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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 32: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Matthew 18:11-14; Luke 15:1-10

Matthew 18:11-14

Luke 15:1-10

11. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12. What think you? If a man shall have a hundred sheep, and one of them shall go astray, doth he not leave the ninety-nine, and go to the mountains, and seek that which had gone astray? 13. And if he happen to find it, verily, I say to you, he rejoiceth more on account of that sheep than on account of the ninety-nine which had gone astray. 14. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven, that one of those little ones should perish.


1. And all the publicans and sinners drew near to him to hear him. 2. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. 3. And he spoke to them a parable, saying, 4. What man is there among you, who hath a hundred sheep, and, if he shall lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after that which was lost, till he find it? 5. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing: 6. And coming home, he calleth his friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me; for I have found the sheep which was lost. 7. I say to you, that in like manner there will be greater joy in heaven over one repenting sinner, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need repentance. 8. Or what woman having ten pieces of money,  510 if she shall lose one piece, doth no light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it? 9. And when she hath found it, she calleth together her friends and neighbors, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10. In like manner, I tell you, there will be joy in the presence of the angels of God over one repenting sinner.


Matthew 18:11. For the Son of man cometh Christ now employs his own example in persuading his disciples to honor even weak and despised brethren; for he came down from heaven to save not them only, but even the dead who were lost It is in the highest degree unreasonable that we should disdainfully reject those whom the Son of God has so highly esteemed. And even if the weak labor under imperfections which may expose them to contempt, our pride is not on that account to be excused; for we ought to esteem them not for the value of their virtues, but for the sake of Christ; and he who will not conform himself to Christ’s example is too saucy and proud.

12. What think you? Luke carries the occasion of this parable still farther back, as having arisen from the murmurings of the Pharisees and scribes against our Lord, whom they saw conversing daily with sinners. Christ therefore intended to show that a good teacher ought not to labor less to recover those that are lost, than to preserve those which are in his possession; though according to Matthew the comparison proceeds farther, and teaches us not only that we ought to treat with kindness the disciples of Christ, but that we ought to bear with their imperfections, and endeavor, when they wander, to bring them back to the road. For, though they happen sometimes to wander, yet as they are sheep over which God has appointed his Son to be shepherd, so far are we from having a right to chase or drive them away roughly, that we ought to gather them from their wanderings; for the object of the discourse is to lead us to beware of losing what God wishes to be saved The narrative of Luke presents to us a somewhat different object. It is, that the whole human race belongs to God, and that therefore we ought to gather those that have gone astray, and that we ought to rejoice as much, when they that are lost return to the path of duty, as a man would do who, beyond his expectation, recovered something the loss of which had grieved him.

Luke 15:10. There will be joy in the presence of the angels. If angels mutually rejoice with each other in heaven, when they see that what had wandered is restored to the fold, we too, who have the same cause in common with them, ought to be partakers of the same joy But. how does he say that the repentance of one ungodly man yields greater joy than the perseverance of many righteous men to angels, whose highest delight is in a continued and uninterrupted course of righteousness? I reply, though it would be more agreeable to the wishes of angels (as it is also more desirable) that men should always remain in perfect integrity, yet as in the deliverance of a sinner, who had been already devoted to destruction, and had been cut off as a rotten member from the body, the mercy of God shines more brightly, he attributes to angels, after the manner of men, a greater joy arising out of an unexpected good.

Over one repenting sinner. The word repentance is specially limited to the conversion of those who, having altogether turned aside from God, rise as it were from death to life; for otherwise the exercise of repentance ought to be uninterrupted throughout our whole life,  511 and no man is exempted from this necessity, since every one is reminded by his imperfections that he ought to aim at daily progress. But it is one thing, when a man, who has already entered upon the right course, though he stumble, or fall, or even go astray, endeavors to reach the goal; and another thing, when a man leaves a road which was entirely wrong, or only starts in the right course.  512 Those who have already begun to regulate their life by the standard of the divine law, do not need that kind of repentance which consists in beginning to lead a holy and pious life, though they must groan  513 under the infirmities of the flesh, and labor to correct them.



Dix drachmes;” — “ten drachmas.”’


Tant que nous sommes en ce monde;” — “as long as we are in this world.”


Quand celuy qui estoit du tout esgare tourne bride pour commencer a bien faire;” — “when he who had altogether gone astray turns round to begin to do well.”


Combien qu’il soit tousiours necessaire de gemir;” — “though it be necessary for them always to groan.”

Next: Luke 15:11-24