by Steven Chan
In Luke 15:6-7, Jesus made this interesting observation: “likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” Let’s consider what He said.
- There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents (Luke 15:10).
The Bible tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9). The salvation of man is what caused Jesus to come into this world and to offer His body as a sacrifice for the redemption of our souls (Mark 10:45). So, after He had offered His body as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, He commanded: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
So, when the gospel is preached, and souls repent from their sins and decide to accept the gift of salvation by being baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38; Rom 6:23b; Gal 3:27), we ought to rejoice together with the angels in heaven over this joyous occasion together with the ones who had been baptized as recorded in Acts 8:39 &16:34.
- There is also joy in heaven over the “ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance”.
This is implied by the statement of Jesus when He said that there will be MORE joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. All who are in heaven rejoice continually over the faithfulness of those who seek to please God in their lives in earth. In 3 John, the inspired writer revealed thus: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth”. When we see fellow brethren walking faithfully in truth, we should experience joy in our hearts and ought to readily express our great joy towards them. They are an encouragement to us and they should also be encouraged by our joy for them. According to John, he has “no greater joy” than to hear of his children (in the faith or begotten through the gospel) walking in the truth.
Are we joyous when a soul repents? Are we joyous when we hear of our brethren walking faithfully in the truth? If we do, then we share in the fellowship with the angels in heaven and with God in the cause of the truth. But if we are indifferent to such events then perhaps we should examine the condition of our spiritual relationship with God.
- We should not begrudge the fact that there will be “more joy” in heaven over the “one sinner who repents”.
In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus told us about the feeling of the elder brother who had remained in the house and had worked faithfully for his father. The elder brother was upset that their father had celebrated the return of his prodigal son in an incredibly joyous manner. He felt that he should deserve the same or even greater recognition than the younger brother who had wasted his life in riotous living (Luke 16:25-30).
Like the elder brother, some may feel that it is “not right” or “unfair” to shower such great love towards one who had acted irresponsibly in his life. Why should he be rewarded with the celebratory dinner? Wouldn’t we be “encouraging” such “prodigal” behaviour?
But we need to be reminded that God’s way is not our way (Isa 55:8-9) and that God sees people differently from how we see people. The Bible said: “It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:32). God says that under such circumstances, it is right to make merry and be glad!! We should not impose our own perspective and values on God. He desires for sinners to return and when one does repent, there is great joy in heaven because that one sinner has been found and is now alive spiritually. This greater joy does not mean that God does not value the faithful child who had worked hard for Him all these years. He reassured the faithful child: ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.’ (Luke 15:31). The Bible tells us in Ecc 3:1, 5: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.”
- There is joy in the presence of the angels in heaven even over just one sinner who repents.
Sometimes, we are only “joyous” when many sinners repent such as may occur in a Gospel Meeting or City-wide Campaign for Christ but we are relatively “cool” when only one sinner repents because it is only just one sinner – a “poor return” for all our preaching efforts! But the Bible reminds us that God values every single soul and that there is much joy in the presence of the angels when just one sinner repents.
Brethren, we need to win souls for Christ even if it is winning one soul at a time – and we need to rejoice over every single soul who repents.
May God help us to do His will and on a daily basis (Acts 2:47) bring great joy in the presence of the angels in heaven. Let’s be reminded by what Jesus said in John 15:6: “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” When was the last time you brought great joy in the presence of the angels in heaven?