Parables – traditionally - “earthly stories with a heavenly meaning”
All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world."
A parable is a story or illustration with familiar or common elements designed to drive home a spiritual lesson.
Most Parables reveal truth to believers, for non-believers parables are a complete mystery.
Another important thing to know about parables is that they are all designed to call for a personal response. They are controversial statements about the spiritual nature of Jesus’ kingdom both earthly and heavenly, designed to motivate or to offend. The parables were designed to be self-evident, and they would serve to reveal what a person really thought about Jesus and His kingdom.
Jesus gives us four reasons why He speaks this way:
1. To highlight the mystery of the kingdom
2. To exalt the sovereignty of God
3. To expose hardness of heart
4. To marvel at the beauty of God’s grace
Another possible reason was to not give His enemies any ground. The enemies of Jesus were always waiting for Him to say something they could use against Him. By speaking in parables, Jesus was making it very hard for them. He could hardly be arrested for telling homely stories!
This morning we saw that as God forgives us through His glorious grace we must forgive others. It’s an imperative, not an option, one we seem to overlook although the importance and centrality of forgiving others is set out clearly in probably the best know scripture in the gospels – the Lords Prayer:
Matthew 6:12–15 (NIV84)
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
We then looked at Matthew 18:21-35 where we see that our forgiveness from God and us applying forgiveness to other is interlinked. A servant forgiven an unpayable debt (us) must then forgive others who owe us comparatively small debts. It is part of and evidence of us being a new creation in Christ.
As part of this we saw that our forgiving must reflect the forgiveness we receive and not limited by number or circumstance. Genesis 4:24.
If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”
Lamech, as an unbeliever, was boasting that he would practice unlimited revenge. If the extreme of the world is unlimited revenge then the expectation of Christ is unlimited forgiveness!
As well as our relationship with God UN-forgiveness hurts Us
I want to continue on in our series called Back to Basics – Grace this week. We are picking up from last week where we looked at some of the fundamentals of grace.
Scripture might not give us an explicit dictionary definition of grace but it is not silent on what God’s grace means to us is! Verse after verses reminds us that God’s goodness – His grace to us is unmerited, undeserved and unearned.
Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that:
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
Romans 3:23-24 says:
23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
And Romans 11:6 tell us that
6 And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.
This grace is amazing – but as I said at the start of last week it is also really difficult for us to understand and to accept! We believe that our salvation should be more in our control – surely we have to do more to be saved than just confess with [our] mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
And so what we see in grace – is the completeness and sufficiency of Christ to us for salvation. As we consider this, this is something that is sometimes not expressed to it’s fullness in church. Why is that? There is a legitimate, perhaps fear, amongst those who teach the gospel that some will hear the message of grace and run away with it. By this I mean, that they will hear the great truth of God’s grace and use it to legitimize a lifestyle that is not at all beneficially nor reflect a life where the proper balance is maintained. And so we ask ourselves if this is God’s grace for us - what does the gospel of grace mean for sin? Is it okay to keep sinning if God’s grace is sufficient for salvation? And what about good works – are these an optional extra?
Listen along as we talk about the power of grace!