Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.
I. In the first place, ATTEND TO THE EVENT ITSELF THUS EXPRESSED — "a sinner that repenteth." In the first part of this statement we are all included, being all sinners. From the second part we may be excluded, for we may not be all penitents. There are also stupid unconcerned sinners, who look no farther than the body. There are light-minded, careless sinners, whom sorrow never clouds, to whom pleasure in every form is welcome, and into whose hearts no serious thought ever enters. And there are worldly-minded sinners, who have no time, no inclination, and no leisure, for religion. There are also procrastinating sinners, who admit the necessity, but delay the duty, of repentance. Nay, there are even, in some measure, convinced and awakened sinners, whose convictions have not terminated in conversion. Like Cain, they complain, and they wander, and they reckon somehow, that God is hard, and that they are suffering more than they can bear. Like Esau, they weep, but it is for an earthly portion, and because they succeed not according to what they reckon due to their talents, their skill, or their industry. Or, like Ahab, they may clothe themselves in sackcloth, and sit in ashes, and walk steadily for a season, but still their hearts are not right with God. The repentance supposed is not a seeming but a real repentance, and is in complete harmony with the law and the gospel. The law is honoured by the terror which it produces: the gospel is honoured by the peace which it maintains. God is obeyed, and the penitent himself praises God, and says, He hath delivered mine eyes from tears, my feet from falling, and my soul from hell.
II. Let us proceed now, then, to meditate on THE JOYFULNESS OF THE EVENT MENTIONED IN THE TEXT. "There is joy," says our Lord, "in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." Think, then, in the first place, of the high character, of the high rank of the order of beings now spoken of as rejoicing — Angels, who occupy a higher place in the scale of creation than men.
2. In the second place, we may consider the intensity, the universality of the feeling that is produced. It might be true to say of the angels in heaven, that they rejoice, though the joy was but slight or transient, although it pervaded only a part of the heavenly host. The idea, however, conveyed to us here is the idea, not of a slight or of a transient, but of a deep and of a permanent impression, and it is the idea, moreover, not of joy only among a few, but of joy among all, of but one feeling and one expression of feeling, through all the innumerable company of angels.
3. Again we may think, in the third place, of the season at which such joy is stated as commencing, not when the sinner enters heaven, not when his repentance issues in eternal life.
4. I have only to state in the last place that each case of conversion is supposed here to be of sufficient magnitude to produce this joy. There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. Numbers are not necessary in order to convey to us the idea of value or importance. No doubt there was great joy on the day of Pentecost; and when thousands were converted, no doubt there was great joy afterwards, when 5,000 were added to the Church; no doubt there was great joy again, when a multitude of the priests and of the people believed; but still each individual as marked in heaven's book, may be considered as a fit occasion for praising God, and as serving to minister to the delight of angels. Or we shall even take it in another light — you may suppose that one soul converted may, in special circumstances, or at particular seasons, or because of the individual character, be of great importance, even as the conversion of Paul included within itself the conversion of thousands — even as Paul was a chosen vessel, and took many from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.
(J. Geddes, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.