Speaking in Parables

“And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow.” (Matthew 13:3)

The Lord Jesus Christ, of course, often taught His disciples through parables, and this verse both contains the first reference to parables in the New Testament and also introduces the first and most important of all His parables—the parable of the sower. Jesus, Himself, indicated that an understanding of this parable was a prerequisite to an understanding of all His other parables: “Know ye not this parable? and how then will you know all parables?” (Mark 4:13).

Many people have the mistaken idea that Jesus spoke in parables in order to help unbelievers better understand spiritual truth, but Christ told His disciples, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matthew 13:11). The parables were given for the instruction of His disciples, not to convert unbelievers. In fact, these parabolic teachings were symbolic so that unbelievers would not understand them!

But as far as His disciples are concerned—those who believe and seek to obey His Word—the parables are vitally important, especially this foundational parable of the seed sower. The seed which is to be sown is the Word of God (Luke 8:11), and the field is the world (Matthew 13:38). Much of the ground will not receive the seed at all, and much is too full of stones or weeds to allow fruit to grow, but some will be productive ground. Now, since the sower is Christ (Matthew 13:37) and the seed is His Word, the disciple’s function is simply to allow the indwelling Spirit of Christ to apply the appropriate passages from the Word to the hearts of those who read or hear. He also should, in so far as possible, prepare the “ground” to receive the Word, removing the stones and thorns and digging it up to make it fertile and receptive soil when the seeds are sown. HMM

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