading one back to God. It is hard for a sinner to acknowledge his sin and seek forgiveness. (Many seek forgiveness, but really do not acknowledge their particular sin.) In all the Bible, I believe there are only nine times that you find the open admission, “I have sinned,” and even some of these admissions have the wrong motives behind them!
In order for one to desire the Savior, he must first realize that he is a sinner and in need of a Savior. This is why we are to preach the word and point out sin. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isa. 58:1).
2. This young man repented (Lk. 15:18-19). “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Cor. 7:10). Repentance was the change of his will or mind toward his father and home. Repentance is not godly sorrow, but the result of it. Repentance was not turning back to the father, but led to that turning back. A divine commentary on repentance is found in Matthew 21:28-29: “But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.”
Repentance is not easy, but Jesus said, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3). John told the Jews to “bring forth therefore fruits, meet for repentance” (Matt. 3:8). A changed will is always manifested in a change of life. Do not many Christians have a problem here? They claim to love and serve God, but they live like the devil. Is true repentance evident in such lives?
3. This young man arose and returned home (Lk. 15:20). He could no longer remain in the hog pen. His change of mind brought a changed life; he immediately arose to return home. Many folk resolve to do better, but delay (put off until tomorrow), and good intentions are soon lost beneath the accumulation of trivial things. But true repentance must stir action that produces the fruits of repentance. There will be restitution wherever possible and, even if it is impossible, a changed life attests a willingness to amend. Repentance is not an “easy way out.” When one is dealing with the devil and sin, it is not easy.
4. We see open confession by this young man, with a resignation to his father’s will. This is seen in his open admission in Lk. 15:18-19. This is an open confession of wrong. We do not see him trying to slip back home, lamely saying, “If I have done anything wrong, I guess I am sorry.” He gave a complete and open confession of guilt. Does this not show maturity on his part? Rather than saying, “I may have been a little wild” or trying to blame it on something or someone else, he says, “I have sinned.” It is easy to feel good toward a little fellow like that. This shows a truly “humble and contrite” spirit (Isa. 66:2). This is the way we must come to God. Beaten and weighted down with our sins and sorry for them (godly sorrow), we must humble ourselves and admit our wrong and make His will our will (Matt. 5:4; 16:24; Lk. 18:13).
5. The young man is received and restored to home upon his confession of guilt and asking forgiveness (Lk. 15:20-23). He was received of his father. How glad his father was to see him. He, no doubt, had longed for his return; now, he had returned. He had compassion on him; he ran out to meet him. What a welcome sight for a tired, weary, ragged and hungry son. What a homecoming this is – a father and son reunited! A more tender story you will not find. It speaks of divine things.
Of note also, is the absence of probation and recriminations. The boy thought himself unworthy to be called his son, but the father did not think him unworthy to be his son. He was received as his son, not as a hired servant. He was restored to his original place as his son. Here we see reconciliation. Nay, instead of restrictions and recriminations, he calls for the best robe, shoes, and ring for his hand. His son is home. All is forgiven. The relationship is restored. “For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (v. 24).
How tenderly God our Father receives anyone who will turn again home in obedience. There is pardon full and sweet from a Father who always loves and really cares (Rom. 5:8). But it is sin that rears its ugly head and separates man from his God (Isa. 59:1-2). Sin shows a rejection of the Father’s love and goodness and provision. God is asking, “How long will it be ere they return to innocency?” (Hos. 8:5).
6. Next, we see rejoicing (Lk. 15:23, 25). A son is found alive. Bring the fatted calf, the shoes, robe and ring. Let us be merry. All are to rejoice. Think of the rejoicing of this homecoming.
What a joyous occasion when one returns to God (Lk. 15:4-10)! God wants all to come to repentance (1 Pet. 3:9) and, when this happens, all should rejoice.’ The angels in heaven rejoice, we should rejoice, the church should rejoice. (But how many do you know who can not even be put out enough to stay for the baptism of a precious soul into Christ?)
What a wonderful thing it is that one can return to God from a life of sin, that God will forgive, that He loves, even though we are unlovable, that God desires us to come, even though we may not desire to go. We ought to be ever thankful for such a heavenly Father, and give Him the honor, praise, and reverence that is due Him.
We will not mention the elder brother of this story in this article, except to say that the parable begins with the younger son away from home, and his brother at home, and it ends with the younger son at home again and his elder brother refusing to enter the home. Perhaps we will have an article on the elder brother at a later date.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 47, pp. 762-763
November 27, 1980