Carson on the Parables

Pregnant wives sometimes simply cannot make it to church, so the last time we missed a Sunday sermon we listened to D. A. Carson on the purpose of Jesus’ parables.

Carson was, as always, biblically responsible and helpful.

He said that Jesus had many reasons for telling parables. He wasn’t anti-propositional. He wasn’t just being a good homiletician. He wasn’t merely judging some people or being enigmatic. He was doing a mix of things.

Carson argued from Matthew 13 that Jesus tells parables…

  1. Because in line with Scripture his message blinds, deafens, and hardens (Mt. 13:14; Is 6).
  2. Because, in line with Scripture, His message reveals things hidden in Scripture. Things that the prophets looked forward to are now clear. Mt 13:52 "Every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old."

Carson made three applications:

  • We should gain wonder in worship where there is a fresh grasp of how God has put the Bible together.
  • We should gain gratitude in humility for the gift of seeing the truth about Jesus and His gospel. The knowledge of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you and not to them. We should never tire of being overwhelmed by the sheer privilege of grace.
  • We should gain discretion in witness where there is a hostile environment. Carson illustrated this by noting that in the Middle East Christians can be hurt or killed if they witness unwisely (or even if they witness wisely!). Jesus told us not to cast our pearls before swine. Part of what Jesus is doing in Mat 13 is distinguishing between swine and non-swine. All of the Bible does emphasize the importance of being candid, frank, and open in our witness. But we must also be wise as serpents, shrewd, winsome, discreet. We must not be lacking in courage where testimony must be given. But we shouldn’t slap people in the face and call it witnessing. The aroma of the gospel is a savor to some, but a stench to others.

I’ll be preaching the parable of the Hidden Treasure tomorrow at an evangelistic outreach at my church. I’ll be doing it with the help of a great short film—something I have never before done—in the Modern Parables series. The films are free on their site, and well worth your time. The filmmakers were careful in their biblical scholarship.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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