Close Menu X

The Father's Love

August 23, 2020 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Fathers Verse: Luke 15:11–15:31

Theme: God’s love for sinners is shown in His delight in their repentance.

Introduction: The default perspective of a sinner who knows the working of God’s Spirit bringing conviction of sin is that “there is no way that God could forgive me for what I have done.” The power of our guilt and shame causes us to believe that all is lost and that we deserve the condemnation that we have earned through our sin. To think otherwise, that God desires to forgive and will do so requires the continued work of the Holy Spirit to advance the glory of the work of Christ on our behalf – causing us to understand that we are not saved out of some shred of virtue that remains in our otherwise sin tainted souls. Instead, we are saved out of a completely worthless and vile state by the magnanimous grace of God motivated out of a divine, supernatural love for us. 

In our text today Jesus provides the final story in a triad of parables designed to show the relentless desire of God to forgive us our sin. The first story showed the relentless search of the shepherd for the lost sheep that resulted in the shepherd’s joy in recovering that sheep; the second story showed the relentless search of the woman for the lost coin that resulted in the woman’s joy in recovering the coin; and now, we see the relentless search of a father for his lost son and the joy of the father in recovering his son …

I. The Heinous Disdain for the Father – 15:11-16

A. The Defiance of the Father – vv. 11-13

  • This is one of the most famous and beloved short stories ever written – hailed by many as “the perfect story.”
  • It is the third in a series of parables that (again) all teach the same principle: “God’s love for sinners is shown in His delight in the repentance.”
  • As in the other stories – the seeking shepherd and the searching woman, the story known as the “Prodigal Son” is about the stupendous love of the father – “And He said, ‘A man had two sons.’”
  • Likewise, the focus of these stories is Christological – meaning that they highlight the ministry of Jesus – who was criticized at the beginning of this chapter because of His affection for sinners.
  • The nature of the relationship between this “father” and his “two sons” is tragic – neither of whom cared for the father and both of whom showed him astonishing disrespect and hostility.
  • “The younger of them” represents sinners who defy God and walk away from His goodness and grace by indulging themselves in sin.
  • Jesus illustrates them by describing them through this son with astonishing defiance.
  • He “said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’”
  • There is so much that would have shocked the Pharisees at what this young son did that was completely unacceptable:
  1. “… give me …” [δός] Aor. Act. Imperative from δίδωμι – a young man insisting his father do anything was unheard of in this culture.
  2. “… the share of the estate …” [μέρος] – refers to the portion that he expected – essentially 1/3 of what the father owned – the eldest son would get the “double-portion.”
  3. “the estate” [τῆς οὐσίας] – an odd term that refers to “what exists” instead of the typical word for inheritance; conveying that he saw it not as a respectable inheritance that would carry on the family integrity but merely “stuff” that ought to belong to him.
  4. “that falls to me” [ἐπιβάλλω] – when you’re dead.
  • For this “son” to demand this of his father was tantamount to saying – I wish you were already dead so that I could have what is coming to me … in fact, why wait, give it to me now!
  • As if the Pharisees had not been shocked enough by the impertinence and ingratitude of such a selfish and shameful son, they are overwhelmed by the response of the father – “So he divided his wealth between them.”
  • The term “wealth” [βίος] – refers to physical life, indicating that it was the cumulative resources of all that the generations of the family had accumulated and handed down.
  • He didn’t only give the 1/3 to the younger son, he gave the 2/3 to the older son – yet customary laws dictated that he maintained control of it until he died.
  • However, “not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.”
  1. “gathered everything together” essentially refers to him liquidating all assets and taking the money and running.
  2. He couldn’t stand the thought of the father continuing to have any say over his life and therefore got as far away as he could from the influences of his father – “went on a journey into a distant country.”
  • Being away from the authority of his father, he was able to do what he wanted and indulged himself – “… and there he squandered his estate with loose living.”   
  1. “squandered” [διασκορπίζω] – lit. to scatter or disperse – lavishly spending on meaningless activities and frivolous binges.
  2. “loose living” [ἀσώτως] – wasteful and profligate – indulging in vices and debauchery.

B. The Desertion from the Father – vv. 14-16

  • This young man’s stubborn disdain for his father, caused him to do whatever he could to go the negative image of the honorable and responsible man his father was.
  • As often happens when a person “sows their wild oats,” the circumstances that they expect to last forever bring disappointment – “Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished.”
  • A “severe famine” is a life-threatening shortage of food so that even the wealthy are driven to extreme measures – including the sale of possessions, eating of strange things and even cannibalism.
  • The impact on his was that he was “impoverished” [ὑστερέω] – meaning that he to go without.
  • Essentially he got desperate – but like a typical sinner, he tried to manage the situation on his own – “So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.”
  • This is as low as a Jew could get – tending to unclean animals that defiled him and disqualified him from approaching the Lord altogether.
  • Beyond that, he got so hungry that he began to compete with the pigs for their food – “And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.”
  • He hit bottom and had nowhere to turn for assistance. 


  1. Can you recall the days of your estrangement from God – what did you expect God to do for you?
  2. Sin leads to emptiness – what is the best example of this that you can provide?
  3. What does living for the here-and-now produce compared to living for eternal rewards?

II. The Humble Desire for the Father – 15:17-20a

A. The Recognition of the Father’s Grace – vv. 17-19

  • Having demonstrated disdain for his father, this son fell low – hitting bottom as he coveted the possessions of swine.
  • Wallowing in debauchery, deprivation, and desperation, the Lord tells us “But when he came to his senses …” (or “to himself”) – a statement that conveys the blessing of God to a sinner when he grants repentance – cp. 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
  • Repentance is not a meritorious, pre-salvation work as God is credited with granting it – cp. Acts 11:18.
  • This young man’s mind was changed by grace and he realized the error of his ways by recognizing the genuine compassion of his father – “But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son …”’”
  • The intensity of his sorrow over his sin is seen in the phrase “I have sinned against heaven” which can be translated: “all the way to heaven” indicating the stack of his sin was greater than he can bear.
  • It is the goodness of the father and his graciousness than ultimately led him to repent – cp. Romans 2:4.
  • This is the experience of every sinner who comes to Christ in repentance, the weight of their sin grows greater than they can bear and they yearn for relief from the “dying” they are experiencing and they are granted by God’s Spirit the “knowledge of sin” – cp. Romans 3:20; John 16:8.
  • Despite the awareness of the father’s grace and kindness, he failed to adequately grasp the depth of compassion and love the father truly possessed, thinking that he would have to work his way back into his favor – “… make me as one of your hired men.”

B. The Reliance on the Father’s Grace – v. 20a

  • It isn’t enough merely to think such things, a sinner must truly rely on God demonstrated by this younger son’s action – “So he got up and came to his father.”
  • This act of coming “to his father” was an act of absolute shame and humility – can you imagine the degree of shame he would have as he approached the father.
  • Nevertheless, he did what was so difficult – to humble himself and draw near to his father hopeful that his father would have him – cp. Matthew 11:28.
  • In this story, this younger son represents the sinner and the father represents the Lord Jesus Christ – and when a sinner comes to his senses, the only option is to come to Christ in humility and repentance.


  1. What does the phrase “when he came to his senses” tell us? (Compare 2 Timothy 2:26)
  2. What gave the sinful son the hope that his father would care for him in the face of all that he had done against him? 
  3. Was it easy for the boy who “got up and went to his father” – why or why not?

So What?

Sin always takes us out of fellowship with Christ Jesus.

Our sin blinds us to the extraordinary blessings we enjoy at the hand of the Lord.

While promising fulfillment, sin will always destroy our lives with misery and heartbreak.

God mercifully works through our sin to break us and draw us to “come to our senses.”

The goodness of God toward us in the midst of our sin is never affirmation of us, but a call to turn from sin to Him

Regardless of what you have done, God is ready to forgive!


More in

January 9, 2022

The Power of Darkness

December 5, 2021

The Extent of Jesus’ Commitment

November 28, 2021

Disgracefulness Despite Grace