Parables of the Kingdom
February 6th, 1966 @ 7:30 PM
THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-6-66 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message on The Parables of the Kingdom. So let us turn to the First Gospel, Matthew, to chapter 13, and we are going to read in the middle of the chapter. We shall start at verse 36 and read through verse 43. Matthew chapter 13, start at verse 36 and read through verse 43. Everybody sharing his Bible, and on the radio get your Bible and read it out loud with us. Now everyone together, verse 36 through 43:
Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and His disciples came unto Him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.
He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man;
The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
There are eight parables in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew. Sometimes in your study, they will refer to the seven parables of the kingdom, which is all right, but at the end the Lord tells another little short parable with a different application. So we are going to put them all together and call them eight. There are eight parables here in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew discussing the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.
Now, they can be divided into two parts, the first four and the second four. The first four were spoken to the multitudes, out on a mountainside or somewhere that the Lord was surrounded; maybe on the seashore—a great host of people. And He spoke to them four parables of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. And those first four parables have to do with the kingdom in its external form, viewed from a human standpoint. This is the way that it looks down here in this world. When we look at Christendom, the extension of the kingdom of our Lord and the preaching of the gospel, this is the way that it looks to us. So the first four parables will describe the kingdom of heaven down here in this earth as we look at it in its external and visible form.
Now the next four parables will describe the kingdom of heaven from God’s point of view, in its internal secret; what God is going to do. Now we are going to take all eight of them, if we have opportunity and time. First, the first four: this is a picture of the kingdom of heaven as it is seen down here in this mundane earth. And the first parable is about a sower. And he went forth to sow, and some fell by the way side, and the fowls came and ate it up. Some of the seed fell on stony ground and it forthwith sprang up because it had not much root, then it quickly withered away. And then the third seed, the type fell among thorns that choked it to death. And some of it fell on good ground, and brought forth a marvelous harvest to the Lord [Matthew 13:3-8]. Now that is a picture, as you can easily see, of what happens when we preach the gospel, when we “Tell Dallas”; three out of four met with failure and disappointment and defeat. And all four of these parables will describe that.
When we look at the kingdom of heaven in the earth, it meets with antagonism and frustration and despair, and you sometimes think the whole earth has repudiated the Lord God who made it. And if you’re not careful you will fall into disastrous despair. Ah, the difficulties, and those that war against us! And that is His first parable. The Lord never said, He never intimated that we would ever win this world to Jesus—never. At the end time—and you are going to see that in the next parable — at the end time there are those who violently and viciously war against the Word and reject and repudiate the message of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. So, looking at the extension of the Lord’s kingdom in the hearts of men, first of all there is opposition in the souls of the people to whom we bring this message.
Now, the second parable is the parable of the tares [Matthew 13:24-30]. And here is depicted the opposition of the evil one. Not only is it difficult because men’s hearts are like stone. Men’s hearts are so hard and difficult to reach with the gospel message, but not only that—a depravity innate in the human soul and life—but there is opposition on the part of the evil one.
So, when God’s seed is sown in the world, the field is oversown with tares. You’ll find that true everywhere in the world. You go out here and work for God, and you will find the evil spirits working where you do. And the more earnestly do you sow the seed of the Word of the Lord, the more earnestly does Satan sow his seed; tares among the wheat. And you see it growing up. You see it growing up in a family. You see it growing up in every city and town and hamlet in the earth: the oversowing of Satan.
Now, the third parable He speaks is the parable of the mustard seed [Matthew 13:31-32]; little tiny thing. Every once in a while I’ll see a girl who’ll have a little crystal ball on a chain, and on the inside of that crystal ball is a mustard seed. Now that’s a wonderful thing to wear, as the saying of our Lord: “If you have faith as of a grain of mustard seed” [Matthew 17:20], beautiful there. But this parable here, to me, tells another story. Oh! and how sad. It’s as a grain of mustard seed, and it started so tiny— little handful of men on the sea of Galilee, eleven of them in number, one of the twelve having departed. And yet, out of that inconsequential, insignificant beginning, it spread and it grew prodigiously! And finally, the great branches of Christendom covered the entire civilized earth! And then what happened? Every foul and dirty bird came to roost in its branches [Matthew 13:32]. And wherever you read the story of the spreading of the ecclesiasticism of the Christian church, there it is filled with every unclean and dirty thing that you could describe in this world. There’s not anything that is out there that is vile and iniquitous and wicked and hurtful but that you will find roosting in the branches of that vast, spreading ecclesiasticism. And that’s what the Lord said. It’s like a mustard seed which a man took and planted, which indeed is the tiniest of seeds, but it grew, and it grew, and became a great tree and the birds of the air came and made it filthy and dirty with their roosting. That’s a picture of the growth of ecclesiasticism in the earth.
Then the fourth picture is one of tragedy. “Another parable spake ye unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal” [Matthew 13:33]. Now, you tell me before we start interpreting this parable, what is meal made of? Is meal made out of tares? You can’t make meal out of tares. Tares is a thing that looks exactly like wheat, but it has no substance. It has no grain in it. Meal is made out of wheat! Now, when you are going to interpret this parable, let’s do it according to what Jesus said.
This woman, which so oft times in the Bible is a picture, a symbol of evil, like that woman in Thyatira, that Jezebel—“hid in three measures of meal” [Matthew 13:33]. And meal represents our Lord; meal, wheat, flour represents our blessed Savior and His work in this earth. And that vicious and vile Jezebel took that leaven and put it in God’s work in the earth, and it finally spread out, and spread out, and worked out until every part of God’s work was touched by it and corrupted by it and destroyed by it.
“Oh, do you mean, preacher, that’s what Jesus said?” Well, let’s just see if Jesus knows truth. Let’s just see for ourselves. Remember I said these first four parables have to do with the kingdom of heaven as you see it down here in the earth, all four of them. Well, let’s look at that one and see whether Jesus was a prophet or not, and if He had the mind of God. The Lord says that as the kingdom of heaven grows and as it expands, that by and by there reaches into it every corruption! The ministry can be corrupted. The church can be corrupted. The doctrine of the faith can be corrupted. And the whole thing is subject to the corrupting leaven of evil, worldliness, compromise, infidelity, atheism, every vile thing known to the human heart.
That’s what the Lord says. Well, let’s see if what the Lord says is correct. We take the books of history—just take any book of history, it doesn’t matter, they are all alike. After all, no matter what the bias of the historian, there are some things that he has to reflect. Take any book of history and read of the growth of Christendom, the faith in the earth. In the eastern part of the civilized world, it was called the Greek Orthodox Church. And that church finally became so evil and so vile and so corrupt that its symbol in 1917 became the Greek Orthodox priest Rasputin, who had more power, mesmeric power over the Czar Nicholas II than all of the cohorts of soldiers and citizens of the entire Russian empire. And upon a day there arose Kerensky and those socialists, and they took Rasputin and shot him dead! And they took the entire family of Nicolas II and brutally murdered them. And they closed down the churches, and they outlawed their seminaries, and their monasteries, and their priests, and everything. Why? Because of all of the corruptions in the Greek church, in the Russian empire, the most corrupt was the church itself!
The priests were used by the czar to spy on the people, and to oppress them, and to wage every kind of hurtful persecution against them. And finally the Lord God in heaven said “It is enough!” and He used those blaspheming, atheistic infidels to wipe them off of the face of the earth. And they’re over there now, just a dangling little remnant [Matthew 24:9-13]. Didn’t Jesus say that? Didn’t the Lord say that? [Matthew 24:9-13].
Now let’s take the Western church, the Latin church, the Roman church. If you kids want to read something salacious, you don’t need to go down to a magazine stand and buy one of those off-colored, pornographic pieces of literature, you don’t need to do that. If you want to read something salacious, you don’t have to go and find some of these modern novels. All you have to do is to read the story of the papacy, and there won’t be anything adulterous, or crimson, or vile, or villainous that you can’t read in livid and glowing colors in the story of the papacy, the representative, the vice-regent of God in the earth.
And finally, they sold the offices of the church—you could be a bishop if you had enough money to buy it—and the whole establishment became corrupt in doctrine, and in life, and in discipline, and in practice. So, we have the great Protestant Reformation, and now what has happened to the Protestant churches of the world? One of the deacons sent me a piece out of a current paper, and in it are listed all of the things that the modern denominations believe. And you’ll be surprised to know that no small percentage of the Protestant denominations of America disavow and disbelieve practically every one of the doctrines of the faith! And there are seminary professors who don’t even believe in God. And if you read your newspapers about two days ago, there was a long article in there on “God Is Dead” theology. “God Is Dead”: that is corruption in the Protestant ministry and in our theological schools!
I copied from a great Chicago newspaper an editorial. What gave birth to that editorial was this: the University of Chicago. In May of 1890, there gathered together a great group of Baptists in Boston, Massachusetts. They were representing the northern Baptist fellowship of churches. And the announcement was made that electrified that gathering of our Baptist people—the announcement was made that John D. Rockefeller said, “I will give $600,000 if the Baptists of the North will raise $400,000, and we will take the Morgan Park Baptist Theological Seminary in Chicago and make it the center of a new university. And out of that effort, we will evangelize the heartland of America. And we will combat the materialism and the secularism of the mid-continent United States.”
Well, when that announcement was made, it electrified the people, and the Baptists of the North set the second Sunday in April of 1890, in which all the little Baptist churches, all the big Baptist churches, and the little Sunday school classes would have little coin slots, little bank things, little mite boxes—and I’ve always felt that was an insult to God, a mite box; gives people the idea that we give to the things, and spend for the things, but for God, well, we’ve got to have a little mite box around. Listen, put you a bank as big as the room and label it “This is for God,” do something like that, but not a little mite box somewhere.
Well, anyway, that is what they used to do, the way they use to do. So, in all of the classes, in all of the children’s Sunday schools, everywhere throughout the vast area to the north of us, the Baptist people took up a little collection. Every little church met its part. Every little Sunday school met its part for the evangelization of the heartland of America, and for the building of this school in Chicago for the evangelization of the lost of the North American continent.
And they succeeded in it. John D. Rockefeller, Sr. gave them $600,000, and those poor Baptist people gathered $400,000, and that was $1,000,000, and they took the Morgan Park Baptist Theological Seminary and put it there in the center of that school, and they organized Chicago University around it for the purpose of evangelizing the heartland of America. And then what happened? The very minute the school got started, and John D. Rockefeller began to pour millions of dollars into it, there came all of the corruption of doctrine and infidelity that destroyed the school. And Chicago University became, and is now, a symbol of atheism and infidelity and denial of the faith!
And it was that that gave rise to this editorial in one of the great newspapers of Chicago: “We are struck,” says this paper,
with the hypocrisy and treachery of these attacks on Christianity. This is a free country and a free age, and men can say what they choose about religion. But this is not what we arraigned these divinity professors for. Is there no place in which to assail Christianity but in a divinity school? Is there no one to write infidel books except professors of Christian theology? Is a theological seminary an appropriate place for a general massacre of Christian doctrine? We are not championing either Christianity or infidelity, but only condemning infidels masquerading as men of God and Christian teachers.
I don’t know who that fellow is that wrote the editorial, but I say he hit it on the head just exactly right. To go into the pulpit, and to teach in a seminary where preachers are being taught the infidelity of this modern life, is a travesty on God and an insult and an affront to the Lord Almighty. Yet that pervades the whole theological world.
Somebody came up to Bob Ingersoll and said, “Mr. Ingersoll, you used to travel all over this country making infidel talks—the mistakes of Moses and attacking the Bible and the divinity of Christ. Why don’t you do it anymore?” And Bob Ingersoll replied, “Because I don’t need to. I don’t need to do that anymore. These professors in the seminary and in the divinity school are making a better shambles of religion than I could ever do it.” Isn’t that something? Isn’t that something?
Ah! but that’s what the Lord was talking about. As the faith grows and as the kingdom is extended, there will be that leaven of corrupting doctrine and life all through it, just as the Lord said here in the Word [Matthew 13:33].
Well, we’ve got to stop. I had more to say on that than that, but with those few feeble remarks, we’ll go on. We’ll go on.
Now the last four—and I don’t have any time except just to point them out to you—the last four concern the kingdom of heaven in the secret counsels of the Lord God. The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field [Matthew 13:44]. And to those of you who would thus interpret it, it is a marvelous picture of the eye and mind of the Lord upon His chosen people Israel hid in the nations of the world, in the field of the world. And the Lord has His eye upon His people, and someday all Israel will be saved [Romans 11:26]; the treasure hid in a field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls [Matthew 13:45-46]. And to me, and to many of us, the pearl of price, the jewel, is God’s people down here in the world. You don’t buy the kingdom. We don’t. We don’t buy the gift of salvation. We don’t. Jesus bought us and purchased us with His own blood [1 Peter 1:18-19; Acts 20:28], and the pearl of price is the Lord’s people, His church, down here in this world. And some of these glorious days, the Lord’s going to descend from heaven and take out of the world [1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:2], like a thief, His jewels. Going to steal them away. Going to come for us clandestinely, furtively, secretly, and He is going to take us to Himself in glory [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]; the pearl of price, God’s jewels down here in the earth.
Then, the third parable, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net [Matthew 13:47-50]. And the Lord God is the One that cast that net into the earth. And on the inside of Christendom, the churches, the organized life of the faith, there is every kind of a fish caught that you could name. And the Lord shall separate them. At the great and final day God shall separate them. You know, I’ll never in this earth forget, as a young fellow, just gone to the seminary in Louisville, I went to an associational meeting in Indiana, across the Ohio. And the man that brought the sermon at that Baptist association that day was an aged, white-headed man.
And I’ll never forget the looks of that patriarch. His hair was as white as the driven snow, and long. He looked like Abraham. He looked like a patriarch. And he closed his sermon that day with the most poignant appeal for souls I think I’d ever heard. It went like this. He said, “And we come to the casket, and our tears fall unbidden, and we say, ‘Goodbye, sweet mother, goodbye,’ or ‘Goodbye, my darling son, goodbye,’ or ‘Goodbye, my precious child, goodbye.’” He said, “That’s not ‘goodbye’. I’ll tell you what is ‘goodbye’. At the great assize of the Almighty, when the Lord has gathered us at the end of the age, and He separates us, like a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats or like the Lord God divides the fish in the net.” He said, “Then, the wife shall turn to the husband and say, ‘Goodbye, husband. I’ll never see you again,’ or the mother shall say to a rejecting and prodigal son, ‘Goodbye, son. I’ll never see you again.’” He said, “That is ‘goodbye.’” Oh, I’ll never forget that white headed old patriarch pleading that day that we be ready and together in Jesus when the Lord comes.
Now the last one, and with this we must close. And the last one [Matthew 13:51-52], the Lord says, “Therefore, every scribe, you, you who hear the message and open the Bible and believe the Word: every scribe which is instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasures things new and old” [Matthew 13:52]. And that’s what we are to do, we are to do. We who are instructed in the faith, and we who know the Lord, and we who look in trust to Jesus, out of things in the Old Testament—the Word of God—and out of things in the New Testament, in the covenant of our Lord, we are to bring out things, new illustrations, new approaches, new methods, new appeals [Matthew 13:51-52].
Now that is our responsibility and assignment under God. We’re going to tell Dallas. We’re going to witness to the people. And whether they respond or not is between them and the Lord. But our responsibility is to bring out of the treasures of our commitment and of our faith and love for Jesus all of these things—a method here, an approach there, a way to learn yonder, in every way, as God shall give us opportunity, out of the treasures of the grace of God vouchsafed unto us. These are our wares to display in the presence of those who maybe will turn, and look, and listen, and be saved. We’re like that, the Lord says: a householder, out of things new and old bringing the riches of God’s mercy and goodness to us [Matthew 13:51-52]. Our time’s over.
Before we close this service—we’re already off the air, and I wanted to make an appeal on the air. I can’t get it all said. The Word of God is like an ocean. It is like an ocean. Just to start dipping it out, as you raise the bucket, there is that much more that pours in. So trying to preach the Word of God is like dipping out the ocean: it is unfathomable and illimitable. If God were to give us a thousand years, we would just have begun to touch the hem of the garment of what God hath revealed to us in His blessed Word and in the riches of His grace.
But to us who are here, in the balcony round, the press of people on this lower floor, giving your heart to Jesus, come; taking the Lord as your Savior, come. “Preacher, I know these things that you say are correct and right. I’m going to meet God someday. I shall die someday, if God doesn’t come for me before that day [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. I know that. And I know that the finest commitment that mind or heart or soul could make is in Jesus. I know that. And I believe in His love for me and His grace that extends even to me, and here I come.
“I want to be a child of God. I want to be born into the family of Jesus. I want to see His face when I die [Revelation 22:3-5]. I want a home in heaven some glorious and triumphant day. And I want to work and walk and glorify God with the people in this precious church.” Why, man, there is nothing in this earth that the world could pile up in reward comparable to the stipend, to the compensation, to the dividend, investing your life and your soul in Jesus.
Do it. Do it, a family to come, a couple to come, one somebody you to come: “Here I am, pastor, I make it tonight.” Do it. Do it, while we stand and while we sing.
PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM
A. Four parables spoken
to the multitude
1. The kingdom in
its external form; a human point of view
B. Four parables spoken
to the disciples
1. The kingdom in
its secret form; God’s point of view
II. First four parables
A. Sower(Matthew 13:3-9, 19-23)
1. Hindrance in
the souls of the people
B. Tares(Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)
1. Opposition of
the evil one
C. Mustard Seed(Matthew 13:31-32)
1. Growth of ecclesiasticism(Revelation 17:1-18)
D. Leaven(Matthew 13:33)
2. True to the
history of the age
denominations disavow doctrines of the faith
III. Last four parables
A. A treasurehid in a
field (Matthew 13:44, Ezekiel 37, Romans 10:26)
1. Israel and her
Pearl of price(Matthew 13:45-46, Ephesians 2:8,
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Revelation 21)
C. The net(Matthew 13:47-50)
1. The great
D. The householder(Matthew 13:52)
2. Tell Dallas