The inimitable Charles Hodge, distinguished preacher and author, has written a book on, “Will God Run?” giving the answer as “Yes! Yes! God will run! To save them who come unto him.” The only one who came to meet the returning prodigal was his father.

God did not save him because he repented, nor because he walked all the way back home, but for one reason, and get this, people, He forgave him because he was his son! We are saved by grace, and don’t you forget it!

And he arose, and came to his father. But while he was yet afar off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

Luke 15:20 ASV


Actually, this is the parable of two sons, the elder brother being no less lost than was the prodigal; but, by the consent of all mankind, it is known by the title above.

A preacher once delivered a sermon before four hundred men in prison; and, upon the announcement of this parable as the subject, a mighty groan went up from the four hundred vigorous masculine throats; and after the sermon, the chaplain revealed that upon four successive Sundays the guest speakers had based their remarks upon this parable!

There are two applications of it. First, the prodigal son represents the Gentiles who rebelled against God and departed from the Father’s house.

The elder brother represents the Jewish religious establishment who remained, nominally, in the fold of God, but who nevertheless became proud, self-righteous, unfeeling recipients of the Father’s mercy, having lost all contact with the Father.

Significantly, the older brother went to the servants, instead of to the Father, with questions about the joyful celebration.

The love of God for both Jews and Gentiles is seen in the Father’s reception of both sons, his reinstatement of the prodigal, and his entreating of the older brother.

The second, and more general, application of the parable has regard to the men of every generation.

That this parable is an unqualified tragedy, first to last, may not be doubted, despite the rejoicing over the return of the prodigal; and, as is the case in many of Jesus’ teachings, the total unworthiness of the human race in the sight of God is plainly taught.

To be sure, people are precious in God’s sight; God loves them; God offered His Son upon Calvary for their redemption; and one redeemed soul is valued above the world and everything in it (Mark 8:36,37); but Jesus was careful to use illustrations, such as this parable, in such a manner as to show beyond any shadow of doubt that no man DESERVES salvation through his own merit.

The prodigal son did not merit the honorable reinstatement he received of the father; nor did the hard-hearted elder brother deserve the father’s entreaty at the end of it.

In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-6), both those workers who came in the eleventh hour and received reward, and those who worked all day and complained against the householder, proved themselves to be without merit.

The same situation is seen in the parable of two sons (Matthew 21:28-32); who would wish to have a son like either one of them?

Likewise, in the parable of the marriage of the king’s son (Matthew 22:12-14), neither the nobility who scorned the invitation, nor the rabble that accepted it, had any quality of character that could have merited the invitation.

and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding-garment?

And he was speechless.

Then the king said to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and cast him out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

For many are called, but few chosen.
Matthew 22:12‭-‬14 ASV

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