Having discovered that they were both wrong, the father decides to show love. The younger brother was surprised at the love of the father; he had planned to pay back the inheritance he received from his father based on his conclusion that working as one of his father’s hired servants would enable him payback (though its unknown how long he intended to work for in order to payback). This was called restitution according to their culture and custom. Unknown to this boy, he required a lot more than restitution to be restored. He needed to be Saved and for restoration to take place; his father would have to offer it to him.
The elder brother on the other hand had the same fundamental problem but was oblivious to it. He never knew he needed his father to offer him the same love and restoration. In his mind, he had not done anything wrong so there was no need to repent of any sin, not to talk of restitution. He believed that through his “good works”, he had to be rewarded by his father. He needed to be at the feast and there was nothing in him that could make him walk into the feast because it was not in him. No human being can look for God until God offers Himself to such a person; hence the resistance when he felt his father was being partial in restoring his brother. According to him, his brother didn’t deserve to be restored, no matter the circumstance.
From the story, there were three dimensions to the meaning of the word “SIN”. The younger son would have defined SIN as the wrong he did when he took his part of the inheritance, went away into a far country and squandered all with nothing to show for it. So was it because he asked for his inheritance from the father, or what he did with the inheritance that made him to SIN? No wonder he devised a way to payback. For the elder brother, his own definition of SIN would have been breaking a set of rules and regulation set by the custom of the day, but we find that he ended up not being part of the feast. Lastly, for their father, his perspective of SIN was that his two sons would need to be restored because of the fundamental and original sin imputed at birth (The Sin Nature).
According to their father, Sin is not just breaking a particular set of rules, it is putting ourselves in the place of God as Savior, Lord and Judge, just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in their lives; they both were looking for their own way to get judgment. A man who has not trespassed on the list of moral misbehaviors can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most decadent and depraved person. This is the state of mankind when they come into this world. Sin has been imputed right from birth and it is the imputed sin we ought to be saved from – the root itself. This is what Jesus came to earth to pay for – He became Sin; He never sinned neither did He have the Sin Nature imputed in Him, so anyone who receives Him as Lord and Savior can become the righteousness of God.
Consequently, their father’s outlook on SIN was different and he needed to restore both of his sons. They didn’t have it in them to look for salvation because all they both knew was the resultant effect of the SIN NATURE. The thoughts in the heart of man was only continuously evil; no one was righteous and no one was good. We have all been involved in this same process of self-salvation, where we do the things God has asked us to do in order to “get the blessings”. The average human being believes when he does good, he would be rewarded with power and control coupled with the idea that God owes it to them to give whatever they ask for or want. We are like these two brothers!
Some of us have an idea that we could be born CHRISTIANS just because our parents are Christians, but that’s not true. When anyone is born, the SIN NATURE is imputed through the genes of our parents to us. That’s the reason why the bible says, “All have sinned and have come short of the glory of God”. The irony of this is that we cannot go to God because the things about God cannot be spiritually discerned by our carnal mind. So just like these two brothers, we need help from the Father to put us right.
Just like their father loved both and invited both to the feast, every human being needs the same invite from God so that we can be part of those that God imputes righteousness into, thereby having life eternal. It was their father’s choice to invite his sons to the feast, just as it would be God’s choice to save whomever He wants. God must come to us when it comes to the issue of salvation; we can’t choose Him until He chooses us first. The same was expressed in the Book of John when Jesus said, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained that you bring forth fruits”.
We look back at the beginning of the story and Jesus’ audience (the Jews) as they listened with intent to the parable. They would have picked up from the story that the elder brother was as bad as the younger brother; both needed to be forgiven and loved. They would also have found out that the story did not end on the same note for both brothers – they risked not making it like the elder brother. Although he stayed at home, he was more distant and alienated from his father compared to his younger brother being blinded to his real condition.
Jesus pointed out in His story that the father is a type of God; the elder brother, a type of the Pharisees or the Jewish sect and the younger brother, a type of the Gentiles. The elder brothers’ spirit is such that they believe and think they are righteous and by that getting blinded by the things God is doing around them as the people of God and at the end, missing the complete plan of God for their lives.
It is by Grace that we have been saved: It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does; the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. But don’t take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God’s ways had no idea of any of this, didn’t know the first thing about the way God works, hadn’t the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God’s covenants and promises in Israel, hadn’t a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. Now because of Christ—dying that death, shedding that blood—you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything.
I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love – C H Spurgeon