TEST AND PROVE ALL THINGS SERIES
Jesus, Why Do You Speak to Us in Parables? And What are You Telling Us?
Most Scripture is taken from Matthew 13 NASB and AMP; author’s notes are embedded as “AN”
Jesus’ disciples asked Him in Matthew 13:10, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Yet later on they said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field” (v36 AMP). The truth of the matter was that not only the crowd, but even His disciples did not understand Jesus’ meaning when He spoke in parables. And there is not a man born that can truly understand the parables Jesus taught, unless God Himself explains them to him personally (1 Corinthians 2:9-16).
During Jesus’ discourse, while he was sitting in a boat by the sea, He spoke seven different parables to the crowd while His disciples were there with Him, listening.
The first parable describes a sower who went out to sow the seed and the different ways the seed was handled by the soil. It began with “behold” or “pay attention to this” and ended with, “He who has ears to hear, let him be listening and let him consider and perceive and comprehend by hearing” (Matthew 13:9 AMP). It was after this first parable that the disciples asked Jesus why He taught the crowds in parables (v10).
“And He replied to them, To you it has been given to know the secrets and mysteries of the kingdom heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has [spiritual knowledge] (the gospel that purifies AN) to him will more be given and he will be furnished richly so that he will have an abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Luke 8:18 AMP states, “…even what he thinks and guesses and supposes he has will be taken away.” “This is the reason that I speak to them in parables, because having the power of seeing, they do not see; and having the power of hearing, they do not hear, nor do they grasp and understand” (Matthew 13:11-13 AMP).
Jesus, in His answer to His disciples, referred to His parables as “the secrets and mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” that require the hearer to appropriate his own God-given power to understand. Mark 4:11 Amplified, explains parables as “[the secret counsels of God which are hidden from the ungodly]; but for those outside [of our circle], everything becomes a parable.”
According to the New American Standard concordance, a parable is described as meaning “a placing beside” or “a comparison” and a mystery is described as “a mystery” or “a secret doctrine”. We learned from Jesus’ own words that no one truly understands the parables—mysteries of the Kingdom of God—unless he has God for his own personal teacher. John 6:44-45 reiterates this thought in essence saying, that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him and everyone who comes is taught by God. We know that God has blessed us with the Holy Spirit as our teacher through the Word (John 14:26; 1 John 2:27), and that the Word is spirit and life to us (John 6:63); it is the power of God that saves all who take it to heart (Romans 1:16).
Jesus said to His disciples, “Do you not discern and understand this parable (of the sower AN)? How then is it possible for you to discern and understand all the parables?” (Mark 4:13 AMP) In other words, it is impossible to understand God’s other mysteries, if we don’t accurately comprehend the Parable of the Sower.
Scripture says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of the law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). God has hidden His Word for the purpose of revealing it only to those who will seek Him with all their heart—His true disciples. These have been given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). He reveals His mind to enable us to know the Father and the Son intimately, in order that we may obey the voice of the Spirit and live forever (John 17:3 AMP). However, nominal disciples outside His circle, do not receive His insights.
Obviously, the Parable of the Sower is the foremost mystery. Preconceived beliefs or denominational doctrines that we have accepted oftentimes close our minds to understand what these parables are speaking to the church, because our minds are already fixed (held captive) to believe error. But testing and proving the Scripture, until we recognize what is good and to that holding fast, is the means by which the Holy Spirit enables us to overcome error (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).
Jesus said He is willing to make known His secrets and mysteries to the disciples who abide in His Word—those “[who hold fast My teachings and live in accordance with them]. And you [who hold fast My teachings AN] will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 AMP). Freedom is the fruit of obeying His Word—the seed; slavery is the fruit of disobedience, because of unbelief in His Word (Hebrews 3:17-19).
A true disciple is one who has chosen to count the cost of following Christ by denying himself and his own interest, taking up his own cross daily, and conforming wholly to Christ’s example in living and if need be in dying (Luke 9:23 AMP).
Those in the kingdom of God who are not true disciples, Jesus spoke about prophetically from Isaiah 6:9-10 and Matthew 13:14-15 AMP: “In them indeed is the process of fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, which says: You shall indeed hear and hear but never grasp and understand; and shall indeed look and look but never see and perceive. For this nation’s [church’s AN] heart has grown gross (fat and dull), and their ears heavy and difficult of hearing, and their eyes they have tightly closed, lest they [unless they are willing to] see and perceive with their eyes, and hear and comprehend the sense with their ears, and grasp and understand with their heart, and turn and I shall heal them.”
Only disciples can understand the parables, because God has all their heart. The others might be learning, but they never come to the knowledge of the truth. Onlygood trees can bear good fruit. “A good tree [a disciple with a good heart AN] cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree [a nominal disciple AN] produce good fruit” (Matthew 7:18). Nominal disciples produce fruit that is corrupted because of their impure heart.
Jesus taught seven different parables as He sat by the sea that day, but since one is the most important to understand—the Parable of the Sower—I’ll begin with it in Matthew 13:1-9. Please read it for yourself so that you can follow the statements below. The Word is the seed:
- Seed fell by the roadside, birds ate it. No fruit came from that seed (v4)
- Seed fell on rocky, shallow soil, the sun scorched the seed. No fruit (v5-6)
- Seed fell among thorns. Thorns choked the seed. No fruit (v7)
- Seed fell on good soil. Mature fruit resulted up to one hundred fold (v8)
Note that only one heart out of four actually bore the fruit of the seed. Many were given opportunity—called, but few produced fruit—few were chosen (Matthew 22:14).
Unless fruit matures it is not good fruit. Good fruit is perfect, complete, and lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). At harvest time it is found without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27).
Jesus said, “Listen then, to the [meaning of the] parable of the sower” (Matthew 13:18-23 AMP). Please read it for yourself:
- Seed fell beside the roadside: The heart did not understand its meaning and the evil one snatched it away (v19)
- Seed sown on the rocky soil: The heart heard the word and accepted it with joy, but he did not root the Word in his heart. When affliction came because of the Word, he deserted Him whom he ought to trust and he fell away (v20-21)
- Seed sown among thorns: The heart heard the Word, but the worries of the world, the pleasures of life, and distractions of the age crept in and he bore no fruit (v22)
- The seed sown on the good soil: This heart heard the Word, understood it and bore the fruit of the Word, yielding one hundred times as much as was sown
2 Peter 1:1-11 is one of the best chapters in the Bible for explaining the kind of fruit we are to bear, and the process and outcome of fruit bearing, in order for us to be mature and to be able to enter eternal life at the end of the age:
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by (and to AMP) His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply [develop AN] moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, [develop AN] knowledge, and in your knowledge, [develop AN] self control, and in your self control, [develop AN] perseverance, and in your perseverance, [develop AN] godliness, and in your godliness, [develop AN] brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, [develop AN] love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or shortsighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
Verse eight teaches us that if these qualities (fruit) are ours and are increasing, then these qualities (fruit) will empower us to understand and practice the true knowledge of God in everything pertaining to life and godliness. As we continue to practice these qualities, we walk in moral excellence and keep from all sin, and then our entrance into His eternal kingdom is abundantly supplied. This is the power of the true Gospel in action.
In John 8:34-36 Jesus said to His disciples: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave [to sin AN] does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed [free from the power of sin AN].” The word “indeed” means “in reality”. Jesus set us free from sin in reality, it’s a true fact. But to be free, we must actually cry out to God in desperation to help us turn from our sin, and when we have completely turned, we must believe that we are free in reality. Freedom from sin and faith in God’s promises empowers us to produce the fruit of the kingdom. Indifference to sin is unbelief which produces disobedience. Both unbelief and disobedience are sin. Sin rots fruit! Therefore, if we are blind to the fact that mature fruit is having the divine nature and character of Christ, which is necessary in order to enter the kingdom of God, then we are deceived by our own unbelief and disobedience.
The good heart of the person who bore much fruit in the Parable of the Sower received the Word (the Gospel which purifies), which led him to be fruitful. All the other hearts in the parable failed to bear fruit. Either they received another Jesus, with a different spirit and a different gospel that did not require mature fruit (2 Corinthians 11:2-4) or they failed to appropriate the promises of God which empower us to grow up in all aspects into the image of Christ who is love—mature fruit (Ephesians 4:11-17).
The Holy Spirit calls us to: “Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire [this] love [make it your aim, your great quest]” (1 Corinthians 14:1 AMP). Love fully formed in us embodies all the character and nature of God—mature fruit. God is love.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man [indifferent and disobedient AN] brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:33-37); a sobering truth.
Good fruit comes into the heart by listening to the Word being taught us by the Holy Spirit as we study; then we practice the Word by taking every thought in our mind captive to obey the Word in spirit and deed. To the degree that we treasure the Word in our heart, casting out of our mind and heart the theories and reasonings that we hear which are not according to His Word, to that degree the Word cleanses us and keeps us cleansed from evil and unbelief taking root (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 AMP).
Everything we do for the Kingdom of Heaven must be built by and on the fruit of love as our foundation, otherwise we are only making noise and profiting nothing. Faith that pleases God produces fruit only if it is produced through the motive of love for God and man.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Amplified, clarifies that all the gifts, including tongues, prophesy, knowing all mysteries, having the faith to move mountains, giving, even giving our body to be burned, if not motivated by love, profits us nothing. Love is the character and nature of God and embodies all the fruit of the Spirit. It never boils over with jealousy or is envious or boastful. It is not arrogant, unmannerly, does not insist on its own way, is not self-seeking, fretful or resentful and does not take into account a wrong suffered. Love rejoices in the truth and never in injustice. Love bears up under everything that comes, is always ready to believe the best in every person, its hopes are fadeless and it endures everything without weakening. Love never fails.
The Holy Spirit trains us to love by renewing our minds to think like the Word teaches us to think. “The goal of our instruction [the goal of the Gospel taught by the Spirit AN] is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).
Again in Galatians 5:22-23 we find the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s purpose is to obtain men to be governed by God the Holy Spirit to the point that God’s righteous character and behavior (fruit) results. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and AN ] self control.”
In the Parable of the Vineyard (Matthew 21:41 AMP), Jesus explained that when the owner of the vineyard comes back to receive his fruit, he will put the wretched vine-growers that he put in charge, to a miserable death and give the vineyard to those of godly character who produce the fruit of it.
Having seen into the mystery of the Parable of the Sower, that only the person bearing the fruit of the kingdom will remain in the kingdom, we can now better understand the other six parables in Matthew chapter 13. Please read them for yourself.
Parable of the Tares and the Wheat (Matthew 13:24-30):
- The Kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed into his field. While hismen were sleeping an enemy sowed tares [wild wheat that is non-fruit bearing].Eventually, the tares became evident (v24-26)
- The landowner said, “an enemy [false teacher AN] has done this! (v28)
- Let them grow together together until harvest, then the reapers will bundle the taresfor burning, but gather my wheat into the barn (v30)
The Parable of the Tares explained (Matthew 13:36-43):
- Sower of the good seed is the Son of Man (v37)
- The field is the world; the good seed are sons of the kingdom; the tares are sonsof the evil one (v38)
- The enemy is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age; the reapers are the angelsv39)
- The Son of Man will send His angels to gather out of the kingdom all personsbreaking God’s law and all stumbling blocks—false teachers and those who mislead (v40-41) and will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there is weeping and misery (42)
- The mature fruit bearers shine forth like the Sun in the Kingdom of Heaven (43)
Note that the sons of the evil one once appeared as sons of the Kingdom of Heaven, but having received bad seed (a gospel that does not require perfect fruit) were thrown out at the end of the age because they did not bear good fruit. Many churches today might describe these non-fruit bearing sons as saved and then justify their position in God’s Kingdom by teaching that no one is perfect. But on the contrary, Jesus taught that “you are to be perfect [sons of the Kingdom, just AN] as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Mature fruit is perfect. At the harvest, only sons without spot or wrinkle are acceptable (Ephesians 5:27).
The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32):
- The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man sowed in his field (31)
- Although smaller than all other seeds, it grew to be a tree and the birds of the airnested in its branches (32)
The Parable of Leaven (Matthew 13:33):
1. The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened
Both of these parables are describing false teaching entering into the Kingdom of Heaven through misleading words. “A little leaven, (a slight inclination to error or a few false teachers) leavens the whole lump (it perverts the whole conception of faith or misleads the whole church)” (Galatians 5:9 AMP). In the parable, the leaven is false teaching and the woman is the church who hides the false teaching in the dough being ignorant of its consequences—God’s judgment. The dough are the people who unwittingly believe the false teaching.
The little mustard seed is the sowing of a few false words. This seed first appeared on earth in Genesis 3:1-7, when the devil spoke misleading words in the Garden of Eden. His tiny deception “You surely will not die” (v4), is still rife throughout Christianity today and is growing into the largest tree in the garden of the Kingdom of Heaven—the apostate church (2 Thessalonians 2:1-14).
The two parables above are teaching us that not everyone in the Kingdom of Heaven will give ear to the Holy Spirit and appropriate the divine promises, becoming mature fruit. Many do not test and prove the words they hear from their teachers; many quench the Spirit by not studying to show themselves approved; many are enemies of the cross of Christ and are in league with the spirit of the world; and many simply do not love the Word above all things (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; Philippians 3:14-19). The Parable of the Sower covers all these factors, revealing the reasons why seventy-five percent of hearts who heard the Word did not bear fruit to maturity.
In contrast however, listen to the next two parables.
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure (Matthew 13:44):
- The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field
- A man found the treasure and hid it (in his heart AN)
- He gave up everything to buy that treasure
The Parable of a Costly Pearl (Matthew 13:45-46):
- The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls (v45)
- When he found a very valuable pearl, he sold everything in order to buy it (v46)
Proverbs 2 speaks of this treasure. In essence, it urges us to seek Wisdom (Christ Jesus) as if we are seeking for silver and to search for Wisdom as if we are searching for hidden treasure; and then it reveals that if we do this, we will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom and from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, to keep us from the way of evil, from men who speak perverse things and from the adulteress who flatters with her words. None who listen to them return again, nor do they reach the path of life.
However, the two individuals in the two parables above, searched for the truth, rejected the counterfeit and found the true treasure. Then they denied themselves, picked up their cross daily and followed the treasure—Jesus Christ. They sold everything to buy it. We too must count everything as loss to receive the treasure and then with the greatest care, guard the treasure entrusted to us (2 Timothy 1:14).
In Philippians chapter three, the Apostle Paul affirms that we too must be like the treasure seeker. He said, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize [treasure AN] of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (v8,13,14).
Paul continued by saying that those who are mature have this same attitude about seeking Christ, our prize, then added, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I have often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Philippians 3:17-19).
Paul is repeating, in a different way, what Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sower and the other six parables. He’s ultimately saying what Jesus also concluded: “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21.
The final parable in Matthew thirteen is the Parable of the Dragnet. Please read it for yourself (Matthew 13:47-49):
- The Kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet, cast into the sea, gathering fish of every kind [both sons of obedience and sons of disobedience AN] (v47)
- When it was full, they drew it up and put the good fish into containers and threw the bad fish away (v48)
- It will be like this at the end of the age, the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous (v49)
- The wicked will be thrown into the furnace of fire where there is misery (v50)
After defining the first six parables, this parable is self-explanatory. So Jesus said to
His disciples, “Have you understood all these things? They said to Him, ‘Yes’” (v51).
Finally, Jesus revealed the purpose of the parables to those disciples and to us today who hear with spiritual ears. He again explains it through a parable by making a comparison for disciples, saying “a disciple is like a householder”:
“He said to them, Therefore every teacher and interpreter of the Sacred Writings who has been instructed about and trained for the kingdom of heaven and has become a disciple is like a householder who brings out of his storehouse treasure that is new and [treasure that is] old [the fresh as well as the familiar]” (v52 AMP).
The Message Bible describes it this way:
“Then you see how every student well-trained in God’s kingdom is like the owner of a general store (God’s Word AN) who can put his hands on anything you need, old or new, exactly when he needs it.”
A householder is a disciple, who is well trained by the Holy Spirit, with insight and understanding into the Word of God. Concerning a disciple, who is like a householder, Jesus said in Matthew 24:42-47:
“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house [householder AN] had know at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready [being ready is to be operating in the fruit of love AN], for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. Who then is the faithful and sensible slave [disciple AN] whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food [insights and understanding into His divine will AN, see 1 Corinthians 14:1,3,6,8 in the AMPLIFIED BIBLE] at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”
To all who mentally believe in Jesus, but do not obey Him from the heart—who do not prove their faith by bearing the fruit of the kingdom—Jesus warned, “The master of that slave will come on a a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth [misery AN]” (Matthew 24:50-51).
These mysteries are still speaking to us today. They are written to believers so that we can test and evaluate ourselves and determine if Christ is really in us—whether we are holding fast to our faith and showing the proper fruits of it; otherwise we are counterfeits, deceiving ourselves and others (2 Corinthians 13:5 AMP).
The Kingdom of Heaven will be given to those who bear the fruit of it, proving that they belong to Christ. The fruit is the proof (Matthew 7:20) . A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.
But thank God that He has given us His Spirit to empower us to carry out His will. By His divine power, we have been given everything necessary for leading a holy life on this earth. That power includes the ability for us to be holy as Christ is holy (1 Peter 1:14-16), bearing the fruit of love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5). He promised to make us able to do this (Jude 24), and every one of His promises are “yes” (2 Corinthians 1:20). God said that we are recreated in Christ to do those good works that He planned for us to walk in from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 2:10). Since true disciples walk by faith and not by what seems possible (2 Corinthians 5:8), we know we have these things for two reasons: First, God does not lie (Titus 1:2) and secondly, He promised to do His part, if we do ours (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
To bring forth fruit requires that we discipline ourselves by the Spirit who empowers us through the Word, so that we can walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (Hebrews 12:9-11). Discipline means suffering and not doing what we please (Galatians 5:17). Through suffering we cease from sin (1 Peter 4:1). And after we have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace Himself will perfect us (1 Peter 5:10,12). Do you see how His grace operates? The Word instructs us, the Spirit encourages us, and God’s grace empowers us to do what pleases the Lord.
Also, the Holy Spirit has instructed us to rejoice in our tribulations, which brings about endurance, because endurance develops maturity of character—approved faith; and proven character is mature fruit, which produces the confident hope of eternal salvation (Romans 5:3-5 AMP). Mature fruit is the outcome of sanctification—the discipline of the Holy Spirit—and the outcome of sanctification is eternal life (Romans 6:22).
Last of all, the Holy Spirit calls us to carry out to the goal and fully complete our own salvation with self-distrust, tenderness of conscience, being watchful against temptation, by shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ. We are not doing this work of fruit-bearing in our own strength, for it is God who is all the while effectually at work in us, energizing and creating in us the power and desire, to complete this work for His good pleasure and to His satisfaction (Philippians 2:12-13 AMP).
We are His workmanship being perfected in love (1 John 4:16-17). Faithful is He who calls us and He will also do it. His “seed” rooted in a believing and willing heart produces love. His Spirit continually calls and teaches us that we are to be perfect, blameless, purified and holy. Only then, Scripture tells us in 2 Timothy 2, are we vessels of honor useful to the kingdom: “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things [all wickedness v19-20 AN], he will be a vessel of honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (v21)—of sowing and reaping for the Kingdom of Heaven.
The conclusion, after testing and proving the Parable of the Sower and the other six parables:
- In order to remain in the Kingdom of Heaven eternally, we must bear the fruit of the Kingdom in this present age (Titus 2:11-12; John 15:2)
- A true disciple proves his faith by bearing good fruit consistently; he cannot bear bad fruit (John 15:8; Matthew 7:18)
- The Gospel of Jesus Christ made provision for all men to be restored to the divine nature and character of Jesus Christ in order to remain in His kingdom (2 Peter 1:3-4)
- Restoration enables men to be able to walk in love and teach the Gospel that reproduces sons of God, who also walk in love (John 14:21; 1 John 4:16-17)
- These sons will be the exact image of Jesus Christ, without spot or wrinkle, the fruit of His ministry (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 5:25-27)
- God created seed to bear fruit with seed in it, but only after its own kind (Genesis 1:11; 1 Peter 2:23)