"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

PONDERING THE PARABLES – Part Four

~ by James Fire

INTRODUCTION: There are some parables that address GOD’s reconciliatory work, based upon His redemption. Because He died for our sins and bought us out of ‘the slave market of sin’, we belong to GOD, are loved by GOD, no longer at enmity with the LORD – we are reconciled and have relationship with the LORD as our Father, with the LORD Jesus as our Savior, with the Holy Spirit as our Helper (the triune GODHEAD is relational to us in these and so many other capacities!).

We see this in such parables as the treasure in the field, and pearl taken from the oyster, the lost sheep, the lost coin reclaimed, etc. In all of these there is a retrieval of something that was buried, out of sight, lost, but regained and cherished.
There is the primary parable – the Sower of the Seed that expounds on the efficacious nature of the Word to propagate, bearing fruit after its kind (and those influences that hinder or even halt that germinating work).

Then there are these other parables where the kingdom of GOD is being infested by the workings of Satan – such as the tares sown among the wheat, the leaven being introduced into the dough, and in this next parable yet another distinction:
The good and the bad dwelling together, but then separated: the good and bad fish; those who didn’t attend the wedding and those who did;

MATTHEW 13:47-50
50 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 "which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels but threw the bad away. 49 "So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 "and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth
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The nets of time encompass us all; none can escape them, and they ‘drag’ us irrevocably through the doorway of death and to the throne of GOD (HEB 9:27) and He examines His ‘catch’ and on those celestial shores where that Great White Throne (REV 20:11-15) is set, the LORD will separate the good fish from the bad – only in this case, it’s the bad fish that get roasted – in that furnace of fire (a separate judgment exclusively for the saints is the Bema Seat judgment, which is purely for the purpose of rendering reward for faithful service, not a judgment of our sins which happened for us already at the Cross of Christ).

This separation of fish is not conducted by any man, but by angels appointed of GOD, and then judged by the GOD-Man, the LORD Jesus Christ (JOHN 5:22,27) Who taught His disciples how “to be fishers of men” (MATT 4:19)!

In the lake of this life, we cast various lures, but at their heart, they are all gleaming with Gospel truth, and hungry fish will go after them – but some will spit them out, desiring other sustenance that is of this world. Fishing for fish or for souls of man, both requires patience (and much prayer for souls!).

As the not-so-old adage goes, “We catch ‘em, He cleans ‘em!” and as it has also been said, “In this world, there are only two kinds of people: saints and ‘aints’.” In regards to salvation, there isn’t a third category. No one is ‘half-way saved’ any more than anyone has ever been ‘almost pregnant’.

MATTHEW 13:51-52
51 Jesus said to them, "Have you understood all these things?" They said to Him, "Yes, Lord." 52 Then He said to them, "Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old
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Up until this point the LORD gave them a number of parables, and He checks in with His disciples, asking, “Are you getting all this?”

I honestly wonder if they really did – or if they were just playing along? Of course the LORD knew the entirety of the matter, and even if they didn’t really get it, I imagine He may have inwardly smiled, thinking, “The Holy Spirit will teach you and clarify any issues, boys”.

Again, we see this phrase, “the kingdom of/from heaven” and by way of reminder, this kingdom isn’t from here, it’s “not of this world”, any more than the LORD Jesus is of this world (JOHN 17:14; 18:36) – nevertheless the LORD shall return to this world at His Second Coming, and He will inaugurate His kingdom which will include promises and covenants fulfilled from both the Old and New Testaments; both of which are treasure troves of truth!

MATTHEW 18:21-22
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven
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I find it fascinating that the LORD chose this particular equation to express to us concerning forgiveness towards others, especially our fellow saints. It could mean simply that we aren’t to keep count, to cap the level of our forgiveness of others to a limit, but rather to just keep forgiving.
But He could have easily expressed this by saying 60 x 6 or 80 x 8. Why did He choose 70 x 7?

A possibility: The 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel speaks of many things but primarily of the Second Coming of Messiah. Those 70 weeks are prophetic weeks, each lasting 7 years – or 70 x 7!

I think there is a message here; that we are to keep forgiving others for the sake of Christ, until the return of the King and He will mete out His various judgments and settle all debts as it were (ROM 12:19).

MATTHEW 18:23-27
23 "Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 "And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 "But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 "The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 27 "Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt
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What is astounding to me is that the King didn’t merely extend the grace period of repayment of the debt to some distant future date, but he showed mercy by not throwing him into the slave market along with his wife and children; but then He extended His mercies even further and actually forgave the debt – something amounting to over $10 million! I don’t know if any of us could ever rack up a ten million dollar debt, but it’s highly doubtful we could ever repay it (particularly when one considers the interest!).

Even more so, there is no way we could ever ‘repay’ GOD for our debt of sin; we’re abjectly hopeless and spiritually poverty-stricken in that regard, and if we are honest and recognize this truth, that is the first step toward blessedness (MATT 5:3)!
Yet the LORD in His mercy forgave us this insurmountable debt, out of the goodness of His magnificent, noble, gracious, and loving tender heart!

Imagine the astonishment that you as a debtor would express when the one you owed $10 million to, cleared it!! How grateful would you be? How gracious and merciful would you be towards others who owed you any sort of debt?

This servant wasn’t – not at all!

MATTHEW 18:28-35
28 "But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' 29 "So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 30 "And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 "So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 "Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 'Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' 34 "And his master was angry and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses
.

The King here describes this servant as “wicked” – one who has degenerated from their original condition. This servant didn’t extend forgiveness to his fellow. Why was he so adamant about being repaid?

It doesn’t say, but my suspicion is that he felt obligated to repay his Master, even though the King declared him free of his debt. It seems the servant didn’t really believe the debt was cleared, or that he still felt obligated and was intent on getting every cent owed to him, in a vain attempt to repay his Master.

What do we read elsewhere in Scripture about forgiveness?

Remember the woman who came into the house where the LORD was invited by Simon the Pharisee to a dinner, and she wept over the LORD’s feet and wiped them with her hair? What did the LORD say in response to the Pharisee who thought the LORD was in the wrong in even allowing this sinful woman to touch Him?

LUKE 7:47
47 "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." 48 Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

Those who genuinely receive forgiveness of sin and have by faith believed the Gospel, will love the LORD truly and have a forgiving nature; And those who truly love GOD will likewise love their brother (1 JOHN 4:20)!

Those who refuse to forgive reveal something about themselves. Either that they are not saved solely by grace, or that they are struggling in believing that they truly are forgiven, truly saved.

Or perhaps because of pride they feel that they are justified in gripping the offense tightly, even though their own offenses were forgiven by the Holy GOD.
This is why we must deal with any faulty understanding of the Gospel with absolute clarity and with unforgiveness with the greatest of severity, not allowing such, admonishing souls who hold on to unforgiveness to pursue the grace of GOD. Otherwise its resulting bitterness will take root, “and thereby many are defiled”:

HEBREWS 12:14-15
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled
;

The most dangerous offenses against us are the legitimate ones, the very grave and serious ones, because those are the sort we feel justified in retaining our bitter unforgiveness over.
Yet the LORD here is clear, we cannot expect forgiveness from our Father if we ourselves are unwilling to forgive others. And for those who are even now struggling to let go of such offenses, understand these two vital points:

The one who suffers most by your unforgiveness is yourself; you are in a kind of torturous bondage to the one who offended you. Be a slave no longer and break those chains by forgiving them.

The other point is that Christ doesn’t command us to do something that He won’t then enable us to obey. In our own frailty, we may indeed be unable to forgive others – those who offended us in the most horrible, and inhumane ways – but we are in fact able, by the Spirit of grace and His empowerment. At the least, be willing to forgive and ask the LORD for the strength to follow through – He will!

Some have suggested that “the tormentors” represents hell fire and damnation; that this person who refused to forgive their fellow, lost their salvation. This destination certainly is the case for those who didn’t receive salvation and the subsequent forgiveness (these will certainly be imprisoned and not be released until they’ve paid the “debt in full”. Unfortunately it will take an eternity for them to make good on this debt!) or it could also be the conviction of the Holy Spirit that gets after us when we are in sin, especially if we’ve offended a fellow saint, or refuse to forgive one and aren’t willing to repent. I think we’ve all been there at one time or another!

MATTHEW 20:1-7
1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 "Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 "And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 "and said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went. 5 "Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour and did likewise. 6 "And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day?' 7 "They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.'

“Land owner” or “Land Lord” is quite the apt description for the LORD, because He owns all land; the entire Earth, all of creation belongs to the LORD (PSALM 24:1). And on this terrestrial ball, we saints are called to service in the name of the King, to proclaim His coming Kingdom and by means of the Gospel, feral rebels may be transformed to become royal family!

There are those who are called early on in life, while others are called late, with the rest of us called of GOD somewhere in between.

No where in Scripture is it ever once mentioned that salvation can be bought for a price, other than faith in GOD’s Word and His promise in providing the atoning blood of the innocent LAMB of GOD (1 COR 6:20; JOHN 1:29), so when we read this parable, the point is not just about salvation, but service as well.

Heaven and eternal life, these are free gifts offered (ROM 6:23b)to all people without requiring us to pay any price. For us, these are gifts, not purchases. It’s JESUS that paid the price and we are His purchased and prized and precious possessions (EPH 1:14).

We shall know grace upon grace (unmerited favor) throughout eternity, but in that celestial kingdom there are also rewards, and these will be granted based on our performance.
Consider that those who are righteous in Christ and stand for His truth and as a result suffer persecution; the LORD says that they have great reward in heaven (MATT 5:12). 

When we give our tithes or offerings of charity secretly and likewise offer prayers and fasting in privacy, there is reward for these who are intentionally not being seen of others, but by GOD Who sees in secret (MATT 6:2-6). His open reward may not necessarily be within the confines of this life, but in the one to come!

We need not think that our work in the kingdom must be grandiose and outwardly impressive in order to receive a reward; the simple act of offering a cup of water in the name of Jesus will be remembered on that day, and duly rewarded (MATT 10:42). The LORD will reward everyone on that Day of Judgment – the good and the bad (MATT 16:27).

MATTHEW 20:8-12
8 "So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, 'Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.' 9 "And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 "But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 "And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 "saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.'

On the matter of salvation, we know of those who came to Christ very early in life; I have a grand-niece who came to a saving knowledge of the truth at just four years of age. Others don’t come to faith until they are 14, 40 or 80.
Some of us saints were saved when we were young and have labored long, hard and faithfully for the majority of our lifetime while others have had deathbed conversions and did practically nothing at all.

But on that day, we shall all be rewarded (based not on our merit, but on Christ’s and His propitiatory sacrifice for our sins and offering of eternal life) equally with our purchased residency in the kingdom of GOD, afforded by the blood of Christ. In this sense, we all shall have ‘equal payment’ in the reception of the glories of heaven!

MATTHEW 20:13-16
13 "But he answered one of them and said, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 'Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?' 16 "So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen
.

The mistake of these laborers first hired was that they assumed an hourly wage based on time spent laboring; but what was agreed upon was a contract and payment on that basis – a denarius for a day’s wages.

Yet what also must be observed is the fact that whether they labored hard and long, or hardly at all, even those at the eleventh hour did some work, and perhaps labored as vigorously as the earlier hires in quality (if not quantity) of work – all proved faithful for their efforts. These are far different than the evil servant who took the talent that the LORD gave to him and merely buried it in the ground, revealing a very careless and ambivalent attitude.

Remember that all of these men were sent by the land owner: it was his will that these men should labor in his vineyard, and so they went.
It’s vital that whatever work we are seeking to engage in for the kingdom of GOD, that we are sent of the LORD in accordance with His will.

We are not free to volunteer our services wherever and however we would wish; any office, any ministry must be in accordance with the call of GOD on our lives. Thus, before any of us considers engaging in a particular ministry, we must seek the LORD and discover if these are some of those “…good works which GOD has before ordained…” (EPH 2:10).

We must also ensure that we engage in ministry with the right heart: not because we are pressured into it by our pastor, not because we seek recognition as a spiritual person to be admired by onlookers, not because we think our approval by GOD will go up several notches by ‘jumping through hoops’ of our own choosing.

1 CORINTHIANS 13 is most explicit concerning the proper motivation for doing anything for GOD in the coming kingdom:

1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-3
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing
.

Our sole motivation for any service we render to the King is our love for the King! And in order to love Him, we must know Him – unlike those who on that Day will say, “LORD, LORD did we not do … many wonderful works?” And He will say, “I never knew you, depart from me you workers of lawlessness (iniquity)!” (MATT 7:22).

In the previous chapter (19), Peter asked the LORD about what was in store for him and the other disciples who forsook everything to follow Him and he was assured that all who do such “shall receive a hundred fold and inherit eternal life”. And then He said the same thing then as He did here: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

The human race can be divided into two groups of laborers: those who work for the LORD and those who work for themselves. There are CEO’s and business tycoons, inventors, and engineers, as well as entertainers and others who have tremendous notoriety in this world, who have done extremely well for themselves: they are among the wealthy, the elite, the famous but on that Day, it will be those unknown (more or less) saints of this world who will be first, while these others are last.

I find it interesting that the seven love letters that Jesus wrote to the seven churches were met with quite startled recipients of those epistles. Those who thought they were poor, in the LORD’s estimation, were really rich; and those who were smugly self-assured in their wealth and good standing, Jesus said, were poor and miserable!

We may be surprised that the ‘Billy Grahams’ and ‘John MacArthurs’ and the ‘Chuck Smiths’ of the church won’t receive the highest commendations, but perhaps the frail little Grammas who faithfully prayed for all seven of their Sunday School children and poured into them the Word of GOD.

On the matter of “many are called but few are chosen”. GOD commands all men every where to repent. The Greek word for “command” means to declare something. His call goes out throughout the world, as the LORD Jesus is exalted, and thereby draws all men to Him (JOHN 12:32).

However, drawing all people to the LORD Jesus does not imply that all will be saved; only that the souls in this world must confront the singularly most vital question ever with a definitive answer: “Who do you say that I AM?” (MATT 16:15). He cannot and will not be ignored, nor will He be content with a neutral answer (MARK 9:40; 
MATT 10:34). As C.S. Lewis put it so aptly, He is either Liar, Lunatic or LORD.

Yet just as all the masses are drawn in by the “dragnet” towards Judgment, so too, all are drawn to make their decision on Jesus. And among these, it states, “few are chosen”. Why does GOD choose “few” instead of “many” or “most” or “all”?

Because there are few who are willing to surrender their will, their hearts, their very lives to Christ. Few there are who are saved because the way is that narrow (LUKE 13:23-24; JOHN 14:6). 

Many will not pass through that narrow Way because they may be offended that there is only “one way” and rather believe that “all paths lead to GOD” in the sense that any religion is just as good as any other.
They may be offended at the notion that they are sinners in need of repentance.
They may be offended at the idea of forsaking their own life, taking up their cross and dying to self (MATT 16:24), giving up control and allowing JESUS to be LORD over their lives, preferring to be “the captain of their own destiny”.

Putting the long debate between predestination and free will aside, suffice it to say, that both are taught in Scripture, and while we may not be able to comprehend how they compliment and not contradict each other, nevertheless both are doctrinally true. 

Consider how Paul the apostle speaks of GOD’s sovereignty and foreordaining us in ROMANS 9 and how in ROMANS 10 it’s declared that “whosoever will” and our responsibility to choose the path of life rather than the way that leads to death (DEUT 30:19).
One thing that I think most of us will agree on is:

JOHN 6:37
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out
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So ends PART Four; LORD willing, I will publish PART Five soon!

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