Calvary Road Baptist Church


Luke 15.1-7

(Adapted from a sermon originally preached by Asahel Nettleton)


My text is Luke 15.1-7, where we will read the parable of the lost sheep:


1      Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.

2      And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

3      And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

4      What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

5      And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

6      And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

7      I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.


Jesus frequently taught by means of parables. His reason for doing this was to powerfully drive home certain truths using stories people would remember for a long time. This is because parables are at one and the same time simple, clear, striking and forceful. Rightly told, a parable can arrest the attention and imprint God’s truth into a person’s memory. The parable, which I have just read to you, was spoken as many people were gathered around the Savior. Verse 1 reads, “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.” Therefore, His audience was composed of people holding very different views and having very different feelings about things. No doubt, some were in tears, wanting to know what they should do to be saved. They did not come as spectators, not these people. They came to hear Him. Others, if the Lord’s remarks are any clue to us at all, may have already spiritually come home, like the prodigal son, and were now rejoicing in hope. Still others, it seems, were there with an entirely different agenda. They were proud, self-righteous and scornful. They were there for no other reason than to look on, observe, and find fault. Verse 2 informs us “the Pharisees and scribes murmured.” It made them angry to see sinners flocking around the Savior, with some no doubt weeping and with others rejoicing. So they muttered saying, “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” This was the Lord Jesus Christ’s audience. Obviously, then, the subject of His parable was well suited to the audience. It afforded encouragement to those who were repentant, but at the same time provided a pointed rebuke to those who stood there murmuring.

The parable was a direct response to the charge which the scribes and Pharisees brought against Him. “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.” Notice that Jesus did not deny, but fully admitted, the charge. He made no attempt to show that the sinners assembled around Him were less guilty than they supposed themselves to be. He admitted that they were lost and Hell deserving, something they themselves fully knew and felt to be true. Nor was He ashamed to acknowledge that He made it His business to seek and to save that kind of sinner. “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” Very true. Our Lord’s attitude was, You pursue your business and I will pursue mine. He then said, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?” This is what the Great Shepherd and bishop of souls said. He is declaring that these sinners gathered around Him have all gone astray, that they are lost and have no means or mind in them to return, and that His mission on earth is “to seek and to save that which was lost.” Which one of you, if you had a hundred sheep, and if one was missing, would not search the fields and the mountains until you had found it? In like manner, He indicates, I have descended from heaven to earth on this great mission, to gather together in one the children of God which are scattered abroad. On another occasion He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” My friends, I have no doubt that some of His sheep were standing right there, sheep who had wandered astray, but who were listening to His voice as He spoke.

You who murmur, Jesus questions, what would you do if you found that which was lost? You would broadcast your success to everyone you knew, saying, “Hey, everybody! I found my lost sheep! I found my lost sheep!” He goes on to say in verse 7, “I say unto you that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” At this point, we might inquire about the last part of verse 7. Who was Christ referring to when He made mention of “just persons, which need no repentance?” Some are of the opinion that our Lord was referring to self-righteous people. And, it is true, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 self-righteous people. However, self-righteous people are probably not who Jesus was referring to. First, because in the parable he calls them “just persons,” and the word “just” never means self-righteous. Second, because it is not true that self-righteous people need no repentance. They do need repentance.

Everyone needs repentance, and they must repent or perish. Do not think that Christ did not mean that they actually needed repentance, but only that they felt no need of repentance, like those He describes when He says, “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Oh, no. It is not true that Christ came not to call the self-righteous to repentance. He did come to call the self-righteous, and no one else, since all sinners are by nature, proud, stubborn and self-righteous. That is exactly the way the Apostle Paul was before his conversion. And thousands of sinners just like Paul have been brought to see their sinfulness, and to bend their knee and bow their head before Christ. Third, there is no joy in heaven over self-righteous people. You see, in this parable Christ is speaking of the great joy there is in heaven over one person who truly repents of his sin and comes to Christ. There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. How much joy is there? More joy, obviously, than over 99 for whom there is no joy. Therefore, self-righteous people are not referred to here by the Lord. It is true that the parable was addressed to self-righteous people. The scribes and Pharisees trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others, so they were certainly self-righteous. However, Jesus was merciful in not showing them directly that they were guilty, ruined, and lost sinners. There was no way they would have been open to being told that by anyone. Instead, knowing that they had to somehow be brought to see that this was their condition or they could not be saved, Jesus chose to use a parable.

His object was to convict them of being unreasonable in their conduct of murmuring when others repented of their sins. To do this He takes them on their own ground by conceding their point about the others as being true, because it is true. Let the scribes and Pharisees assume for a moment that they are righteous, and that the others are great sinners. The others are great sinners. If they were great sinners, then why would those who are righteous murmur at their repentance? After all, vile as they are, they do have souls of infinite value. Does not one soul that is lost suffer more pain in Hell than all the pain endured during the normal span of life by the entire human race? Even the past sufferings of all the damned in Hell are not to be compared with the miseries of one soul suffering through the boundless ages of eternity in the lake of fire.

Is not, then, the salvation of but one soul of infinite importance? Should it not be a matter of joy on earth to witness one sinner brought to real repentance? Should not such an event touch the heart of every genuinely saved person? What kind of heart must a man have that can rejoice at finding a lost pet or a valuable piece of jewelry, but cannot rejoice at the repentance and salvation of a lost sinner? If friends celebrate together over such trivialities as who wins a basketball game or who wins a prizefight, how should the friends of the Savior rejoice when one sinner repents? Such good news ought to travel fast. Amen? What celebration, what joy, and what delight would be seen by everyone. Surely, this is the way it would be if there really were those who had never sinned, and who needed no repentance. They would be the very first to gather and rejoice together on such an occasion. It is true, then, that there are no such persons on earth. Strictly speaking, “there is none righteous, no, not one.” However, if there were 99 just people who had never committed a single sin, who were never lost, and who needed no repentance, what a group that would be. Amen? What a sight! Such a group as this old earth has never seen. Yet, the repentance and salvation of one sinner is a matter of more joy to God’s holy angels than is the happy condition of the 99 who had never been lost.

Therefore, despite how strange it seems to us down here on earth, this is what the Lord Jesus Christ says it is like in heaven when a sinner is saved. Whenever Christ finds a lost sinner on earth and he is brought to true repentance, the angels of heaven seize upon the occasion to rejoice together. And their joy is actually greater than over 99 just persons who have never fallen.

With this foundation of truth laid, consider six truths highlighted by this parable”




If sinners were not lost, Christ would not have come to seek and save them. “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” He has come from heaven to earth and shed His precious blood to save sinners precisely because they “will not come to him that they might have life,” John 5.40. Illustrating, of course, that sinners are out of His fold and that they have no part or lot in His kingdom. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” John 3.36.

The unsaved are just like people lying in an open field, exposed to the storm of God’s wrath, that is coming on the world of the ungodly. They are wandering farther and farther from God, and at any moment could fall into the pit of destruction. They are lost, and yet totally blind to their lost condition.




The Good Shepherd knows the precise number of His sheep who are missing. Therefore, if one of them has gone astray, He knows it. Think about it. Would He go after a lost sheep if He did not know it was gone and would not, of itself, return? In John 10.16 He says, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” Additionally, He knows who they are and what their names are. In John 10.3 Jesus said, “He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.”

He also knows how far His sheep have wandered in the paths of sin and foolish behavior. This is because His eyes are ever upon them, and He follows them in all of their wanderings. Perhaps there is one more lost sinner in this group of people to be saved. Where are you? What is your name? The Lord Jesus Christ knows. Yes, “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his,” Second Timothy 2.19.




Consider two things about Christ finding the sinner:

First, Jesus finds the sinner in his sins. When Jesus finds that sinner, he is oftentimes careless about his soul, too foolish to fear God, and suppressing any desire to pray while he wanders farther and farther away from God, from happiness, and from heaven. The Savior often comes upon him by surprise in the midst of his wickedness, and awakens him to a sense of his guilt. He then trembles and is alarmed. But he is unwilling to return, and he usually wants to run away from the Savior. No sinner will ever awaken himself. Left to yourself, not a single sinner in this auditorium will ever begin to diligently seek the salvation of your own soul. “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God,” Psalm 10.4. “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God,” Romans 3.11. Every Christian knows this to be true of himself. He knows that after he was awakened, if the Spirit of God had left him he would have returned to his sinful lifestyle. Everyone who has found the Savior will acknowledge that the Savior first found him. “Since we have known God, or rather are known of God,” Paul wrote in Galatians 4.9.

Second, this parable may correct a very common mistake among sinners. You see, sinners oftentimes think they are seeking Christ, and wonder why they fail, when they are motivated only by the fear of Hell. They think they are following hard after Christ, but have the feeling that He is departing from them. They flatter themselves, thinking that if they hold on their way they shall soon overtake Him. They take it for granted that they are ready and willing, and that they are now laboring hard to make Christ willing. However, the very reverse is true, as we are taught in this parable. Sinners are actually departing from Christ, and in order to find Him they must not hold on their way, but stop and turn. They are all as sheep going astray, and the Good Shepherd is calling upon them to return, saying, “turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die.” When He finds them, He finds them wandering farther and farther from Him. And when they hear His voice it is behind them, “saying, this is the way, walk ye in it.”




Notice two things about this joy:

First, the contrast of this joy. It is contrasted with the joy that is exhibited over the just and holy beings that need no repentance. You see, joy this great was never the result of any other created being as much as that which resulted from a repenting and returning sinner. Joy so great was never connected to an angel of light. Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, was never the cause of so much joy in heaven. We can consider 99 holy angels and then say, “There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over these ninety and nine just persons.” The creation of the world was a joyful event when “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” But this is not to be compared with the joy over one sinner that repents. The earth on which we live was created to serve God’s purpose of saving sinners, as a stage on which to display the wonders of redeeming love to an admiring universe. “To the intent that now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,” Ephesians 3.10. If the question is asked, why did the Son of God become a man? In the repentance of a lost sinner you have the answer. “He came to seek, and to save that which was lost.” “He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Why did the angels announce to the shepherds the news of His birth and sing “glory to God in the highest?” In the repentance of a lost sinner, you have the answer.

Next, the confines of this joy. This joy is not confined to angels. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself rejoices. Why did the Son of God leave the bosom of His Father, condescend to be in a manger, and then to suffer and die on the cross? In the repentance of a lost sinner you see the glorious object which He had in view accomplished. For this He bled and died. Here He sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied. This is the fruit of His toil, His shame, His sufferings, and His death. “Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame.” Every Christian, in his turn, has occasioned this joy in heaven.




The angels rejoice every time another soul is added to the company of the redeemed. The 99 who are already redeemed seem to be forgotten when, with wonder and joy, they behold their new companion with whom they expect to dwell forever. Now, could we know, as well as the angels do, the reality of a sinner’s repentance, we would know better when and how to rejoice. You see, the news of a sinner’s repentance must be received by Christians on earth with mingled emotions. They “rejoice with trembling” when a sinner is hopefully converted.

While believers delight in each other’s company, the news that a soul is converted excites in them a very special joy. For a time, they seem to forget themselves and each other. They cannot help but get together and rejoice in celebration of a lost sheep being found. This is wonderful, since Christ Himself rejoices, and He says unto His disciples, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost,” Luke 15.6.




What must have been in the hearts of those scribes and Pharisees who stood there murmuring while converted publicans and sinners drew near to Christ to hear the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth? While angels in heaven were rejoicing over those sinners, there they stood murmuring. What a contrast! The Savior Himself, and all His holy angels, were rejoicing over the repentance of these sinners, but there stood the pretenders, murmuring and finding fault and saying, “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” How must their conduct have appeared to the angels. How must their conduct have appeared to God.


Folks, if you had been present on this occasion, which part of the audience would you have been in? Would you have rejoiced at the sight of sinners flocking to the Savior, and weeping for their sins? Or would you have joined with those that murmured? Bring this subject home to your heart. How would you like to see sinners flocking to Christ here at Calvary Road Baptist Church? However, the question is, is your heart prepared to welcome new Christians in this way? Think about the conviction and conversion of some sinners you know, perhaps a friend or relative. How did the news of that person’s hopeful conversion affect you? Did you receive the news with joy, or were you just ho hum and full of skepticism?

Let me put the question to you today. How does the whole subject of the conviction and conversion of sinners affect you? It is a subject in which God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and believers and angels, are all interested. Everyone in heaven is moved at the repentance of one sinner. So, if your heart is not deeply interested in this subject it is because you have an extremely serious spiritual problem.

Beware of deceiving yourself in a matter of such infinite importance. If you cannot rejoice in the repentance of sinners, you do not have the Spirit of Christ. If you cannot rejoice at the repentance of other sinners, you have never yet repented of your own sins and your heart is not right in the sight of God. For those who die with such a heart as you have, there is no happiness, and no heaven hereafter. If such news irritates your heart and grates on your ear now, and if you are a person who likes to get up and walk away from such scenes, where can you go at the solemn hour of your death? Can you enter heaven and be happy there? I do not think so.

You see, heaven is filled with this joyful theme. There the news of the conversion of every repentant person on earth will be broadcast. And every saint, and every angel that sings in glory, will proclaim it in loud shouts and songs around the throne of God and the Lamb. There, too, the story of your own repentance will have to be told before you leave this world, or you can never join the company of angels and the spirits of just men made perfect in heaven.

To all you who are unsaved here today, let me mention this by way of conclusion. You have seen what an interest angels take in the repentance of one sinner. Will there ever be joy in heaven over your repentance? Wherever the gospel is preached with the Holy Spirit of God sent down from heaven, there angels are hovering around to witness the effects. “Which things the angels desire to look into,” First Peter 1.12. Oh yes. Angels attend and observe every one of our worship services, to see the effects of the gospel when it is preached.


“Invisible to mortal eyes they go,

And mark our conduct, good or bad, below.”


My unsaved friend, there are angels at this very moment waiting to carry the news of your response to this message back to the throne room in heaven. Must they stoop, and gaze, and wait in vain for your response? Have you no tears to shed for your sins?


“O ye angels hovering round us,

Waiting spirits, speed your way,

Hasten to the court of heaven,

Tidings bear without delay;

Rebel sinners

Glad the message will obey.”


The Lord Jesus Christ loves you, my friend. He left heaven to come and shed His blood for you, and He has now returned to His Father’s right hand while He searches after you with the gospel. He calls after you. You flee deeper into sin. He calls again. You continue to run from Him. Won’t you just stop running from Him and answer His call? Turn to Christ wherever you are, right now.

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