Calvary Road Baptist Church


Luke 15.11-25

(Adapted from a sermon original preached by Asahel Nettleton)

This evening we consider the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.11-25:


11     And he said, A certain man had two sons:

12     And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

13     And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

14     And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

15     And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

16     And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

17     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.

22     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:

23     And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

24     For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

25     Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.


My goal is to give you a plain and practical explanation of this parable, that I hope will be of benefit to each and every one of you. Please take note of the fact that this is the third parable spoken by Christ on the same occasion. The two other parables served to illustrate what God does, or the part which He plays, in the recovery of a lost sinner. This parable is designed to show the criminality of the sinner and the nature of true conversion. You see, the Lord always spoke directly to the point of issues He was dealing with, and in that fashion this parable applies directly to the people it was addressed to.

The younger of the sons, the prodigal, represents the people mentioned in the first verse of this chapter. “Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.” The older brother represents the scribes and Pharisees mentioned in verse 2, who “murmured, saying, this man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.” So you see that the parable is strikingly applicable to the people and the occasion it was addressed to. Some of the Lord’s hearers, then, were no doubt in tears, mourning for their sins. However, Jesus had already assured them that no matter how the scribes and Pharisees might murmur and find fault with them, God and the holy angels were still rejoicing over them, provided their repentance was genuine. How was a man to know whether his own repentance was genuine or not, given the deceitfulness of human hearts? On this point, as you might imagine, they were eager and anxious to hear something further. So, to give them the further instruction they needed, the Lord spoke this parable.

Please understand that the history of the prodigal son presented in this parable is really a general history of every Christian’s experience. In the story as it is related here, every child of God can trace the outline of his own personal history. That being so, follow this parable and see its application. The parable contains two parts, representing the life of the Christian before, and then the life of the Christian at the time of, his conversion. We will consider the departing of the prodigal son and then the return of the prodigal son.




Verse 11: “A certain man had two sons, and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.” His father is represented as being kind, tender and affectionate, but the son is still not satisfied. In like manner is God much like a kind and tender parent, and yet sinners still do not love Him. Typically, a sinner will murmur at the circumstances and situations God has providentially arranged for him, and he shows little or no interest in those things related to his eternal welfare. Regardless of God and his future destiny, a sinner wants a big piece of what he estimates to be the good things of this world. And his desires are not expressed as humble requests to God, Who is the Father of mercies. Instead, his desires are expressed in the form of arrogant demands. “Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.” That is the language of a sinner’s heart, and of his conduct. Whatever may happen to his soul, he wants a big piece of this world and will complain and find fault if his appetites are not satisfied.

Verse 12: “And he divided unto them his living.” This represents God’s providential dealings towards mankind during this lifetime. You see, God is kind even to people who are evil and unthankful. Does not the sun shine on all men? And there are times when He provides extremely generous blessings to a man or to a woman. God does this, you see, to test that person. Such people as Lebron James and Bill Gates, and you, are being tested by God. Here is what happens. God’s goodness places a sinner who has received His blessings under a special obligation to love and serve Him in response to His goodness to him. However, these obligations are disregarded by the sinner.

Verse 13: “And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country.” Here we see the wicked tendency of a sinner to depart from God. The prodigal son took his journey into a far country. He wanted to be out of his father’s line of sight, something possible with a human father, but not with God. He wanted to feel free of all restraints and limitations on his actions. And he wanted to be at liberty to follow the wicked inclinations of his heart. Does this sound like a familiar song that used to be sung by a famous singer, now dead? Does this not sound like Frank Sinatra and his song, “I’ll do it my way”? How about the theme of the 70’s and 80’s? Is the prodigal son not just doing in his own culture and time what the recent moderns were doing when they talked about doing their own thing? So you see, it is typical for a sinner, when he gets far away from God, to throw off any restraints and go boldly into sin. He may fear people or parents finding out, but he has wandered so far from God that the thought of God’s presence doesn’t disturb him at all. He lives “without God in the world.”

“And there wasted his substance in riotous living.” Sin is expensive. A sinner uses the blessings God bestows on him for no better purpose than to gratify his depraved inclinations and lusts, to get what he wants. All the good things which God bestows upon him are used for selfish goals. God feeds him and clothes him, so he can live for God and serve God. But the sinner’s attitude is, “Who is the Almighty that I should serve Him?” God calls on him to join the Lord’s army, but instead he goes and joins God’s enemies. And instead of laboring to build up the kingdom of God, his activities end up damaging it. While working in the service of Satan, he thinks nothing about the hypocrisy of enjoying the benefits of God’s goodness at the same time. The sinner also wastes his advantage for securing eternal life. He is favored with a day of grace, is given a season for repentance, and is privileged with a precious opportunity to secure an interest in Christ and to lay up a treasure in heaven. But he just will not see to the concerns of his soul. Lift up your head and look around. This precious window of gospel opportunity God has given us will not be around forever. Despite the passing of God’s kind and heart-melting invitations, and the serious warnings directed to him in the Word of God, the sinner persists on the road to death and destruction. All the pain and effort taken for his conversion and salvation, so far as he is concerned, is lost. No, worse than lost, considering that all his abused privileges will be like weights to sink him deeper and deeper in Hell. He has lived so long, and yet nothing is done. He has wasted his privileges. He has heard so many sermons, and yet nothing is done. He has lived so many years, and wasted them all, and he continues to waste the precious day of salvation. The means is put into his hands to get wisdom, but he has no interest in it.

Verse 14: “And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land, and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his field, to feed swine.” The prodigal son now knows he is in a terrible situation. He has wasted all his money. He is in a land of famine. So, now that he has maxed out his credit cards he wonders what he is going to do next. But he has too much pride to be willing to return home to his father. So, he went and hooked up with a guy who, thinking he is good for nothing else, sent him into the fields to feed the hogs. This represents the condition of a sinner beginning to be awakened. He finds himself in a terrible condition. He is entirely destitute, has spent all that he had, is deeply in debt to the justice of God, is in a land of famine, and in a world that can give him no relief. He is now invited and encouraged to return home to God and cast himself on God’s mercy. But his proud heart recoils at the idea of doing that. He is too stubborn to confess his sin and ask for forgiveness. Neither can he bear the thought of actually serving God. Instead, he prefers the service of Satan, the god of this world. So, rather than break off his sins by deciding to do right, he serves the vilest of masters, and submits to the most degrading sins.

Verse 16: “And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks which the swine did eat.” This represents the unsatisfying nature of all sinful pleasures. A sinner may think he will find happiness in the enjoyment of the activities and distractions of this world, but he won’t succeed. Your soul will always be restless, and nothing in this world can satisfy your soul’s desires. He is never satisfied with what he has done. And the more he feeds his sinful appetites the stronger and more enslaving they become. It is just like feeding on husks to satisfy the cravings of hunger. The more a sinner attempts to satisfy himself with sinful pleasures and practices, the more uneasy and miserable he becomes. He plunges himself deeper and deeper in misery at every step. And yet he hangs on to his sins, and would like to satisfy himself with the pleasures of familiar sins. But he won’t succeed. My sinful friend, how can I manage to convince you of your foolishness? Look at this guy, this prodigal son. Go out into to the field where he works so hard. Watch him in that hog pen. See him feeding on husks, all the while in his father’s house there is plenty of food. See him just about starving with hunger. Now, go and beg him to return home to his father. Look at him. He does not realize what he is doing. Do you feel sorry for him? You ought to, for die he certainly must, unless he is somehow convinced to return to his father’s house. Go and take his husks away from him, and show him how foolish he has been. If, after all that, you cannot persuade the prodigal son to return to his father, if you have to leave him to perish in the field, then, my lost friend, if you cannot be persuaded to drop your sins and go home to God with humble repentance, I will have to leave you to perish in your own sins. Want to know why? Because, as Nathan said to David, “Thou art the man!” You see, you are the prodigal son!

“And no man gave unto him.” It would be typical that when the prodigal son was convicted of his sins he would be surrounded by his sinful buddies and pals, not one of which would encourage him to return to his father. Am I correct? If he had told them of his dire straits, they would probably have done their best to divert his attention by suggesting that they all go do something sinful together, which would only increase his torment. In any event, they would not do anything to relieve his wretchedness. This is the way it is with a sinner when he begins to be alarmed at his awful condition. He is right in the middle of a pack of other sinners who are ignorant of his condition, and not one of them really cares about him. Not one of them will point him to the Savior, and urge him to return home to God. If he tells his sinful buddies and pals about his distress, they will almost certainly mock him or attempt to divert his attention from any serious concern for his soul.

“And no man gave unto him.” Nor is it in the power of any man to relieve a sinner’s awakened conscience. No human being can help you. After running here and there looking for help, you sometimes begin to think you do not have a friend on earth. So, friendless and hopeless, you are almost ready to sink in despair. You fear that you are lost.




Verse 17: “And when he came to himself.” This is a real turning point. We have here a beautiful representation of the change which takes place in a sinner when his heart is graciously renewed by God. The implication is that he had been beside himself, and that he now had come to his right mind. What kind of sinner will not, today, return home to God like the repenting prodigal son? The Bible shows you to be a madman. “Madness is in their heart,” Ecclesiastes 9.3. Every unrepentant sinner is so insane that he can properly be said to be beside himself. I do not have time to expand on this point, but I need to tell you that if you do not return home to God today, like the repenting prodigal son, it is because you had rather run the tremendous risk of going to Hell for all eternity. So, tell me your opinion. Am I really out of line when I say that a person who is willing to run such a risk is spiritually insane? Back to our parable. The sinner has now come to himself. He looks back at his actions and decisions with a mixture of astonishment and genuine sorrow. He begins to think and turns his thoughts toward home and his father.

Verse 17: “How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger.” He now realizes how foolish he was to depart from his father, and wants to return. But he knows that he is unworthy to be received. He is not a guy with any self-esteem, not at this point in his life. At this point he is wondering if perhaps he has gone so far that his father will reject him as he tries to return. He says to himself, “Have I any hope of his forgiveness? Vile as I am, I’m going to try.”

Verse 18: “I will arise, and go to my father, and will say unto him, father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.” Study what his prodigal said, because what he said cannot be improved on. As we consider how important his resolution is, I urge you to make his words and thoughts your own words and thoughts. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee.” He knew he had sinned against the God of heaven. This is what grieved him. Not a word is said by way of excuse. He does not say, “Father, I have come to make my apology for what I have done. I hope you will overlook my past behavior, and I will try really hard to do better in future.” He does not say: “I am concerned about going to Hell.” That was not the thing which lay with the greatest weight on his mind. It was the thought that he had sinned against God. “Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight,” was what David said. What I have said so far about the prodigal son since he came to himself relates to the state of his heart. One day, while he sat somewhere thinking about his lost condition, all at once he came to himself. He began to see how stubborn he had been. As his thoughts turned on his past conduct his sins began to loom before him, almost overwhelming him. While he sat mourning and weeping, the thought occurred to him that he had never admitted his sins as he should. At the same time, he had a different view of the presence of God. You see, to this point he had been oblivious to God’s presence. Now, however, he realized that God was perfectly aware of all of his sins. During his wicked wanderings he never paid any attention to the eye of God that was constantly upon him, and that all his secret sins were clearly seen by God. To his shame and embarrassment, this brokenhearted sinner now begins to realize what he is and what he has done, and he resolves no longer to cover his sins, but to admit them without holding anything back.

Verse 20: “And he arose and came to his father.” His father was not ignorant of what had happened. There he was, standing on a hill or some kind of mound where he could see off a great distance, anxiously awaiting the return of his son.

“But while he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran.” The father was moved by what he saw. He did not say anything. He just ran. Mercy is swift, is it not? But what did he see? And why did he run? Off yonder, at a distance, you can see him. Whether you are convicted of your sins or are casual about your sins, look into the picture painted by the words of Christ’s parable. What a sight to behold! It is something worthy of your notice. Weighed down with distress, he has been a wretched wanderer from his father’s house for a long time, he has blown all his money and opportunities, he is worn down from his hard labor in the service sin, he has dumped all his sinful companions, he is coming directly from the field and from the nasty job of feeding the hogs, he is about to starve from malnutrition, and he does not have a single friend to help him. Weighed down under a sense of his sins, he moves along ever so slowly, while his father runs to meet him. Ashamed and a bit confused, you see him coming home just as he is, in all his poverty and rags. In this situation his father met him, fell on his neck, and kissed him. What a meeting this would be. Is it possible? Yes. You see, this is the compassion of God. Not a frown is seen on the father’s face. Not an angry word comes from his lips. With what kind of reception does the poor broken hearted sinner meet, who goes to God just as he is? Let us see.

It has only been a little while since he rose up to go to his father so he could admit his wrongdoing. But before he can do what he has purposed to do he is graciously received. Does that stop him from admitting his sin? Listen. What do you hear? “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” Why this admission, since he has already been warmly welcomed by his father? Because a sense of pardon, so far from lessening, tends only to increase the sorrow of the repentant person. The prodigal son considers it a privilege to admit and to acknowledge his sins. This admission, my friends, is a striking example of genuine repentance. You will recognize that it was not prompted by any fear of punishment, since his father had already kindly received him. This is the way it is with every truly repentant person. If there were no future punishment, he would still admit his sins with godly sorrow. Though forgiven of God, he will feel that he can never forgive himself. When the prodigal son first determined to return to his father he intended, after admitting his sins, to ask for some menial position as one of his father’s slaves. But before he had time to ask he was interrupted by his father.

Verse 22: “But the father said to his servants, bring forth the best robe and put it on him.” Remember that the prodigal son had been gone from home for a long time. He had blown all his money and was reduced to poverty and rags. And the moment he thought of returning home he felt ashamed of himself. He could barely stand the thought of appearing in his father’s presence in such ragged and tattered clothes. But there was no way for him to obtain better clothes, because he was so very poor, and had no money to buy clothes with. It would do no good to beg, because no one would give anything to him. And it would not do him any good to wait until things improved, because the longer he waited the worse his condition became. What a miserable guy a lost man is. You think about getting saved, but you are too ashamed to come as you are. You see, you have to come just as you are, wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, or you will never come at all. The longer you try to establish a righteousness of your own the more wretched you become. Understand, the best robe, the robe of Christ’s righteousness, is already prepared. This is the very best robe there is. And what’s more, it fits you perfectly. Wearing this robe, any sinner stands complete in the righteousness of Christ.

“And put a ring on his hand.” A token of friendship, a pledge that properly represents the unchanging, and never-ending love of God to the pardoned sinner.

“And shoes on his feet.” “Shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” He is now prepared to walk in obedience to God.

Verse 23: “And bring hither the fatted calf and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry.” The satisfaction found in the family of God is represented here by a feast.

Verse 24: “For this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” His return was matter of amazement. If he had actually come out from the grave, where he had long been buried and lost, it could not have been more surprising to folks. The whole thing just could not have been more wonderful to those who observed it. But such things as this happen whenever a sinner comes to Christ. We have people who would never be here, would never be here together, except for the fact that they are subjects of God’s wonderful grace. That is both amazing and wonderful.

“And they began to be merry.” His sorrow is now turned to joy. Never before did he know what true happiness was. And so it was with those sinners who had gathered around the Savior when this parable was spoken. It was that way when Philip preached in Samaria, in the book of Acts. “And there was great joy in that city,” Acts 8.8. It is that way whenever God pours out His Spirit and revives His work. And that is the way it will be wherever sinners are flocking to Christ. “Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing,” Isaiah 35.6. “And they began to be merry.” Here is the joy of the young convert.


At this point I need to stop. You see, it won’t do you lost folks any good for me to go any farther with this. Would you like to experience the joy that prodigal son experienced when he was embraced by his father and welcomed home?

If you would like his experience to be yours, then you need to hang on to one thought. One thought. Now, if you lose this thought you will lose your soul, so hang on to this thought.

Do you want what he got? Then do what he did. As Jesus said, “Go thou and do likewise.” You need to turn back and return to the Father by coming to Jesus, His Son.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.