Teaching by Parables

“Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” —James 1:22

TO THE multitudes, the general public, Jesus presented the Gospel in parables. Later, in some instances, he would explain the significance of these parables to his disciples, to whom he said, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”—Mark 4:11,12

This statement by Jesus clearly indicates the divine plan for this age is not the conversion of the whole world, for he says that he spoke in parables for the express purpose of preventing them that are without from understanding and being converted. Other scriptures show this applies only to the present age, that eventually the way will be made plain for all.—Isa. 11:9; 35:8

If all the unconverted were to be tormented in a hell of fire forever, this statement by Jesus would surely seem strange, for it would imply that the Lord had purposely designed the prevention of the conversion of those without, in order that they would be sure to spend eternity in torture. But, thank God, this is not what Jesus meant! In the first place, the punishment for sinners is not eternal torture. “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) Besides, Jesus did not say that those who do not understand now would forever be kept from knowing the truth and being converted.

Beginning with Jesus, and throughout the Gospel Age, God has been conducting a program of selection—not the predestination of a few to be saved, and the remainder of mankind to be lost—but the calling and training of a class so determined to know and to do God’s will as to be willing to suffer and die with Jesus—willing to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, regardless of the cost. These are referred to in the Bible as “the called, and chosen, and faithful.”—Rev. 17:14

It is in the calling of these that a certain degree of selectivity is exercised by the Lord. Jesus said no one could come unto him unless drawn by the Father. (John 6:44) The truth is the principal means used by the Heavenly Father to draw individuals to Christ, and if the truth were now made so plain everyone could understand it, and there would be no differences of opinion throughout the world concerning it, practically all would respond.

But the Heavenly Father knows the vast majority of mankind would not be willing to pay the cost of discipleship. If they were enlightened and converted from their sinful ways to serve the living God, and then turned aside because the narrow way of sacrifice was too narrow for them, their position would be a regrettable one.

So our Heavenly Father, who knows the end from the beginning, designed the proclamation of the Gospel should be carried out in such a way that only those of the right heart condition, and of the necessary fortitude of character to stand the trials that would come upon Jesus’ footstep followers, would be able to understand it.

Jesus gave the parable of the sower as an illustration of how this principle operates. The seed—which Jesus explained to be the Word—when sown falls on four kinds of ground: by the wayside, on stony ground, among thorns, and on good ground. The birds carried away what fell by the wayside. The sun destroyed the growth which sprang up on the stony ground. The thorns choked out the young plants that tried to grow among them. Only the seed which fell upon good ground matured and brought forth fruit.

In Mark 4:14-20, Jesus explains this parable to his disciples. In the explanation they are shown the workings of the Devil; the persecution that comes upon those who accept the truth; the complete separation the truth makes between believers and the things of this world, in that it leads one to run counter to the desires of the flesh and the spirit of the world. They could see from the explanation that only a small portion of the seed fell on good ground, and matured to the glory of God.

From this they would surely realize that to go on to know and serve the Lord after hearing the Gospel would be a costly thing. Only those who are truly enthusiastic and willing to sacrifice would take this step. Thus, by the truth, and the varying circumstances under which it is heard, the ‘you’ class is separated from the others. But, thank God, in the age of blessing to follow, all will be enlightened and given an opportunity for salvation.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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