Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology

Parable Of The Lost Coin

by Doyle D. Dewberry

  • "Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
  • And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
  • Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. -Luke 15:8-10"

Let us first answer the question, What is a parable? It is a transliteration of the Greek word, paraboln, and is formed from two words: the preposition para meaning "along beside of" - and boln meaning "a casting". The two words together then mean "a casting along beside of" some truth; "to place something along beside another" to teach some important truth. The word appears over 45 times in the New Testament.

THE OCCASION FOR THE PARABLES Luke 15:1-3). The three parables in this chapter form a trilogy of truths. It begins with the murmurring Pharisees and scribes concerning Jesus receiving publicans and sinners and eating with them. Some of the more religious people of the day, as well as some in our day, were blind to their own corrupt nature, going about to establish their own righteousness (Rom 10:3), and certainly did not believe themselves to be sinners. It has been said from the human standpoint, "The hypocrite is more difficult to convert than the gross sinner." The Bible is very plain in stating, All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). The Pharisee prided himself in all that he did for religion's sake.

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner (Luke 18:10-13).

The religious man thinks of his works rather than grace, and faith; the true candidate for salvation thinks of his sins and pleads grace, and receives such through faith. The publican described above went to his house justified while the Pharisee was condemned. Some feel these parables speak of one who is back-slidden, since they were previously owned and were returned. However, this view must be dismissed as they were considered lost, and the son was said to be so (v.24). One must consider, however, that the previous possession of the objects found speaks of the people given to the Son in covenant mercy before the foundation of the world. And due to the fall they were lost, and in the present age are sought out and reclaimed.

THE IMPORT OF THE THREE PARABLES: The three parables of this chapter, then, were given by our Lord to reveal the reason He associated with sinners - they were lost, as sheep, and in need of a seeking Shepherd; as lost coins, as items of value, and in need of one to diligently search to recover them; of a Fathers's lost son, as good as dead, and in need of an invisible power to bring him home. Thus He tells of the Shepherd seeking his lost sheep; the woman, seeking her lost coin; and the Father, in His powerful way, seeking his lost son.

In all three instances, the item lost had previously been the possession of the one seeking it. The Shepherd had 100 sheep; the woman had 10 pieces of silver; the Father had 2 sons. The sheep sought was not some stray sheep, but one of a hundred which was lost, and the Shepherd was not just looking for any lost sheep, only his own sheep; another would not do. The coin was not just any coin, but one of ten which was lost, and the woman would not be content on just finding coins, only the one she lost. Of course the son was the son of the Father, and it was this one he cared for, and desired his return. There also appears to be a personal motive for seeking them: pity for the straying sheep; value for the lost coin (howbeit, the single coin was of small worth); filial relationship with the lost son.

THE APPLICATION OF THE PARABLES: Many do not see the significance of the application because they think in terms of a shepherd and his sheep, a woman and her coin, and a father and his wayward son. However, it appears to be a dramatic display of the Triune God-head seeking His people. It was our Lord who said, when explaining the salvation of the publican, Zacchaeus, For the Son of man is come TO SEEK AND TO SAVE that which was lost. (Luke 19:10). It appears the reason only for His passing through Jericho in seeking this publican.

It seems simple to understand the above with the Shepherd, as Jesus claimed to be the Good Shepherd that giveth His life for the sheep (John 10). Also, there is no problem with equating the father of the prodigal to our Heavenly Father and His prodigal sons. It may, however, appear to be difficult in seeing the woman "cast along side" to speak of the Holy Spirit. Consider these likenesses of all three of the participants in the parables:

They are always successful. Man is not always successful. They are effectual and the objects of their find are always without resistance. If it were mere men (or women) they can be resisted. They all persevered until the lost object was recovered. The Shepherd sought the sheep until he find it (v.4). And the woman sought the coin until she find it (v.8). Also, it was not the son who saw the father as he sought to return, but his father saw him while yet a great way off. (v.20). There is even perseverance here as the father was continually looking for the son to return. They represent those only who seek the lost as we see displayed in the gospels. Man has other motives in most cases.

We have selected the parable of the lost coin for its difficulty, and thus we seek to show that this message shows the spiritual significance of a woman losing a coin - diligently searching until she finds it - and calling on her friends and neighbors to rejoice in her finding the coin. We intend to show how it pictures the Spirit searching out God's people until He finds them - brings them to the place of repentance - which is rejoiced over in the presence of the angels by our God in heaven.


I - THE IDENTIFICATION OF THE WOMAN (v.8): The Spirit functions somewhat as a mid-wife over God's work in salvation. While His identification through His name is neuter in gender, He is referred to as masculine repeatedly, yet consider that it is his responsibility for every one of God's children being born again. They are said to be born of the Spirit (John 3:5-8). It must be kept in mind that regeneration of God's people cannot take place until the Spirit first seeks and finds the recipient of this grace, and thus the connection to the parable given by our Lord of the woman seeking and finding the lost coin. And remember too, man does not participate in the work but only to respond as any child at birth, thus the expressions revealing such in the passive voice - man being acted upon. One can see the need of the Spirit in the work due to man's inability. Also the birth of the Lord Jesus in His incarnation was attended to by the Spirit of God. Mary knew not a man, and we are told that the angel told her of the manner of her conception:

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:34-35).

Some feel the woman speaks of the Church, but as Alford informs us, (she) "cannot be the Church absolutely, for the Church herself is a lost sheep at first, sought and found by the Shepherd ... but (she represents) the indwelling Spirit, working in it ... In this parable then we have set before us the sinner who is unconscious of himself and his own real worth; who is lying, though in reality a precious coin, in the mire of this world, lost and valueless, till he is searched out by the blessed and gracious Spirit" (Henry Alford, Greek New Testament, vol.1, p.590).

There are times when the Spirit functions as a female bird. In creation, we are told the Spirit moved (brooded) over the face of the waters (Gen 1:1). The word moved is used of a mother bird "fluttering" over her nest. Along this theme, Moses composed a song in which he included the Divine one who led Jacob in the desert, and there describes Him as an eagle stirreth up her nest (thus a female eagle), fluttereth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings - so the Lord alone did lead him .. (Deut 31:11,12). Is it not symbolic of the Spirit's work of caring for and leading of God's people as He did Jacob herein described? Again, in Exod 19, God informed Moses to tell the people of how He bore them on eagles' wings out of Egypt. In light of such language concerning the Spirit, it is not difficult to see the woman in the parable demonstrating the work of the Spirit in the salvation of God's people.

II - THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PIECE OF SILVER (v.8): How much like the silver coin are God's people to Him! Before its loss, it was a shining piece of silver and to its owner it had value. But it has no value to its owner when lost. Look at Adam, the father of us all, who, before the fall, was as this coin until he disobeyed, losing his esteem to His maker, and as a result hid himself in the garden. He would be there to his death if the Lord God had not sought him out. No man seeketh after God (Rom 3), for till we are Divinely sought - we are eternally lost. The coin, while lost, covered in the dust, had lost its beauty, becoming tarnished as silver does when neglected. Yet the coin, lost as it was, did continue to bear the image and superscription of the king, though it did not know it, and did not know it was lost. Paul gives us some of this truth in Eph 2:1-3:

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Notice Paul's words! We were spiritually dead, but we were children, though disobedient ones, and by nature, the children of wrath. And he is addressing us, as we all, and our flesh. He is not speaking of all peoples without distinction. The lost sheep was still a sheep (not all are the Lord's sheep - see John 10:26-27). The lost coin was still the woman's coin. The son was still a son, though a lost one, one considered dead by the father. (Luke 15:24).

The coin, when found, is no doubt restored to its original beauty and shine. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (creation). Our re-birth is a new birth - we are born again! The saved man is described as a new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph 4:24).

So consider God's people. Before the fall of Adam, God's people had value, but with Adam's sin, and man's ruination before God, it was tarnished and of no value to his God. But when found, through regeneration, being born again by the Spirit, man is restored to his original place in the sight of God and to Him has value. As the coin regained its former value being found, so the new man in Christ.

Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him (Col 3:9-10).

Why does our Lord use a coin to teach of salvation? Because the coin was passive in being found! With the sheep there was feeling and emotion. It was also true of the prodigal son when he was drawn to his father. But with the coin it had not the ability to find itself, but to respond only to its rightful owner who found it - exactly as it is true in our born again experience where man is passive - as what does a babe do to bring about its own birth? So it is with the new birth! (See Titus 3:5). Reliable sources say the lost coin was barely the price of purchasing a sheep. If so, it gives a connection between the first parable and the second one, in that the sheep and the coin were of equal value.

III - THE EFFORT IN MAKING THE SEARCH (v.8): The woman uses means to search for the coin - so the Spirit of God in finding a lost child of God. She used a light (candle) which speaks of the word of God. Paul tells us of the glorious light of the gospel (2 Cor 4:4). And again, For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is light. (Prov 6:23). As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world. (John 9:5). She also is described as sweeping her house, removing the dust, which speaks of our regeneration, the new birth, our spiritual resurrection - even our spiritual re-creation from the dust. The Psalmist said, He raiseth up the poor out of the dust (113:7). And the woman continues the search until she find it. So the Spirit perseveres in seeking and calling out the one sought. (See 1 Thess 2:11-13). Matthew Henry said this:

"Here is a great deal of care and pains taken, in quest of it. The woman lights a candle, to look behind the door, under the table, and in every corner of the house, and seeks diligently till she find it. This represents the various means and methods God makes use of to bring lost souls home to himself: he has lighted the candle of the gospel, not to show himself the way to us, but to show us the way to him, to discover us to ourselves; he has swept the house by the convictions of the word; he seeks diligently, his heart is upon it, to bring lost souls to himself."

IV - THE SHARING IN THE REJOICING (vs.9-10): Believers love to see others brought to the transforming experience in God's salvation. When there is a true repentance on the part of the lost who are brought to Christ, and confession is made on the part of those who become new creations in Christ, it is a moving experience unto all of those who have had the same experience. As soon as this woman found her coin, she was quick to call in her friends and neighbors of her good fortune. One can read of her extreme happiness in her saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost.

Yet in spite of this being so, there is another side to see which is not, at the time, viewable, and that is this: Likewise I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth; and concerning the lost sheep it was added concerning the one repenting, more than over ninety and nine just persons (in their own eyes) which need no repentance (v.7). And with the prodigal who returned to his father, it was the father who rejoiced more than his other son, who was angry at the reception of his brother (vs. 22-24).

Repentance basically means "a change of mind" and is the result of the new birth. Paul tells us it is the goodness of God that leadeth thee to repentance (Rom 2:4). It is quite evident that repentance follows spiritual life. Man in his grave cannot repent! Only those who have life can do so. Dead men cannot repent. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned. Only those who are quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins can repent! and it follows when God leads His people to do so. Repentance must be given!

What is this parable about? 1. God in the person of the Holy Spirit seeking the lost. 2. A lost soul being found and restored in salavation. 3. Joy in Heaven over that one lost, found, restored soul. All three parables give us the overall work of our God in our salvation, and the single parable does not fully set forth all involved in the salvation of God's people wrought by God.

The genuine blessing of this parable is when we understand the words of Paul in Romans 3: there is none that seeketh after God. The import of this is, since man does not seek after God, God must seek after him. And this, we feel, is the main emphasis of these parables, especially the parable of the lost coin. We believe, and we trust you do as well, Dear Reader, as you contemplate your own salvation, if indeed you have such, is that you did not seek after God, but He in reality sought you. We quote the passage again at the conversion of Zacchaeus, the publican: For the Son of man is come TO SEEK AND TO SAVE that which was lost (Luke 19:10). While our Lord sought out this publican, yet it is the work of the Spirit in this day as then, to seek out the elect of God as this woman sought her lost coin. Those who are dead in trespasses and sins have not the ability to seek after God, and if He seeks us not, He will never be found. But blessed be His name, He can quicken the dead, even the spiritually dead, and by His grace, save, giving us the gift of faith that we might believe. While no man can come to Him unless he is drawn by the Father (John 6:44) - He does draw. And while to come to Him, it must be given (John 6:65) - He does give such ability to His people. Our prayer, Dear Reader, is that you are one of those lost coins He has found.

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

Date: 2/6/2003

Doyle Dewberry, formerly of Alameda, California, is a retired Pastor and author of Sovereign Grace Baptist Proclaimer, Setting Forth The Doctrines of Grace In Salvation. He can be reached by email at sovereigngrace at 5star-living dot com.

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