Receive Jesus as Savior

Explore the Bible Series

October 24, 2004

 

Background Passage: Luke 8:1-56

Lesson Passage: Luke 8:8-21

 

Introduction: Jesus commonly used parables to teach his disciples.  These brief analogies punctuate all four gospels, and they helped to illustrate important aspects of Jesus’ instruction.  A.T. Robertson identified more than fifty parables.  Luke recorded more of these wonderful illustrative stories than any other gospel writers (John recounted the fewest).  The Synoptics give invaluable insight into the intent of these analogies (See Matthew 13:11-17; Mark 4:10-12 and Luke 8:8-10), and Bible students must take great care in interpreting this important aspect of the Lord’s prophetic ministry.

 

The gospel writers indicate that parables have at least two purposes.  First, Jesus clearly taught that he used parables to reveal principles about the Kingdom of God to responsive disciples. This revelatory and instructive purpose helped to unveil the mysteries of the Kingdom to the Lord’s people.  Second, the parables concealed Kingdom mysteries from those who opposed the gospel.  This element of the Lord’s teaching fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the Lord’s teaching ministry (See Luke 8:9-10, Mark 4:10-12, and Isaiah 6:9).

 

Bernard Ramm outlined four elements of New Testament parables.

  1. A parable is some commonly known earthly thing, event, custom or possible occurrence… It is this concrete and pictorial grounding which makes them such remarkable instruments for instruction.
  2. Beyond the earthly element is the spiritual lesson or theological truth that the parable intends to teach.
  3. This earthly element bears an analogical relationship to the spiritual element.  It is this analogical relationship that gives the parable its illustrative force.
  4. Because a parable has two levels of meaning, every parable stands on need of interpretation… Whenever any interpreter seeks an elaboration of meaning in a parable, and commences to find meaning in far more points than the parable can hope to make, that interpreter has returned to the reprehensible method of allegorizing parables.             (See Protestant Biblical Interpretation, pp. 278-279)

 

Follow these principles for the interpretation of parables.

  1. Study to understand the historical context of the parable. What common cultural phenomenon does the story reflect?
  2. Determine the central teaching of the parable.  Most parables center on one particular theme. Remember that most parables are not allegories, and the Bible student must not press the story beyond its original intent.       
  3. Examine the context of the passage to gain insight into the meaning of the parable.  The Parable of the Sower, for instance, is interpreted by the Lord in verses 13-20.

 

I.                   The Sower and the Seed (Luke 8:3 and 14)

A.     The farmer sowed seed in his field.   Jesus’ hearers, no doubt, were familiar with this common sight in the ancient, Middle Eastern world.  The sower sought a rich harvest, and he realized that the bounty of his crop depended on the liberality of his sowing.  He could not expect a harvest if he failed to entrust the seed to the field.  His harvest, generally speaking, was proportionate to his sowing.  Also, the text implies the willingness of the farmer to work hard in his field. 

B.     The sower, Jesus said, sowed the word.  The bounty of the harvest depended, to large measure, on the quality of the seed.  He could not hope to reap with bounty if he used inferior seed. If he had, for instance, planted weeds in the field, he might produce many plants, but his object was to produce a useful and blessed crop.  Sowers must not confuse green fields (weeds are green and may look good from a distance!) with a bountiful harvest.  Poor seeds produce poor crops.  Furthermore, the seeds had to be taken from the farmer’s seed pouch and entrusted to the soil.  No agriculturalist would simply hoard the seed for his own amusement; rather, he entrusted the seed to the soil.

Application:  Those who engage in evangelism may learn much from Jesus’ brief description of the farmer.

1.      He labors tirelessly to produce a harvest.

2.      He ensures that he uses the best seed, the word. 

3.      He sows freely and liberally in the field.

4.      He cannot germinate the seeds, but he can enjoy a general expectation of a bountiful harvest if he has sown good seed in rich soil.

 

II.                The Four Soils (Luke 8:15-20)

A.     The wayside (vv. 5 and 12): The good seed that fell on this soil was quickly trampled under foot or snatched away by the birds.  Every field had certain areas where the soil hardened because of heavy foot traffic: the greater the traffic, the harder the soil.  These “hearers” had exposure to the seed and laid in close proximity to the good, rich soil; nevertheless, the seed remained on the surface because the ground was hard and unreceptive.

Application:  Every sower knows those people who have trafficked in the things of the Lord; yet, these “hearers” grow hard and increasingly unreceptive to the gospel.  Satan snatched away the seed before it germinated.

                                  B. The rocky soil (vv. 6 and 13): The persons represented by the      

rocky soil initially received the word with gladness; however, time and trials revealed that their faith was not genuine.  One of the marks of saving faith is that it perseveres. 

                                 C. The thorny soil (vv. 7 and 14): The seed in this soil germinated

                                      and took root; indeed, it grows for a time.  Sadly, the seedling

                                      got choked out by the weeds of cares, riches, and the pleasures of

                                      life. 

                                         1. Cares: concerns that divide and distract the heart; things

                                             that draw the heart in different directions

2.      Riches: material wealth that draws the heart toward greed and every kind of evil

3.      Pleasures of life: refers to the gratification of evil desires

                                  D. The good soil (vv. 8 and 15): The seeds that fell on the good soil                                                         

                                       germinated and grew.  These seedlings, however, endured unto 

                                       fruitfulness.  Jesus used this parable to reveal the character of

                                       saving faith.

1.      Saving faith grows from a good and noble heart; that is, faith comes from a regenerate heart.  It is not merely an act of the will, but it involves the affections as well. 

2.      Saving faith receives and keeps the word.  The word Luke used here means “holding fast” to the word. 

3.      Saving faith bears fruit: holiness, zeal, passion for the advancement of the Kingdom, and love for the brethren.  Furthermore, this fruitfulness surely must include a fervent concern for the lost.

4.      Saving faith endures.  Unlike the temporary and spurious faith of the “rocky soil” and the “thorny soil”, this person perseveres in faith. 

                      

Conclusion: James P. Boyce clearly distinguished the difference between true saving faith and its counterfeits.

 

            Temporary or delusive faith: This has many marks of true faith.  Hence it is not

            only the intellectual reception of historical facts, but a joyful acceptance of them. 

This is the case of the seed in the stony places which represents the man that  heareth the word and anon with joy receiveth it.  But the parable teaches us that the soil was not prepared.  It is, therefore, not on the regenerated heart that it arises.  The evidence of its temporary character, therefore, will soon appear. It lacks the following characteristics of saving faith and may thus be distinguished from it.

1.      Continuance in trusting Christ, and in devotion to him and his service.

2.      Desire to be useful in the work of Christ.

3.      Attendance to Christian duty.

4.      Love of prayer and the word of God, and of the meetings with his people for worship.

5.      Devoted love to the children of God as such.

6.      Progress in the knowledge of self and sin, and of Christ as Savior.

7.      Progress in loving holiness and hating sin, with increased conviction of, and humility concerning sinfulness.