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Purposes and Preaching of Parables

Tonight we will begin a mid-week series on the parable of our Lord Jesus Christ at New Covenant. When I was young, I was--like so many--taught that a parable is simply "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning." This is a fair definition, so far as it goes; however, I was also told that Jesus spoke in parables so that the common and ignorant person could understand the deep teachings of God in simple, illustrative form. This explanation is far from capturing the reasons Jesus gave for why He spoke in parables. In Matthew 13:10-15, we read:

Then the disciples came and said to him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" And he answered them, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

"'You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.'

There is a two-fold purpose to the parable. There is, on the one hand, a revealing of the heavenly mysteries to those for whom that truth is given. But, on the other hand, there is an element of eschatological judgment contained in the parables. Like the prophets before Him, our Lord spoke in parables so that those whose hearts were hard toward Him might not understand the truth, believe it and be saved. The parables are essentially "a veil that both conceal and reveal the truth." Matthew Henry once called it, "the dark lantern of a parable." Throughout church history, a plethora of great books have been written--and sermons preached--on the parables. In our day, there is perhaps none so helpful as those preached by my former professor, Dr. John Carrick. You can find many of the sermons he has preached on the parables here.

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