by Ed Elliott
Many people have been taught that the Prodigal Son’s confession of sins to his father was an act of repentance, but it wasn’t.
The Greek word for repent is metanoia, which simply means “a change of mind.” The Prodigal’s confession wasn’t intended to seek forgiveness or reconciliation with his father. Rather, His confession and the reason for it were based on not knowing the heart of his father.
The Prodigal returned home because he was hungry and desperate; he was looking for a job. In the story, his father ran to him embraced and kissed him before he (the Prodigal) even confessed his sins. The Prodigal responded to this act of acceptance and love from his father by protesting that he was no longer worthy to be his son because his sins were so great. Sadly, the Prodigal lived under the delusion that his father would not forgive him for his many sins. However, his father did the opposite. He forgave and welcomed him in the most extravagant way possible. He clothed him in the best robe, gave him a ring and new shoes and threw a big celebration. Such actions speak to the father’s love and desire to restore him as a son with full honor and all the privileges that come with being a son.
The real repentance for the Prodigal took place when the father refused to accept his confession of being unworthy and declined to disqualify him from being his son. His father ordered his servants to clothe him in the finest of robes and shoes as well as a ring. This demonstration of his father’s love is what convinced the Prodigal that he had a distorted view of his father. He was not the type of man he thought he was. It was his father’s compassion for him that “changed his mind” or brought him to repentance. True repentance is always based on truth, not lies or falsehoods. It is the truth that helps people turn to God. This is why Paul wants the church to understand this powerful truth.
“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”
How many people today believe just like the Prodigal did that God will not or cannot forgive them of their many sins. Only God’s goodness can change their minds and lead them to the truth about who He really is.
“O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Psalm 35:8).
People will never trust God until they are convinced that He will be good to them. God knows this, and it is why He desires people to “taste and see” for themselves that He truly is a good, kind, and merciful God.
True repentance isn’t about how sinful you are or have been. It is all about how good God is! It is about how He loves and accepts you. Just like the Prodigal, when we are at our worst, God gives us His very best.
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12).
“He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10).
“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
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