Tag: Parables

The Parables (Basic Guideline)

1.0 The Statement

Our English word “parable” is a transliteration of the Greek “parabole” which simply means: “To place besides, to cast alongside:”

  • Parable is an illustration that places one thing beside another for the purpose of teaching.
  • Parable puts the known next to the unknown so that we may learn.
  • Parable is an earthly illustration with a heavenly message. This links the natural with the spiritual.

Matthew 13:45-46 (KJV) “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls. Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went, and sold all that he had, and bought it.”

  • Some parables are long and detailed, such as the “Parable of the Sower” (Matthew 13:3-23), while other are quite brief, such as the “Parable of the Household” (Matthew 13:52).
  • The term “Parable” is used 48 times in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The word translated “Parable” in the Authorised Version of John 10:6 is not “parabole” (Greek), but “paroimia” (Greek), which is better translated “figure of speech” or “proverb” – John 10:6 “This parable (figure of speech) spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which He spake unto them.”

1.1 Why Parables?

The Jewish Rabbi used “Parables” in their teaching however, Jesus is the Greatest Exponent of “Parabolic teaching.” The reasons for teaching in Parables:

First Reason – “Truth Hidden” – When Jesus’ Disciples asked Him the reason for His teaching in Parables (Matthew 13:10), Jesus replied by quoting a prophecy found in Isaiah 6:9-10 which was recorded in Matthew 13:13-15“Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, by hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (KJV).

1. Jesus teaches that He had hidden spiritual truth in the Parables – Proverbs 25:2 (KJV) “It is the Glory of God to conceal a thing, but the honour of Kings is to search out a matter.”

  • The Individual who has the desire to “unearth” this truth will benefit from it.
  • The careless and indifferent, those with no spiritual hunger for truth, will not understand and benefit from it.

2. When an Individual hears God’s Word, he is not participating in a static event, but in a dynamic experience. He either become better or worse for having heard God’s Word, for there is accountability.

Second Reason – “Mysteries Revealed” – The use of Parables is given in Matthew 13:34-35 “All these things spoke Jesus unto the multitude in Parables; and without a Parable spoke He not unto them. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in Parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” It was in fulfilment of the Prophecy of Psalm 78:2 “I will open my mouth in a parable. I will utter dark sayings of old.” In His (Jesus’) Parables, Jesus opens to us the “mysteries” (Hidden secrets understood only by Divine Revelation).

1.2 Why Study the Parables?

There are various reasons and benefits for studying Parables:

1 The most obvious reason for studying the Parables is that they are part of God’s Word and we have been commanded to live on “every word” (Matthew 4:4).

2 At least one-third of Christ’s recorded teaching is found in Parables. To ignore them is to rob ourselves of much of what Jesus wants us to learn.

3 Jesus took His Parables from primarily two major sources: (a) The Realm of Creation; (b) The Realm of Human Relationships. These Parables are “born out of life,” and therefore have a way of touching us in those areas where life is the most meaningful and significant.

4 Many Parables were given because of some opposition or problem for, example

  • The Pharisees criticised Jesus for eating with Sinners (Luke 15:1-2), so He (Jesus) talked about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son (Luke 15:3-32).
  • Jesus’ Disciples thought they were very successful because of the big Crowds (Matthew 13:1-2), so Jesus told the Parable of “the Sower” who saw three-fourth of his seed produce nothing (Matthew 13:3-23).
  • Jesus was accused by the Pharisees of being in league with the Devil because He had cast out “the blind and dumb spirit” (Matthew 12:22-24), so He (Jesus) told the Parable of the strong man guarding his castle (Matthew 12:25-29).

5 The Parables are both mirrors and “windows.” As mirrors, the Parables help us to see ourselves. The Parables reveal our lives as they really are. As “windows,” the Parables help us see life and God.

1.3 How to use the Parables?

Jesus asked His Disciples whether they have understood “all” that He had taught them, and they responded “yes”Matthew 13:51(KJV) “Jesus saith unto them, have ye understood all these things? They say unto Him, yea, Lord.” Understanding always brings responsibility. The Disciples were privileged to understand the explanation of the Parables (“Mysteries of the Kingdom”), and therefore they had a great responsibility to put these understandings into practice – “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). Immediately, Jesus spoke on the “Parable of the Householder” explains how to best use the Parables – Matthew 13:52 (NASB) “Therefore every Scribe who has become a Disciple of Heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old.” In this Parable, Jesus points out three responsibilities that we have toward revealed truth:

1 Learning the Truth – Matthew 13:52a “Therefore every Scribe.” A Scribe’s work was to examine the Law and discover its teachings. It is important to remember that the Scribes began as a very noble Group. They devoted themselves to the Protection and Preservation of the Law. But at the time of Christ, the Scribes work degenerated into protecting dead traditions rather than teaching and living the truth of God’s Word. Jesus accused them of putting the people under spiritual bondage, not liberty (Luke 11:42-52):    

  • They are so caught up with their traditions that they ignored Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 23:1-7).
  • Instead of opening doors for Sinners to be saved, they closed them (Matthew 23:3).
  • They became blind Leaders of the Blind (Matthew 23:16-24). 

 2. Living the Truth – Matthew 13:52b “who has become a disciple of heaven.” Every Scribe who becomes Jesus’ Disciple is a Person who follows Jesus and puts Jesus’ teaching into practice – Matthew 28:20a “Teaching them (disciples) to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

  • A Disciple learns the truth to live the truth.
  • The truth becomes alive to the Disciple when he lives it, and in the process, he learns more truth.
  • There is a desperate need for a balance between theory and practice. Learning and living, the classroom and the marketplace.
  • Jesus teaches His Disciples by precept and by practice – Acts 1:1b “Of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.”
  • A Disciple must be taught objective truth and subjective experience.   

It is not enough to be Hearers of God’s Word – We must be Doers if we are going to grow in the Lord Jesus – James 1:22-24 “But be ye Doers of the Word, and not Hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a Hearer of the Word, and not a Doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”

3. Sharing the Truth – Matthew 13:52c “Is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old.” Every Disciple has “a treasury” within that contains the spiritual truth accumulated from his learning and living. He, as “the head of the household” has to bring forth this treasure of spiritual truth to share. He must share “the old and the new.” The “old” is what he has learned as a “Scribe,” and the “new” is what he learned as a Disciple, practicing the truth.  

It in the obedient to God’s Word that a Disciple benefited the most and he has the most to impart. We cannot do without “the old” for out of “the old” comes “the new” – Isaiah 28:9-10 “Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Those who are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts, for precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; her a little, and there a little.” There is always new application for existing (“old”) truths, new insights into existing (“old”) principles, and new understanding of existing (“old”) relationships.

1.4 Ezra

Ezra, the first Scribe, exemplified this kind of balanced life of the Disciple of Jesus Christ. It was said of this man of God: Ezra 7:10“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD (Scribe – Learning), and to do it (Disciple – Living), and to teach in Israel statutes and judgement (Householder – Sharing).”

1.5 Doing Precedes Teaching

The Principle laid down by Jesus is “doing” precedes “teaching” – Acts 1:1b (KJV) “Of all that Jesus began to both to do and teach.” This Principle (“Do & Teach”) is also followed by the Apostles and Prophets, and Kingdom’s Manifesto (Matthew chapters 5 to 7):

  • Apostles – Mark 6:30 “And the Apostles gather themselves together unto Jesus, and told Him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.”
  • Prophets – Ezra 7:10“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgement.”
  • Kingdom of HeavenMatthew 5:19 (NKJV) “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these Commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called Least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called Great in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

1.6 How to study the Parables

Because the Bible consists of different types of Writings; it is important to us to know how to approach with each type. We do not approach the Poetry of the Psalms in the same way that we approach the Narratives of Bible History or the Doctrinal discussions of the Epistles. It is a basic rule of Bible Study that we examine each passage of Scripture in the light of its literary classification. Consider these Principles for Interpreting the Parables:

1. Contextual – Study each Parable in its Context – This is true of any Portion of Scripture; but it is especially true of the Parables. Ignore the Context and we can make a Parable teach almost anything. For example, the Parable of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37) has suffered at the hand of “Spiritualisers” who have forgotten the Context – The Context is the Scribe (Lawyer’s) evasive question: “And who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29b). While there is certainly a Salvation Message in the Parable, the fundamental lesson is that of being a Neighbor to the Person in need – Luke 10:36-37 “Which now of these three thinkest thou (Lawyer), was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he (Lawyer) said, he that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him (Lawyer), go, and do thou likewise.”

2. Main Truth – Look for the main truth the Parable teaches – This does not mean there are no secondary lessons, but even these must be related to the main truth of the Parable. The main truth of the Parable of the Prodigal son is that God receives, forgives, and restores us. We can discover in this rich Parable many spiritual truths, but all of them relate in some way to that primary lesson of God’s Love, for God is Love (1John 4:7-8).

3. Not to Spiritualize – Do not try to attach “meaning” to every detail – Some of the Parables are quite detailed, such as “the Sower” (Matthew 13:3-23) and “the Wheat and the Tares” (Matthew 13:24-30); while other Parables have very little detail. It is not necessary to make everything mean something unless the context warrants it. Jesus explained “the Parable of the Sower” in detail, and likewise “the Parable of the Wheat and Tares.” In connection with this Principle, the symbols used in different Parables do not always represent the same thing. In the “Parable of the Sower,” “the Seed” represents God’s Word (Matthew 13:19a – “the Word of the Kingdom.”) and “Soil” (Matthew 13:19b “that which was sown in his heart”) represents the human heart. But in the “Parable of the Wheat and Tares,” the “Seed” represents the children of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:24), the “Tares,” the children of this World (Matthew 13:25); while the field is the World (Matthew 13:30).

4. Not Doctrinal – The Parables are given to illustrate Doctrine, not to declare Doctrine – In other words, try not to build a case for some Doctrine on the basis of a Parable. The Parables are the “Windows” in the house and not the foundation stones. It is dangerous to build a Doctrine (teaching) of Salvation by Good Works on the “Parable of the sheep and goats” (Matthew 25:31-46). To do so would be to ignore the Prophetic Context of the Parable, and the resulting “Doctrine” would contradict the Clear Teaching of other portions of the Scriptures.

5. Spiritual Perception – Ask God for Spiritual Perception (1John 2:20, 27) – This is necessary for all Bible Study; but it is especially important in dealing with the Parables. The Disciples came to Jesus and asked Him for understanding, and we must do likewise (Matthew 13:10). God Promises us Wisdom if we ask Him (James 1:5).

The Unjust Judge & the Widow (Luke 18:1-8)

The Text

Luke 18:1-8 (NKJV) “Then He (Jesus) spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart. Saying: ‘There was a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.’ Now there was a widow in that city: and she came to him, saying. ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he (Judge) would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?’ I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes will He really find faith on the earth?”  

1. The Setting

In Luke 18:1-30 we find the last events in the public ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, as recorded by Luke prior to the final journey to Jerusalem – Luke 18:31 “Then He took unto Him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished.” In Luke 18, there are two Parables on Prayer (Luke 18:1-8; Luke 18:9-14): 

  • Perseverance in Prayer (Luke 18:1-8)
  • Right Attitude in Prayer (Luke 18:9-14)

2. The Moral of the Parable

The Moral of the Parable is found in Luke 18:7-8 “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes will He really find faith on the earth?”

  • This Parable teaches that God will avenge His people in answer to their prayer, though He is longsuffering in dealing with mankind.
  • Our prayer should be consistent and persistent (1Thessalonians 3:10) and that we should not lose-heart (faint-hearted – Luke 18;1) because sometimes God does not immediately answer our prayers – Luke 18:1(NKJV) “Then He (Jesus) spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart (faint).” The word “faint” describes a person who loses heart and gets so discouraged that the person wants to quit

3. The Background

This Parable is set in its Eastern-Setting – the “Courtroom” is not in a permanent building but a tent that is moved from place to place as the Judge covers his circuit. The Judge not the Law sets the agenda; he represents the Authority; he is surrounded by his Assistants. Anybody could watch the court-proceeding from the outside, but only those who are accepted and approved could have their cases tried. This usually mean bribing one of the Judge’s Assistants so that the case could be called to the Judge’s attention.

4. The Widow’s Dilemma

The widow has three obstacles to overcome: First, woman in the Eastern-Setting at the time of Christ has little standing in society and also before the Court and the Law and thus a woman does not go to Court. Second, the woman is a widow, and thus, she has no husband to represent her or stand with her in Court. Widows are a traditionally vulnerable group in Palestine society. Girls are regularly married at the age of thirteen or fourteen, and so a widow could be quite young. For a wife to lose her husband is to lose her position and status in society, and her natural protector.  Finally, she is a poor widow, and she could not pay a bribe, even when she wants to, and as such she does not get the protection of the Court and the Law.

5. The Widow’s Petition

Widows are often easy game for the ruthless Exploiter – “devouring widows’ houses” (Mark 12:40b). The widow shouts out her petition, outside the tent (Court), seeking the unjust Judge to avenge her of her adversary – Luke 18:3 (NKJV) “Now there was a widow in that city: and she came to him, saying. ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’”  

  • Legal Transaction – Prayer is more than meeting physical needs; it is “a legal transaction,” recognized in the Court of Heaven, as the word “adversary” (Gk: “antidikos”) means “an opponent in a lawsuit.” The widow is seeking vindication – it is a legal case needing justice, vindication and avenging of her adversary, her enemy. Prayer initiates legal action in Heaven’s Court which affects the outcome of matters in the earthly realm. In essence, prayer has a legal perspective. Prayer is not just a religious act; it is a binding legal transaction.
  • Divine Decree – Prayer is also “seeking vindication” – the term “vindication” (Gk: “ekdikeson”) is not a request for punishment of her adversary, but for a decree that would provide protection from his (adversary) injustices.  Thus, prayer is about the manifestation of God’s decree in the lives of His children, setting something in order, or making something right.    
  • PersistentLuke 18:5 (NKJV) “Yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.” The word “came” (Luke 18:3 – Gk: “ercheto”) is in the imperfect tense, which implies that she keeps coming – the widow walks around outside the tent (Court) and shout out her petition. The widow persistently and consistently keeps coming to the unjust judge appealing for justice, for him to take up her cause.

    The widow is imploring for justice, to set things right on her behalf, which is one of the important purposes of prayer; prayer has a binding legal transaction, asking God to reconcile every situation and circumstance in the earthly realm with His will and purpose – Matthew 6:10 “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!”

6. The Unjust Judge

Luke 18:2 (NKJV) “There was a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.” The unjust Judge’s three characteristics: First, he (unjust Judge) is unjust –unjust in all his dealings. Second, he (unjust Judge) does not fear God, that is, he does not uphold the first four Commandments of the Decalogue. Finally, he (unjust Judge) does not have regard or respect for man – that is, he is contemptuous to the people and thus does not uphold the last six Commandments of the Decalogue.

  • Worn-Down“And he (unjust Judge) would not” (Luke 18:4a) – The verb expresses his (unjust Judge) state of mind rather than a single act. The unjust Judge is worn-down by the widow’s persistent, consistent and insistence petition – Luke 18:4-5 (NKJV) “And he (Judge) would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” Even though the unjust Judge would not pay-attention to her for a while, he is finally worn-down with her persistency, consistency, and insistence.
  • Ruined Reputation – The word “weary” (Gk: “hypopiaze”) literally means “give me a black eye” or “damage reputation.”  

7. Application

The Parable does not teach that God must be “argued” or “bribed” into answering our prayer. Jesus uses a form of logic that reasons from the lesser (unjust Judge) to the greater (God, the Righteous Judge) – Luke 18:6-8 (NKJV) Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?’ I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes will He really find faith on the earth?” If the unjust Judge eventually responded to the widow’s persistent appeals, how much more will God, the Righteous Judge respond to His people. The parable of the persistent widow teaches us two things:

  • Pray or FaintLuke 18:1 (NKJV) “Then He (Jesus) spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” If a person does not pray, he will faint (lose-heart); there is no middle-ground. The word “faint” means “to lose-heart and gets discouraged.” Jesus teaches us that we should not give up but be persistent in prayer.
  • Faith on Earth?Luke 18:8b (Amp Bible) “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find persistence in the faith on the earth?” The implication, at the End-of-the-Age, unbelief will abound in the earth; whereas, the Son of Man (Jesus) will find faith in His people, as demonstrated in the widow woman – her persistency not only in her fortitude but also persistent in faith that she would be heard by the unjust Judge; so should the Individual Believer has this persistency of faith before the Righteous Judge, expecting answers to our prayers.   

8. Post-Note

Judges in the Nation of Israel are to be righteous and impartial in their judgements, underpinned justice with mercy (Exodus 18:13-22; Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 16:18; 1Kings 3:9; Psalm 9:8; Genesis 18:19; Psalm 89:14). Widows in Israel are to be care for, protected (Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 10:18; 24:17; Psalm 68:5; Isaiah 1:23; James 1:27; Malachi 3:5); with Divine judgement on those who opposed the widows and the fatherless.

The Seven Parables and the 7 Churches of Revelation 2 and 3

Title: The Seven Distinct Kingdom of Heaven Parables And The Seven Churches in Revelation (Matthew 13 & Revelation 2 & 3) by Richard Soh
Date: 06 June 2020
Speaker: Richard Soh
Recording: Via Live Online Video-Conferencing
Synopsis: The 7 Parables and the 7 Churches in Revelation (pdf)