About the Text: Observe, Look, and Observe Some More


This is one of my favourite stories, on observation. Apply this approach to Bible study before giving up on it.

The Student, the Fish, and Agassiz
By the Student

It was more than fifteen years ago that I entered the laboratory of Professor Agassiz, and told him I had enrolled my name in the scientific school as a student of natural history. He asked me a few questions about my object in coming, my antecedents generally, the mode in which I afterwards proposed to use the knowledge I might acquire, and finally, whether I wished to study any special branch. To the latter I replied that as I wished to be well grounded in all departments of zoology, I purposed to devote myself specially to insects.

‘When do you wish to begin?’ he asked.
‘Now,’ I replied.

This seemed to please him, and with an energetic ‘Very well,’ he reached from a shelf a huge jar of specimens in yellow alcohol.
‘Take this fish,’ said he, ‘and look at it; we call it a Haemulon [pronounced Hem-yu lon]; by and by I will ask what you have.’
With that he left me, but in a moment returned with explicit instructions as to the care of the object entrusted to me.
‘No man is fit to be a naturalist,’ said he, ‘who does not know how to take care of specimens.’

I was to keep the fish before me in a tin tray, and occasionally moisten the surface with alcohol from the jar, always taking care to replace the stopper tightly. Those were not the days of ground glass stoppers, and elegantly shaped exhibition jars; all the old students will recall the huge, neckless glass bottles with their leaky, wax-besmeared corks half eaten by insects and begrimed with cellar dust. Entomology was a cleaner science than ichthyology, but the example of the professor, who had unhesitatingly plunged to the bottom of the jar to produce the fish, was infectious; and though this alcohol had ‘a very ancient and fishlike smell,’ I really dared not show any aversion within these sacred precincts, and treated the alcohol as though it were pure water. Still I was conscious of a passing feeling of disappointment, for gazing at a fish did not commend itself to an ardent entomologist. My friends at home, too, were annoyed, when they discovered that no amount of eau de cologne would drown the perfume which haunted me like a shadow.
In ten minutes I had seen all that could be seen in that fish, and started in search of the professor, who had, however, left the museum; and when I returned, after lingering over some of the odd animals stored in the upper apartment, my specimen was dry all over. I dashed the fluid over the fish as if to resuscitate it from a fainting-fit, and looked with anxiety for a return of the normal, sloppy appearance. This little excitement over, nothing was to be done but return to a steadfast gaze at my mute companion. Half an hour passed, an hour, another hour; the fish began to look loathsome. I turned it over and around; looked it in the face—ghastly; from behind, beneath, above, sideways, at a three-quarters’ view—just as ghastly. I was in despair; at an early hour I concluded that lunch was necessary; so, with infinite relief, the fish was carefully placed in the jar, and for an hour I was free.

On my return, I learned that Professor Agassiz had been at the museum, but had gone and would not return for several hours. My fellow students were too busy to be disturbed by continued conversation. Slowly I drew forth that hideous fish, and with a feeling of desperation again looked at it. I might not use a magnifying glass; instruments of all kinds were interdicted. My two hands, my two eyes, and the fish; it seemed a most limited field. I pushed my finger down its throat to feel how sharp its teeth were. I began to count the scales in the different rows until I was convinced that that was nonsense. At last a happy thought struck me—I would draw the fish; and now with surprise I began to discover new features in the creature. Just then the professor returned.

‘That is right,’ he said, ‘a pencil is one of the best of eyes. I am glad to notice, too, that you keep your specimen wet and your bottle corked.’
With these encouraging words he added,—
‘Well, what is it like?’
He listened attentively to my brief rehearsal of the structure of parts whose names were still unknown to me: the fringed gill—arches and movable operculum; the pores of the head, fleshy lips, and lidless eyes; the lateral line, the spinous fin, and forked tail; the compressed and arched body. When I had finished, he waited as if expecting more, and then, with an air of disappointment,—
‘You have not looked very carefully; why,’ he continued, more earnestly, ‘you haven’t seen one of the most conspicuous features of the animal, which is as plainly before your eyes as the fish itself; look again, look again!’ and he left me to my misery.

I was piqued; I was mortified. Still more of the wretched fish! But now I set myself to my task with a will, and discovered one new thing after another, until I saw how just the professor’s criticism had been. The afternoon passed quickly, and when, towards its close, the professor inquired,—
‘Do you see it yet?’
‘No,’ I replied, ‘I am certain I do not, but I see how little I saw before.’
‘That is next best,’ said he earnestly, ‘but I won’t hear you now; put away your fish and go home; perhaps you will be ready with a better answer in the morning. I will examine you before you look at the fish.’

This was disconcerting; not only must I think of my fish all night, studying, without the object before me, what this unknown but most visible feature might be; but also, without reviewing my new discoveries, I must give an exact account of them the next day. I had a bad memory; so I walked home by Charles River in a distracted state, with my two perplexities.

The cordial greeting from the professor the next morning was reassuring; here was a man who seemed to be quite as anxious as I that I should see for myself what he saw.
‘Do you perhaps mean,’ I asked, ‘that the fish has symmetrical sides with paired organs?’
His thoroughly pleased, ‘Of course, of course!’ repaid the wakeful hours of the previous night. After he had discoursed most happily and enthusiastically—as he always did—upon the importance of the point, I ventured to ask what I should do next.

‘Oh, look at your fish!’ he said, and left me again to my own devices. In a little more than an hour he returned and heard my new catalogue.
‘That is good, that is good!’ he repeated, ‘but that is not all; go on.’ And so, for three long days, he placed that fish before my eyes, forbidding me to look at anything else, or to use any artificial aid. ‘Look, look, look,’ was his repeated injunction.

This was the best entomological lesson I ever had—a lesson whose influence has extend to the details of every subsequent study; a legacy the professor has left to me, as he has left it to many others, of inestimable value, which we could not buy, with which we cannot part.

A year afterwards, some of us were amusing ourselves with chalking outlandish beasts upon the museum blackboard. We drew prancing star-fishes; frogs in mortal combat; hydra-headed worms; stately craw-fishes, standing on their tails, bearing aloft umbrellas; and grotesque fishes, with gaping mouths and staring eyes. The professor came in shortly after, and was as amused as any at our experiments. He looked at the fishes.
‘Haemulons, every one of them,’ he said. ‘Mr … drew them.’
True; and to this day, if I attempt a fish, I can draw nothing but Haemulons.

The fourth day, a second fish of the same group was placed beside the first, and I was bidden to point out the resemblances and differences between the two; another and another followed, until the entire family lay before me, and a whole legion of jars covered the table and surrounding shelves; the odour had become a pleasant perfume; and even now, the sight of an old, six-inch, worm-eaten cork brings fragrant memories!

The whole group of Haemulons was thus brought in review; and, whether engaged upon the dissection of the internal organs, the preparation and examination of the bony framework, or the description of the various parts, Agassiz’s training in the method of observing facts and their orderly arrangements was ever accompanied by the urgent exhortation not to be content with them.

‘Facts are stupid things,’ he would say, ‘until brought into connection with some general law.’

At the end of eight months, it was almost with reluctance that I left these friends and turned to insects; but what I had gained by this outside experience has been of greater value than years of later investigation in my favourite groups.

Richard L. Mayhue, How to Study the Bible (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 1997), 65–69.

When Grace Ceases to be Grace

bridges quo storms

“Grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to bestow it in the presence of human merit.… Grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to withdraw it in the presence of human demerit.… [Grace] is treating a person without the slightest reference to demerit whatsoever, but solely according to the infinite goodness and sovereign purpose of God.”

Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 35, quoting C. Samuel Storms.

Zechariah and Elizabeth


Zechariah and Elizabeth were barren; Israel was barren. The childlessness of a godly couple in their old age is mirrored by the spiritual dryness of the of the people of God. Israel had not heard a prophetic voice for centuries. No man living could recall hearing a prophet. Zechariah, an Aaronic priest who is chosen by lot, burns incense at the hour of prayer. It  is then he is met by Gabriel, who announces the birth of a son, who is to be named John. All of his and Elizabeth’s hopes and prayers were answered, although Zechariah cannot believe it. He is struck silent. The reproach upon Israel was soon to be lifted, just as the reproach of childlessness was from Elizabeth.


It may seem odd that Luke spends so much time on the birth story of the forerunner of Christ. It does not seem so odd, however, when the greater story is considered: a priest, of the tribe of Levi is burning incense in the temple, according to the Law, following the centuries-old ceremonies that demand repetition daily. During this temple ministry, a son is promised, but not one who will be a priest like his father. John will be a prophet, in the spirit of Elijah; the first prophet in centuries. Something new is coming.


Note also that John, of the tribe of Levi, will prepare the way for the final High Priest (Hebrews, chapters 5-8), the Saviour, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29). “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Levi gives way to Judah. Someone New has come.


In that same Holy Place in Herod’s great temple, Zechariah receives the first indications that the temple system is not eternal, but shall be declared irrelevant in the Kingdom of God. John will not carry on the temple traditions, but announce a new atoning sacrifice in Christ. Levi gives way to Judah.


In all of Christ’s ministry there is no miraculous sign or event in the temple, until the last day of the temple’s place in God’s economy: “ . . . And the curtain of the temple was torn in two” Luke 23:45. Jesus taught that the temple is to be destroyed. Because of the cross, its purpose is finally complete. It can now serve no other purpose. Limited access to God, restricted to the priesthood, is over. Access now is for “. . .  as many as were appointed to eternal life . . . (Acts 13:48).


The ceremonial Law is now complete, and the old covenant is ratified.

In a ceremony in the Holy Place, the end of the Holy Place is foretold.

Taking Up the Cause of Satan


We are most likely familiar with the Devil’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. The third temptation I understand as a sort of peace treaty offer from Satan. It is if he is saying, “Look, Jesus, you are here to claim ownership over the all the kingdoms of the world, and I’m willing to put an offer on the table. Jesus could rule the world with the Devil’s blessing. There could have been a truce between Jesus and the Devil on earth. But under such a truce, every human being must subsequently die in their sins and go to hell.

It is here that Jesus says, “Scram, Satan!” (ὕπαγε, σατανᾶ, hypage satana). The ESV has it right, “Be gone!” It is a strong command to “Go away!” (Matthew 4:10).

Notice though, that Jesus has to say the same thing to a disciple, a disciple who had just had something great revealed to him: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). Jesus blesses Peter by affirming that this revelation was directly from the Father in heaven, and that upon that same confession the church will be built (in the four gospels, only Matthew speaks of “the church”).

This disciple, recipient of divine-direct revelation, immediately begins to reject the mission of Jesus:
Matthew 16:21–22 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

Notice Jesus’ reply:

Matthew 16:23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

The phrase I underlined, ὕπαγε ὀπίσω μου, σατανᾶ· (hypage Go! opiso Behind! mou, satana) has the same strong command, but with an important difference: while the Devil, as Satan was told to “go away” in Matthew 4:10, Peter, addressed as Satan, is told to “go behind.” Same stern command, but to a very different location. Peter is told to get behind Jesus.

Jesus chose Peter, but Peter was thinking as a man, and his thoughts were not on the things of God, even though he had received divine revelation as to the identity of Jesus as the Christ. Indeed, knowing that Jesus was the Christ, made it all the more urgent, in Peter’s understanding, to save His life. He was certain that he could save the Saviour.

Unlike Satan, Peter was not cast out, nor told to go away, but to get behind Jesus. Peter could only think like a man; he needed to put his thoughts behind God’s thoughts. He needed to let Jesus do the thinking. We must understand that our understanding of the will of God, our comprehension of what God is doing, must always be placed behind Jesus.
The importance of this can be driven home by comparing the motivations both of the Devil and of Peter. Satan’s motivation and Peter’s were very different. Satan sought to divert Jesus from His mission, to gain Christ’s allegiance and end His mission before the cross. Peter sought to save Jesus from the cross out of his ignorance, his imperfect and uninformed love for Him.
But regardless of motivation, the result is the same: if the will of the Devil or of Peter had prevailed, Christ would never have met the cross, and no human being could survive the wrath of God.

The Implications of Being Filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-27)


Ephesians 5:15–27 (ESV)

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives and Husbands

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

This passage may contain the worst paragraph break in the English Bible. In preparing messages on these passages, I noticed this: that the main verb in vs 18 “. . . but be filled with the Spirit” (present passive plural) is the last imperative until vs 25, “Husbands love your wives.”

The intervening verses may be diagrammed as below (I have oversimplified the diagram). The red-underlined word indicates the imperative, and the single underline indicates a participle.

Be filled with the Spirit

addressing one another

                        in psalms

and hymns

and spiritual songs



making melody

to the Lord with your heart

giving thanks

always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Note that there are five adverbial participles (each are present active participles, plural, nominative, masculine) which form a “list” which modifies “be filled.” In this case, the participles take on the character of the imperative, but more than that, they describe the Spirit-filled.

If we may allow that these five attributes describe the Spirit-filled, then I wish to draw attention to the last one, “submitting to one another . . .”

It is here that I find the pericope division unfortunate: the ESV, NASB95, NIV84, NKJV all start a new section here, which leads the read to think that this is the place to start reading about wives and husbands.

Verse 22, however, is dependent upon verse 21: the verb, submit (or, as in other translations, be subject to, or be in subjection to) is supplied as an English gloss to assist the reader. Literally, verses 21 and 22 read, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, to your own husbands etc.”

The doctrine of the Christian family is challenging here, as is the practical implications of submission. But before the text is explained to wives as their duty to submit, the connection to “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” must be kept in mind, as well as its connection to the main verb. The Nestle-Aland and UBS4 both correctly place the paragraph  beginning at verse 21, keeping verse 21 and 22 together.

Being Spirit-filled (a command) has five evidences, or proofs: addressing one another outwardly, singing and making melody inwardly, thanksgiving, and mutual submission (ὑποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις)[1]

This demands at least, then, that the idea of the wives’ submission to their husbands is not separate from all Christians’ submission to one another, and this is an outcome of being Spirit filled. Furthermore, The next imperative is in verse 25, “husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her . . .”

So to simplify,

Be filled with the Spirit

→mutual submission

→wives to husbands

→husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church

This understanding of the text may help to avoid some of the misuse of the concept of submission in the marriage relationship.. Submission and love are both necessary outcomes of being filled with the Holy Spirit, thus making the Spirit a requirement for submission and love.

If verse 21 modifies the wives’ submission, verses 25-30 modifies the husbands’ “submission,” in that the husbands’ love for their wives is to be marked by sacrifice, even submission to the wives’ best interests.

[1]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Eph 5:21.

And Such WERE Some of You.

1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

I read long ago a comment by theologian/counsellor Jay Adams. Adams might be called the “Father of Nouthetic Counselling.” His comment was that this passage can be understood by an old joke: “When is a door not a door?” Answer, “When it is ajar.” The humour is that “ajar” sounds like “a jar,” which, of course is not at all what the door is, but in context means that the door is slightly open.

Adam’s point is that if you break it down grammatically you have this: “When is a door not a door?” Answer: “When it is something ELSE.” (i.e., “a jar”). The application to this passage becomes obvious. Paul had just listed sins in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Don’t misunderstand Paul’s intention here, by thinking that only a few sins and not explicitly naming others that only these sins are under consideration. This list is one of several Pauline lists that act as a synecdoche for a number of others.

So what Adams argues, correctly, I think, is this. “When is a (fill in the blank: unrighteous, sexually immoral, idolater, adulterers, homosexual, thief, greedy person, drunkard, reviler, swindler) not that?” Or, “When is a homosexual not a homosexual, when is a drunkard not a drunkard?” Answer: “When they are something ELSE!”

The answer is verse 11. The unrighteous becomes righteous (based on Christ’s imputed righteousness). But this is not simply to say that the adulterer becomes faithful, or the homosexual becomes heterosexual, or the drunk becomes sober; a person can be all these things and be every bit as unrighteous. There is SOMETHING ELSE.

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

That “something else” is a man washed (regenerated, Titus 3:5) ,sanctified (made holy), justified (made righteous by another, and that other is Christ).

The force of the verb, “were” is that those behaviours were the customary habits of the person prior to being washed, sanctified, and justified. When one turns to Christ for salvation, these things no longer describe what a person is, but rather, what that person was.

A person who is a Christian is no longer identified by the sins of their rebellion. For this reason, we cannot encourage a Christian to identify with a sin as a part of that nature, when that nature has been killed. One might say, “I was once a drunkard,” but if one is no longer a drunkard, because they are something else, they are no drunkard. I know AA disagrees, but unless a man is found in Christ, he is simply a dry alcoholic.

We must not truncate the Gospel by leaving any part of our lives outside of the God’s justification and sanctification. We are not what we were; we are something else. This is why, to answer a question in another post, is homosexuality a salvation or holiness issue. The answer for this, and all rebellion against God, is YES.

The Prodigal

Last week I attend a Charles Simeon Workshop in Mississauga, Ontario. I cannot recommend these workshops enough. The purpose is to make preachers and teachers of the Word better. I won’t go into the details of the workshops–the link in the first sentence can lead you to all the information you might need.

Each participant is assigned a text to present to a small group. One of my texts was the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). This is Jesus’ longest parable, and also one of His most popular. My workshop leader was William Taylor, an instructor for the Simeon Trust and the most senior lecturer for the series last week. He was challenging as a workshop leader, and expected a lot out of the participants.

Below are the questions we were expected to discuss on our passages, and how I answered. Anyone who preaches or teaches on a regular basis can see the helpfulness of these questions.

1. Outline the structure of the text in a way that represents the author’s organization of the text. Please provide an outline that clearly indicates verse breaks for each unit and provide headings for each. [Consider plot—setting, conflict, climax, resolution, and new setting—as well as characters, particularly the reactions of the disciples/other characters.]”

First off, I understand that the context of vss. 1-10 is essential for the understanding of this parable. Taylor made a number of points regarding context that were very helpful. He reminded the group that the overriding concern of Luke is found in Luke’s introduction:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” –Luke 1:1-4

In keeping with this idea of certainty, it must be remembered that Luke is concerned that his readers know who is getting in and who is not getting in to the kingdom of God. This is partially in answer to the question of Luke 13:23-24:

“And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”

If few are saved, it may be surprising who will be in and who will be left out of the kingdom.

Before I move further, consider the marked Bible text below:Luke 15_1

Luke 15_2

You can see that words have been marked in blue, green, and red. Each of these colours mark an English translation of a Greek word (and may represent a verb, adjective, adverb, noun, etc). So “lost” always translates a word such as “being lost” (verb), or “lost son” (adjective), etc. So blue=verb, ἀπόλλυμι; green=verb, εὑρίσκω; red=verbs χαίρω or συγχαίρω, or noun, χαρά (joy) from the root form, χαιρω. You will notice an immediate pattern, “lost, found, rejoice.”

My analysis of the text is as follows:

Immediate Context:

2b: “. . . this man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Parable of the lost sheep::lesser value, not responsible [lost-found-rejoice]

Parable of the lost coin::greater value, not responsible [lost-found-rejoice]

Parable of the Lost Son(s):

Parable of the lost sons::highest value, responsible

                Getting Lost

                                Two sons

                                                A foolish request

                                                                Race to the Bottom (wreckless living, squandering)

                                                                                Getting Found: the Repentance

                                                                Plot to return

                                                The Return, the Compassion of the Father, and the ignored request

                                One son found—Rejoice!

                Getting Lost

Race to the bottom: 1 ) Angry Rejection of the prodigal; 2) self-righteousness 3) false self-opinion; 4) thanklessness

Getting Found: The Father’s forgiveness of the Prodigal must evoke forgiveness from the elder son (rejoicing) if the elder son is to be found.

 “2. What emphasis does the structure reveal?”

The necessity of forgiveness (and what that means) of the lost by the righteous.

The above sentence is what I said in our meeting. It wasn’t until later, however, that I noticed that forgiveness, while implied in these parables, is never explicitly stated. In these parables, the “being found” results in rejoicing! This takes forgiveness to its next and urgent step.

 “3. How does the immediate context—the closest passages on both sides of your text—inform the meaning of your text? [Consider why this passage is in this place. Then, if relevant, consider any parallel texts in the other gospels if in a gospel or relevant epistles if in Acts.]”

Context: Tax collectors and sinners come near; Pharisees and scribes grumble [14:1, 2]

Parable of the lost sheep [14:3-7] and lost coin [14:8-10]. Both build to the climax of the prodigal. Both show lost-ness of lower value; both show the lost as not culpable in their lost-ness; ratios support a climax: 1:100, 1:10, 1:2.  

“4. Drawing on your work in structure, emphasis and context, state the central theme of the text in one complete sentence. [A theme should reveal the author’s big idea or primary teaching point in the passage.]”

Lost, Found, Rejoice! If a father rejoices at the return of a sinner, who are we to reject that sinner?

 “5. What are a few ways that your text relates to or anticipates the gospel (i.e. the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, repentance, forgiveness of sins)? Which of these ways best fits your text? [Consider Old Testament citations/allusions as well as different methods of connecting such as typology, analogy, promise-fulfillment, biblical theological themes, and others.]”

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”–Romans 5:6-9;

 6. In once sentence, what is the author’s aim for his audience in this text? Given that aim, what implication(s) and/or application(s) for your audience would you draw out in your sermon?”


 Just as Jesus welcomes sinners, so does the Father (15:2, 32).

 Possible application by extension: It is possible for the Christian to be unforgiving to the unrighteous just as the Pharisees and scribes were to the tax collectors and sinners.

“On the back of this page and for your own benefit, you can sketch out a homiletical outline that you might use for the text.”

 Jesus welcomes sinners (the lost)


  1. LOST! The First Lost Son
    1. The Scandal of the Lost
      1. A sheep is expected get lost
        1. Its return is celebrated
      2. A coin might easily be lost
        1. Finding it is cause of celebration
      3. But An unrighteous son is at fault
        1. He is the cause of shame
        2. He is the cause of loss
        3. He Deserves what he get
        4. Cultural matters for clarification when teaching
          1. The shock of the Father (God) having TWO son
          2. The impropriety of requesting an early inheritance
          3. The similarity between the son’s herding hogs and the tax collectors’ liaison with Rome
    2. FOUND! The finding of the Lost
      1. For all his faults, the lost son returns
      2. Cultural matters: the dignity of the Father is compromised upon the son’s return
    3. REJOICE! [inclusio]: “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”
    1. LOST! The Second Son is a Lost Son
    2. FOUND! The Father Seeks the Lost Son
      1. To be Lost is to be Dead; To be Found is to Be Alive
      2. Being lost is marked by self-righteousness
      3. Being lost is marked by unthankfulness
      4. Being lost is marked by unforgiveness
      5. My Son is Your Brother [Inclusio: 24 & 31] The Father Has Two Sons [inclusio]: “for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”
    3. REJOICE??


The Father Welcomes the lost Son (sinners), so how can the elder son refuse to do the same? We aren’t told what the “elder son” does.