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God’s Word for You

Luke 15:8-10 I am the coin

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, October 5, 2018

8 “Or if a certain woman has ten silver coins, won’t she, if she loses one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly until she finds it?  9 And then, when she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says, ‘Rejoice with me, I found the coin that I lost.’  10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

It seems a shame to have to point out another church’s error in so lovely a parable as this, but there is a large Christian denomination that uses this passage—the very first phrase—to justify its new practice of referring to God as a woman.

Their reasoning goes like this: In the parable, it is a woman who has lost the coin, and since the woman represents God, we may refer to God in the feminine. However, these preachers and scholars have broken a rule of interpreting the parables. The parables generally have one important point of comparison, unless Jesus points out more, the way he does with the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:5-15). If we take the woman to represent God in this passage, then we must apply the same reasoning to the previous parable about the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7). We are compelled to do this because of the word “or” (ἤ) in the Greek text. The two parables make the same point.

If we ask the question, who represents God in the Parable of the Lost Sheep, we must answer: It is you, because Jesus begins that parable by saying, “If you have a hundred sheep.” In that case, the leadership of this church would be saying that either the Pharisees listening to Jesus were to be regarded as God, or else you, the reader, can think of yourself as God. Neither of these is true. Both of these points are preposterous and the whole attempt at a new doctrine is monstrous.

If the point of the parable would be to answer the question, “Who is God?” then these scholars would be perfectly correct in their interpretation, and I would have to bow to their brilliance and say that I’m wrong, that these parables have nothing whatever to do with repentance. But Jesus himself tells us that these parables are about repentance. He underlines this when he says, “I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

If we are to take every single point of the parable and make a spiritual application then we need to ask, what is the difference between a hundred sheep and ten drachmas? What is the lamp, the broom, the house, and the dust which is swept? (Perhaps we can same something about the broom, which seems obvious, but the main point is the rejoicing in heaven over the repentance.)

If we follow this line of questioning, we are led into terrifying questions? What is the difference here between the woman’s friends and her neighbors? Are some angels and some demons? Are there other spirits we should be concerned about? And then we would certainly need to go back and tackle the problem of the meaning of the “desert” or “wilderness” or “open country” in the Parable of the Lost Sheep.

Let’s calm down. Here is the meaning: I am the coin. I did not call out to God when I foolishly, sinfully, willfully, and rebelliously chose to sin. I became lost, through no fault of God. God was not neglectful, or absent-minded. God did not drop me. I didn’t fall out of God’s pocket-book one day when he was reaching for a pencil or for his handkerchief. I jumped out of God’s fold, the ten silver coins, and I landed who knows where? On the dry dusty floor, covered up by the disturbance of my very sin. But God looked for me. He swept out the room—and here we know from the rest of Scripture and from our own human experience that God does not do this alone—and he called together the people he needed to find me. He sent the pastor who baptized me when the gospel first entered into my tiny heart. He sent the Sunday school teachers and my mother and father, and the other people in my life. He sent my sister with her Christian example. He sent my brother to question me and act as my conscience when I fell into sin. He sent the pastors of my childhood, Pastor Sordahl and Pastor Sturm, to preach and teach me my catechism. He sent me my wife, who is her own Christian example for me and another voice of conscience and much, much more. God sent and sent and sent each one of these people, and hundreds or thousands more, like the bristles of a broom, perhaps (but this is not the point) to preach the Law to me, to condemn me and show me the dead end of sin, the hopeless pit of despair. Faced with nothing but the dust of all eternity surrounding me, covering me, hiding me (so I thought) from the wrath of God, I did not know that he was sweeping, searching, calling, preaching, and filling up my heart with the Gospel of forgiveness. God himself was clearing away the dust of my sinful disturbance until there was no longer anything in the way: just me, helpless, and the fingers of God picking me up.

To repent means “nothing else than truly to acknowledge sins, to be heartily sorry for them, and to desist from them” (Formula of Concord, V, 8). Sometimes the word “repent” is used in the Bible for the whole conversion of man from unbelief to faith, and sometimes it is used more specifically for the turning of the sinning Christian away from sin. But both meanings have the same result: the one who was lost is now found by God and brought into the family of God. For this the angels rejoice. For this you and I, lost coins and sheep that we were, rejoice too.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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