Spiritual Disciplines (04) - Evangelism and the Prodigal Son
Luke 15:1–3, 11–32 - Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. 2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He told them this parable, saying, 11 And He said, “A man had two sons. 12 “The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth (bios) between them....
1) Evangelistic Compassion - The “prodigal son” parable is well known, though many people miss the point. Four observations about this marvelous, unresolved parable: a) It is actually the parable of “The Two Sons.” b) Though, we often identify with the profligate son, rather than the elder son, the plain purpose of the story is that the elder brother will be convicted of a lack of compassion for the lost, the “dead” and rejoice with the father. (Often the “coda” in a parable is the point.) c) “Prodigal” means “wasteful, extravagant, excessive.” In the story we see the wayward son is prodigal in a sense, but the father is also accused of being prodigal by the older brother: “you killed the fattened calf for him.” d) The younger son rejected the father by only wanting his “wealth.” The older brother rejected the father by rejecting his compassionate character (e.g., “Look!” (idou) “son of yours” v29).
2) Evangelistic Conduct - If we rejoice in the compassion of the Father toward sinners and accept his way of grace and mercy, then we are to act as His ambassadors. Paul expresses our task practically in Col. 4:5-6: “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:5-6). If we are to be obedient in evangelism, we must a) Cultivate opportunities with outsiders (Col. 4:5ff). This means in ordinary life, we take advantage of our relationships. We must create opportunities to relate outsiders. b) Cultivate gracious speech with those outside. Our speech must be “seasoned with salt.” We need wisdom and wit. c) Cultivate personal relationships. We must address people as individuals. Our response (apokrinomai) to “anyone who asks” for “the reason of the hope within us” (1 Peter 3:15) is to be tailored to “each” person and context (Col. 4:6).
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more