The Purpose of Parables

Matthew 13:10-17 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11  He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12  For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13  Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

Matthew 13:34,35 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables, and without a parable spake he not unto them: 35 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, saying; I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.

Mark 4:10-13 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. 11  And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: 12  That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. 13  And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

Luke 8:9-10 And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? 10  And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.


I.        Parables are always about something that is true.

A.     The story of the rich man and Lazarus is true, it is not a parable.

1.       Even if it were a parable, all the facts presented would be true.

a.       Christ would not teach a truth from a lie.

b.       Christ always taught the truth from a truth the people already knew.

c.       Christ always used a practical physical truth to teach a practical spiritual truth.

d.       Parables are a true illustration of a deeper truth.

B.     Jesus has taken something that is true in order to teach a deeper truth.

1.       Christ always used a truth the people already understood in order to teach them a truth they did not understand.

2.       Ephesians 5:32,33 explains that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a great mystery, but Paul has taken the truth of the home, which the people already understand, to teach this mystery.


II.     Compare parables to the Sermon on the mount - Christ speaks specifically: he didn't use any parables.

A.     Mark 4:10 - When they were alone, the disciples asked Jesus to explain the parable of the sower.

B.     Mark 4:13 - Understanding the meaning of this parable will aid in understanding all the other parables.

C.     Mark 4:34 - When speaking publicly Christ often explained spiritual principles in parables, but alone he expounded those spiritual principles to the disciples.

1.       God will reveal the truth to those that are given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

2.       All others will hear the parables and think they understand, but they will not understand, nor will they be converted and their sin forgiven.


III.   Don't try to fit each detail in the kingdom parables to the kingdom.  First fit the principles taught in the parable, then fit the details.

A.     Compare Matthew 13:24 where Christ (Verse 37) sowed good seed in His field and Matthew 13:44 where Christ finds a treasure in a field and sells all that he has to buy that field.

1.       The thing to avoid is: If Christ already owns the field, why would he sell all that he has in order to buy the field?

2.       If Christ knows everything there is to know, how could it be said that he found anything?

B.     Compare Matthew 13:44 where Christ finds a valuable treasure (there is no mention of what the treasure is), then hides it; with Matthew 13:45 where Christ is looking for a particular treasure.

C.     Compare Matthew 22:2 where the kingdom of God is compared to a wedding with Matthew 25:1 where the kingdom of heaven is compared to the virgins who will attend the ceremony.

D.     What Christ wants us to do:

1.       Understand that each parable of the kingdom is teaching a specific aspect about the kingdom.

2.       Understand that all of the kingdom parables will fit together in perfect harmony with no contradictions with any of the other kingdom parables.

3.       Discover the main element (or the main idea) of the parable.

4.       Discover the complete account of the parable.

5.       Completely understand what the parable means to the people in Christ's day.

6.       Then, and only then, will the deeper meaning of the parable be revealed.


IV.  Don't force anything to fit.

A.     Let each piece fall where God puts it.

1.       Do not fall into the trap of forcing the parables to agree with our theology. 

2.       Let the Word of God correct our theology.

B.     An overall explanation of some of the kingdom parables.

1.       Parable of the Tares – The introduction of sin into the world and its continuance until the end of the world.

2.       Parable of the Wandering sheep and Lost Coin – God's love and his amazing seeking for all of his elect.

3.       Parable of the Hid Treasure and the Costly Pearl – What it cost Christ to obtain us.

4.       Parable of the Laborers – How God uses different people during different ages to call all nations to him.

5.       The Parable of the Elder and Younger Son (Prodigal Son) – The jealousy of the Jews when God called the Gentiles into his service, and left them out.

6.       Parable of the Hidden Leaven – How false doctrine is introduced into the truth until the whole is spoiled.

7.       Parable of the Rented Vineyard, the Great Supper, the Barren Fig Tree, and the Cursed Fig Tree –Represent Israel and their rebellion against God's teaching and his subsequent abandonment of them for the Gentile church.


V.     Matthew 13:34,35 - Christ spoke to the multitudes only in parables. 

A.     Anytime Jesus was teaching spiritual truths, he spoke in parables.

1.       Men cannot understand spiritual truths except as how those truths relate to material things.

2.       Jesus is very gracious to sinful man to speak spiritual truths in a way we can understand.

B.     The parables of Christ reveal secrets kept from the foundation of the world.

1.       When Jesus came, he fulfilled all prophecies, therefore all secrets could not be revealed.

2.       The ministry of Christ was very remarkable to the people of that day, and his ministry is still “shaking the world”.

3.       A study of the parables of Christ will reveal the secret things of this world and the spiritual world to come, therefore this is a very rich and rewarding study.