Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here is this week’s question:
“Dear Dave and T.A.,
I have two questions. I think I heard you guys say some time ago that Jesus spoke in parables so that unbelievers wouldn’t get the message. That troubles me, because I am a young believer (at least I think I’m a believer), yet I don’t get some of the parables. Could you explain again what Jesus meant in Matthew:13:11? Also, in the parable of the sower, is it only the seed that fell on good ground that refers to one who is truly saved?”
Tom: Dave, let me quote Matthew 13, just to give some background for our listeners who maybe aren’t familiar with it: “That same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the seaside. And great multitudes were gathered together unto Him, so that He went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 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. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
“And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.”
Dave: Well, Tom, it takes longer to explain this than the time we have, but first of all, “Are those who are represented by good ground, are they the only believers?” I don’t think so, because the seed spreading up that was choked out, it didn’t bear fruit. But Paul would tell us in 1 Corinthians 3 that a person could have not one good deed, not one good work; every work that they have done has been burned up, yet they themselves are saved so as by fire. So if you truly believed in Christ - now, that would be a rather unusual situation, so I couldn’t say for sure - but I think that would indicate that you had two possible interpretations: either the thorns choke out the gospel, you know, so that they never believe, and this little plant that springs up doesn’t indicate real life, although it seems to be alive and just isn’t bearing fruit. Or there is some life, but it doesn’t mature, so I would take the latter part. The interpretation Jesus gives, and other gospels as well, is that the good ground signifies an honest heart. And we often quote Acts:17:11 - sometimes we leave out the first part of it: “They searched the Scriptures daily to see whether those things were so,” but the first part of that verse says, “They received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures.”
So these Jews to whom it was not given to understand had already rejected the gospel. They were not going to hear it no matter how it was explained to them. You can explain it in detail to many people. For example, an atheist? That’s ridiculous. An evolutionist? That’s ridiculous; all the facts are against it, but it doesn’t matter; they are going to hang in there regardless.
Tom: Dave, what about the writer and his concern about his difficulty in understanding the parables? I mean, I’ve talked to other people, many people, and they said, “Oh, man, some of the parables are really difficult. You really have to think.”
Dave: Well, my wife Ruth often says, “Why didn’t God make it easier to understand? Nothing is worth much unless you have to do a little digging.” We have trials and tribulations in our lives. That’s one of the problems with Christian psychology or with drugs: you’re going to have this person escape what they really need in order to learn some lessons, and if it came so easily, it doesn’t mean anything to you.
Furthermore, there are deep truths. It does take some comprehension. Again, another problem with the so-called modern translations or paraphrases, they are watering this down - dumbing it down so that any idiot could understand supposedly, and in that process they miss the message, because Paul would tell us in 1 Corinthians 2, “There are deep things that are only understood by the Spirit of God.”
And Peter in his second epistle says that Paul has written some things that are not easy to understand, and those who are unlearned and unstable, they twist them like they do the other Scriptures.
So, Tom, I have gotten on my knees so many times and said, “Lord, I don’t understand this. Please help me,” and eventually we do understand, and when we understand it, we come to a much deeper appreciation. There are deep truths, and by that we don’t mean esoteric - we don’t mean hidden like the Kabbalah or the Zohar, or whatever - but Kabbalah is becoming very popular today - mystical stuff, or, like, hidden messages in the Bible, and so forth. No, it’s there in English or Greek or Hebrew, whatever you understand, or Spanish or French, but it takes some real serious thought.
Tom: And for a young believer, it takes a familiarity with the Word of God. Scripture interprets Scripture, so be patient out there. This is a problem that you are having, but nevertheless, be diligent. Be diligent; read the Word of God; get involved in Bible studies. There are certainly great teachers out there, but still, they are accountable for what they believe and why they believe it. So the Holy Spirit’s got to be the teacher.
Dave: Well, Tom, what you say is very important. You have to know all of the Bible, and that takes time, because the Bible is its own interpreter, and we learn what it means here by understanding the other parts of the Word of God. That takes time. I want something that is worth mining - you know, gold, a nugget from the Scriptures is going to take some mining. It’s not that God doesn’t want the true believer to learn it, but He hides it from those who will not believe no matter what.