‘‘A Lot Can Happen In Three Days’’
This week, we will look deeper into the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Both of these parables highlight the love with which Jesus pursues his creation. Before we begin, let us attempt to define a few terms that we will later explain.
Before small group, Read Luke 14 to further understand the context with which Jesus is teaching this parable. Do some deeper examination into the reputation of tax collectors, as well as, who the Pharisees are. As you study Luke 14, make notes on the following:
Jesus teaches on the wedding feast, the great banquet, the cost of discipleship, and concludes with a teaching on salt and hearing the words of Christ. What do you notice that stands out in each of these teachings? Provide a brief summary of each.
The Wedding Feast
The Great Banquet
The Cost of Discipleship
Hearing the Words of Christ
How do you think these parables lead to the transition in chapter 15 to Jesus dining with the tax collectors and teaching the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin?
Who do you think Jesus is addressing in chapter 14? Why is that important to understanding chapter 15?
Read Luke 15:1-2. As you read, ask yourself these questions:
Why is it important that Jesus is dining with tax collectors and sinners?
What was the reputation of tax collectors at this time?
Note the Pharisees response; what is the importance of their response? Why do you think they responded this way?
What differences do you notice between the way that Jesus interacted with the tax collectors and sinners and the way the Pharisees interacted?
When you see people around you living in sin or unaware of their sin, do you have a tendency to view them more like the Pharisees or like Jesus?
The introduction to these parables states that “all were coming to him.” The verb is in the imperfect tense which means that there is a continual action, a continual, common occurrence and habit. The tax collectors and sinners were in a regular practice of gathering around Jesus. These were the worst of society. We can assume that they had no regard for religious ceremony, rituals, tradition, or any aspect of the Jewish religion. Tax collectors were the most vile people in Jewish society known for their dishonesty, extortion, robbery, and tratorism to the Jewish people.
In the culture of the time, to have a meal with someone was to treat them as a highly honored guest or friend and doing so with a tax collector would be one of the most dishonorable things you could do. Jewish oral tradition told faithful Jews to have nothing to do with immoral or dishonorable people. Apparently, this was a common tradition for the tax collectors and they felt welcome in the presence of Jesus. Jesus did not accept or condone their sin; in fact, he spoke out boldly against their sin. His pursuit of the tax collectors was not to condone their sin, it was to save them from their sin.
The heart of God is much different than the heart of the Pharisees toward sinners. The Pharisees considered themselves spiritual elite as covenant members of the nation of Israel and as devout keepers of the law. The Pharisees strictly observed the law and took great pride in their obedience to keep every word of it. They looked down upon those whom they deemed to be violators of the law as a way to further show how righteous they were in their keeping of the law. MacArthur points out, “The seeking heart of God, that’s the point. God goes after the sinners. God is not like Pharisees and scribes. He doesn’t grumble about sinners. He doesn’t despise sinners. He loves sinners. He doesn’t seek to keep them away, He seeks to bring them in.”
Jesus taught that it was not those who were well who needed a physician, but those who were sick. He did not come to call righteous men but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31). Jesus was stating, I can’t do anything with people who don’t know that they are sick or don’t know that they are sinners. Just as a doctor cannot do something with a patient who is unwilling to admit they are sick or in need of medical assistance, there is nothing that can be done with anyone who is unaware of their sin or unwilling to admit they are a sinner. What Jesus is saying is, “as long as you think you are righteous, I cannot help you. But if you are sick and sinful and willing to admit and acknowledge it, then I have come to offer you salvation.” One of Jesus’ disciples, Matthew, was a former tax collector who was called out of his sinful life to be a disciple of Jesus and join Jesus in the calling of his former friends and colleagues to show God’s heart for the lost.
Read Luke 15:3-7
What does Jesus mean by his imagery of leaving the ninety-nine to go after the one?
Why is he teaching this to the Pharisees?
Why is there great rejoicing in heaven over sinners who repent and turn to God?
Last week we talked about effectual calling; how is effectual calling demonstrated in this passage?
If man is only able to come to God and repent because of the effectual calling extended by God, why is there such great rejoicing in Heaven?
“Christ, the Good Shepherd, first seeks the lost sheep “until he find it.” Just put a mark under those words. That is our first head—“Until he find it.” It is a long reach “Until he find it.”
I like the expression. The Lord Jesus did not come down to earth to make an attempt to find men, but he came to do it, and he did it. He tarried here, seeking the lost sheep till he found it: he never gave over till his work was done. At this hour, in his work of grace amongst his chosen, he does not make an attempt at their salvation, and suffer defeat; but he keeps at soul-seeking work until he find it.” C. H. Spurgeon, “Our Great Shepherd Finding the Sheep.” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 35, 38.
2 Peter 3:8-10 demonstrates the patience of God in pursuing his lost sheep. As Spurgeon points out, God seeks out those whom he has called ‘until he finds it.’ As we discussed last week, the effectual call of God means that God’s calling will take effect in those whom he determined to call and he will continue pursuing and calling until all have been saved. God is delaying the return of Jesus in order that many more will come into his kingdom. The phrase, ‘not wanting any to perish’, does not mean that all will be saved but rather points out that God’s intended design for creation was not for humanity to be sinful, resulting in eternal death. Because God does not want any to perish, he is patient and enduring so that many will be saved. Verse 10 points out that the return of Christ will be sudden and unexpected. Those who have not been called and redeemed - those who are still unaware of their sinful state - will not expect the return of Christ and will not receive the eternal reward of heaven. This passage shows that it is because of God’s great love for sinners that he is patient and enduring to pursue lost sinners. However, God’s justice and hatred for sin is also demonstrated in that not everyone will receive the gift of salvation and there will be punishment for sin for those who are not redeemed from sin.
Read Luke 15:8-10
What similarities do you notice between this parable and the parable of the lost sheep? Differences?
What point is Jesus trying to make to the Pharisees about God’s heart towards the lost? Why?
If Jesus were teaching this parable today, what imagery would he use?
Do you often find yourself like the Pharisees: looking down on those who are lost as if they are of lesser value; looking at the lost as hopeless; taking pride or boasting in your own salvation?
“You must understand this, that God does not deal with the salvation of a soul with the kind of indifference that we usually deal with it. It is not a matter of divine transaction and accounting and little more. It is not God just keeping books on who’s in and who’s out. It is God weeping over the lost and it is God exalting over the found. You and I are capable as human beings of knowing the wide-range of emotion because we are created in the image of a God whose pain is profoundly deep over men’s lostness and whose joy is infinitely high when they are redeemed.” - John MacArthur
Jesus Receives Sinners
“Moral teachers have always been choice in the selection of their followers, and have thought it a degradation and a casting of pearls before swine, to throw their useful maxims, their invaluable dogmas as they dreamed them to be, before the vulgar herd, the sinful crowd. But this man receiveth sinners. Whatever other men may do, this man, this one, this one alone if no other with him, this one beyond all other teachers, however gentle and compassionate—this man receiveth sinners. He will speak and tell out his mysteries too, even when sinful ears are listening, for he receives sinners as his disciples, as well as his hearers. If they come casually into the throng, his eye glances upon them, and he has a word of gentle rebuke, and wooing love; but if they will come and join the class who cluster constantly about him, they shall be thoroughly welcome, and the deeper and higher truths reserved for disciples shall be revealed to them, and they shall know the mystery of the kingdom. When he has cleansed sinners, he receives them not only as disciples, but as companions. This man permits the guilty, the once profane, the lately debauched, and formerly dissolute, to associate themselves with him, to wear his name, to sit in his house, to be written in the same Book of Life with himself. He makes them here partakers with him in his affliction, and hereafter they shall be partakers with him in his glory. This man receiveth pardoned sinners into companionship. Nay, more, he receives them into friendship. The head that leaned upon his bosom was a sinner’s head, and those who sat at the table with him, to whom he said, “Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends,” were all of them sinners, as they felt themselves to be. She who bore him, she who ministered to him of her substance, she who washed his feet with tears, she who was first at his empty sepulchre, all these were sinners, and some of them sinners emphatically. Into his heart’s love he receives sinners, takes them from the dunghill and wears them as jewels in his crown, plucks them as brands from the burning, and preserves them as precious monuments of his mercy; and none are so precious in his sight as the sinners for whom he died. When Jesus receives sinners, he has not some out-of-doors reception place where he charitably entertains them for a time, as great men may do passing beggars, but he opens the big golden gates of his own heart, and he takes the sinner right into himself—yea, he admits the sinner into personal union with himself, and makes the sinner a member of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. There was never such a reception as this. This fact is still the same: he is still receiving sinners.”
C. H. Spurgeon, “Open House for All Comers.”, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 11, 699.
Important Doctrinal Themes
Studying the doctrine of sin is known as Hamartiology from the Greek word, hamartia (sin). When we study sin, we must look at both the extent of sin and the depth of sin. Sin is universal, meaning that there is no person who has not committed sin or is not affected by sin. Likewise, sin affects every aspect of humanity. The Bible speaks of sin as both actions and motives committed against God. Sin is a spiritual and moral sickness that affects the entirety of the human person. Jesus teaches that sin is not just external actions of rebellion and disobedience, more so it is the inward disposition toward evil and wickedness (Matthew 5:21-30).
When speaking of depravity, we often use the phrase ‘total depravity’ to describe that every aspect of humanity is corrupted by sin. Millard Erickson explains that total depravity does not mean that “the unregenerate person is totally insensitive in matters of conscience, of right and wrong.” Truly, as Romans 2:15 teaches, God has written on the hearts of all men a conscience of morality.
Likewise, “total depravity does not mean that the sinful person is as sinful as possible.” There are people who do genuinely good things in the world, yet do not know Christ as savior and have not been redeemed from sin; however, these good actions, no matter how good, can never merit salvation or provide any contribution toward salvation. According to Wayne Grudem, “The Bible is not denying that unbelievers can do good in human society in some senses. But it is denying that they can do any spiritual good or be good in terms of a relationship with God.” Grudem prefers to use the term, ‘total inability’, in order to avoid any confusion of the meaning of depravity. Erickson also points out that “The doctrine of total depravity does not mean that the sinner engages in every possible form of sin.”
So, when we do speak of total depravity, let us define it by this definition: sin affects the entire person and makes the sinner completely unable to remove themselves from their sinful condition and restore themselves to a relationship with God.
Questions for Reflection
How is the doctrine of total depravity shown in the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin? What are the sheep and the coin able to do in order to save themselves? As Pastor Brent pointed out, the sheep and the coin do not even know they are lost.
According to this doctrine and these parables, how can sinners who do not even know they are lost come to know Christ?
How does an understanding of total depravity affect the way that you view the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin?
Why is it sometimes easy to forget that humans are totally depraved when we see sinners do ‘good’ things? Give examples.
How do we distinguish whether or not someone has been truly redeemed from their depravity? How do you know for sure in your own life?
As we read in these parables, there is great celebration over those who are redeemed and saved by Christ; however, as Pastor Brent pointed out, the key to the party is repentance. Wayne Grudem defines repentance as, “a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.” Grudem points out that repentance requires “an intellectual understanding (that sin is wrong), an emotional approval of the teachings of Scripture regarding sin (a sorrow for sin and a hatred of it), and a personal decision to turn from it (a renouncing of sin and a decision of the will to forsake it and lead a life of obedience to Christ instead).” Repentance involves a full, complete turn from sin and a full, complete turn toward Christ. True repentance will be evident in a changed life that continues in a life of repentance and sanctification.
What is the difference in having remorse or sorrow for one’s actions and true repentance?
What is the relationship between repentance and faith?
Understanding the doctrine of depravity, how is repentance made possible if man is unable to recognize his sinful condition on his own?
How does understanding the effectual calling of God to make you aware of sin change the way that you view repentance?
Is there any sin in your life that you are currently living in unrepentant rebellion?
Is it possible to have true saving faith without having repentance?
Use the RANSOM method to study Luke 14 and 15.
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