Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.
Our first thought may be - What do the angels know about us? But our second thought should be - How likely it is that the angels would be deeply interested in us! For, granted that there are "heavenly hosts" who are in supreme sympathy with God, and who are therefore careful to watch the workings of his holy will in the broad realm he rules, what is there more likely than that they would be profoundly interested in the recovery of a lost world, in the restoration of a rebellious and ruined race? We could well believe that it would be the study of the angelic world, the practical problem that would engage their most earnest thought, if it did not occupy their most active labours. And this being so, we can understand the greatness of their joy "over one sinner that repenteth." For -
I. THEY KNOW, BETTER THAN WE, THE STERN CONSEQUENCES OF SIN. Not, indeed, by experience. Experience is not the only teacher, and it does not at all necessarily follow that one who has had some experience of a course of conduct knows more about it than another who has had no experience at all; otherwise we should be driven to the absurd conclusion that guilty man knows more about sin than God does. Many of the inexperienced are a great deal wiser than many who have had "part and lot in the matter," because those learn from all they witness, and these do not learn from anything they do and suffer. The "angels of God" witness the commission and also the fruits of sin they see what lengths and depths of wrong and wretchedness it brings about from year to year, from age to age; they see what evil it works within and without, in the sinner himself and on all with whom he has to do. As they live on through the centuries, and as they learn Divine wisdom from all that they behold in the universe of God, they must acquire a hatred of sin and a pity for sinners which is beyond our own emotion and which passes our reckoning. How great, then, their joy when they witness the emancipation of one human soul from spiritual bondage, the birth of a spirit into the life eternal!
II. THEY KNOW, BETTER THAN WE, THE BLESSED FRUITS OF OBEDIENCE. Here they have their own angelic experience to guide and to enlighten them. With added years of loyalty to the King of heaven; with the spiritual enlargement which (we can well believe) comes with a holy and stainless life, they rejoice in God and in his service with ever-deepening delight; their heritage becomes ampler, their prospects brighter, as the celestial periods pass away; and when they think what it means for one holy intelligence to be filled with the fulness of Divine life and of heavenly blessedness, we can comprehend that they would rejoice "over one sinner that repenteth."
III. THEY ARE DEEPLY INTERESTED IN THE PROGRESS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and they know, better than we, how limitless is the influence one soul may exercise.
1. Because they earnestly, supremely desire the honour of God, the glory of Christ on the earth, they rejoice that one more spirit is brought into loyal subjection to his rule.
2. Because they desire that everything may be put under his feet, they rejoice that all that one man can do - which means more in their measurement than it means in ours - will he done to further his cause and exalt his Name. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.