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GOSPEL GROWTH PART 2

The Kingdom Parables  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Notes & Transcripts
Over the last three weeks we have been studying the kingdom parables found in . Thus far we have looked at the purpose for using parables, which, if you will recall was to reveal the intended meaning to the sons of the kingdom, while keeping the meaning hidden from the sons of the evil one. Next we looked at the explanation of the first parable — the parable of the sower, seed, and soil. We determined that this parable was about the reception of the word of the kingdom — the gospel. And last week we looked at the parable of the tares among the wheat. We determined that this parable describes the destinies of two groups, the sons of the kingdom, and, the sons of the evil one.
Though it does not fit the analogy of the parable, we noticed that all of us, even believers, were at one time tares. In other words we were sons of the evil one. And that it was means of adoption that we became sons of the kingdom.
Last week I mentioned the concept of common grace. This week I found this quote by Martyn Lloyd-Jones regarding common grace, so I thought I would share it with ya’ll. If you are a note taker you can find this quote in the bulletin this morning and save yourself the frustration of trying to write fast enough to keep up with me.

it is the cross and the cross alone that spares the life of anybody who ever sins at any time. It is only because of the work of the cross that God can even tolerate sin in any shape or in any sense. Now that, therefore, I put under the heading of common blessing. And let us be careful to emphasise that even the unbeliever derives that blessing from the cross. The fact that he is not cut off immediately is entirely due to that. It is in the light of the cross that God can exercise His patience towards those who are opposed to Him and remain finally impenitent.

This week we are going to pick up where we left off last week with the parable of the Mustard Seed found in . And then, Lord willing we will also look at the parable of The Leaven found in . And we will close by looking at the fulfillment passage in .
Let’ read through the parable of the mustard seed together.
Controversy
I would be remiss in my duties if I did not spend some time dealing with the controversy in regards to this passage. For years now, critics have used this passage to support their view the Bible is not inerrant. How do they do that? The issue is with Jesus’ statement that the mustard seed … is smaller than all other seeds.
From a botanical standpoint there are issues with this statement because though the mustard seed is indeed very small, it is not the smallest of seeds.
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Various views have been espoused by those who, like us, believe that the Bible is inerrant. We will just look at a couple of them.
The view of many Classical dispensationalists, such as John Walvoord, is that this parable represents “The presence of evil within professing Christendom.” (Turner, Baker, pg. 344-45). David L. Turner explains that those in this group distinguish between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God. They see the kingdom of God as the future millennium, and the kingdom of heaven as encompassing Christendom, viewed as organized, or nominal, Christianity. If I understand their view correctly, they interpret both the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the leaven (which we will look at in a few moments) in light of the parable of the tares among the wheat. Though I consider myself to be a dispensationalists, and I certainly see the presence of evil within the professing church, I do not believe this is the proper understanding of this parable. We will probably reference this again as we look at the next parable for there is a similarity in meaning between the two.
Though I have not been able to put my hands of the originator of this next view, many years ago I heard someone teach that the parable of the mustard seed refers to a false kingdom. Their argument was that the birds that nested in the tree represent Satan and his hosts, and therefore a false kingdom whose seeming supernatural growth was the result of the work of the evil one. Again, I do not agree with this view. It is true that in the parable of the sower the birds did represent Satan. But as I have mentioned before, we have to be careful to not read the interpretation of one parable back into the another distinct parable. There are many times in Scripture where birds do not represent evil. There are times when the nesting of birds represents the “idea of protection, safety, refuge, and sanctuary, which the mother bird provides for her young” (MacArthur, pg. 371). Consider what the psalmist had to say in:
Psalm 104:10–13 NASB95
He sends forth springs in the valleys; They flow between the mountains; They give drink to every beast of the field; The wild donkeys quench their thirst. Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; They lift up their voices among the branches. He waters the mountains from His upper chambers; The earth is satisfied with the fruit of His works.
This was obviously a positive reference to nesting birds.
Or Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in which his kingdom was described as one which provided protection and shelter for others.
Daniel 4:11–12 NASB95
‘The tree grew large and became strong And its height reached to the sky, And it was visible to the end of the whole earth. ‘Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, And in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, And the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches, And all living creatures fed themselves from it.
These passages seem to me, as well as to others, to parallel this parable of the mustard seed in that they describe a tree which provides shelter for the birds of the air.
What I believe about this passage is two-fold. First I believe that Jesus specified that He was referring to seeds which were commonly planted in Palestine. Though there were wild plants or weeds that perhaps had a smaller seed than the mustard seed, the mustard seed was the smallest that was used in agriculture of that day. It has been pointed out that the wild orchid and other such seeds are smaller than the mustard seed, but they were not common to Palestine in the first century. Secondly, Jesus was making a hyperbolic statement to emphasize how the kingdom would go from an insignificant beginning to worldwide growth.
Kingdom Growth
So this parable is about kingdom growth. Think about it for a moment. Jesus started this movement with twelve ordinary, blue collar workers. But now there are millions if not billions of sons of the kingdom. And with significant growth comes significant impact and influence.
Kingdom Influence
John MacArthur, in his commentary on this passage (pg. 368) tells of a man known as Lord Kelvin. This man once suspended a large piece of metal from a cord in his laboratory. Then he started to shoot spit-wads at it. Initially there was almost no perceivable impact of the paper hitting the metal. But eventually the steel weight began swaying rhythmically back and forth due to the cumulative force patiently applied against it.
This illustration gives us the idea of the influence that even small things can have. Jesus, Himself, was born in relative obscurity. Born in a manger with a bunch of animals looking on. The announcement of the birth of the King of kings was given to a group of humble shepherds. He grew up in Nazareth, which was far away from Jerusalem — the place of religious prominence for the nation of Israel. His original followers were not people of prestige and power, but were hard working blue collar types, like most of us were. All of this is represented by the smallness of the mustard seed. How a small seed can produce such a large garden plant is a mystery known only by God, and the same is true of how the kingdom of heaven could experience such incredible growth.
Kingdom Protection
Let’s consider briefly the protection that is provided for the citizens of the Kingdom of Christ. Peter referred to this protection in his first epistle which we studied last year. He stated that citizens of the kingdom, adoptive sons of God, have an inheritance that is reserved in heaven for those:
1 Peter 1:5 NASB95
who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
The Truine God is the One who provides protection for His own as the kingdom advances. On the temporal level this protection is not always promised, but on the spiritual plane it is.
Let’s look now at the parable of the leaven. Look with me at .
Not a Reference to Sin, but to Influence
Leaven is an agent that is used to provided fermentation for dough so that it will rise. I have to be honest with you, though I knew that leaven or yeast causes dough to rise I did not know that was actually a process of fermentation. Lean something new every day!
In Jewish culture the woman responsible for baking would save a piece of leavened dough from a risen batch just before it was baked. When the next batch of dough was mixed, she took the save piece from the previous batch and hid it in the new, in order that its leaven, or yeast, could ferment the new batch of dough and make it rise. (MacArthur, pg. 372).
In the N.T. leaven was often used to illustrate the permeation of sin. Even the smallest of sins (if there really is such a thing as a small sin) has a huge impact and influence on a persons life. Because of that fact many dispensationalists have interpreted this parable to be about evil within Christendom. Though I certainly see how they get to this understanding, I don’t think that is the point of this parable. Take for instance the comparative analogy of a lion. Both Jesus and Satan are described in different places as being a lion. The fact of the matter is that some of the Feast of Pentecost bread offered to the Lord was required to be baked with leaven ().
Leviticus 23:17 NASB95
‘You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits to the Lord.
In our parable it is stated that this woman took and hid a piece of leavened dough in three pecks of flour. Three pecks of flour is the rough equivalent to a bushel. One little piece of leavened dough in enough to permeate an entire bushel of dough!
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.
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.”
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.
In a sense these parables have a very similar meaning. As D.A. Carson wrote:

If there is a distinction between this parable and the last one, it is that the mustard seed suggests extensive growth and the yeast intensive transformation.

David L. Turner wrote:
Followers of Jesus should be encouraged that despite frequent fruitless responses to the kingdom message, it does indeed bear much fruit in many cases (pg. 344).
How has it borne fruit? Since the growth of the kingdom of Christ, Christianity has had an impact in many areas. It has impacted the arts, science, education, politics, just to name a few.
Think a moment about compulsory education, which is a fancy way of saying that the law requires that children go to school. Where did that come from? It came from the Puritans who settled in Massachusetts. Their reasoning for it was that they wanted everyone to be able to read the Bible for themselves. Where would our nation be if it hadn’t been for the forward thinking of the Puritans?
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. This is a reference to
NASB95
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old,
This psalm was written by Asaph who has been referred to as a seer. It recounts the history of Israel, stressing the nations unbelief:
Psalm 78:8 NASB95
And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart And whose spirit was not faithful to God.
God’s discipline:
Psalm 78:21 NASB95
Therefore the Lord heard and was full of wrath; And a fire was kindled against Jacob And anger also mounted against Israel,
God’s continued faithfulness to Israel, and the choosing of David as its shepherd. Matthew connects this to Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Where is the cross in all of this? Without the cross as well as the resurrection there would be no impact to be made. Though Christians have had an impact on society that often goes unnoticed in our present times, Christ did not die to save society. He died and rose again to save sinners. And the greatest impact that the sons of the kingdom have is in sharing the message of the kingdom:
Ruler/Creator
Rebel
Redeemer
Reception
Are you willing to be used of God to make an impact on our world for the kingdom of Christ?
Let’s pray.
Closing Song: No. 139 — GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS
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