An Introduction to the Parables - Matthew 13:1-17
This is the first in a short series called The Lesser Known Parables of Jesus
July 2, 2017
The Parable of the Unjust Steward - Luke 16:1-13
July 9, 2017
The Parable of the Leaven - Matthew 13:33
July 16, 2017
The Parable of the Fig Tree - Luke 13:1-9
July 23, 2017
Psalm 131 - The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment
April 4, 2017
Psalm 134 - The Last Song of Ascents
July 23, 2017
Psalm 4 - A Christian's Normal day
July 2, 2017
New Things for a New Year
A New & Living Way - Hebrews 10:20
January 8, 2017
Straight Talk - Part 1
November 9 2014 - 11:00 am
Straight Talk - Part 2
November 9 2014 - 3:00 pm
Cosmology and Faith
June 29 2014
He Remembers That We Are Dust
June 22, 2014
Our Guilty Silence - Jude
June 15, 2014
At Just the Right Time - Galatians 4:4
December 13, 2013
The Three Books - Psalm 19
November 10, 2013
Why have You Forgotten Me? - Psalms 42 & 43
November 10, 2013
Naaman and His Comedy of Errors - 2 Kings 5
September 29, 2013
An Exposition of
the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
I. So how should we interpret this parable?
The last stage of sermon preparation for me is to listen to a few other preachers to see how they handled the passage...
Mark Driscoll maintains that the barren fig tree is a picture of a person’s fruitfulness or fruitlessness, so the parable of the barren fig tree is about living a life of fruitfulness.
Preachers who hold to this view often quote Galatians 5:22 - The fruit of the Spirit...
Other preachers hold that the parable is about good works - “God expects a return on His investment” they preach.
All these preachers miss the point.
The parable is not about the need to have the “fruit of the Spirit” nor about the need for “good works,” as important as these are.
If we interpret the ‘barren fig tree’ as fruitlessness in the Christian life, no great
harm is done to the Gospel, but we cannot treat the Word of God like that.
When we come to the parables we need to ask: What did this parable mean when it was first told? What did Jesus intend when He preached this parable? Why did Jesus tell this story?
We must first ascertain what the words of Jesus meant to the original hearers, then we can apply them to ourselves. So, we need to read the words within the context of the Scripture first.
II. The Context of the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
We need to start reading this parable with verse 1, not verse 6.
In verses 1-5 Jesus tells about two events:
1. (v.1) - Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices
2. (v.4) - a tower over the pool of Siloam (Jn. 9:7) which unexpectedly fell & killed 18.
Jesus’ choice of these events is interesting:
1. verse 1 - the Galilleans is an instance of moral evil
2. verse 4 - the towel is an instance of natural evil
With these 2, all bases are covered –
1. - Evil and suffering brought upon people by human sin,
2. - Evil and suffering brought upon people by ‘an act of God.’
Jesus’ point is that pain & suffering are not (ipso facto) God’s punishment on sin in a person’s life.
We need to be reminded of this when we hear of some natural evil (such as a landslide or earthquake that kills a bunch of people) or some moral evil (such as 50 homosexuals being gunned down in Florida in 2016).
After such occurrences we hear Christians saying the most stupid things… “Oh, it’s the judgment of God on these people.”
Jesus establishes this truth:-
pain & suffering in a person’s life are not the result of a person’s sin.
Jesus then redirects their focus onto the real issue - the thing of most importance to them. He does this by asking a question:
1. v.2 Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?
2. v.4 Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the people who live in Jerusalem?
The answer to both questions is a resounding “NO!”
After each of the two incidences Jesus concludes with the same words, v.3 & 5:-
“I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
The word for repent is the usual word – Gk: metanoeo = 1. Deep sorrow for the way you are going, 2. Doing a U-turn.
“God commands all people everywhere to repent.”
Every time a tragedy happens, this is what God is saying: “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
III. What’s Jesus saying?
He’s saying: everyone is a sinner – equally separated from God. None of us can point the finger at another person. The wonder is not that the tower of Siloam fell and killed 18 people. The wonder is why hasn’t the tower fallen on all of us, and killed all of us.
That’s what we all deserve outside of CHRIST.
That’s what our sin has done.
IV. The Parable
Now we come to the parable and we need to understand this parable in the light of verses 1-5. This parable is about REPENTANCE, not fruit.
After the parable we could repeat this verse (v.3 & 5) “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
That is the moral of the parable.
There are 3 main characters in the story and all have clear symbolic significance.
The vineyard = God
The Gardener = Jesus
The Fig Tree = Israel or the individual
(The Vineyard = the world)
1. The vineyard owner represents God, the One who expects to see fruit on His tree and who justly decides to destroy it…
2. The gardener, or vineyard keeper represents Jesus - the One who cares for the tree, watering and fertilizing it, who was looking for fruit for three years ( a reference to Jesus’ 3-year ministry on Earth).
‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any.’
Jesus is the great Intercessor – He intercedes – He is the reason for the grace of more time to repent. “God is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish,
but all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9.
The fig tree in the immediate context stands for the nation of Israel But for us it stands for the unrepentant individual.
- “cut it down” v.7 & 9 = Israel is about to be cut off.
- The Lord’s ax was already poised over the root of the tree, and it was ready to fall.
“if it bears fruit next year” v.9 – ‘year’ = lit. one more unit of time.
We don’t know how long that time is.
God is not quick to punish.
God often forestalls His judgment to allow a further opportunity for repentance.
v.5. “…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
What does “likewise” mean?
“likewise” means that unrepentant people will perish in the same way,
i.e. you will perish in a horrible, godless way which will surprise you.
You will be shocked by - be unprepared for -
be horrified with your end.
V. The meaning of the parable
Although this Parable of the Barren Fig Tree is primarily an evangelistic message, it can be preached with both Believers and non-believers in mind, for the call to repent is for both. Is there any area of your life in which you need repentance?
The lesson for this age is that we are living on borrowed time, and borrowed time is not permanent. God's patience has a limit.
In the parable, the vineyard owner grants more time to the tree to bear fruit.
In the same way, God in His mercy grants us another hour, another day, another breath.
Christ stands at the door of each person’s heart knocking and seeking to gain entrance and requiring repentance from sin.
But if there is no fruit, no repentance, His patience will come to an end, and the unbeliever will be cut down.
We all live on borrowed time and judgment is near. “Behold, now is the day of salvation.”
That is why the prophet Isaiah wrote,
"Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near." (Isaiah 55:6-7).
This parable – God will bring unrepentant people to judgment, but He is abundant in patience in order to give ample opportunity for people to be brought to repentance.
This parable is not about "fruit" in the Christian life (as important as that is), but about true repentance.
Matthew 3:8 "Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance…”
Luke 3:8 “Therefore produce fruit worthy of repentance.”
Where God gives privileges He expects fruit.
Jesus is talking to the Jews. The Jews had many wonderful privileges.
We also have been given so many privileges: Xn. Heritage, Xn. Culture, a history of Gospel preaching,
God expects fruit, but the fruit in this parable is repentance.
Let us pray that God would make us aware of all our sins and help us to truly repent of them, asking Him to strengthen us to sin no more.
Below is a prayer which I have prayed often. It is from the Anglican Prayer Book.
Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is nothing good in us. O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent; according to Your promises declared unto men in Christ Jesus our Lord. Grant that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life; to the glory of His name. Amen
An Exposition of
1 Peter 3:15
Introduction: We are all familiar with the Great Commission found in Mat. 28:19-20. That is the great commission in the area of evangelism. But there is not just one commission; we are commissioned in god's Word to do many things. 1 Peter 3:15 may be called the great commission in apologetics.
Evangelism & apologetics - the two are welded together.
We are living in an age hostile to the Christian faith and lifestyle and antagonistic to the Gospel.
There is an uncanny similarity to the era in which Peter wrote his letters.
First Peter is called a General Epistle because it was written to all believers generally - that includes you and me.
- v.1,2 - “who are chosen” - the elect, but suffering great persecution in c.60 AD.
Peter wrote this letter so that Christians might have hope and courage in the midst of terrible affliction. Peter’s words of encouragement still resonate today. The directives he gives Christians in 1 Peter, are still relevant and important. Even when believers face suffering and hostility, they can rest in their salvation, live out their testimony, and look forward to Jesus' return.
V.15 has three clear directives:
a) but sanctify Christ as Lord
in your hearts,
b) always being ready to
make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account
for the hope that is in you
c) yet do it with gentleness and reverence.
Let us look at each of these three commands.
a) "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts" - ESV 'honor' NIV ‘revere’ NASB/KJV ‘sanctify.’
" sanctify" - Peter uses this Greek word 'agiazo' only once in his writings. It is the same word that Jesus used when He taught us the Lord's Prayer: “Hallowed be thy name...” The word means "to set apart for a purpose" or "to separate from profane things."
Notice v.15 “but...” - this conjunction contrasts the clause from what is in v.14. which encourages God's people to have no fear of those who persecute you. Peter is saying that sanctifying Christ as Lord in your hearts is the opposite to fear.
Peter is borrowing the thought from Isaiah 8:12-13 - “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread..."
"...in your hearts" - the heart is the seat of your mental processes, seat of emotions & mental processes.
Live your Christian life with Jesus Christ as your LORD; that’s what it means to honor Him. Have Jesus Christ as the center of your life.
b) "always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you"
NIV ‘Always be prepared to give an answer’ to make a defense to everyone who asks you.
The church has forsaken this Great Commission in Apologetics. Most local churches are not training their members to be apologists for Christ. This is a major reason why the church has become a fringe institution in modern society and the Christian world-view is increasingly thought of as being irrelevant.
"always being prepared..."
When a non-Christian asks you a question about your faith it is no use responding with the first thing that comes into your head.
When you are asked "Why does God allow suffering?" or "How could Jesus possibly be the only way to God and all other religions be wrong?" can you give good pithy answers?
We need to have well-thought-out, well-practiced, appropriate answers to questions like these.
It takes time, diligence and concerted effort to articulate reasoned answers.
To this many Christians respond:
I’m too busy. My studying days are over.
BUT aren’t you a disciple of Christ?
The name “disciple” means 'student' or 'apprentice.'
Simply put, apologetics is the defense and explanation of the Christian faith. It’s providing good, thoughtful, appropriate answers.
The Gospel engages the mind as well as the heart. Although reasons, evidence and logical argument are not the basis of our faith, they are confirmations - much needed confirmations.
"The heart will not long rejoice in
what the mind knows is not true."
In a recent Gallup Poll respondents were asked:
Why people leave the church?
Why they exchange Christianity for agnosticism, atheism or some vague spiritual belief?
The answers they found were shocking.
According to this poll, there were
two main reasons:-
1. They had questions about the Christian Faith that they were afraid to ask and therefore their questions remained unanswered. They considered that it was not safe to ask questions for fear of being ostracized.
2. when people did ask their questions about the Faith they were either ignored or they were given very inadequate and unsatisfactory answers.
Both of the groups concluded
that Christianity isn’t true because it doesn’t have adequate answers to their questions.
Rather than stifle these questions they need to be brought out into the open and asked within the environment of a faith community. The church should be the first place that young people go with their tough questions, yet this is not the case.
c) "yet do it with gentleness
and respect" (NIV/ESV) ‘gentleness and reverence’ (NASB) ‘meekness and fear’ (KJV)
Christians need to live authentic Christian lives, embodying the truth we profess.
What impresses people today are
lives that appear authentic. We need to be witnesses who can live out what we say.
Non-Christians are not looking for pat answers; they are looking for sincerity and thoughtful answers given in a way that is always respectful.
People hear not only what you say,
but also how you say it.
The best argument for the Christian Faith is your Christian life. By 'argument' I don't mean a verbal fight, I mean a reasoned response.
Apologetics is less about arguing,
and more about articulating.
Be courteous in your speech.
It might make us feel good to raise our voice, or cut in to what other people are saying, but it’s not effective. It’s not going to enhance your witness.
Will you decide today that you are going to become a disciple - a learner of Jesus - and be His ambassador among your friends where God has put you to speak for Him? This means seeing yourself as an apologist.
“Let your conversation be always full of grace,
seasoned with salt,
so that you may know
how to answer everyone.”
Our Guilty Silence
- the need to content for the faith
SIBC ~ 15th June, 2014 ~ Reading: The Book of Jude
The Epistle of Jude is a brief book of only 25 verses.
It is the most neglected book in the N.T.
Neglected maybe for a number of reasons:
- the salutation (v.1-2), and
- the benediction at the end (v.24-25).
1. WHO WAS THIS LETTER WRITTEN TO?
Unlike Paul’s letters, Jude wasn’t written to a particular church. It was written as a circular letter to be circulated & read in all churches.
This very short letter was included in the Canon of Scripture for a reason.
Jude is writing to us also.
This encyclical letter was never in doubt, by the church, as to its authenticity and its right to be included in the Canon, because what Jude writes needs to be said to more than just the immediate Xns …
I would like to draw your attention to v.3
(a) Jude 3 “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.”
Jude really wants to write about their Faith,
but he feels the need to write, rather, about their duty of defending it.
It is the duty of every Xn to be able to defend our faith.
2. WHAT WAS JUDE’S REASON FOR WRITING?
v.4. Jude gives the reason… “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed and he describes them as …ungodly people who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
In our day, we have an added reason to “contend for the faith”.
We live in a day of the questioning mind, of skepticism of any truth claims. Our age is a time when militant atheism is on the march and our faith is coming under attack from many sides.
We need to not only have faith,
but to contend for the faith we have.
Now I’d like you to turn to another verse,
which pertains to this.
(b) 1 Peter 3:15
“always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account
for the hope that is in you,
yet with gentleness and reverence.”
- apologia = ‘to give a reason.’
All Christians are ‘apologists.’
[Interestingly, 1 Peter was also written to many churches scattered throughout a number of countries. So, it’s universal in its contents.]
In this era of declining church attendance and declining influence in society, to what extent is “our guilty silence” responsible for this?
Every unbeliever has a WALL that they have erected between themselves and God. It’s a wall of their own making.
The wall consists of reasons and objections against God and faith in Him.
These reasons and objections are UNANSWERED QUESTIONS.
If you are not going to lovingly listen and rationally respond to their questions, who else is going to do it?
You think God is going to put the writing on the wall?
God doesn’t act that way any more.
God uses you and me.
2 Corinthians 5:20 “…we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us…”
“You don’t need to hit home runs, you don’t even need to get on base, you just need to get up and bat.” (Lee Strobel)
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6
John Stott in his book, Our Guilty Silence (1967), gives four reasons why Christians have failed in our mission to witness to non-Christians.
Stott wrote about being an EVANGELIST - our topic this morning is on the need to be an APOLOGIST – which, when you think about it, is a part of witnessing.
Situation #1 - You’re sharing the Gospel to a friend:-
You: “Jesus died so that all who believe in Him will have their sins forgiven.”
Friend: “ I can see that. Go on.”
You: “ Then He was buried and three days later He rose from the dead.”
Friend: “Ummm! Wait a minute. How can a person raise himself from the dead, if he is dead?”
NOW, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO AT THIS POINT?
IGNORE THE QU.? AND SAY “YOU JUST HAVE TO BELIEVE IT; YOU DON’T HAVE TO UNDERSTAND IT.”
[THEY THINK THAT ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS BE AN EVANGELIST, MINUS THE APOLOGETICS.] BIG MISTAKE!
At this point we need to take off the ‘evangelist’s hat’ and put on our ‘apologist’s hat” and leave the Gospel for a second, and answer the question.
You: “You’re right. A person can’t raise himself from the dead. The Bible doesn’t say Jesus raised Himself from the dead, when He’s dead. The Bible says that God raised Jesus from the dead. And God can do that.”
What he says about witnessing can also be said of our duty to defend the faith. [apologetics is a part of witnessing.]
Here are the 4 reasons why most Xns don’t defend their faith.
1) We have no compelling incentive or motivation to speak for Christ. We don’t feel any urgency to speak up. Jude (and Peter) felt this was true in the Christians they were writing to. We’re just not motivated enough to engage non-Christians – and take them to task for the views they express.
2) We do not know what to say. We are stricken with a fear of not knowing what to say, or if we do speak we fear we will say something wrong, and embarrass ourselves.
3) We are not convinced it’s our job. “Preachers are supposed to do it, right?” That’s what we pay them for! Instead of hearing the summons “contend for the faith,” “Always be ready to make a defense,” we only hear “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel…”
[I’m not downplaying that – don’t misunderstand me. I’m saying we need to not only proclaim the Gospel, we also need to defend the Gospel.]
4) We don’t believe it will do any good. John Stott says, we will not admit it, but secretly “we have lost hope in the power of the gospel.” Remember what Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
We are not only called to bear witness to the Gospel, we are equally called to defend it. Most witnessing situations involve both:
There is another passage, which bears on this task of being an apologist.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5… We demolish arguments.
3 “… though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
This is the job-description of every Christian.
That is the work of an apologist.
I want to give three real life situations in my own experience where the Holy Spirit gave me an opportunity to act as an apologist.
In case you think this is an old easy question, not asked any more.
Richard Dawkins says that this question is part of the central argument of his book,
‘The God Delusion.’
Dawkins re-phrases it at the end of Ch.4:
“Who designed the Designer?”
Dawkins says in his book that this is the reason why the appearance of design should not be seen as actual design and then attributed to a Designer (God).
Any of you who are witnessing and doing the work of an apologist know that this is a very common objection.
I was with a friend and some other people in a place nearby, one evening. In the course of conversation, the fact that I was a Christian came up, and by friend mentioned ‘God.’ An atheist present responded: “You say that God created the world, but tell me: ‘Who created God?’”
He would not accept God as an explanation for the universe unless someone could tell him who created God.
Let’s think about this question. How would you answer it?
The question is a category error.
God is not in the category of created things.
If He were He wouldn’t be God.
God is by definition ‘uncreated.’
Another answer which came out of Philosophy of Science is: We don’t have to have an explanation of God in order to put forward God as the best explanation for the design in nature.
In the same way:
If I never knew about Mt Rushmore National Monument in USA, and as a tourist I was to go to South Dakota as come to Mt Rushmore, and …
GOD exists by the necessity of his own nature. He has no cause. God is uncaused. There has to be an uncaused first cause. There are only 2 possibilities: Either God is the uncaused first cause or the universe is the uncaused first cause. And the scientific evidence shows that space, time, matter and energy had a beginning.
If you needed to have an explanation of an explanation in order to accept it as the best explanation, all science would come to a standstill, because you would never have an explanation of anything – which would destroy science.
I was in the home of a Korean family in Wonju on my way back from Gangneung, on the East Coast (of S.Korea). And I got talking to the high-school-aged son about God.
When I mentioned God and that he created us in His image, he became white animated.
“Science has proved that Genesis is wrong, it’s just myths. God didn’t create man. Science has discovered that our DNA is 98% chimp. I believe in evolution,” He said.
It’s no longer 98%. The more our DNA is analyzed, the more that inflated % is coming down.
But too much is made of that % anyway. And humans also share about 50% of our DNA with bananas, but that doesn't mean we're half bananas.
Surprising as it may seem, 99% of mouse genes are present in human DNA—yet no one would consider a mouse 99% human.
The 90?% of our DNA is only taken from 2% of the entire DNA genome. The rest of our DNA was considered ‘junk’ that is without function or purpose, so it was not included in the 98%.
Evolutionary scientists thought it was just useless genetic clutter left over from billions of years of evolution. – was thought by evolutionary scientists to be non-functional or non-sense or JUNK DNA.
So that 98% of the genome – are functioning like an operating system in a computer.
Romans 1: “… God has made it plain through the things that were made.”
This recent research is a stunning rebuttal to evolutionary theories that attempt to give an alternative to belief in God and try to discredit the Bible. Modern naturalistic scientists promote concepts such as "junk" DNA and "selfish" genes.
What I’ve tried to do is give some reasons why most Christians are not witnessing or talking naturally about their faith.
We are scared of being laughed at and ridiculed
or embarrassed by not knowing answers to the inevitable questions that will come our way.
WE NEED TO:
“contend for the faith …”
“that you may know how to answer everyone.”
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.”
What we have to do is: 1 Corinthians 10:5
“take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”
"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deut.6:5
Jesus added “MIND”
And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
Christians should be in the front line of people engaged in self-reflection, hard thinking and asking critical questions. Christians should be deeper, more thoughtful people than unbelievers are.
We are living in an age of unprecedented evidence for our Christian Faith.
In these days with the apparent recession of the Christian church in the West, that God is providing an abundance of reasons and confirmations for our faith.
I’m convinced that when we consider the 2000 years of Christian history,
we are living in the best time to be a Christian,
because this is the Golden Age for Scientific Evidence for the Christian Faith. Do you know that? DON’T DROP THE BALL.
It is a warfare we are in, and Satan is arming his troops and we meet them every day. The question for us is: Are we going to do battle? Or are we going to be silent?