Luke 15:18
I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
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(18) I will arise and go to my father.—This, then, was the firstfruits of repentance. He remembers that he has a father, and trusts in that father’s love; but he dares not claim the old position which he had so recklessly cast away. He is content to be as one of the “hired servants.” Spiritually, the first impulse of the contrite heart is to take the lowest place, to wish for the drudgery of daily duties, or even menial service, if only it may be near its Father in heaven, and by slow degrees regain His favour and earn the wages of His praise.

I have sinned . . .—More strictly, I sinned, as going back in thought to the first act of sin as virtually including all that grew out of it.

15:17-24 Having viewed the prodigal in his abject state of misery, we are next to consider his recovery from it. This begins by his coming to himself. That is a turning point in the sinner's conversion. The Lord opens his eyes, and convinces him of sin; then he views himself and every object, in a different light from what he did before. Thus the convinced sinner perceives that the meanest servant of God is happier than he is. To look unto God as a Father, and our Father, will be of great use in our repentance and return to him. The prodigal arose, nor stopped till he reached his home. Thus the repenting sinner resolutely quits the bondage of Satan and his lusts, and returns to God by prayer, notwithstanding fears and discouragements. The Lord meets him with unexpected tokens of his forgiving love. Again; the reception of the humbled sinner is like that of the prodigal. He is clothed in the robe of the Redeemer's righteousness, made partaker of the Spirit of adoption, prepared by peace of conscience and gospel grace to walk in the ways of holiness, and feasted with Divine consolations. Principles of grace and holiness are wrought in him, to do, as well as to will.I will arise - This is a common expression among the Hebrews to denote "entering on a piece of business." It does not imply that he was "sitting," but that he meant immediately to return. This should be the feeling of every sinner who is conscious of his guilt and danger.

To My father - To his father, although he had offended him, and treated him unkindly, and had provoked him, and dishonored him by his course of conduct. So the sinner. He has nowhere else to go but to "God." He has offended him, but he may trust in his kindness. If "God" does not save him he cannot be saved. There is no other being that has an arm strong enough to deliver from sin; and though it is painful for a man to go to one whom he has offended - though he cannot go but with shame and confusion of face - yet, unless the sinner is willing to go to "God" and confess his faults, he can never be saved.

I have sinned - I have been wicked, dissipated, ungrateful, and rebellious.

Against heaven - The word "heaven" here, as it is often elsewhere, is put for God. I have sinned against "God." See Matthew 21:25. It is also to be observed that one evidence of the genuineness of repentance is the feeling that our sins have been committed chiefly against "God." Commonly we think most of our offences as committed against "man;" but when the sinner sees the true character of his sins, he sees that they have been aimed chiefly against "God," and that the sins against "man" are of little consequence compared with those against God. So David, even after committing the crimes of adultery and murder after having inflicted the deepest injury on "man" - yet felt that the sin as committed against "God" shut every other consideration out of view: "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned," etc., Psalm 2:4.

Before thee - This means the same as "against" thee. The offences had been committed mainly against God, but they were to be regarded, also, as sins against his "father," in wasting property which he had given him, in neglecting his counsels, and in plunging himself into ruin. He felt that he had "disgraced" such a father. A sinner will be sensible of his sins against his relatives and friends as well as against God. A true penitent will be as ready to "acknowledge" his offences against his fellow-men as those against his Maker.

18. I will arise and go to my FATHER—The change has come at last, and what a change!—couched in terms of such exquisite simplicity and power as if expressly framed for all heart-broken penitents.

Father, &c.—Mark the term. Though "no more worthy to be called his son," the prodigal sinner is taught to claim the defiled, but still existing relationship, asking not to be made a servant, but remaining a son to be made "as a servant," willing to take the lowest place and do the meanest work. Ah! and is it come to this? Once it was, "Any place rather than home." Now, "Oh, that home! Could I but dare to hope that the door of it would not be closed against me, how gladly would I take any place and do any worK, happy only to be there at all." Well, that is conversion—nothing absolutely new, yet all new; old familiar things seen in a new light and for the first time as realities of overwhelming magnitude and power. How this is brought about the parable says not. (We have that abundantly elsewhere, Php 2:13, &c.). Its one object is to paint the welcome home of the greatest sinners, when (no matter for the present how) they "arise and go to their Father."

Ver. 18-20. The way of a sinner’s returning to God must be by arising, going to the Father, confessing his sins with the aggravations of them, disclaiming any goodness, any righteousness in himself, humbling himself to God’s footstool.

I will arise (saith the prodigal) and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. He arose from the sleep and bed of sin, and came unto his father. We are not here told by whose strength, or in whose assistance, he arose and came. We must remember that our Saviour is here representing a spiritual notion by an ordinary human action; now men have an innate power to natural motions, though not to spiritual actions. We are elsewhere told, that no man cometh to the Father, but by Christ, nor doth any man come unto the Son, but he whom the Father draweth. Every one as he is taught of the Father cometh unto the Son. And again, that though we be saved by faith, yet it is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; and, it is given to us in the behalf of Christ to believe, Philippians 1:29. These are but several expressions signifying, by the tender affections and gracious reception of earthly parents of a returning prodigal son, the exceeding readiness of our heavenly Father to receive penitent sinners; he is so far from discouraging great sinners from taking up thoughts of returning unto him, that he cherisheth the embryos of such resolutions: I said, (saith the psalmist), I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin, Psalm 32:5. God seeth the first good motions and stirrings of our hearts towards him, and he needs must do so, for he stirreth them up in us; there is no sacred fire upon our altar, but first cometh down from heaven. While yet the soul is far off from believing, and closing with Christ actually, and hath but some thoughts of that tendency, God looks upon it, encourages it, meeteth it as it were half way; and indeed if he did not, our goodness would be but like a morning dew, which would quickly pass away; our first inclinations would perish like an untimely birth, before it hath seen the light.

I will arise,.... This is the resolution which at last, through divine grace, he came into: he determines to quit the country, and his companions; he had left his harlots, and his old course of living before, but was in the same country still; for this a man may do, and yet remain unregenerate: but he is now for leaving the country itself, and his new acquaintance; he is now determined to drop his legal preacher, to be gone out of his fields, and from under his ministry, and to leave his swine and husks;

and go to my father: not to his old companions in debauchery and sin; nor to his elder brother, the Pharisees; he had made trial of both these to his cost already; nor to his father's servants, but to his father himself; to which he was moved and encouraged, from his being ready to perish, from the fulness of bread in his father's house and from the relation he stood in to him; notwithstanding, all that had passed, he was his father, and a kind and merciful one: this shows, that he knew him as his father, having now the Spirit of adoption sent down into him; and the way unto him, which lies through Christ the mediator:

and will say unto him, father; or, "my father", as the Syriac and Persic versions read:

I have sinned against heaven; by preferring earthly things to heavenly ones; and have sinned openly in the face of the heavens, who were witnesses against him; and against God, who dwells in heaven. It was usual with the Jews to call God, "heaven"; See Gill on Matthew 21:25. They have this very phrase;

"there is a man, (say (b) they), who sins against earth, and he does not , "sin against heaven"; against heaven, and he does not sin against earth: but he that speaks with an ill tongue sins against heaven and earth, as it is said, Psalm 73:9 "they set their mouth against the heavens and their tongue walketh through the earth."''

And so the sense is, that he had sinned against God himself, and not merely against men, and human laws. All sin is a transgression of the law of God; and the thought of sin being committed against a God of infinite holiness, justice, goodness, grace, and mercy, is cutting to a sensible sinner: and this being the case, this man determined to go to God his Father, and him only, for the pardon of his sin, against whom it was committed. It is added,

and before thee; for he was now convinced of his omniscience. Sin may be committed against a man, and not before him, or he not know it; but whatever is committed against God, is before him, it is in his sight, he knows it: he is God omniscient, though sinners take no notice of this perfection of his, but go on in sin, as if it was not seen, known, and observed by God. But when God works powerfully and effectually upon the heart of a sinner, he convinces him of his omniscience, as this man was convinced: hence he determined to go to God, and acknowledge his sin before him; and that it was committed before him, and was in his sight; and that he could not be justified in his sight by any righteousness of his own; and therefore humbly desires pardon at his hands. This man's sense of sin and sorrow for it, and confession of it, appear very right and genuine, which he determined to express; they appear to be the convictions of the Spirit of God: it was not a sense of sin, and sorrow for it, as done before men, but God; and the concern was not so much for the mischief that comes by sin, as for the evil that was in it; and this did not drive him to despair, as in the cases of Cain and Judas, but brought him home to his father; and his confession appears to be hearty, sincere, and without excuse.

(b) Midrash Kohclet, in c. 9. 12. fol. 79. 4.

I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against {b} heaven, and before thee,

(b) Against God, because he is said to dwell in heaven.

Luke 15:18-19. With this coming to himself and longing is associated the corresponding determination, namely, to turn back to God, to confess to Him his guilt and unworthiness, and to petition for grace. In this petition, however, the humility which belongs to the consciousness of guilt sets aside the thought of complete restoration.

εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν] against heaven. Comp. Matthew 18:15; Matthew 18:21, and elsewhere; εἰς τὸ θεῖον, Plat. Phaedr. p. 243 C. Heaven does not denote God, but is, as the abode of the Godhead and of the pure spirits, personified, so that this holy heavenly world appears as injured and offended by sin.

ἐνώπιον σοῦ] comp. 1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Samuel 10:1; Psalm 51:4; Tob 3:3; Jdt 5:17; Susann. 23. The meaning is: I have so sinned that I have transgressed before Thee, i.e. in relation to Thee. The moral relation of the deed to the offended subject is thus rendered palpable, as though this subject had suffered in respect of the deed; the moral reference is set forth as visible. Grotius, moreover, well says: “Non in aetatem, non in malos consultatores culpam rejicit, sed nudam parat sine excusatione confessionem.”

Luke 15:19. οὐκέτι] not: not yet (Paulus), but: no longer.

ποίησόν με κ.τ.λ.] i.e. place me in the position of being as one of thy day-labourers. Comp. Genesis 48:20; Isaiah 41:15. Without ὡς the petition would aim at the result of making him a day-labourer; with ὡς its purport is: although he is a son, yet to place him no otherwise than if he were one of the day-labourers.

Luke 15:18. ἀναστὰς: a bright hope gives energy to the starving man; home! Said, done, but the motive is not high. It is simply the last resource of a desperate man. He will go home and confess his fault, and so, he hopes, get at least a hireling’s fare. Well to be brought out of that land, under home influences, by any motive. It is in the right direction. Yet though bread is as yet the supreme consideration, foretokens of true ethical repentance appear in the premeditated speech:—Πάτερ: some sense of the claims that long-disused word implies—ἥμαρτον, I erred; perception that the whole past has been a mistake and folly—εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν, against heaven, God—ἐνώπιόν σου, in thy sight, in thy judgment (Hahn)—he knows quite well what his father must think of his conduct; what a fool he must think him (Psalm 73:22)—οὐκέτι εἰμὶ, etc. (Luke 15:19), fully conscious that he has forfeited all filial claims. The omission of καὶ suits the emotional mood.

18. I will arise and go to my father] The youth in the parable had loved his father, and would not doubt about his father’s love; and in the region which the parable shadows forth, the mercy of God to the returning penitent has always been abundantly promised. Is. 4:7; Jeremiah 3:12; Hosea 14:1-2, &c.; and throughout the whole New Testament.

Father, I have sinned] “Repentance is the younger brother of innocence itself.” Fuller, Holy War.

Luke 15:18. Ἀναστὰς, having arisen) The first steps of repentance are herein accurately indicated.—Πάτερ, Father) The name, Father, remains the same [His willingness to receive us in that character, as our Father, remains], even though the sons he degenerate.—εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν, against heaven) Comp. Luke 15:7 [which implies that the inhabitants of heaven have a concern in the sinner’s recovery, and therefore also in the fall of the sinner, who accordingly in part sins against them].

Verses 18, 19. - I will arise and go to my father... make me as one of thy hired servants. The repentance of the prodigal was real. It was no mere sentimental regret, no momentary flash of sorrow for a bad past. There was before him a long and weary journey to be undertaken, and he - brought up in luxury - had to face it without means. There was the shame of confession before dependents and relatives and friends, and, as the crown of all, there was the position of a servant to be filled in the home where once he had been a son, for that was all he hoped to gain even from his father's pitying love. Luke 15:18
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