Many believers hear more about the price of forgiveness and the cost of salvation than about the free-and-overflowing grace of the Father who, in his passionate desire for the homecoming of sinners, gave up his only Son. We do not need to understand everything about salvation to receive it. We are not required to appreciate the full cost of forgiveness before we can benefit from it – we can learn about this later.
In fact, the only condition of forgiveness is that we respond to the Father’s grace with humble, outstretched arms and a thankful, joyful heart. We simply come to the Father, like the lost son in the parable, and take God at his word. This is another vital key to understanding God’s salvation by grace .
If we do not look to the Father and his grace, if he is not the focus of our faith and salvation, we may present a message which suggests that the best people can hope for is that God can be persuaded into some sort of uncomfortable tolerance of sinners by Jesus.
We may think that returning sons and daughters still need to keep their distance from the Father, and that our gratitude should be showered upon Jesus for somehow twisting the Father’s arm to allow us into a back-room of the family home as the lowest form of servant.
This sort of unbiblical thinking leads to passivity, fear, self-condemnation, low expectations, a lack of boldness, and legalism. This may have been how the prodigal son felt while he was trudging home. His prepared speech suggests that he was not truly repentant on his way home – he still did not believe in the goodness of his father and was therefore still lost, alienated from his father .
But of course, this does not represent the father in Jesus’ parable, and it is a terrible caricature of the heavenly Father who sent his Son into a far country to make a way home, and who is now waiting with longing to usher us into his presence as sons and daughters with unconditional grace and uninhibited celebration.
To be a believer is to know that the Father has defined our identity through the cross and that he now calls us his sons and daughters. He beckons us to come forward and receive the inheritance of our salvation – the robe of sonship, the ring of authority, the sandals of freedom, and so on.
It is this free grace of the Father which initiates the sending of the Son and sets up salvation – so that the Father may open his arms and welcome the multitudes of children who are brought to glory by the Son through the Spirit.