Likewise joy - It is a principle of human nature that the “recovery” of an object in danger of being lost, affords much more intense joy than the quiet “possession” of many that are safe. This our Saviour illustrated by the case of the lost sheep and of the piece of silver. It might also be illustrated by many other things. Thus we rejoice most in our health when we recover from a dangerous disease; we rejoice over a child rescued from danger or disease more than over those who are in health or safety. We rejoice that property is saved from conflagration or the tempest more than over much more that has not been in danger. This feeling our Lord represents as existing in heaven. “Likewise,” in like manner, or on the same principle, there is joy.
In heaven - Among the angels of God. Compare Luke 15:10. Heavenly beings are thus represented as rejoicing over those who repent on earth. They see the guilt and danger of people; they know what God has done for the race, and they rejoice at the recovery of any from the guilt and ruins of sin.
One sinner - One rebel against God, however great may be his sins or however small. If a sinner, he must perish unless he repents; and they rejoice at his repentance because it recovers him back to the love of God, and because it will save him from eternal death.
That repenteth - See the notes at Matthew 9:13.
Just persons - The word “persons” is not in the original. It means simply “just ones,” or those who have not sinned. The word may refer to angels as well as to people. There are no “just” people on earth who need no repentance, Ecclesiastes 7:20; Psalm 14:2-3; Romans 3:10-18. Our Saviour did not mean to imply that there were any such. He was speaking of what took place “in heaven,” or among “angels,” and of “their” emotions when they contemplate the creatures of God; and he says that “they” rejoiced in the repentance of one “sinner” more than in the holiness of many who had not fallen. We are not to suppose that he meant to teach that there were just ninety-nine holy angels to one sinner. He means merely that they rejoice more over the “repentance” of one sinner than they do over many who have not fallen. By this he vindicated his own conduct. The Jews did not deny the existence of angels. They would not deny that their feelings were proper. If “they” rejoiced in this manner, it was not improper for “him” to show similar joy, and especially to seek their conversion and salvation. If they rejoice also, it shows how desirable is the repentance of a sinner. They know of how much value is an immortal soul. They see what is meant by eternal death; and they do not feel “too much,” or have “too much anxiety” about the soul that can never die. Oh that people saw it as “they” see it! and oh that they would make an effort, such as angels see to be proper, to save their own souls and the souls of others from eternal death!
Just persons, which need no repentance - Who do not require such a change of mind and purpose as these do - who are not so profligate, and cannot repent of sins they have never committed. Distinctions of this kind frequently occur in the Jewish writings. There are many persons who have been brought up in a sober and regular course of life, attending the ordinances of God, and being true and just in all their dealings; these most materially differ from the heathens mentioned, Luke 15:1, because they believe in God, and attend the means of grace: they differ also essentially from the tax-gatherers mentioned in the same place, because they wrong no man, and are upright in their dealings. Therefore they cannot repent of the sins of a heathen, which they have not practised; nor of the rapine of a tax-gatherer, of which they have never been guilty. As, therefore, these just persons are put in opposition to the tax-gatherers and heathens, we may at once see the scope and design of our Lord's words: these needed no repentance in comparison of the others, as not being guilty of their crimes. And as these belonged, by outward profession at least, to the flock of God, and were sincere and upright according to their light, they are considered as being in no danger of being lost; and at they fear God, and work righteousness according to their light, he will take care to make those farther discoveries to them, of the purity of his nature, the holiness of his law, and the necessity of the atonement, which he sees to be necessary. See the case of Cornelius, Acts 10:1, etc. On this ground, the owner is represented as feeling more joy in consequence of finding one sheep that was lost, there having been almost no hope of its recovery, than he feels at seeing ninety and nine still safe under his care. "Men generally rejoice more over a small unexpected advantage, than over a much greater good to which they have been accustomed." There are some, and their opinion need not be hastily rejected, who imagine that by the ninety and nine just persons, our Lord means the angels - that they are in proportion to men, as ninety-nine are to one, and that the Lord takes more pleasure in the return and salvation of one sinner, than in the uninterrupted obedience of ninety-nine holy angels; and that it was through his superior love to fallen man that he took upon him his nature, and not the nature of angels. I have met with the following weak objection to this: viz. "The text says just persons; now, angels are not persons, therefore angels cannot be meant." This is extremely foolish; there may be the person of an angel, as well as of a man; we allow persons even in the Godhead; besides, the original word, δικαιοις, means simply just ones, and may be, with as much propriety, applied to angels as to men. After all, our Lord may refer to the Essenes, a sect among the Jews, in the time of our Lord, who were strictly and conscientiously moral; living at the utmost distance from both the hypocrisy and pollutions of their countrymen. These, when compared with the great mass of the Jews, needed no repentance. The reader may take his choice of these interpretations, or make a better for himself. I have seen other methods of explaining these words; but they have appeared to me either too absurd or too improbable to merit particular notice.
The principalities and powers of heaven are watching the warfare which, under apparently discouraging circumstances, God's servants are carrying on. New conquests are being achieved, new honors won, as the Christians, rallying round the banner of their Redeemer, go forth to fight the good fight of faith. All the heavenly angels are at the service of the humble, believing people of God; and as the Lord's army of workers here below sing their songs of praise, the choir above join with them in ascribing praise to God and to His Son. AA 154.1
We need to understand better than we do the mission of the angels. It would be well to remember that every true child of God has the co-operation of heavenly beings. Invisible armies of light and power attend the meek and lowly ones who believe and claim the promises of God. Cherubim and seraphim, and angels that excel in strength, stand at God's right hand, “all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.” Hebrews 1:14. AA 154.2Read in context »
The conversion of souls to God is the greatest, the noblest work in which human beings can have a part. In this work are revealed God's power, His holiness, His forbearance, and His unbounded love. Every true conversion glorifies Him and causes the angels to break forth into singing. 7T 52.1
We are nearing the end of this earth's history, and the different lines of God's work are to be carried forward with much more self-sacrifice than is at present manifest. The work for these last days is in a special sense a missionary work. The presentation of present truth, from the first letter of its alphabet to the last, means missionary effort. The work to be done calls for sacrifice at every advance step. From this unselfish service the workers will come forth purified and refined as gold tried in the fire. 7T 52.2
The sight of souls perishing in sin should arouse us to put forth greater effort to give the light of present truth to those who are in darkness, and especially to those in fields where as yet very little has been done to establish memorials for God. In all parts of the world a work that should have been done long ago is now to be entered upon and carried forward to completion. 7T 52.3Read in context »
At the day of judgment there comes to the lost a full realization of the meaning of the sacrifice made on Calvary. They see what they have lost by refusing to be loyal. They think of the high, pure association it was their privilege to gain. But it is too late. The last call has been made. The wail is heard: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” Jeremiah 8:20. 7T 16.1
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The mission of the church of Christ is to save perishing sinners. It is to make known the love of God to men and to win them to Christ by the efficacy of that love. The truth for this time must be carried into the dark corners of the earth, and this work may begin at home. The followers of Christ should not live selfish lives; but, imbued with the Spirit of Christ, they should work in harmony with Him. 3T 381.1
There are causes for the present coldness and unbelief. The love of the world and the cares of life separate the soul from God. The water of life must be in us, and flowing out from us, springing up into everlasting life. We must work out what God works in. If the Christian would enjoy the light of life, he must increase his efforts to bring others to the knowledge of the truth. His life must be characterized by exertion and sacrifices to do others good; and then there will be no complaints of lack of enjoyment. 3T 381.2Read in context »
“Would you know how you can best please your Saviour? It is by putting your money to the exchangers, to be used in the Lord's service and to advance His work. By doing this, you make the very best outlay of the means God has entrusted to you. I have consecrated all I possess to the Lord, and have expended means in various lines, helping to sustain camp meetings, and building meetinghouses in those places where people have accepted the truth. I find many openings where I can help to save perishing souls.... LS 363.1
“It pays us to labor for those for whom Christ has died. Our strength and resources can be expended in no better way. If, by the help of the Spirit of God, we can build a structure which will last through the eternal ages, what a work we have done! Cooperating with God in this work, we can think of Christ's words, so full of assurance, ‘I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.’ God cares for the human souls to whom He gave His only-begotten Son, and we must see all men through the eyes of divine compassion.” LS 363.2
Not long after the dream about the ripening fruit, letters came from Africa, stating that Mrs. A. E. Wessels would lend to Sister White the money she had asked for. Joyfully this news was communicated to the school board, and immediately the cutting and sawing of timber for the buildings was hastened along. LS 363.3Read in context »