God’s Process For the Salvation of Sinners
As illustrated in the parable of the Prodigal Son
Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son as recorded in Luke15:11-24 is an excellent teaching story that illustrates the important factors and steps of both God and individual human beings that are involved in this process for salvation.
The first step is when the father confirmed the identity of his young son as his son by giving him his portion of his estate because his son was trusting him in his request in their relationship. Although this confirming blessing was given and accepted early in their relationship, it was a legitimate factor in their relationship. It marked the father’s justification of the young son’s identification as one of his sons. It would normally be given and received by a son prior to the father’s anticipated death to enable him to care for himself and his dependents in providential ways that would honor his father.
When the young son took his inherited gift early and left his father’s home, their personal relationship was broken. In this situation the young son wasted his inheritance and lost its blessings in his life and found himself on his own dependent upon his own resources for his daily needs and personal survival. Although he was still a son of his father, they were no longer in a direct personal relationship with each other and there was nothing more that the father could do to save him from the personal suffering that he was experiencing or his possible death.
But when this son “came to himself” (Luke 15:17), he repented of his impatient untrusting claim on his father’s gracious love and care, and decided that he would return to his father and humbly confess his sin and give up his rights as a “son” to be accepted by his father as one of his “servants.” (vs. 19)
When this son left his situation of personal anxiety and hunger and suffering and a possible lonely death in separation from his father to actually experience a restored relationship with his father to whom he humbly confessed his sin and renounced his selfish claim for his father’s gift in faith, he experienced his father’s amazing grace and love. His father did not welcome him home as a servant, but as one of his sons. And his father assured his “dead” and “lost” “son” (vs. 24) that he was being welcomed home into a relationship of personal fellowship and loving care as one of his loved sons. They shared in a celebration of their restored relationship, in which the son would continue to be blessed as he cooperated with his father in trusting obedience to his ongoing commandments and utilization of his wise guidance in his efforts to please and to glorify his father by his efforts to serve him as a faithful son who could look forward to some eventual rewards for his work.
The importance of the specific factors and steps that are cited in the above commentary on this parable should be evident. The initial blessing of God is confirmed upon those who are in a personal relationship with him by God and the person’s acceptance of his gracious providential love in a relationship of mutual love and faithful sharing. When that relationship of love and trust and mutual sharing is broken by the dependent individual, he or she is left on his or her own abilities and resources to maintain the benefits of his or her gift and to meet his or her daily needs for comfortable and even survival in his or her life. But when that individual humbly repents of his or her impatient untrusting claims for God’s blessings and personally returns to a personal relationship with God, he or she will be received by God into a restored personal relationship of his blessed fellowship and love although the initial blessings of God’s providential love may have been wasted and are no longer personally possessed. It should be clear from this parable that Jesus was indicating that in the experience of the young son’s repentant and humble reunion with his father that the son was “born again” as a new living child of his father. I believe that if Jesus had continued his parable to the conclusion of the young son’s life, he would have made it clear that this renewed bond of loving service would have been maintained throughout the young son’s life because the desires and loving emotions of his heart had become radically focused on his father and not on himself (In accord with the father’s forgiveness of his great sin against him as taught by Jesus in his comments regarding the devotion of a woman who expressed her great love for him by washing his feet with her tears and anointing them with ointment as cited in Luke 7:46-47). The ongoing and eventual eternal blessings of living in a personal relationship with God can only be secured and sustained by an individual’s humble acceptance of God’s gracious gifts and his or her trusting ongoing obedience to his wise will and ultimate plan for his or her life. This entire process and even each of its factors are basically effected by the grace of God in their ongoing relationship of love and humble service, because even the decision and act of repentance by the young “lost” son was generated by the son’s recognition of his father’s providential care and goodness and his willingness to surrender to his father’s enabling loving will and wise guidance in his ongoing work for his father’ glory.
It should be understood that anyone who leaves the personal presence of God or rejects His offer of saving grace and providential love before He has a chance to confirm it in the individual’s life, he or she is on his or her own for life with no hope of any eternal relationship with God. In regard to the situation in which one has received an initial “gift” from God in his or her personal relationship with God, but who refuses to use it for God’s glory or to maintain his or personal relationship with God through prayerful acts of humble service and repentance, such a person can be condemned to an eternal separation from God because of his or unfruitful disobedient life under the authoritative judgment of Jesus. The principle for this judgment is clearly taught by Jesus in his parable of the “talents” . (Matthew 25:14-30) It should be clear from this parable that the individual who had initially received “one talent” in his personal relationship with his “master” not only had that blessing “taken away” from him, but he was also “cast” out of the presence of his “master” (who represents God in this parable). Finally, it should be understood that Jesus is ultimately the judge over anyone’s relationship with God the Father and his or her degree of obedient trusting fruitful service in His presence.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV Study Bible English Standard Version (ESV®), copyright © 2008 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.