Joy in Heaven

Image source: www.pixabay
Image source: www.pixabay

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. Luke 15:7

Context is key here: our Lord is addressing the Pharisees and scribes who murmured that Christ received sinners and ate with them (2). Though the Pharisees loudly proclaimed their righteousness to others, we know from our Lord's assessment that the reality was somewhat different, for he said that they "outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Mt. 23:28). Even so, those whom our Lord describes as those "which need no repentance" are those who, like the Pharisees, saw themselves that way when the reality was much, much different.

Our Lord, in other words, is not celebrating brokenness per se. He is not saying that God's grace is magnified through the messed-up lives of people. He is not saying that a life of faithfulness and quiet godliness is not something to be celebrated. Rather, we know from the wider testimony of Scripture that we are to aim for consistency and integrity in our walk with Christ.

Rather, our Lord is celebrating the grace of God that enables and calls people to repent of their broken and sin-scarred lifestyles into a lifestyle of faith and obedience. God's grace is most magnified in people who become new creations, not in people who use God's grace to give them an excuse to stay in the ruts of sin and destructive habits.

Indeed, "joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth." As our Lord will put it in the parable following, "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth" (10). This may not mean that the angels themselves are the ones celebrating, but that God, in whose presence they live, is the one who is celebrating over one sinner who repents. God rejoices over his repenting people, not just in general, but over each and every one who turns from sin to serve the living and true God. God rejoices over them! Can you think of a better reason to turn from sin to true obedience?

By: Jeremiah Bass