Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Prodigals and Elder Brothers - 2 prblems 1 Answer

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Luke 15: (NIV)

11 ¶ Then He said: "A certain man had two sons.

12 "And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.

13 "And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.

14 "But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.

15 "Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

16 "And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 "But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

18 ‘I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,

19 "and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants."’

20 "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.

21 "And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 "But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.

23 ‘And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;

24 ‘for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

25 "Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.

26 "So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.

27 "And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’

28 "But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.

29 "So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.

30 ‘But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

31 "And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.

32 ‘It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’"


- This “story” is evidently NOT a parable, but a true story.

- A parable (a story giving an illustration of truth) normally uses the word “parable” in the beginning.

- This story and the one in Luke 16 about the rich man and Lazerus are NOT parables, but stories that actually happened.

-The story of the Prodigal Son illustrates 2 approaches to life with “the Father”

- 2 Problems with 1 Solution

- These 2 problems are essentially 2 sides of the same coin.

A. One side of the coin is: (as illustrated by the Prodigal)

Hedonism (definition from )

1. Pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses.

2. Philosophy The ethical doctrine holding that only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically good.

3. Psychology The doctrine holding that behavior is motivated by the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain.

- to use a theological term, we would call this antinomianism – “against Law”

B. The Other side of the coin is: (as illustrated by the Elder Brother)

(definition from: )

Legalism - strict conformity to the letter of the law rather than its spirit

1. Strict, literal adherence to the law or to a particular code, as of religion or morality.

Why are they too sides of the same coin??

- Self Reliance & Self Assertion – one depended on his own free will and self expression (the Prodigal) while the Elder Brother depended on his faithful works of service

- Independence – Prodigal wanted to be free of responsibility and have freedom of choice and thought this would make him free, while the Elder Brother wanted his faithful discharge of duty to make him free and earn him his freedom.

The root of both is UNBELIEF.

John Piper: “Moral behavior that is not from faith is legalism”…”Both reject the sovereign mercy of God in Christ as means to righteousness and use either morality or immorality as a means of expressing their independence and self sufficiency and self-determination”

“ The moral legalist is always the elder brother of the immoral prodigal.”

(John Piper – Desiring God – )

- Most readers of this Bible Story do not notice that BOTH the Prodigal and the Elder Brother received their inheritances at the SAME TIME!

Luke 15:12 - "And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to THEM his livelihood.

Both RESPOND TO THEIR FATHER’S GRACE, BUT One reacts hedonistically, the other reacts legalistically.

The Prodigal Hedonist fails to trust God for his OWN sanctification

The Elder Brother Legalist fails to trust God for the sanctification of OTHERS!

The Prodigal Hedonist:

- Saunters – went on a journey (vs. 13)

- Spent – all he had (vs. 14)

- Ended up with Swine – (vs. 15&16)

- Came to his Senses – (vs. 17)

- Sorry for sin (vs. 18)

- Servant Attitude (vs. 19)

- Seen by the Father (vs. 20)

- Sandled (restored) (vs. 22)

- Sumptuousley Dined (vs. 23)

The Elder Brother Legalist:

- Angry at mercy (Vs. 28) – Like Jonah – “I knew You were going to forgive them!!)

- Anguish at joy (Vs. 28)

- Antipathy to the Father (Vs. 29)

- Alienation from his brother (Vs. 30)

The Father’s Grace demonstrates God’s heart for both parties / both expressions of unbelief and independence.

The Secular and Religious atmospheres of Jesus’ day reflect both expressions:

Rampant idolatry and hedonism in Greek and Roman culture

The Jews were divided along various factions:

Herodians – the politically connected

Pharisees – the strict legalists

Sadducees – modernists of their day, liberals

Essenes and similar groups – ascetics

Zealots – religious radicals looking to overthrow existing authority

Into this background comes JESUS.

How does God come to earth?

- a mighty conqueror?

He comes as a BABY! Why a BABY?

- Illustrates complete dependence on the Father

- Complete humility

- You cannot live the Christian life either as an independent hedonist or as an independent legalist.

Phil. 2:– ultimate humility:

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

Isaiah 64: 6 ¶ All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

- 7 No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins.

John 5: 19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.

Jesus had nothing physically about Him that would make people want to follow Him….talk about total dependence…

Isaiah 53: 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Romans 9: 30 ¶ What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith;

31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.

32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone."

1 Cor. 15: 9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them— yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

About legalism:

Colossians 3:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,

10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,

12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 ¶ When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,

14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

16 ¶ Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.

19 He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:

21 "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"?

22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.

23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

1 ¶ Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Ro 15:1 Now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

2 Cor. 11: 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is caused to stumble, and I burn not?

30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things that concern my weakness.

2 Cor 12: 9 And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10 Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.


1) Trust that you are accepted by God through faith in Christ

Trust in God’s grace and enabling to help you live a powerful and righteous life – depend on God – not on your

2) Trust God’s grace in others who are struggling with sin – Christians and non Christians – and be ready to forgive

3) Know that in your weakness, God’s strength will appear.