Parable Of The Lost Sheep
by Doyle D. Dewberry
TEXT - Luke 15:1-7
"Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, 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? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 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. 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."
This is the first in a trilogy of events which have very much in common. There was the Father and the prodigal son, the Shepherd and the lost sheep, and the Woman and the lost coin. There were factors seen in both which was responsible for the finding or return of the object, a factor of effectual and persistant searching for the lost. There was filial relationship, pity for the sheep, and value of the coin, all typical of one of God's people. There was rejoicing and celebration on the return of the object, which speaks of that taking place in heaven over the repentance and return of one God's elect. Most importantly was that which we learn in the salvation of everyone of God's people.
When I look for lost sheep - I am looking for any sheep. When the Lord looks for sheep - He is looking for His own sheep - one of His fold. The sheep I may find is the one He has been seeking to save - even one of whom He knows his name (John 10). One of our problems in understanding this parable has to do with the "when" of our salvation. We general thinking of it is at the time we believe, but His people are those given to Him before the foundation of the world. God sees us as His people before we were ever born, yea, before the world began. When we believe, it is just our Lord finding us, as this lost sheep, and we are returned to the fold. It is a matter of our status before Adam, before the fall, and after Adam and after the fall! While all men fell with Adam, so also did God's people, which He had chosen before time began! Know unto God are all His works from the being of the world (Acts 15:18).
a. What is the occasion for this parable? The religious people of the day were complaining because the Lord was receiving and eating with sinners (v. 1-3). The same occasion is true today. We have the religious but lost, and they look down upon the poor sinner (they consider themselves not sinners), even those who appear to be Divinely drawn unto the Lord and salvation! Unless a man sees himself a sinner, and lost, he cannot be saved, for the Lord came to seek and to save the lost sinner!
b. Who is the shepherd? The Lord Jesus is the Good shepherd who has come to save His people from their sins, (Matt 1:21) and, yea, even to give His life for the sheep. (John 10).
c. What sheep does He look for! The sheep He seeks are those whose names were written in the Lamb's book of life before the world began, and as a result of the fall by Adam, are His lost sheep! Christ's sheep will or do believe, and are designated as His Sheep. There are many other sheep in the world, but they are not His sheep. Jesus said of them, Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep .. my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:26,27).
d. Who are the ninety and nine that He has left in the wilderness? This parable is given in shorter form by Matthew, and there we learn more of the ninety and nine. They are those which went not astray In Luke's account of the parable he only tells us they were those he left behind while he sought this one lost sheep. They are the found sheep. He also records our Lord speaking of the ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance (v. 7). We do not assume the latter are the same which he left while seeking the one lost one. Since the sheep are metaphorically speaking of this people, they are a people which need on-going repentance, and the numbers our Lord gives can speak of both His people, and those who are so self-righteous, they consider they need not repent! We give the word, as given by Matthew, below to show who the ninety and nine are that were left while our Lord sought the lost one!
For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray (Matt 18:11-13).
Five Factors in this parable which reveal the Lord's saving of all His sheep:
I. The sheep was a particular sheep who was a lost one. Our Lord was not seeking just any sheep, but one of HIS sheep. If He had seen ninety-nine other sheep, it would not have deterred Him in His search for the one sheep which was His, but lost! There were many sheep in the world, but He sought His own.
II. The sheep was a lost sheep, and we are told the Lord seeks that lost one, for it is said He Goes after that which is lost (v. 4). Remember the words of our Savior who said that He came to seek AND TO SAVE that which was lost Evangelism is no more than our finding those whom the Lord seeks, and while we know them not before, He knows them, has purposed their salvation, and thus He foreknows them, and has predestined them (Rom 8:28.29). Notice also the occasion of His sending His disciples out to gather in His sheep, showing us that salvation was to the Jew first (Rom 1:16), but only includes His lost sheep:
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the LOST SHEEP OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL (Matt 10:5-6).
The import of this verse is in what He did not say. He did not say "Go ye to the house of Israel, the lost sheep", but they were to go to the lost sheep OF the house of Israel. They did not go to every Israelite in the land! Paul taught, All of Israel is not of Israel (Rom 9), indicating there is an Israel according to the flesh, and one according to the Spirit! A true Jew is not one outwardly, but one inwardly -- and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God (Rom 2:28,29).
III. The Shepherd was an Effectual Shepherd V 4. We are told our Lord would seek His sheep until He find it. There is a good example of His doing so in going to Zacchaeus. It was Jesus' main purpose in going through Jericho. While Zacchaeus was up in the tree where he could see the passing Savior, the Savior came to him, telling him to come down, for he is told, Today .. I MUST ABIDE at thy house. This man was a publican (who are cited along with sinners in our text). Publicans were Jews working with the Romans collecting taxes from the people, and hated in Israel, but the Lord loved him!
And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:1-10).
IV. The Sheep was a helpless sheep (v. 5). He was so enabled by his being lost in the wilderness, that he could not come to the fold as other sheep, so the Lord carried him there on His shoulders, as we are told: when he findeth it, he layeth it on his shoulders. You will never find sinners coming to Christ before He first comes to them, and on one will enter heaven, as this sheep the fold, except on the shoulders of the Savior Himself. Salvation is not something that man does for God - but that which God does for man! God is the God of salvation. Consider repentance which is not first of man, but first of God:
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that THE GOODNESS OF GOD LEADETH THEE TO REPENTANCE? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Rom 2:1-9).
V. The Shepherd rejoiced over finding the sheep, and sought his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him (v. 6). It is typical of that which takes place in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine, the self-righteous, who need no repentance. If we keep in mind that this parable also includes the woman who lost the coin (drachma), and the father who lost a son. They represent the triune-Godhead in the salvation of sinners. We have the Father, the Son, and the Spirit represented. The latter may be a little difficult to understand, but the Holy Spirit is like a mother to the Church, even though He is spoken of as in the masculine. He broods over the Church much as He did in creation (Gen 1:2).
Consider also, in the following, that which can be said which did not lead to the saving of this sheep!
1. It was not saved by any law or good works. We are told, By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight, and that our salvation is by grace -- not of works. Works are for those who are already saved, for we the workmanship of God, created unto good works (Eph 2).
2. It was not saved by seeking the Lord. As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one (Rom 3:10-12).
3. It was not saved by praying. Praying is for those already saved. It is so set forth in the Scriptures. When Paul was writing to the Church in Rome, he said, Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Rom 8:26-27).
4. It was not saved through a witness other than the Shepherd, which speaks of the Lord Jesus. This is not to say that God's people are not saved through another witnessing, but it does demonstrate that man is not always necessary in the salvation of anyone. Peter brought the message of salvation to the Gentiles (all through the leading of the Lord for him to do so), but the apostle Paul was saved on the road to Damascus by the personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Himself, and that after the Lord's ascension into heaven itself! We sometimes get the opinion that no one can be saved unless man speaks to them. It is one way, but not the only way. Missionaries sometimes feel unless they go to a certain country, no one could be saved there, but God has not put the fate of man in man's hands, but in His own! Many have been saved from reading the Scriptures only (the testimony of this writer), others from reading messages in papers and books. Preaching the Gospel is accomplished by publishing as well as proclaiming!
In conclusion, we can say this, that we can learn much of man's salvation in our Lord's parable of the lost sheep. The sheep was saved through the efforts of the Good Shepherd who sought the sheep, and sought it until he found it, and carried it home on his shoulders. So it is with the Lord Jesus and the salvation of His people given to Him before the foundation of the world!
- Jesus my Shepherd is;
'Twas He that loved my soul,
'Twas He that washed me in His blood,
'Twas He that made me whole:
'Twas He that sought the lost,
That found the wand'ring sheep;
'Twas He that bro't me to the fold,
'Tis He that still doeth keep.
Doyle Dewberry, formerly of Alameda, California, is a retired Pastor and author of Sovereign Grace Baptist Proclaimer, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org