For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
How often have I told myself about the parables, that they aren’t intended to build doctrine from, for they were intended as a life lesson for the audience, usually intended for a specific topic for a specific audience.
I admit the parable of the prodigal was intended to rebuke the Pharisees in their rejection of sinners and tax collectors coming into the kingdom. (The love of the Father in seeking and receiving His rebellious son is the set up for the end of the parable!) The punch of the parable is the last few verses of the parable, where Jesus addresses the older brother, and the jealous anger toward sinners and tax collectors coming into the kingdom that the older brother (Pharisees) exhibited.
But verse 24, couched in the middle of the parable provides some support for the conditional security teaching if we read of this rebel as a son of the Father. He, as a son, rebels against the Fathers love, and leaves his home. As we know the story, he eventually realizes his mistake and comes back looking for work. Little did he know (or remember) the immense love of His Father.
In talking with the older brother, the Father described His son as dead and yet he lives again. The son left his Father, literally walking away from his Father, breaking relationship with his Father and acting as if the Father no longer existed. Remember dear reader, he originally asked for his share of the inheritance, revealing his desire to see his own Father dead. The son’s rejection seemed absolute, and yet we need to deal with his initial and continued description as a son by Jesus and the Father in the parable.
It is noteworthy to recall that the son initiated this action, and that in all of the telling of this parable, the Father is seen as the One who sought wholeness and relationship within His family. The Father is never described as One initiating, encouraging or supporting any attitude of broken relationship within His family. It was the son’s decision only, and as the Father watched the son walk away, I am sure the heart broke and the tears flowed!
Remember, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, this secondary understanding of the parable is only a possibility. If in my studies I had not found other scriptural support for this teaching, I am sure I would not mention (or even notice) this topic in reviewing this passage.
What do you think? Is there any support for the teaching of conditional security within the parable of the prodigal son. Let me know in the comments.
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