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The Parables of Jesus Christ

There is so much confusion as to what the parables really mean and how to interpret them. I know we could spend years trying to learn the parables, but for today's study the intention will be practical application and why this message is one geared for those in church ministry, or anyone who teaches and preaches the word to unbelievers. I will be discussing two "philosophy of ministry" models the contemporary church seems to have regarding the parables of Jesus.

View #1- The parables are a foundational ministry model on how to teach and preach the Word to unbelievers.

Churches in the Armenian/Weslyian camp especially like this view. Often these churches are not fundamentalist in nature, or conservative to say the least, but are instead contemporary, user-friendly, pragmatist type churches. During my years attending a Christian and Missionary Alliance college and taking ministry courses I was taught that the best way to preach and teach to unbelievers was to use parables as Jesus did instead of plainly preaching the word of God as commanded in 2 Tim 4:2-4.

Notice that in Jesus's parables he often refers to things in the culture of his day and place. In Mark 4, for example, in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus mentions the following things:

Farmer

Seeds

Path

Rocks

Birds

Soil

Plants

Grouping the items together as one category, we come to the conclusion that the speaker belongs to an agricultural farming culture. By studying the culture context where this parable was preached (which would be Galilee, as with some 19 of Jesus's parables) we learn that agriculture was the major industry of that time and place. To be more precise, agriculture was the major industry in all of Israel during ancient biblical times.

There were 6 major agricultural seasons:

I. SOWING TIME. Tisri, latter half (beginning about the autumnal equinox). Marchesvan. Kisleu, former half. Early rain due = first showers of autumn.

II. UNRIPE TIME. Kisleu, latter half. Tebet. Sebat, former half.

III. COLD SEASON. Sebat, latter half. Adar (Veadar). Nisan, former half. Latter rain due (Dt 11:14; Je 5:24; Ho 6:3; Zec 10:1; Jas 5:7; Job 29:23).

IV. HARVEST TIME. Nisan, latter half. (beginning about vernal equinox, barley green, Passover) Ijar. Sivan, former half. Wheat ripe, Pentecost.

V. SUMMER (Total absence of rain.) Sivan, latter half. Tammuz. Ab, former half.

VI. SULTRY SEASON Ab, latter half. Elul. Tisri, former half. Ingathering of fruits.

(Easton's Bible Dictionary)

For even more depth on the culture of the Bible, check out the book Manners and Customs of Biblical Times, by Ralph Gower.

So what those in many contemporary Evangelical churches are doing today is translating Jesus's parables to communicate the following premise:

PREMISE--Bringing the worldly culture into the church and our teaching and preaching is a good thing and will be used to save souls. Therefore it's perfectly okay to include these in our churches:

Worldly Music

Movies

Video Games

Personal, subjective stories that give an individual, personal experience the same weight as scripture.

In many of these type churches the leaders do all they can to connect and relate with the people of the world. They bring the world's music, movies, video games, and mannerisms into the church. Their sermons are filled with personal stories. Often in these churches very little expository preaching is ever done, and when it does happen most of the people are so unused to it that they call it boring.

Sadly, Pastor Joel Osteen is perhaps the best example of this type of philosophy of ministry. Osteen may have a good heart, but his sermons are too often sadly dominated by stories instead of scripture. Anyone living in this type of environment will in time become very ignorant of the scriptures! John MacArthur wrote a book called Reckless Faith and writes about this paradigm,

"Modern church leaders seem obsessed with methodology, psychology, pragmatics, attendance figures,
felt needs, popularity polls, and the like--all to the detriment of biblical doctrine. And when doctrinal

understanding declines, real discernment becomes impossible."

(Reckless Faith, Page 38)

So it is that thousands, if not millions, of Christians are ignorant of the scriptures, and the church leaders are to blame for it. They fail to teach and preach the Word boldly and persistently in their churches, and people become ignorant as a result. Just look at the Christian market and see. Why do we need so many audio tape & CD audio Bibles, concordances, and different variations of the Word to appeal to the felt needs of man? The reason is that people are not interested in the Word in these kinds of churches, and why the second view of Jesus's parables is crucial.

 

View #2- The parables were a judgment to the unbelieving world and should never be used inside the church of God or with the elect.

We know from the scriptures that the church is for the children of God and not the unbeliever. Perhaps the cults that read this message will disagree, but this message is not intended for them, but for the elect. My apologetics messages are for them, who often have eyes that fail to see and ears that fail to hear the truth of the deadly doctrine they are steeped in.

This is why I believe that the parables were said in judgment to the world:

Mark 4:11 & Mark 4:34

Mark 4:11
"And he said to them, 'To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables....'"
(ESV)

Mark 4:11
"He told them, 'The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables
....'" (NIV)

Mark 4:34
"He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
" (ESV)

Mark 4:34
"But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples." (KJV)


Notice that Jesus clearly said he was intentionally speaking to the world in parables, and not plainly.

Jesus was quoting passages from Isaiah which are listed below.

Isaiah, 6:9-10,
"And he said, 'Go, and say to this people:
"'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed."'" (ESV)

Isaiah 8:16
"Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples." (ESV)

It seems very clear that the parables were indeed said as a judgment upon the unbelieving world. The secrets were given only to the elect.

Looking at the entire ministry of Jesus, his parable approach did not gain many converts. So to conclude, I believe that anyone teaching and preaching the Word to unbelievers is better off not trying to preach and teach in ways they can relate to, but instead in a way that does not compromise the Word of God. Sadly, many in the contemporary Evangelical church are doing the opposite and compromising the Word of God in their own efforts to save the lost. The bottom line is that the minister must boldly preach the Good News and call people to repentance. Jesus's first public message at the start of his ministry was to call sinners to repentance. The scripture says this:

2 Timothy 4:1-4
"I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." (NKJV)

Anyone not fully preaching the gospel to sinners, and ONLY preaching "milk shake" type sermons that "relate" and meet the "felt needs" of sinners is ashamed of the gospel.

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