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Faithlife

GOSPEL GROWTH

Notes & Transcripts
This past week, as I was working at weeding our garden, something happened that reminded me of our text for this morning (which, by the way, is ). I was trying to weed the section of our garden where we are growing peas, beans, corn, and tomatoes. This portion of the garden we have fenced in since the rabbits ravaged it last year. If you ever want to get a good laugh, you see me trying to step over that 3 ft. high fence!
Anyway, as I was weeding around the peas, some of the weed’s roots were tangled around the roots of some of the pea plants. Inadvertently, I pulled up two of our precious pea plants — sorry honey — I probably forgot to tell you about that one!
Today, we come to our third installment of the Kingdom Parables. As we do so we are going to attempt to look at three parables, the parable of the tares among the wheat and its explanation by Jesus, the parable of the mustard seed, and the parable of the leaven.
The way I understand things is that the parable of the sower and the seed addresses the reception of the gospel message. Whereas, the parables we will look at today represent the growth of the gospel, hence the title for today’s message: GOSPEL GROWTH.
Let’s read down through our passage together.
Being the masterful teacher that He was, Jesus had an uncanny ability to use the things in His surrounding to teach His message. Though only the apostles, and those who have read the written accounts of the Gospels, were privy to the full meaning of the parables that Jesus taught on this fateful day, the average person who have some degree of understanding of the objects that were being comparatively used.
Since the explanation of this parable is given separately than the parable itself, I would like to start there. But first we should not a couple of things. Jesus was still sitting in the boat while He spoke these three parables to the crowds who had gathered to hear Him teach. But the disciples waited until they had returned to the house before asking Jesus to explain this parable to them. We should also note that they did not ask for an explanation of the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven. Either the understanding was plain to them or else they were more intrigued by the one parable than by the other two.
Let’s look at the characters of this parable first.
THE CHARACTERS
The Sower — The Son of Man
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The Good Seed — The Sons of the Kingdom
Though I do not want to dwell on this today, this reference to the good seed being the sons of the kingdom has a reference to the doctrine of election. Most of you probably don’t need to explain that the reference to “sons” does not imply that females are not part of the kingdom. In first century Roman culture only sons could receive an inheritance from their father. If a person of wealth did not have a son then he would adopt an adult male in order to have an heir. We will talk about this again when get into the Book of Galatians in the coming weeks. But understand that from a biblical standpoint even females who are believers are adopted into God’s family as sons, and therefore are recipients of this divine inheritance that await us; the one which Peter described as being imperishable (death proof), undefiled (sin proof), and will not fade away (time proof).
The Tares — The Sons of the Evil One
The Enemy — The Devil
The Harvesters — Angels
THE LOCATION
The Field is the World
The fact that Jesus stated quite clearly that the field in this parable is the world makes me scratch my head when I read various commentaries on this passage. You see some interpret this passage as referring to church discipline, in that churches should be overbearing when enforcing church discipline. In order to get to that understanding they have to interpret the field in this parable as the church, rather than the world. That interpretation does have a historical precedent. It was the view of Augustine, as well as the view of most of the Reformers. Addressing this issue D.A. Carson wrote:
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke b. Interpretation of the Parable of the Weeds (13:36–43)

Of greater importance in the history of the church has been the view that this actually means that the field is the church. The view was largely assumed by the early church fathers, and the tendency to interpret the parable that way was reinforced by the Constantinian settlement. Augustine made the interpretation official: struggling against the Donatists, who were overzealous in their excommunication practices, he went so far as to say that a mixture of good and evil in the church is a necessary “sign” of the church (cf. esp. his Breviculus Collationis cum Donatistis and his Ad Donatistas post Collationem). Most Reformers followed the same line: Calvin went so far as to say that the “world” here represents the church by synecdoche.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke b. Interpretation of the Parable of the Weeds (13:36–43)

Of greater importance in the history of the church has been the view that this actually means that the field is the church. The view was largely assumed by the early church fathers, and the tendency to interpret the parable that way was reinforced by the Constantinian settlement. Augustine made the interpretation official: struggling against the Donatists, who were overzealous in their excommunication practices, he went so far as to say that a mixture of good and evil in the church is a necessary “sign” of the church (cf. esp. his Breviculus Collationis cum Donatistis and his Ad Donatistas post Collationem). Most Reformers followed the same line: Calvin went so far as to say that the “world” here represents the church by synecdoche.

I had to look up that word “synecdoche.” This is what I found: “It is a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa, as in Detroit won by six runs (meaning “Detroit’s baseball team”).”
So in Calvin’s view the larger world stands for the smaller church. But that just doesn’t make sense to me. If Jesus wanted to say that the world means the church He could have done so. MacArthur wrote: “It is difficult to understand why so many interpreters maintain that the field in this parable represents the church, and that Jesus’ point is that true and false believers, represented by the wheat and tares, will exist together in the church throughout the present age. The Lord could not have identified the field more explicitly. It is the world, not the church. This a a picture of the church in the world, not of the world in the church.” (MacArthur, ; pg. 377).
Understand that there is some truth to the fact that true and false believers may exist together in the same local church. As we mentioned last week, there are those who seem to have had a true conversion to Christ, and for a short time will be indistinguishable from authentic believers. Such people are referred to in the parable of the sower and the seed as having soil that is in a rocky place. There is no depth to the soil and so the seeming growth of the plant soon withers away. Such folks are often described as being apostates. John wrote this:
1 John 2:28 NASB95
Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.
1 John 2:18–19 NASB95
Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.
This Present Age
Presently the world is under the authority of the usurper to the throne — Satan. Though the world is not his by right, ever since the fall of man the world has bowed the knee to Satan as its lord and master. But Jesus Christ is the rightful ruler of this world. And He is presently ruling in the hearts of the sons of the kingdom.
Colossians 1:13–14 NASB95
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
During this present age, we who are the sons of the kingdom, are to be growing in the grace and knowledge of the Savior. And we are to be engaged in the ministry of reconciliation as we share the message of the gospel with the dying world in which we live.
Ruler/Creator
Rebel
Redeemer
Receiver
The End of the Age
But there is coming a day when He will rule this earth with a rod of iron.
Revelation 20:4 NASB95
Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
At the end of the age:
Matthew 25:31–33 NASB95
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
Many who interpret the world as the church in this parable see a warning against church discipline. But that would be inconsistent with what Jesus taught in regarding church discipline. But I see this more in terms of what is often called common grace. Common grace is the grace of God that is given to all of mankind regardless of whether they are numbered among the elect or not. God does not usually choose to have the rain fall only on the fields of His children, while withholding rain from the fields of those who are outside of Christ. The rain falls on the righteous and the wicked alike. God doesn’t show rainbows only to the elect, He shows them to all (who look) in the area in which He has made them appear. God doesn’t keep the beauty of His creation from being seen by those who are outside of Christ. These are all things of common grace that all men can experience.
Let’s turn our attention now to the parable of the mustard seed. Look with me at .
Controversy
Kingdom Growth
Kingdom Influence
Let’s look now at the parable of the leaven. Look with me at .
Not a Reference to Sin, but to Influence
The first point of this parable (according to MacArthur) is that small things can have great influence. Twelve very ordinary men turned the world upside down.
The second point of the parable is that the influence is positive.
Matthew 5:13–16 NASB95
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
The third point is that the positive influence of the kingdom comes from within. “Christians are not to be of the world, but we are to be in the world, because that is the only way the gospel can reach and affect the world ().”
John 17:14–16 NASB95
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Matthew 5:13–16 NASB95
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
John 17:14–16 NASB95
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Let’s turn our attention now to the fulfillment passage found in .
After Jesus finished His public portion of the parables, and before beginning His private portion which began with the explanation of the parable of the tares, but also included other parables that we will look at next week, Lord willing, Matthew stated that this was a fulfillment of an O.T. prophecy. The illusion is a reference to
Psalm 78:2 NASB95
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old,
Closing Song: No. 427 — PEOPLE OF GOD
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