Lesson Eight – A Cause for Rejoicing

A Cause for Rejoicing

Lesson Aim:  To show that the church should share the concern of the heavenly host for the lost and rejoice with them when a sinner repents.

Scripture:  Luke 15:1-32.

Historical analysis for reading these three parables.

Place:  In the Jerusalem area or across the Jordan in Perea, Luke 13: 34, 35.

Occasion:  The Pharisees and scribes were grumbling because Jesus was fellowshipping people they considered to be sinners, Luke 15:1, 2.

Time:  Shortly before Jesus would enter Jerusalem and confront the Jewish leadership to provoke them to demand His death, Luke 19:37-42.

Audience:  Tax gatherers and sinners were there but the parables were given to answer the grumblings of the Pharisees and scribes.

Aim:  To show that the host of heaven rejoices when lost people (treasures of God) are restored to their rightful place in the same way people celebrate the recovery of lost items.


Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked; declares the Lord God, ‘rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?’  Ezek. 18:23

Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the know- ledge of the truth.  I Tim. 2:4

And opening his mouth, Peter said, ‘I most  certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him.’  Acts 10:34, 35

It is comforting to know God Almighty has these feelings about us.  Every human being has been created to be His eternal child.  Jesus Christ was equally concerned with the lost even though He knew they would abuse and kill Him in a most horrible manner.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.  Matt. 23:37

The Holy Spirit assisted Jesus in one of the greatest evangelistic campaigns ever conducted on earth.  We can read about it in the Acts of the Apostles.  The angels in heaven join the Godhead in their concern for everyone who is lost from God’s household.

In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.  Luke 15:10

The word of God is very definite about the concern of the heavenly host for those outside of Christ.  Jesus gave His disciples and Christians the commission to go into the entire world and proclaim the gospel of the kingdom of God.  Three of the gospel writers recorded His commission for us.  See Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:45-49.  There is only one short period in history when a member of the Godhead was an active evangelist.  It happened while Jesus Christ was incarnate.  Today, God depends upon Christians to teach the lost world.  The amount of evangelism done in any one generation will be in direct relation to the number of faithful members in the church.

And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.  II Tim. 2:2

The Apostle Paul said he, Apollos and others were “God’s fellow workers.”  I Cor. 3:9.  Today the church must stand where they stood in respect to preaching the gospel and maturing the church.  This work includes restoring members of the church who have strayed from the truth (James 5:19, 20; Jude 22).


In the parables in our text, Jesus clearly shows us that seeking lost souls is as basic to our Christian living as a shepherd looking for a lost sheep, a woman looking for a lost coin or a parent’s concern for a lost child.  No one would consider a shepherd, a good shepherd, who was only concerned for his ninety nine safe sheep if his flock numbered one hundred.

A church functioning as a family is one of the most beautiful things on earth.  It is the body of Christ.  It is the glory of God on earth.  The Scriptures teach us to love our brethren fervently for we all have been born again of an imperishable seed (I Pet. 1:22, 23).  However, in the parables, Jesus taught that Christians should have a great concern for the people who are lost.  Did the lost sheep and coin represent an erring member of the church or all of God’s living souls?  It really doesn’t matter, lost is lost.  God is not happy with any one being lost.  The angels will rejoice over all sinners who repent.

We must conclude from the teaching of the word of God; a church that does not do what Jesus commissioned us to do is in some kind of trouble with the One who purchased us with His own blood (John 14:21; Acts 20:28).  After all He is the One who is our judge (John 5:22).  What then is our problem?  We know it is a spiritual growth problem because this is the only kind of problems Christians suffer.

Some churches don’t care much for other churches Jesus purchased with His own blood.  This is a serious problem but it must be overcome.  Jesus said the “unity of believers” is a sign to the world God sent Him from heaven (John 17:20, 21).  Some church members don’t even like other members in their own body.  We understand they have not moved up Peter’s spiritual growth list to brotherly kindness (Greek – philadelphia).  It is a conveyer type list because we go up and then we move up again on the same “spiritual growth ladder.”  There will be no place to stop until we receive our inheritance.  Christians must grow in layers of sanctification.  We add to what we already have grown and then do it over and over.  See II Pet. 1:3-7.

Please note the last plateau of spiritual growth on Peter’s list is love (Greek – agape).  This is the quality of love that enabled Jesus to die for His enemies (Rom. 5:6-8).  It is the strength of love required in churches, and individual Christians, to carry out the commission of our king to seek the lost.  Love (agape) does not expect any love from those to whom we preach.  Many, and perhaps most, of the lost people will not appreciate our efforts (I Pet. 3:13-16).

Most members of the Lord’s church will make a great effort to commune with our church family each first day of the week because our king asked us to remember His death.  Many members will attend fellowship meetings to encourage our church family.  We have love (phileo).  This was the only positive commendation the Hebrew writer had for the recipients of his letter (Heb. 6:9-12).  They had love (phileo).  However, they were not productive.  They were in trouble spiritually (Heb. 10:35-39).  At one time they had love (agape) but by the time of the writing of the Hebrew letter they had lost their zeal to seek the lost (Heb. 10:32-34).  They were in trouble because of the principle of developing love.  The principle works the same as developing muscles.  We must exercise.

The church members in the book of Acts started exercising evangelism at the same time they starting meeting on the first day of the week.  See Acts 4:29-31; 5:41, 42.  They learned to love (agape) by loving the lost.  We can learn to love our brethren by following the same principle.  Love is a verb, so we just do it.

Who in the church has the responsibility for promoting this work?  The church should function as a unit in order to give glory to God; therefore, since the elders oversee the church they are responsible for setting forth the program.  The members have the responsibility to cooperate with the leaders (Heb. 13:17).  The church should financially support elders who preach and teach and as many members as possible who do the same (I Cor. 9:6-11; I Tim. 5:17, 18).

We read in Acts about churches that evangelized even while under persecution.  “Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”  Acts 8:4.  It is doubtful that they were able to support all who preached.  The Apostle John gave us a model for evangelizing the world with minimal support needed.  See III John 1-14.  It would have been good if the churches could or would have supported these Christians who “went out for the sake of the Name,” but that did not stop their evangelism program.  Even the Apostle Paul was unable to obtain support regularly (Phil. 4:15).

In our time, the Lord’s people should be very active in evangelism.  We have very little persecution in many countries.  We have great wealth and technology.  Above all, we know the heavenly host is depending on us.  They will go with us.  But They will not go alone again.  The parable of the prodigal son is a very touching message about God’s concern for the lost.  It emphasizes God’s willingness to be a Father to sinners who repent and do His will.  There is an empty place in God’s heart for every lost person on earth.

And he got up and came to his father.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him.  Luke 15:20

It is no wonder the angels rejoice.  Every time the church brings in a prodigal son, they see this type reunion.  It is a reunion between the Creator and His created.  It is reconciliation between the Father and His children (II Cor. 5:8-21; 6:17, 18).  We receive a great lesson on evangelism from this parable; however, another useful lesson involves the prodigal son’s older brother.  He enjoyed his niche in a secure habitat just like the ninety nine sheep.  They represent the members of the church today.  We are safe but God wants all to be safe.  Church members who are not much concerned about the lost in the world may also have the older son’s problem of selfishness.  He did not care to rejoice with the host of heaven when his lost brother repented and returned home seeking forgiveness.  A church that evangelizes will also rejoice when a lost son is found.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why should this lesson be comforting to everybody?
  2. Give a Scripture that reveals Jesus’ compassion for the lost?
  3. What is the criteria for determining the amount of evangelism done in any generation?
  4. How basic is seeking lost souls to our spiritual growth?
  5. What conclusions can be drawn about a church with no interest in evangelism?
  6. How should evangelism be carried out by the church so God is glorified?
  7. What is an important lesson in the parable of the Prodigal Son other than evangelism?
  8. What other problems will a church have that does not evangelize?

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