Luke 15:3
And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
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15:1-10 The parable of the lost sheep is very applicable to the great work of man's redemption. The lost sheep represents the sinner as departed from God, and exposed to certain ruin if not brought back to him, yet not desirous to return. Christ is earnest in bringing sinners home. In the parable of the lost piece of silver, that which is lost, is one piece, of small value compared with the rest. Yet the woman seeks diligently till she finds it. This represents the various means and methods God makes use of to bring lost souls home to himself, and the Saviour's joy on their return to him. How careful then should we be that our repentance is unto salvation!This parable - See the notes at Matthew 13:3. Lu 15:3-7. I. The Lost Sheep.

3-7. Occurring again (Mt 18:12-14); but there to show how precious one of His sheep is to the Good Shepherd; here, to show that the shepherd, though the sheep stray never so widely, will seek it out, and when he hath found, will rejoice over it.

Ver. 3-7. See Poole on "Matthew 18:12", and See Poole on "Matthew 18:13", where we met with the same parable, though not related with so many circumstances. Luke 15:7, which is the epiparabole, showeth us the principal thing which our Saviour by this parable designs to teach His hearers, and us also, viz. That Christ is so far from rejecting the greatest sinners, that repent, and flee unto his mercy, that, if it were possible, he should take a greater satisfaction in such an issue of Divine providence, than in all the glorified saints. No repenting sinner, let his sins be as many and as great as they can be, shall be unwelcome unto Christ, fleeing to him with a broken heart (resolved against his former courses) for pardon and mercy. But as it happeneth to them who by study and practice make great experiments, they can hardly find out what they mostly seek for, but in the way to it they will find out several other notions, which are of great use to them; so it will fall out to them who diligently study the parables of the gospel. Though some one truth be that the explication of which our Saviour doth chiefly intend; yet the parable will also afford some other profitable instructions, not unworthy of our notice and regard.

The man here intended is Christ, who was the Son of man, as well as the eternal Son of God. The hundred sheep signifies the whole number of his elect, whether in heaven or on earth, whether yet called or hereafter to be called. The sheep going astray signifieth all the elect, who are by nature children of wrath as well as others, dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1,3. Here is mention but of one sheep so gone astray, though there be many, to let us know the love of Christ to every individual soul, that if but one of them had been to have been redeemed, he would have come down from heaven to have redeemed it.

The ninety-nine left in the wilderness seem to me to be the glorified saints, they are the only just persons, who need no repentance. The countryman’s going after the lost sheep till he finds it, then bringing it home upon his shoulders rejoicing, signifies the infinite love of Christ, both in leaving his Father’s throne, and the society of the glorified saints and angels, to come to seek and to save that which was lost, to pay a redemption price for them; then sending his Holy Spirit and the ministers of his gospel to invite and effectually to persuade them to accept of his salvation, truly repenting of their sins; and also preserving them through his power by faith unto salvation: for it is upon his shoulders that any elect soul is brought home; it is his eye must find them, and his power that must bring them home.

The countryman’s rejoicing, and calling his neighbours to rejoice, &c., signifieth the satisfaction and well pleasedness of Christ in the conversion of sinners, which is more plainly expressed Luke 15:7,

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. We have much the same again Luke 15:10, leaving out the comparative part. There also it is,

there is joy in the presence of the angels of God. We will consider the expressions in both the verses together; as to which there may arise these questions:

Question 1. What is here meant by joy in heaven? The inhabitants of heaven are, God, the blessed angels, and the glorified saints; how can they be said to rejoice, whereas rejoicing is in us the product of a passion by which we triumph in our union to some good, which we before wanted?

Answer. When terms expressive of our passions are applied to perfect beings, we must understand them so, as they alone can agree to such beings, separated from those excesses which they have in beings more imperfect. Joy signifieth nothing but the full satisfaction of the will in a good obtained. Thus God is said to rejoice in his people, Isaiah 62:5.

Question 2. Who are these ninety-nine just persons that need no repentance? (For the number, it is but an uncertain number put for one certain.)


1. Some by such as need no repentance understand, such as think so of themselves, though indeed they do need it. Others understand it comparatively, such as if compared with others need no repentance.

2. Others by repentance understand penance; such sober persons as stand in no need of a being called to a public confession, for the satisfaction of the church offended. I had rather understand it of the glorified saints, whose society Christ left when he came to work out our redemption. For the others, it had been no great matter for Christ to have told them, that God, and the holy saints and angels, rejoice more over one repenting sinner, than over ninety-nine impenitent sinners and self righteous persons, who continually grieve him, and whom he abhorreth. But then,

Question 3. How can it be said, that God, and the angels and saints, more rejoice over one repenting sinner, than over ninety-nine glorified saints?

Answer. It is universally agreed, that Christ speaks here of God, and of the angels, after the manner of men; of whose nature it is to express more passion upon a new object that pleaseth them, than upon others that they have been long pleased with; as a parent rejoiceth more over one child recovered from the jaws of death, than over all the rest of his children. Tough nothing can be new to God, that is, which he did not see and foreknow, yet some things may be new to him in facto esse, as done and fulfilled: and though we must not imagine any mutation or alteration of the Divine Being upon any emergency amongst men; yet to express how infinitely pleased God is, in the repentance and conversion of great sinners, he is set out as receiving an augmentation of satisfaction in the effecting of it. Such expressions as these condescended to by God for our consolation, must not be so strained by us as to occasion any unbecoming thoughts of God.

Question. Some query how the angels know of the conversion of a sinner; and from hence the papists would some of them infer, that they know our hearts, because that is the seat of conversion.

Answer. Both the angels and the glorified saints also may know it by God revealing it to them.

And he spake this parable unto them,.... To the Pharisees, for their conviction and confutation; and to the publicans and sinners for their encouragement; and in vindication of himself; and not only this, but the other two, concerning the lost piece of money, and the prodigal son, which were said at this time, and on the same occasion;

saying, as follows.

And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
Luke 15:3-7. The first parable (cf. Matthew 18:12-14).

3. he spake this parable] Matthew 18:12-14. In these three parables we have pictures of the bewildered sinner (Luke 15:3-7); the unconscious sinner (Luke 15:8-10); the voluntary sinner (Luke 15:11-32).

Luke 15:3. Τὴν παραβολὴν τάυτην, this parable) Extending from verse 4 to 10. The former part declares the solicitude and joy which the Redeemer feels in behalf of His sheep: the second part, the same feelings on the part of God.

Verses 3-5. - And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness? Now, there are two leading ideas in the three stories - one on the side of the Speaker; one on the side of those to whom the parable-stories were spoken.

(1) On the side of the speaker. God's anxiety for sinners is shown; he pities with a great pity their wretchedness; he sets, besides, a high value on their souls, as part of a treasure belonging to him.

(2) On the side of the listeners. Their sympathy with him in his anxiety for stoners is claimed. He has sought it hitherto m vain. The imagery of the first story is very homely - easy, too, to understand. A small sheep-master pastures his little flock of a hundred sheep in one of those wide uncultivated plains which fringe portions of the land of promise. This is what we must understand by "the wilderness." The hundred sheep represent the people of Israel. The lost sheep, one who had broken with Jewish respectability. One only is mentioned as lost, not by any means as representing the small number of the outcast class - the contrary is the case - but as indicative of the value in the eyes of the All-Father of one immortal soul. And go after that which is lost, until he find it. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. This diligent search after the lost one, the tender care shown by the shepherd when the object of his search was found, and the subsequent joy, pictured in a humble everyday figure the mode of acting of which the orthodox Jews complained. They said, "He receiveth stoners, and eateth with them." Luke 15:3
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