Summary: Second in a two-part series on the Rich Man and Lazarus, this sermon looks at repentance leading to salvation and as a vital attitude for receiving Holy Communion.
SEND LAZARUS TO MY FATHER’S HOUSE—LUKE 16:19-31
It appears to be a very simply request, “Then I beg you Father, send Lazarus to my Father’s House, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” Having realized too late that his destiny in hell is eternal, the rich man is concerned that his brothers do not share his fate of torment: “Send Lazarus to my Father’s house to warn them.” None of us want our family and friends to suffer eternal judgment and separation from God.
Repentance is a vital step in becoming a Christian. Salvation is a free gift by God’s grace, but repentance is a sign of faith. A. W. Tozer, who pastored Chicago’s Southside Christian and Missionary Alliance Church for thirty-one years, puts it so well: “God will take nine steps toward us, but He will not take the tenth. He will incline us to repent, but He cannot do our repenting for us” [A. W. Tozer, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 5.].
As this is also Worldwide Communion Sunday, we need to remember that repentance is the spirit in which we come to take Holy Communion. Our classical invitation to Holy Communion in the Wesleyan and Anglican traditions begins: “You who do truly and earnestly repent of your sins. . . .” I would be the last pastor to ever deny anyone the elements of Holy Communion or at least be extremely careful and discerning in doing so. However, if the Holy Spirit points out sin in our lives before we partake of the Eucharist and we do not obediently and humbly repent, we are in danger of the sin Paul warns against in I Corinthians11:23, “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” Failure to repent at the Lord’s Table when the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin and calls me to repentance and confession is “sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.”
What do we learn about repentance from the rich man’s petition “Send Lazarus to My Father’s House?” The word “send” is powerful. It means “to cause to go,” and specifically suggests a messenger, agent, or ambassador who has been sent with a divine commission. It refers in Scripture to angels, apostles, and prophets who have been appointed by God Himself to deliver messages to His people. The rich man requested that Lazarus be sent as a divine messenger to his Father’s house.
He further requested: “Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment. Warn carries a powerful punch. It refers to a testimony about an impending danger. The picture it paints is always one of ministry. It implies “bearing earnestly or repeatedly to the truth of salvation through Christ.” The rich man’s plea was that Lazarus might return to earnestly warn his five brothers of the eternal judgment that awaits those who do not repent and accept Christ as their personal Saviour and Lord. He did not want them to “also come to this place of torment.”
Abraham’s reply is: “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them.” For a person of the Jewish faith “Moses and the prophets” refers to all the Old Testament Scriptures. For those of us with a Christian background it can be expanded to include all the Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testaments. The message is clear, God has given us the Scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments to lead us to salvation and faith in His Son Jesus Christ. John tells us the purpose for writing his Gospel in John 20:31, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” That was not only the purpose of the Gospel of John but of all sixty-six books of the Holy Bible, and from Genesis through Revelation, God is always calling people separated from Him by sin to repent.
Matthew tells us in Matthew 3:1-2 that John the Baptist’s message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Then in Matthew 4:17, he affirms: “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.’”
What is repentance? How do I repent? Donald Grey Barnhouse, longtime pastor of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church and editor of editor of Eternity magazine, tells this story: “A Sunday School teacher once asked a class what was meant by the word “repentance.” A little boy put up his hand and said, ‘It is being sorry for your sins.’ A little girl also raised her hand and said, ‘It is being sorry enough to quit.’” “Repentance is being sorry enough for your sins to quit sinning.”