Now that we’ve concluded our study on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, we can continue our expository journey through the Gospel according to Matthew.
So, as we transition from 1 Corinthians to Matthew, I’d like for us to keep a few things in mind.
- There is no biblical evidence that justifies the reformed position of cessationism. That means that the miraculous encounters that we read in Matthew, and the power of the Spirit working in mighty ways are not sealed off from us who live today.
- Therefore, we can & must expect the Spirit to move in powerful ways in our midst.
- And this expectation of ours must not be misplaced by a wrongful desire for power & authority
James 4:2–3 ESV
2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
Instead, we are taught to spend the gifts on one another. Gifts are tools of generosity. An earnest desire for the Spiritual Gifts must come from an earnest desire to serve the church.
- God is speaking to us every day and we have not trained ourselves to hear & listen. We’ve misunderstood the meaning of the word ‘primary’. When we say that the Bible is the ‘primary’ means by which God speaks to us, it means that there are secondary and tertiary means by which God speaks to us.
The exclusivity of Scripture is not in it being the means of God talking to us, but rather in its authority. Every spiritual experience must be tested against the truth of the Word once and for all revealed to the saints.
This means that God can speak to us through nature, circumstance, conscience, gifting and so on, but none of that is equally in authority to Scripture. The Canon of Scripture is sealed and closed, and these other means by which the Holy Spirit speaks to us are of the Canon of Life.
Therefore, we need to train ourselves to hear the gentle guidance of the Spirit in our daily lives.
- We’ve learnt a lot in the past few months, and the question now is, what will these seeds of truth become in your lives? And the challenge of Matthew 13 is exactly what we need to determine where we go from here.
The 13th chapter of Matthew contains the third major discourse of Christ, where he gives a series of parables on the Kingdom of God.
Matthew is indeed a prolific author and his account of the Gospel is directed at harmonising the Old & New Testaments, especially to show Christ as the heir of David, the King who came to establish his heavenly kingdom. He quotes the OT more times than all the other Gospel-writers in the NT put together.
Therefore, the five major discourses of Christ in Matthew all point to the reign & rule of Christ.
1. Kingdom Ethics (5-7)
2. Discipleship & Mission (10)
3. Parables of the Kingdom(13)
4. Relationships in the church (18)
5. End Times (24)
And the first of these parables will help us conclude what we’ve learnt so far as well.
We begin with verse 1.
Matthew 13:1 ESV
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.
- So the events in chapter 13 occur on the same day as that of chapter 12 (supposing that all or a majority of the events in chapter 12 occurred on the same day). From the grainfields to the Synagogue, from healing all who followed him (12:15) to rebuking those who rejected him & blasphemed the Spirit, it seems that at the end of it, Jesus went home with his mother & brothers.
- But on the same day, he went out of the house and sat beside the sea. There is a message here my brothers, a significant piece of information that ought to motivate us. Our Lord was not idle. He did not work a 9-5 to have leisure sunset. He was always eager to work.
I’m not saying that we should work at the office all day because office work is only one of the many works that the man is called to do. But what I am saying is that we ought to pour out our lives every day and go to bed tired (as Matt Chandler once preached). We always find an exhausted Jesus looking for more things to do for the glory of God.
We are called to work in the workplace, and to work in our homes, to work in our communities and to work in our culture.
It is absurd to hear especially from young men that they need long periods of rest. Sleep well, 8 hours a day, that is your rest. Work yourself to Kingdom come the rest of the time.
Jesus had more to give that day, and so he went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Remember that Matthew has an intention in wording this instead of just saying, “While Jesus was at the beach”. The verse suggests that he went home, most likely at the beckoning of his family, and then went out again and sat by the sea waiting for people to come to him.
Matthew 13:2 ESV
2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.
- The beach turned into a convention centre, and the boat became his pulpit.
- I feel pressed here to mention something. A lot of times we read about Jesus going into a synagogue or a home and preaching the word. But a lot of other times we find Jesus making himself available, and waiting for hundreds to gather around him.
So much of our Christianity today has become lazy. We sit around waiting for God’s intervention rather than gathering at his feet.
I wonder if we can liken our morning prayer or any other prayer routing we have to this picture of Jesus waiting. Will we come or will we postpone? Oh what the people who stayed at home that day would have missed! To hear from the King regarding his Kingdom.
- From lazy servicemen to lazy citizens, we beseech that our King do all the work for his Kingdom.
It is a worthy endeavour that men should die because their life-breath was poured out for the cause of Christ. It would be a glorious thing for people to answer the question of how did this man die, by saying that he died by giving even to his very last strength to the cause of building Christ’s kingdom.
To that end, may the parables of Matthew 13 motivate your hearts.
Matthew 13:3–9 ESV
3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
What immediately follows this passage, has Jesus talking about what a parable is, but immediately following that, Jesus explains this parable. So, we will jump over those verses and come to v18,
Matthew 13:18–19 ESV
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.
- To begin, the sower sowing is a metaphor for the preacher preaching. The seeds then are the truths that are preached, the word itself. The truths in Scripture are seeds sown in the heart, so that they may spring up and produce plenty of grain in the harvest.
- Now, there is a hearing of the word of Christ that has no effect on the hearer. We are not saved by mere hearing, but by hearing and understanding. It is our perception of truth, not our acknowledgment of it that produces fruit.
- In such cases, the evil one is at work, to snatch away what has been sown. The enemy of our souls is ever at work to lie, tempt & discourage us from godly perception. He knows which buttons to push and in what order to push them.
Without hearing & understanding, we are ill-equipped in an ungodly culture, like men who showed up to a warzone holding a brochure on how to use a gun. We won’t survive.
- Now, after 20 or so sermons on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, what is our perception? Have we perceived the truth? Have we been equipped with what we need to care for one another? Where have the seeds fallen over the course of the last 5 months?
Matthew 13:20–21 ESV
20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.
- So, from one extreme to another, this is the person whose zealous optimism is misplaced. They receive truth at a rapid rate, amen everything, and the seeds do sprout. There is an encouraging air of optimism to see their receptiveness.
Such kind are people we have high hopes for initially, but the outward appearance of godly perception does not evidence the depth of a person’s root.
This is the reason why discipleship takes time and transparency. Our faith must be visible and that for a period of time.
- So, from hearing and understanding, we are now talking about root. Therefore, the intellectual assent (the reading and understanding) is only one component. This truth joyfully received must be rooted.
This root is evidenced in a person’s faithful standing when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word that he has received.
It is easier to agree about godly parenting, than to actually do it. It is easier to agree about the importance of reading and understanding the Bible than it is to read and understand the Bible. It is easier to have an opinion on many things, than to act accordingly.
In fact, when we were studying 1 Corinthians 14, we saw how women were instructed to keep silent on the account of judging prophecies. However, what we may have conveniently glossed over is what followed.
1 Corinthians 14:34–35 ESV
34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
- Husbands are to know how to answer the spiritual concerns of their wives. Wives are to learn from their husbands. A man is therefore to have roots capable of doing that. If he doesn’t, he’s got to work at it.
- If you’re a Calvinist, prove it. Show your trust in the sovereignty of God in all things. Your joyful reception of truth must be accompanied by the continued and sustained evidence of it in your lives.
- If you believe in the continuity of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit? Follow through.
Matthew 13:22 ESV
22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
- A person who loves & cherishes the worldly things, live among thorns. The pretty things of this culture are often dangerous thorns to the spiritual man.
1 John 2:15 ESV
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
James 4:4 ESV
4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
- The cares of this world & the deceitfulness of riches choke the word.
Matthew 16:25 ESV
25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.The care for Christ & his Kingdom is what leads us. Any care we have in this world that is not substantiated by this primary care is not a legitimate care.
Riches are not a sin, but a gift. Prosperity is not an evil, but when prosperity devours faithfulness, it is a great evil. According to the Bible, money is more an anti-God than Satan. The deceitfulness of money is the perception that money is sovereign.
These sins choke God’s truth from having an effect in our lives. It proves unfruitful.
- A desire to look reformed & pious or a certain kind of Christian can often be the thorn that prevents us from receiving God’s truth. Answering the question of if Spiritual Gifts are normative in the life of the church today is only one step. The second question is if we are willing to accept and conform if it means that we look different from what we expected.
We are called to called to be conformed by the seed, not to be conform the seed.
Matthew 13:23 ESV
23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
- In this entire parable, we are called to prepare the soil, our hearts, for the righteous reception of God’s word. Our task is to keep our soils good for sowing than in due time God might reap the harvest.
The question is, where do we place our soil?
- The one who has prepared his heart as good soil, hears and understands the word, his roots run deep, and has chipped off the thorns from his life. His care is for Christ, and the glory of God. Such a man bears fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixty and some thirty.
Not all Christians are the same measure of good soil. But the parable commends all fruit yielding soil as long as the harvest endures.
- Our contribution to God’s Kingdom building will not all be of the same measure, but we are all nevertheless rewarded.
I see the parable of the sower both as a fundamental reality to the Christian faith, but also as an ongoing or perpetual reality to the Christian walk.
- In one sense, the fundamental sense, the Christian is one who has good soil. The truly regenerate man. None of the other soils are ripe for the Kingdom.
- But also in another sense, just as a saved sinner still sins, so a fundamentally good soil, still has more to go. There is a sanctifying reality to the parable where at times as genuine Christians our soil is not receptive to God’s truth as it should be.
Therefore, the work must continue, to ensure that the soil remains to be upkept for the seeds to make deep roots that produce plenty of harvest in the seasons God has prepared.