The Prodigal God (Excerpts)

Our ‘Excerpts’ series provides brief snippets from some of the best Christian books, old and new, to give you a flavour and hopefully a taste for more. 


In “The Prodigal God” Tim Keller uses the story of the prodigal son to present the amazing truth of God’s saving grace.  He claims that one of Jesus’ best known parables is also his least understood.  The story is not so much about a wayward son, but about two sons who both need the overwhelming love of their Father.


“If we say “I believe in Jesus” but it doesn’t affect the way we live, the answer is not that now we need to add hard work to our faith so much as that we haven’t truly understood or believed in Jesus at all.”

“The targets of this story are not “wayward sinners” but religious people who do everything the Bible requires. Jesus is pleading not so much with immoral outsiders as with moral insiders. He wants to show them their blindness, narrowness, and self righteousness, and how these things are destroying both their own souls and the lives of the people around them.”

“Would you please be open to the possibility that the gospel, real Christianity, is something very different from religion?” That gives many people hope that there is a way to know God that doesn’t lead to the pathologies of moralism and religiosity.”

“In the end, Martin Luther’s old formula still sums things up nicely: “We are saved by faith alone [not our works], but not by faith that remains alone.” Nothing we do can merit God’s grace and favour, we can only believe that he has given it to us in Jesus Christ and receive it by faith. But if we truly believe and trust in the one who sacrificially served us, it changes us into people who sacrificially serve God and our neighbours.”

“I asked her what was so scary about unmerited free grace? She replied something like this: “If I was saved by my good works — then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with rights. I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if it is really true that I am a sinner saved by sheer grace — at God’s infinite cost — then there’s nothing he cannot ask of me.”

“Properly understood, Christianity is by no means the opiate of the people. It’s more like the smelling salts.”

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