We Do Not Have a Pharisee for an Older Brother

While Act 1 of the parable showed us how free the father’s forgiveness is, Act 2 gives us insight into its costliness.  The younger brother’s restoration was free to him, but it came at enormous cost to the elder brother.  The father could not just forgive the younger son, somebody had to pay!  The father could not reinstate him except at the expense of the elder brother.  There was no other way.  But Jesus does not put a true elder brother in the story, one who is willing to pay any cost to seek and save that which is lost.  It is heartbreaking.  The younger son gets a Pharisee for a brother instead.

But we do not.

– Tim Keller, Prodigal God, copyright 2008, page 83-84

The Gospel as Drama

In New Testament times, drama was staged in the major centres of the Hellenistic world and was immensely popular.  The apostles however, delivered the urgent gospel message in direct teaching and preaching, not through the indirect communication of dramatic performance.  We recognize the need for direct communication in situations of supreme seriousness.  An American President would not air a dramatic skit to appeal for national support in a declaration of war.

– Edmund Clowney, The Church: Contours in Christian Theology, copyright 1988, page 127

The Uniqueness of Paul’s Ministry

Although Paul’s ministry was unique, he calls on the church to join him in taking the cross, imitating him as he imitated Christ (I Thessalonians 1:6; 2:14; I Corinthians 10:33-11:1).  To imitate the apostle is to say with him “To me to live is Christ and to die is gain!” (Philippians 1:21)

– Edmund Clowney, The Church: Contours in Christian Theology, copyright 1988, page 144

Forms of Prayer as a Way of Discerning Deepness of Relationship with God

These three kinds of discourse are analogous to forms of prayer that have been called “petition,” “confession,” and “adoration.”  The deeper the love relationship, the more the conversation heads toward the personal, and toward affirmation and praise.  Elder brothers may be disciplined in observing regular times of prayer, but their prayers are almost wholly taken up with a recitation of needs and petitions, not spontaneous, joyful praise.  Infact, many elder brothers, for all their religiosity, do not have much of a private prayer life at all unless things are not going well in their lives.  Then they may devote themselves to a great deal of it, until things get better again.  This reveals that their main goal in prayer is to control their environment rather than delve into an intimate relationship with a God who loves them.

– Tim Keller, Prodigal God, copyright 2008, page 64-65

Jesus, Unlike Any Other

Jesus, unlike the founder of any other major faith, holds out hope for ordinary human life.  Our future is not an ethereal, impersonal form of consciousness.  We will not float through the air, but will eat, embrace, sing, laugh and dance in the kingdom of God, in degrees of power, glory and joy that we can’t at present imagine.

– Tim Keller, Prodigal God, copyright 2008, page 104

The Anger and Superiority of Elder Brothers

The anger and superiority of elder brothers, all growing out of insecurity, fear, and inner emptiness, can create a huge body of guilt-ridden, fear-ridden, spiritually blind people, which is one of the great sources of social injustice, war, and violence.

– Tim Keller, Prodigal God, copyright 2008, page 67

Christian Involvement in Political Life

Yet Christian involvement in political life does not cancel out the spiritual form of Christ’s kingdom.  Calling the state to righteousness does not mean calling it to promote the gospel with political power or to usher in the last judgment with the sword.  Christians are not free to form an exlusively Christian political party that seeks to exercise power in the name of Christ.  That would identify Christ’s cause with one of the kingdoms of this world.  Political action on the part of Christians must always be undertaken in concert with others who seek the same immediate objectives.  Such objectives, promoting life, liberty and the restraint of violence, are the proper goals of civil government.  they are not the goals of faith and holiness that Christ appointed for his kingdom.

– Edmund Clowney, The Church: Contours in Christian Theology, copyright 1988, page 193

What Pentecost Brought

The filling of the Spirit was promised for all the people of God, in contrast to the power of the Spirit given to a few in the Old Covenant.  Pentecost brought the distinction between the Old Covenant and the New not between ‘average’ Christians of the New Covenant and a spiritual elite.

– Edmund Clowney, The Church: Contours in Christian Theology, copyright 1988, page 238