The Kingdom, the Seed and the Church (6)

September 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Continuing from (5)

 

Matthew 13 gives us the parables of the kingdom of heaven.

A parable according to the Webster’s Dictionary is a short narrative making a moral or religious point by comparison with natural or homely things.[1]

 

Jesus used no other form of speech than parables to describe and teach spiritual truths and principles of the kingdom of God.  He knew they could only understand earthly matters[2] and heavenly things were closed to their understanding.

Matthew 13:34-35 (NIV)

Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”

 

The Apostle Paul understood the need for God’s Spirit to open our understanding and therefore prays for the church in Corinth that God would give them,a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him, by having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones), and [so that you can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe…[3]

Not even the disciples of Jesus could understand the parables and privately[4] asked Him the meaning of His stories.  Jesus gave them the ability to understand His parables.  Later, before He ascended to His Father, He further opened their understanding so that they could comprehend the Law, Prophets and Psalms.

Luke 24: 44-45 (AMP)

Then He said to them, This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything which is written concerning Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.

Then He [thoroughly] opened up their minds to understand the Scriptures.

 

Just like the disciples, we also know most of the Bible stories; from the creation, the Exodus of Moses and the Israelites, the first three Kings of Israel, Psalms and the some of the Prophets. In the NT we are acquainted with the Gospels, the book of Acts and Paul’s Epistles.  But that knowledge is no guarantee that we truly understand the spiritual figures, types and shadows[5] of Christ in the OT and the spiritual application of those truths for our own spiritual growth in the NT.

 

In chapter 13 of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus gave a lot of information – in the form of stories – about the kingdom of heaven.  Paul and Peter in their epistles placed a lot of emphasis on having knowledge about Jesus Christ[6].  Most Christians’ knowledge about Christ is the nativity story, Jesus’ miracles, the crucifixion and ascension.  That He came to save sinners, will protect and keep us safe until He returns on the clouds.  However, the knowledge of Jesus entails a blueprint for our Christian life.

 

Our knowledge concerning Christ Jesus is direct proportional to the amount of grace, peace, life and godliness we have and experience as a present reality. Therefore, the more we know of Him, the more grace, life and peace we’ll experience.

2 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

 

In fact, the Apostle Paul said he considers everything worthless in comparison to the knowledge of Christ Jesus[7].  He knew Christ came for much more than most Christians realise and the life He lived and demonstrated on this earth was a living example of the way back (for a fallen mankind) to the Most High God.  Every Gospel depicts a different viewpoint of this narrow path that leads to Life.  Unfortunately only a few will find it[8].  I shall elaborate on this a little later.

 

Jesus begins this chapter (Matthew 13) with the well-known parable of the sower. The seed fell in four different places and four diverse types of citizens[9] of God’s kingdom are made known in this parable.

1.     Matthew 13:4, 19 (KJV) …and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up. 

When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.  This is he, which received seed by the way side. 

 

Here we see two important aspects: First, the need to understand the Word whether preached, taught, or read.  Jesus opens the hearts and minds of people to understand.[10]  Second, we see that these citizens are not on the way any more but by the way!  Jesus is the way, the truth and the life[11].  In the book of Acts, the disciples were described as a people who were following the Way[12].  The implication here is that those who are not actively following the Way become hardened in heart.  They do not grasp the spirit and life [13]of the words of Jesus.  Because they are by the way and not on the way or actively pursuing the Way, the enemy snatches[14] the words from their hearts.

 

2.     Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21 (KJV) Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away…

But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

 

Paul puts it so beautifully when he wrote to the church in Colosse, As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”[15] We have all experienced the initial joy of our salvation[16].  However, after we have been born again, we need to be established in the faith and in the basic truths of the kingdom of God. Whoever is born into this world, learns with time the laws pertaining to his culture and country – Likewise, as babes born into a new spiritual kingdom we need to be thoroughly acquainted with the basic foundational truths of this new kingdom. 

 The author of the book of Hebrews stipulates the basic doctrines of Christ.[17]

  • Repentance from dead works
  • Faith towards God
  • Baptisms
  • Laying on of hands
  • Resurrection of the dead
  • Eternal judgement

 

A few questions regarding these maxims need to be answered by every Christian in order to establish the depth of their root in the faith.

 

  • What are dead works and which require repentance?
  • There are five baptisms mentioned in the NT.  Are they all applicable to us for today and can you explain the purpose of each one?
  • Why do we need the laying on of hands and what exactly happens when hands are placed on a person? Who may and who may not?
  •  There are two different phrases used in the NT concerning resurrection, resurrection of the dead and resurrection from the dead.  What is the difference?
  • What is the meaning of the word eternal?  The Bible speaks of three judgements – past, present and future regarding the unbeliever and believer.  Do you know these three?
  • Lastly, why do we not find the words heaven and hell in these preschool finger painting exercises on Christ[18] as the Message Bible calls these abovementioned doctrines of Christ?

 

The depth of our roots in Him[19] is determined through tribulations and persecutions.  In every school, there is a system in place where the children need to be tested in order to pass the grades and be promoted to a higher level of education.  In the “School of the Spirit”, there are also doctrines and principles, which must be learnt. Thereafter the application of the knowledge of Christ Jesus into our lives will in turn transform us into the image of Christ.  Tribulations and persecutions are the tests for our spiritual growth.  That is the reason why the Apostle James writes, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”[20]

 

The author of Hebrews makes an appeal to the readers of the book, urging them to move and grow beyond these primary teachings unto more maturity in the faith.  In other words, there are a lot more to learn and apply about Christ, if we can just pass the foundational “primary school” precepts.

 

3.     Matthew 13:7, 22 (KJV) And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them…

He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.[21]

 

The seeds sown are the words of life[22], sown by the Son of man.[23]  As previously stated, everything on this earth begins with a seed and so does God’s kingdom within us[24].  We have heard the words of life, received it with all readiness of mind[25]and were born again, into the kingdom of God.  This seed needs to grow and will in due time produce the fruit of the spirit[26], that is, if we make sure to remove all the choking weeds.  Our worldly system that revolves around the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father[27] and therefore cannot add anything to our spiritual growth.  There are even those who are corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, who imagine that godliness or righteousness is a source of profit [a moneymaking business, a means of livelihood].[28]

 

Jesus puts it another way in the Gospel of Luke, But take heed to yourselves and be on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed (weighed down) with the… …worldly worries and cares pertaining to [the business of] this life…”[29] It surely can not be put  more clearer; the cares of this life and the desire after worldly riches have a direct effect on your heart, emotions and spiritual life.

 

I have personally seen how Christians’ ambitions after riches got them sucked into the worldly system, until their spiritual life becomes as dry and barren as the desert.  Honest, God-loving and -worshipping children of God, who could clearly hear from the Lord, flowed in the gifts of the Spirit and actively ministered in the Body of Christ, became dull of hearing and useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind”.[30] As the Apostle Peter says, “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them”.[31] When Paul wrote to the churches in Corinth and Ephesus, he explicitly told them that no greedy person would inherit the kingdom of God.[32]  He actually called greed part of the sinful nature, which one must – through the power of the Spirit[33] – put to death.[34]  Peter commands the shepherds of God’s flock to be eager to serve and not be greedy for money.[35]

 

One time or another in our walk with the Lord and in our spiritual growth, we will be faced with some verse of scripture which we would like to avoid or wish it had never been written.  One such a place is found in the first letter to the churches in Corinth.

 

1 Corinthians 5:9-11 (NIV)

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters.  In that case, you would have to leave this world.  Now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.  With such a man do not even eat.

 

Paul draws a distinction between people of this world and children of God who are immoral and greedy.  From the first mentioned, we can expect nothing better than that they are ruled by their sinful nature[36].  However, from the latter it is evident that they have not crucified the sinful nature[37] and choose to yield to unrighteousness instead of righteousness.[38] With them you’re not supposed to associate.  Paul does not state the reason for not eating with such a person, who calls himself a brother but the fruit of repentance is not noticeable in his life.[39]  Nevertheless, knowing the Law of Moses and the OT’s priestly customs, he understood the spiritual application to their practices.

 

Haggai 2:11-13 (AMP)

Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask now the priests to decide this question of law: If one carries in the skirt of his garment flesh that is holy [because it has been offered in sacrifice to God], and with his skirt or the flaps of his garment he touches bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any kind of food, does what he touches become holy [dedicated to God’s service exclusively]? And the priests answered, No!  [Holiness is not infectious.]  Then said Haggai, If one who is [ceremonially] unclean because he has come in contact with a dead body should touch any of these articles of food, shall it be [ceremonially] unclean?  And the priests answered, It shall be unclean.  [Unholiness is infectious.]

 

Although these laws were observed by the Priests under the OT, Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome the following, “For we know that the law is spiritual…”[40]  The Apostle is not saying we should keep the law, for the dispensation of the Law of Moses has past and we are under grace[41], but he understood that the law has a spiritual application to spiritual growth[42].  This statement is beyond the purpose of this writing and will be addressed in another.  Suffice to say that for each of the 613 OT laws, there is a spiritual application that points to spiritual growth.

 

Therefore, the person calling himself a brother but is still yielding to the deeds of the sinful nature, will have a detrimental effect on your relationship with the Lord and the fellowship with others in the household of God.  What comes from his or her mouth reflects the condition of the heart,[43] and the dead works[44] they busy themselves with, will cause spiritual leprosy in your life.  In the words of Paul, “…you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.[45]

 

4.     Matthew 13:8, 23(NIV) Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it.  He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

 

We are the garden of God[46].  The seed of Christ that we receive in our hearts is also the seed of the Tree of Life planted within our hearts.  This “tree” will grow within us, until we begin to bear its fruit.  God is the gardener who prunes us and waits patiently for the fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”.

 

John 15:1-2 (NIV)

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

           

Within the Christian faith much emphasis is placed on preaching, teaching, faith, giving, the gifts of the Spirit, discipleship etc.  All these are good and commendable and needed.  Nevertheless, Jesus said we will recognise people by their fruit[47] and true disciples of Christ are those who are bearing the fruit of the spirit.

 

John 15:5,8 (NIV)

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

 

The making of disciples requires first of all a person who has been a disciple for many years.  Moreover, a disciple is not a novice or a small tree without fruit.  True disciples are mature in the Lord, recognisable by their fruit.  Within these fruit, seed is found.  To reproduce, the seed of the fruit is needed.

 

Genesis 1:29 (HCSB)[48]

God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth, and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This food will be for you.

 

When people around us begin to enjoy the fruit from our lives, they are attracted to the Source – the Tree of Life.

 

The next two parables in Matthew 13 also deal with seed!  The first speaks of an enemy also sowing seed and the second of the small mustard seed, which will in time become the biggest tree.  Both are easy to understand.  Jesus explained the first enemy as the devil, and every plant or should I say weed which grow from the seed he sowed will eventually be thrown in the fire.

 

Immediately, most Christians will think of the fires of Hell consuming the ungodly.  This may be so, but before we start pointing fingers, there may also be weeds in our own lives that need to be burned by the unquenchable fire of the Holy Ghost.

 

 

Matthew 3:10-12 (NIV)

The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

 

Apart from the Tree of Life, there is also the tree of knowledge of good and evil[49] that does not produce good fruit.  This tree exalts itself against the knowledge of God[50] and needs to be removed from within us.  Jesus recommends the removal of the weed should be postponed until the fruit of both trees are discernable.

 

To be continued

 


 

By subscribing to this site you are agreeing to receive email notifications for new posts. You will also receive a daily and/or weekly Scripture verse(s) with comments.

 We respect your privacy and your e-mail address will not be given to any third party, nor will you receive any promotional material.

You can unsubscribe at anytime.


[1] The New  International Webster Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language: 2004 Edition , Trident Press International

[2] John 3:12

[3] Ephesians 1:17-19 AMP

[4] Mark 4:10-12

[5] Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5

[6] 2Corinthians 2:14, 4:6; Ephesians 1:17, 4:13; Philippians 3:8; Colossians 3:10; 2Peter 1:2,3,8, 2:20, 3:18

[7] Philippians 3:8

[8] Matthew 7:14

[9] Philippians 3:20

[10] Luke 24:44-45, Acts 16:14

[11] John 14:6

[12] Acts 9:1-2, 19:9, 23, 22:4, 24:14. The NIV uses capital letters in these verses, referring to Christ Jesus as the Way.

[13] John 6:63

[14] The word catcheth here has the meaning of to strip, spoil and snatch.  Literally, to seize upon with force and to rob.  It is an open act of violence.  Zodhiates, Spiros (Th.D) 1993:  The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary New Testament., AMG Publishers, USA

[15] Colossians 2:6-7 (KJV)

[16] Psalm 51:12; Isaiah 12:3; Habakkuk 3:18; Acts 2:28, 8:8

[17] Hebrews 6:1-2

[18] So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgment. God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. But there’s so much more. Let’s get on with it! (Hebrews 6:1-3)

[19] Colossians 2:6-7

[20] James 1:2-3 (NLT)

[21] Luke adds to these, “…and pleasures of this life…”

Mark puts it this way, “…and the lust of other things…”

[22] John 6:68; Acts 5:20; Philippians 2:16; 1John 1:1

[23] Mark 4:14; Luke 8:11; Matthew 13:37

[24] Luke 17:21

[25] Acts 17:11

[26] Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9

[27] 1John 2:16

[28] 1Timothy 6:3-6

[29] Luke 21:34 (AMP)

[30] 2Peter 2:17

[31] 2Peter 2:21

[32] 1Corinthians 6:10 (NIV); Ephesians 5:5 (NIV)

[33] Romans 8:13

[34] Colossians 3:5 (NIV)

[35] 1Peter 5:2

[36] Ephesians 2:1-3 (NIV)

[37] Galatians 5:24 (NIV)

[38] Romans 6:13-19 (KJV)

[39] Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8

[40] Romans 7:14 (KJV)

[41] Romans 6:14; John 1:17; Galatians 2:21, 5:4

[42] Whenever I use the phrase “spiritual growth”, I refer to the spiritual process of changing our nature and character to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ as is mentioned in Ephesians 4:13.  This process is under the guidance of His Spirit but depends on our obedience, faithfulness and willingness.  It is based upon grace and not works.

[43] Matthew 12:34

[44] Hebrews 6:1, 9:14 (KJV)

[45] 1Corinthians 5:9-11 (NLT)

[46] Song of Solomon 4:12-5:1, 8:13. Song of Solomon is the book of love between the Lord Jesus Christ  and his Bride.

[47] Matthew 7:16-20, 12:33

[48] Holman Christian Standard Bible

[49] Genesis 2:9

[50] 2Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV)

About Edgar Phillips
Husband, Dad, Ordained Minister and Missionary who loves God, Pastoral & Functional Therapist, Imago Professional Facilitator, EFT practitioner.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

You must be logged in to post a comment.