Sermon #18                                                   Luke Sermons


     Title:          The Other Son

     Text:          Luke 15:25-32

     Subject:     Calling the Self-righteous to Repentance

     Date:         Sunday Evening—February 15, 2004

     Tape #       X-100b

     Readings:   Bob Poncer and James Jordan



The title of my message tonight is ― The Other Son. Our text will be Luke 15:25-32.


At the beginning of this chapter, the Pharisees and Scribes, the self-righteous legalists who professed to be the children of God, the heirs of his kingdom, and the objects of his love, when they saw the Lord Jesus  receiving publicans and sinners, hurled what they thought was a scurrilous accusation against him. Murmuring at the sight, they said, “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.(v. 2). Everything that follows was addressed specifically to these caviling, griping, self-righteous religious legalists.


The Master gave them the parable recorded in verses 3-32, saying in effect, "You see me receiving these publicans and sinners and eating with them; and you think that to be an evil thing. But when I receive these publicans sinners and eat with them, it is like a shepherd seeking and finding a lost sheep and rejoicing. It is like a woman seeking and finding a lost coin and rejoicing. It is like a Father running out to welcome home a lost, rebel son with open arms and smothering him with heartfelt kisses of complete, unconditional restoration and reconciliation.


In verse 25 the parable takes a turn. Instead of answering the question why he receives and eats with publicans and sinners, the Lord Jesus shows them and us why self-righteous Pharisees, religious legalists, refuse to take their place in the dust as sinners before the throne of grace and refuse to come to him and eat with him.


Proposition: A self-righteous person, a Pharisee, a lost religious legalists is one who is righteous in his own eyes and thinks himself too holy, too spiritual, to good to be saved by grace alone, entirely by the merits of a crucified, sin-atoning Substitute. This is the doctrine of Luke 15:25-32: ― The Pharisee will not give up his own righteousness for the righteousness of Christ.


I hope that you and I find our place in this parable with the one lost sheep, the one lost coin, and the poor, lost prodigal, not with those ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance, not with the elder brother who refused to come into the house of grace. Am I a sinner, or am I a Pharisee? Let’s look at the last part of this parable together and find the answer to that question (Luke 15:25-32).


Ignorant of Grace


I.       First, this elder brother shows us that self-righteous, religious legalist, religious hypocrites do not know what grace is (vv. 25-27).


Their understanding is so darkened that they can see nothing of God in God, nothing of holiness in holiness, nothing of good in good, nothing of evil in evil, and nothing of sin in sin. Rather, they see good in evil and evil in good, righteousness in sin, and misery in holiness. And, with regard to Christ and grace and salvation, they are totally without knowledge and understanding.


They are religious; but their religion only makes them more blind and ignorant. They are outwardly moral; but their morality only makes them more wicked. Let’s see if that is not what our Lord shows us in this other son.


(Luke 15:25-27)  "Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. (26) And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. (27) And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound."


A.   This elder son was in the field.


Our Lord tells us plainly that “the field is the world” (Matt. 13:38). The world is an uncultivated field, overrun with the briers and thorns of sin, a cursed habitation of darkness, full of cursed, evil, ignorant and blind men.


The church and kingdom of God is a garden separated from the world by the fence of God’s free, distinguishing grace.

·       The Field is the place of providence.

·       The house is the place of benefit and blessing. 


This elder brother, the Scribe and Pharisee, the religious legalist, is in the world, walking after the course of the world, after the lusts of his own flesh, and ruled by Satan, the god of the world; and was taken up with the things of the world (Eph. 2:2-3). Yes, such people are outwardly religious and moral, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.


What do men do in the field? They work. This elder son was in the field at work, working for life, working for righteousness, working for his father’s approval, working for salvation.


That shows his ignorance, if he never opens his mouth. To work for righteousness, life, and salvation is to display your ignorance of all things spiritual, your ignorance of God and of grace. Such works-righteousness is not only an a display of ignorance ― It is a display of a proud, wicked, rebel heart. It is a denial of Christ as God’s salvation. In a word, self-righteousness, works religion is the worst form of evil men and women can practice. It is the most abominably wicked thing in this world.


Illustration: Centre College Forum on Gay Marriage


While the younger son, the poor prodigal, the publicans and sinners, are in the house of grace resting, rejoicing and partying, the elder son, self-righteous, religious legalists are out yonder in the field working for salvation!


“Nothing, either great or small; Nothing, sinner, no;

Jesus did it, did it all, Long, long ago!


When He, from His lofty throne, Stooped to do and die,

Everything was fully done; Hearken to His cry -


It is finished!’ Yes indeed, Finished every jot.

Sinner, this is all you need. Tell me, Is it not?


Weary, working, plodding one, Why toil you so?

Cease your doing, all was done, Long, long ago!


Till to Jesus’ work you cling By a simple faith,

Doing is a deadly thing. Doing ends in death!


Cast your deadly ‘doing’ down, Down at Jesus’ feet.

Stand in Him, in Him alone, Gloriously complete!”

          James Procter


B.   Next, we read that this good, hard working elder son came near the house, or approached the house.


I can almost see him. There he comes, sweaty, dirty, boots caked with mud and manure, and his hands and face black with dirt. He’s a miserable wretch. He’s been working a hard twelve-hour day; and he’s tired. But he is approaching the house to collect his “well-earned reward,” full of anticipation. As he comes near the house, he hears people inside partying. How galling that must have been to him! He called one of the servants (gospel preachers) out, and said, “What’s going on in there? What do these things mean?” He didn’t have a clue. He only knew that everything inside was strange to him. What was it that he heard? ― “Music and dancing!


·       Perhaps he was like righteous over much of our day, and would not dare step into a place where people were playing music and dancing.


·       He came to hear himself praised and rewarded for his good work. Instead, he heard the “Music and dancing” of people praising God for his good grace. As David leaped and danced before the ark, they were dancing before God’s slain sacrifice, rejoice in blood atonement.


John Gill says that what he heard was “the preaching of the Gospel by (gospel preacher) the servants setting forth the love of God, the righteousness of Christ…Like music, it is delightful and charming; it is a sound of love in all the three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit; of free grace, and rich mercy; of liberty, reconciliation, forgiveness, righteousness, and eternal life”


·       When he heard the sweet sound of free grace and imputed righteousness in Christ, he “asked what these things meant.


As I said, self-righteous, religious legalists do not understand the things of God. They are baffled by…

Ř    Eternal, Distinguishing Love and Grace

Ř    Free, Sovereign Election

Ř    Special, Effectual Atonement

Ř    Omnipotent, Irresistible Grace

Ř    Free, Unconditional Pardon

Ř    Complete, Absolute, and Irrevocable, Imputed Righteousness

The joyful gospel sound, the sound of the jubilee trumpet is a strange sound to the ears of self-righteous folk. The only rejoicing they know is in themselves and in their own works. Just listen to them. You will hear it clearly ― “I.”


C.   If you question whether this is the meaning of verses 25 and 26, look at verse 27. ― The Lord’s servant, the preacher who spoke to this elder son, told him plainly the meaning of the “music and dancing” in the house.


(Luke 15:27)  "And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound."


·       The prodigal has come home.

·       Thy Father, the one you call Father, has killed the fatted calf. ― Christ has been crucified, and Christ crucified is preached.

·       The house is full of joy because the crucified Christ has received your fallen brother, and the Father, because of Christ, has received him too.

·       He who was lost and ruined is now both “safe and sound.” ― Complete and Secure!


Do you understand and rejoice in the gospel? The self-righteous legalists just can’t. Try as he may, he just can’t. He can only understand and rejoice in irritating sound of “free will and good works.” He is totally ignorant of grace.




II.                Verse 28 tells us something else about the legalist. ― He is angry. ― “And he was angry.


He may pretend to be happy and loving; but he is angry at God, angry at the gospel, angry at himself, and angry at those who enjoy the blessed liberty of grace. I’ve got a lot of these elder brothers scattered around the world.


·       They are angry that the fatted calf was killed (Gal. 5:11).

·       They are angry that the crucified Christ is preached.

·       They are angry that salvation is in Christ alone.

·       They are angry that salvation in Christ is full, free, and complete. Some are angry because redemption is altogether in him, without our aid. Others are angry that justification is in him alone and without our works. Some are angry because our safety in him is absolute and unconditional. And others are angry that our soundness (sanctification) is altogether in Christ and altogether by grace.

·       Nothing angers self-righteous legalists like God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ. ― I’ve seen people get boiling mad just at the reading or quoting of Ephesians 1 and Romans 9.


Illustration: Betty Burge After God Saved Her


Are you angry with God and his grace, Christ and his salvation? I’m not asking, “Do you show your anger?” I’m asking, “Are you angry?” ― Saved sinners rejoice in saving grace.


Refuses Grace


III.             Look at verse 28 again. The self-righteous legalist refuses to be saved by grace alone. He will not go into the house of salvation if he has to enter in at the Strait Gate of Substitution, by the Door Christ Jesus. ― “He was angry and would not go in.


Men and women will accept any other method of salvation. Any other door of acceptance will do. They will show tolerance for any other doctrine and any other religion. But they hate free grace, refused to be saved by free grace, and do everything they can to keep others from entering into the house of grace.


Yet, there is hope, even for the self-righteous. Until a sinner is in hell he is not beyond hope, not even the most notoriously wicked self-righteous Pharisee. I know that because the next line of our text says, “Therefore,” because he was angry and would not come in, “his father came out, and entreated him!”


What mercy! What goodness! Though you have long withstood his face and despised his grace, the Lord God himself comes to you still by the preaching of the gospel and entreats you to enter in by Christ and be saved (2 Cor. 5:20-6:2)


(2 Cor 5:20-21)  "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. (21) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."


(2 Cor 6:1-2)  "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (2) (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)"


The man who wrote those words was himself, at one time, a proud, prating, God hating, Christ hating, angry self-righteous legalist, a Pharisee; but he obtained mercy. He says, “I did it ignorantly.”


Too Good


IV.           If you will read verse 29, you will see why this other son was so angry, and why he refused to be saved by grace. ― He was too good to be saved entirely by grace, entirely by Christ’s merit.


(Luke 15:29)  "And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:"


A.   His religion was galling, hated slavery.


Lo, these many years (these many years of denial and drudgery) do I serve (slave, or work as a slave under the whip for) thee.” ― Now we see the heart of the matter. Now we see why lost religious people are so confounded mean. They are angry because, though they may zealously perform good works, attend church, give their money, read their Bibles, and say their prayers, they flat hate the religion that holds them in bondage as slaves.


B.   He was fully confident that he deserved God’s approval and salvation, because he was not like that prodigal, a sinner. ― “Neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment.


The proud, egotistical legalist really thinks nothing is too good for him, that he really deserves God’s favor. He would never say come right out and say that, but he really thinks it. I know he does because “from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” and if you listen to him he will tell you, in almost every conversation, that he is never treated as well as he deserves by others. If you think men don’t treat you as well as you deserve, the fact is, you really think that God doesn’t treat you as you deserve. You really think you are good and that you should enter into and possess heaven because you’re good. To hear otherwise grates against your pride and makes you angry


·       The legalist prides himself in his service."these many years do I serve thee." ― “Look at what I have done! Look at how faithful I have been! Compared to me, my brother is washed up and washed out!” Some see God as a Master in need of help. They think the Lord Jesus came to hang out a help-wanted sign. That is not the case. He came and hung out a help-available sign. He is interested in sons, not slaves.


·       The legalist exaggerates everything he does. ― “not once have I transgressed.” Whereas a son continually speaks of the goodness of his father because he's born into the family and has earned nothing, a slave has to point to his years of service, because in his mind he receives a reward based upon how good a slave he is.


·       What does God have to sa about these perfect slaves?


(Isa 65:1-5)  "I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. (2) I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; (3) A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick; (4) Which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels; (5) Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day."


·       What do saved sinners have to say about themselves?


(Isa 64:6)  "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."


·       The elder brother is a picture of a person who gets angry with God and with others. ― He's angry with people because the sinner gets off so easy. Whereas grace demands a celebration, legalism demands accountability. The legalist will always feel that the prodigal is "not sincere" or "too flippant." He's angry with God because he thinks "God is not fair." The elder brother says, "You have never given me a fatted calf!" In other words, I deserve more than my brother gets, and you haven't given it to me. Anytime a legalist has things go opposite of his desire, he blames God for the problems.


C.   He refused to be saved by Christ; yet he complained that he had no God given sacrifice. ― “Thou never gavest me a kid.


(Rom 9:31-33)  "But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. (32) Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; (33) As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."


(Rom 10:1-4)  "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. (2) For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. (3) For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."


D.  There was no joy, but only misery in his religious activity. ― “Thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.


“His meaning seems to be, that he had never received any favour in proportion to the services he had done; and so charges his father with ingratitude.”     (John Gill)




V.              Look at verse 30, and I will show you something else about all self-righteous Pharisees and hypocritical religious legalists. ― They all love to hear and spread slanderous things about God’s saints.


(Luke 15:30)  "But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf."


It may have been and probably was true that the prodigal had wasted his father’s substance in riotous living with harlots, but there no record of those harlots in the story. Even if he had done so, the mention of it is still slander.


A.   The father, against whom the prodigal had sinned, had forgiven him, but this other son refused to forgive him.


B.   The father would not charge the prodigal’s sins against him, but this other son did.


C.   The father received the prodigal as his son, but this other son refused to receive him as his brother. ― “This thy son.


D.  Perhaps more than anything else, he was enraged by the fact that free forgiveness was fully proclaimed to the prodigal, but not to him. ― “Thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.” “You have proclaimed free salvation and full reconciliation to him in Christ.”― No mention was even made of his remarkable goodness!


E.   The elder brother is a picture of a person who abandons both God and his people. He is confident that the prodigal will never be like him, good, upright, righteous, and faithful. The legalist will eventually have to isolate himself from us sinners. He always stays outside the camp, outside the house where sinners are welcome and find joy, because he is just too good to mingle with such people.


F.    The legalist, in his own opinion, can never be fully rewarded by God, neither in this world nor in the world to come. If God rewarded men by degrees, according to the merit of their works, legalists would rejoice; but when they hear that sinners receive all the fulness of grace and glory in Christ freely, they are enraged.


Without Excuse


VI.           Sixth, verse 31 tells us that the self-righteous legalist is without excuse before God.


(Luke 15:31)  "And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine."


He was the father’s son by creation and by profession. He wore the father’s name proudly, though he despised the father and his house.


He had “the portion of worldly goods which came to him by lot, as it is said before, that when the younger soon went away, (The Father) divided unto them his living. Hence, all that he had of this world’s portion, like another Esau, was his, the fatness of the earth and his dwelling therein, for these things he chiefly desired (Gen. 27:39).” ―                                         Robert Hawker


He enjoyed every opportunity and benefit of providence. The gospel had been freely proclaimed to him. The fatted calf, the crucified Christ, full atonement and bountiful grace was clearly set before him. All the bounty of the Father’s house was his for the taking. But he refused everything. He would not give up his religion, he would not give up his righteousness for Christ. Like some of you, he lived all his live near the Father’s house, but would not enter in because he preferred his field of self-righteous slavery.


The only hope for proud, self-righteous legalists, the only hope for a Pharisee is that God almighty step in his path, throw him off his high horse into the dust, expose his sin and blind him with the glorious revelation of Christ, graciously forcing him to bow to the Christ he hates as his Lord.


A Reason For Joy


VII.        In verse 32 our Lord tells us that the salvation of sinners is a reason for joy and celebration.


(Luke 15:32)  "It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."


Old Brother Burk’s Testimony


“Preacher, I love you better than anybody I ever saw. Thank you for telling me about my Savior. It was a starlit night. The birds were still singing. You know, they never sang so sweet. Every last one of them had their voices changed since the night before. Every bird in the trees said, ‘Glad you’re saved, Bro. Burk, glad you’re saved.’ I looked up at the stars, and every one of them was winking at me saying, ‘Hallelujah! Bro. Burk, glad you’re saved.’ I began to run, I was so glad. I wanted to tell my wife, Mary, about it. I bounced up the steps and on the porch, and when I said, ‘Mary,’ she said, ‘You don’t need to say anything about it. The Lord saved you.’ ― My brethren, I have been walking with my Lord for 52 years., and I can’t tell you how glad I am that he saved me.”