Sermon #117                                                 Luke Sermons

     Title:          “BUT THE FATHER…”

     Text:          Luke 15:22-23

     Subject:     The Blessings of Grace

     Date:         Sunday Evening—January 25, 2004

     Tape #       X-100b

     Readings:   Merle Hart & Larry Criss



Turn with me to Luke 15:22-23 and let me try to talk to you for a few minutes about what sinners get when they come to Christ. You will remember what leads up to this scene (vv. 17-21).


(Luke 15:17-21)  "And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! (18) I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, (19) And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. (20) And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet 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 unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son."


Now, watch what happened. This is what you get when you come to Christ…


(Luke 15:22-23) But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put [it] on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on [his] feet:    And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill [it]; and let us eat, and be merry.


Proposition: When poor sinners come home to God, when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, not only does the Lord God run to greet us, fall on our necks and kiss us, he freely gives every repenting sinner all the fulness of his bounteous grace in Christ.


Divisions:  Look at the four things set before us in these two verses.

1.    The Intervention Of Grace

2.    The Father’s Servants

3.    The Provisions Of The Father’s House

4.    The Work Of The Gospel Ministry




Look first at the opening words of verse 22. The prodigal son came in humiliation, broken, bent, bowing to the ground, begging for life, just to live as one of his father’s hired hands. But the father would hear nothing of it. Our text begins with these blessed words – “But the father said…”


Here we see the intervention of grace. Mark this down – No sinner will ever be saved unless God almighty steps in his way, unless God intervenes in the affairs of his life. Grace is not a divine offer. Grace is a divine intervention!


That little word – But,” is expressive of much grace. It is often used in this way.


(1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,    Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.    And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.


(Ephesians 2:1-4)  And you [hath he quickened], who were dead in trespasses and sins;    Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:    Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.    But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us.


(1 Timothy 1:13) Paul says, I “was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did [it] ignorantly in unbelief.”


(Titus 3:3-6) For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, [and] hating one another.    But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,    Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;    Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.


The picture before us displays most vividly the statement found in Romans 5 – “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!”


     All right, look at the next line – “But the father said to his servants.” Let me talk to you for a minute about…




Who are these servants who are commanded by the father, and given the privilege of bringing out the best robe and putting it on the prodigal’s back, fetching the family ring and putting it on his hand, bringing out the shoes he needs for his feet, and spreading the feast of the fatted calf slain for the prodigal? Who are these servants?


Were the word servant used in the singular, I would immediately tell you the servant must be God the Holy Spirit, whose work it is to effectually apply to believing sinners the finished work of Christ and all the blessings of grace in him.


But the word “servants” is plural. These servants are those men called and sent of God to serve the interests of his kingdom and glory and to serve the interests of immortal souls by the ministry of the Word, through the preaching of the gospel.


God never by passes the use of his ordained means of grace. He never gets in a bind and has to do things in some way other than his specifically ordained way. God never changes his mind about how he will perform his work. The way, the means, the method by which God has been pleased to confer his grace upon chosen sinners is the preaching of the gospel.


(Romans 1:16-17)  "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (17) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."


(Romans 10:17)  "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."


(1 Peter 1:23-25)  "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (24) For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: (25) But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."


The work is God’s work; but the instruments by which he works are gospel preachers. Preachers are not priests. We do not and cannot confer the grace of God upon anyone. But preachers are not useless. The preaching of the gospel is, by divine arrangement, indispensable to the salvation of God’s elect, and indispensable for the edification of your soul.


Gospel preachers are the servants of the Most High God. It is the preacher’s business (every preacher’s business) to set forth, in the ministry of the word, the righteousness of Christ, and the everlasting love of God ― to direct believing sinners to a life and conversation becoming the gospel of Christ ― and to set before them the rich provisions of the gospel for the nourishment, joy, and comfort of their souls.


These servants are not ordered to take the poor prodigal away from the father’s presence, as a rejected suppliant. They are not told to terrify and frighten him with the curse and condemnation of the law. They are not commanded to fill his mind with wrath and terror because of his past corruption and sin. They are not told to chastise and correct the poor prodigal for his former course of life. They are not even required to put guards around him, put a fence around him, or bind him with chains, lest he run away again.


On the contrary, the father tells his servants to confer upon his son all the honour, and high favors, and blessings that could of his boundless mercy love and grace be given, every honor belonging to sonship, every high honor which belongs to a favored, well-pleasing, perfectly obedient son!


This is what gospel preachers are supposed to do. We cannot confer grace; but we can proclaim it. We cannot give you peace, pardon, and righteousness; but we can and must bring it out before you. And, as I will show you in a moment, if God gives you these things, if God the Holy Spirit gives you faith in Christ, we can and must put the blessings of grace upon believing sinners.


(Isaiah 40:1-2) Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.    Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.


     Read the rest of verse 22, and I will show you…




But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put [it] on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on [his] feet:  (Luke 15:22)


Do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you now reconciled to God? Do you confess your sin before the throne of grace? Has the Lord God brought you down in repentance? Has he revealed Christ in you? Do you trust Christ alone for everlasting salvation, for righteousness, for acceptance with God? If so, give me your attention. I have been sent of God this day to do some things for you.


A.  The Lord God himself has sent me here with this express command “Bring forth the best robe and put it on him.”


He did not send me here to put a good robe on you. There are many good robes, (good in the eyes of men), which men and women put on themselves or have put upon them by religion.


·       Morality and Religious Reformation

·       Self-denial and Philanthropy

·       Charity and Benevolence


The Lord God has sent me here, not with a good robe, but with the best robe.


·       A robe better than the robe of innocence Adam wore in the garden!

·       A robe better than the angels wear in heaven!

·       A better robe than that worn by the scribes and Pharisees!

·       A better robe than the garment of good works!


1.    This best robe is robe of Christ’s perfect righteousness


(Isaiah 61:10) I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh [himself] with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth [herself] with her jewels.


(Zechariah 3:4)  And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. 


(Revelation 19:8)  And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 


a.     The best robe is the first (as the word implies) robe, the robe of righteousness woven in the eternal counsels of almighty God.

b.     This robe covers our naked souls.

c.     This robe covers all our sins from the eye of divine justice.

d.     This robe protects us from all injury.

e.     This robe saves us from the wrath to come.

f.      This robe adorns and beautifies all who wear it; and that makes us glad.


(Ezekiel 16:8-14)  Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time [was] the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.    Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.    I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.    I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck.    And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.    Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment [was of] fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.    And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it [was] perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD. 


(Psalms 45:8)  All thy garments [smell] of myrrh, and aloes, [and] cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad. 


This splendid robe of Christ’s imputed righteousness exceeds all others. It is the best robe. This righteousness of Christ, which I hold before you is pure, perfect, spotless, immaculate, even in the eyes of God himself!


·       The Righteousness of Perfect Obedience

·       The Righteousness of Infinite Satisfaction


2.    This is a robe that must be put upon you.


·       By The Imputation Of Grace.

·       By The Proclamation Of Grace.


There is something special implied in the original language, which does not come out in our translation, which I must not fail to mention.


3.    The robe of Christ’s righteousness is to be put upon the believing sinner quicklywithout delay.


The text might be translated – Hurry, put it on him quickly. Why? Because there is to be no doubt in our minds concerning the immediacy of God’s grace and forgiveness.


·       He who looks to Christ is born of God.

·       He who repents is accepted.

·       He who confesses his sin is forgiven of all sin.

·       He who comes to Christ is accepted in Christ.

·       He who believes on the Son of God has everlasting life.

·       He who plunges into the fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins, is washed clean!


The grace of God does not put sinners upon probation. Grace puts us in salvation! I have been to the closet of heaven, in the wardrobe of the Father’s house, and have fetched from glory the best robe. God has sent me here to put it upon you who come to him by faith in Christ. But there is more…


B.  God has sent me here with a ring to put on your hand, the hand of faith that receives Christ as Lord and King, Husband and Master.


What does this ring signify?


·       A Covenant Made – The Sure Mercies Of David!

·       A Love Bestowed – Everlasting Love!

·       A Union Sealed – “My Beloved is mine; and I am His!”

·       A Property Owned.

·       A Possession Protected.

·       Acceptance Assured – “Accepted in the Beloved!”

·       A Family Signet.


The ring of grace goes on every hand of faith. Stretch out your hand. I’ve got a ring for it.


C.  The Lord has sent me here today to put shoes on your feet, too.


The Holy Spirit tells us plainly that these shoes are the preparation of the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15). The gospel of God, the blessed doctrines of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ are shoes for our feet.


1.    Shoes To Beautify Our Feet – “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O Prince’s daughter!” (Song 7:1)

2.    Shoes To Make Us Walk Upright.

3.    Shoes That Keep Us From Slipping And Falling Into Eternal Ruin.

4.    Shoes To Protect Us From The Heat Of The Earth and The Thorns Of The Ground.

5.    Shoes That Will Never Wear Out!


I cannot say much about it; but there is another part of the picture I want you to see in verse 23. Here we see that which portrays…




(Luke 15:23)  And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill [it]; and let us eat, and be merry.


A.  Gospel preachers are responsible to bring forth the fatted calf and kill it.


This fatted calf, of course, represents the Lord Jesus Christ, our crucified Savior. The Lord Jesus here describes himself by making allusion to the calves offered in sacrifice, which were offered for sin offerings, and for peace offerings, and for burnt offerings; and were one of the sacrifices on the day of atonement.


·       Christ offered up himself, freely and voluntarily, in the room and stead of his people.

·       He gave himself and made himself to be an offering and sacrifice to God, of a sweet smelling savor.

·       He is the sacrifice that is well pleasing to God, because he is an effectual sacrifice.

·       He accomplished the purposes for which he came.

·       Because he is an effectual sacrifice for sin, his sacrifice will never be repeated.


This one sacrifice for sin has forever satisfied and silenced the law and justice of God, procured peace and reconciliation for his people, and made full atonement and expiation for all our iniquities, transgressions, and sins.


·       Remember, the sacrifices were the priests’ food. ― And we who believe are God’s priests. Christ crucified is our food!


No doubt, there is also an allusion here to the feasts and lavish celebrations so often spoken of among the Jews of friends, celebrations in which the fatted calf was the central part of the feast (Gen 18:7,8; 1 Sa 28:24,25; Am 6:4; Mal 4:2).


Christ is the best provision that can be set before eternity bound sinners, the best for you who are lost and the best for you who are saved. We must feed upon him, always upon him, and only upon him.


Christ is the best that God can give, and the best we can desire. He is the true Manna. He is real Bread, the Bread of Life for our souls, sweet, savory,  and satisfying. This is Bread that gives life and preserves it; nourishes, strengthens, refreshes, delights, and fattens.


*** ― It is the business, privilege and responsibility, of the gospel preacher, every time he speaks in God’s name, every time he preaches to eternity bound souls to bring forth the fatted calf and kill it. ― To preach Christ and him crucified. – To open the Scriptures, showing in all the Scriptures things concerning Christ. ― To set him before all with clarity and simplicity, bidding all to feed upon him.


Killing” the fatted calf is the setting forth of Christ crucified, preaching the cross, proclaiming the gospel.


(Romans 1:15-17)  So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.    For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.    For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.


(1 Corinthians 1:21-24)  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.    For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:    But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;    But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.


B.  The preaching of the gospel is the spreading of a feast, bidding and encouraging hungry souls to eat, to feast upon Christ, to the saving and satisfying of their souls.


The Father himself says through his servants, “Let us eat and be merry!” John Gill wrote, ``there is no mirth without eating and drinking.'' If you are going to make merry, you have got to have a feast.


This is a wide, far reaching invitation and encouragement to eat of the fatted calf. The people called upon to eat are the father, the servants, and the returned son.


1.    The Father is set before us as one to whom the salvation of his people, by the death of Christ, is a feast.

·       His heart was set upon this from everlasting.

·       He is infinitely well pleased with Christ, as the surety and sacrifice of his people, and has been from all eternity.

·       His eye has been upon Christ as our surety throughout the ages.

·       He sent him forth with great pleasure in the fulness of time.

·       It pleased the Lord to bruise him for us.

·       God the Father accepted Christ’s sacrifice with delight.

·       He takes pleasure in seeing us feed upon our crucified Savior.

·       This is where God meets men and communes with them!

·       This feast of grace is the great glory of the church, the greatest blessing there is on the earth, and a foretaste of heaven.


2.     The Servants – Gospel preachers are among the "us," who are to eat. God’s servants also eat and live upon a crucified Christ.


3.    The Returned Son ― Saved sinners are those for whom the Gospel feast is primarily and specifically spread. It is true, the feast is spread before all. But it is spread specifically for you who are hungry, for you who long to feed upon Christ. – Are you hungry? – “Come and dine!” – The feast is spread for you!


Let us eat with joy The joy of faith.


(Ecclesiastes 9:7) Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.