“I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance… Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:7, 10)
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:12–14)
The Pharisees needed to learn that there is more joy in Heaven and in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents than over the just who need no repentance. Jesus was not saying that the Pharisees did not need repentance, because they surely did. He was teaching that God rejoices over those who truly repent and not over those who are hypocritical. This could include the Pharisees and all Jewish people tempted to think that they are better than the tax collectors and the sinners. The hypocrisy could creep into the lives of tax collectors and sinners too!
The shepherd and the woman are searching. The passive elements of the sheep and coin provide a striking illustration that salvation is all of God. But it must be remembered that in the final sum of things, while all of us go astray …go our own way, all of us must also repent. Faith and repentance are my responsibility. Grace and redemption are God’s. This is how the Christian maintains that salvation begins with God, is all of God, and that God never relinquishes His sovereignty to man.
First, God takes the initiative to seek and save lost sinners. Second, the salvation of the lost is a cause for great joy. Third, those who are safe in the fold persist in seeking the lost as instruments in God’s hand.
God’s Initiative in Seeking the Lost
Our heavenly Father is concerned about the lost souls of men. It is a no-brainer. We must all conclude that nothing is more valuable than the eternal souls of men from God’s perspective. He sacrificed His Son for the souls of men. We will remain lost if the Father does not seek us. We will not seek Him. Our goodness is nothing apart from the Lord (Psalm 16.2). Self-righteousness is a filthy rag before God. Job asks, “Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that you are righteous” (Job 22.3)? That’s a great question! The answer is absolutely not if that righteousness is self-righteousness. We must have the gift of Christ’s righteousness!
God must seek and find the lost. Then when He finds us, we must be washed in the blood of the Lamb. If not, we will incur the wrath and righteous indignation of God throughout all eternity. But “through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3.22). That is why God never removes His hand of protection when it comes to those who are already with Him (John 6.47). Yet He also relentlessly moves upon the hearts of living men and women to breathe life into their eternal souls too.
The woman lit a candle and searched all of the dark recesses of her home. “It is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4.6). The woman swept the floor of her home in order to try to find the coin in any of the debris that had collected. God will scour the entire surface of the earth through believers willing to testify of His love. He has empowered us by His Spirit to preach the Gospel!
Celebrating with God When the Lost are Found
The dominant theme that ties together all three parables in Luke 15 is the joy over the lost being found. The eternal condemnation and misery of the lost finds it root in sin and rebellion. The eternal salvation and accompanying joy of the found finds it root in grace and repentance. This is a source of joy for God. He sent His Son to die for the lost souls of men. He rejoices when they are found. His angels rejoice when they are found. We should rejoice when they are found! Isaiah writes of the lost of Babylon: “Hell from beneath is excited about you, to meet you at your coming; it stirs up the dead for you, all the chief ones of the earth; it has raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. They all shall speak and say to you: ‘Have you also become as weak as we? Have you become like us?’” (Isaiah 14.9-10) Shall not Heaven be just as excited to meet the lost soul when it comes into the presence of God through faith Christ alone! Hell is working; Heaven is working. What side are you on?
Pressing On in Seeking the Lost
If we are to have the heart of God, then we must not fight against Him. If He relentlessly seeks the lost to save, then why shall we listlessly wander among them without compassion? We know the danger that awaits the unconverted men and women around us. All like sheep have gone astray …all have gone their own way. But the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53.6). The adversary is relentless as he seeks those whom he may devour. We must be yielded to relentlessly seek those whom God may save through us. God will press on in seeking the lost; however, I want to be a part of His search party. What about you?