The Purpose of Parables and why we should stop debating with atheists
It’s no secret that Jesus spoke in parables. The commonly accepted reason among most evangelical pastors (and congregants for that matter) is that Jesus did this was to make the truths of heaven easier for the common man to understand. The common man was too dumb to understand the plain truths Jesus spoke so he told stories so they would understand these truths better. Many pastors use this as an excuse to pepper their sermons with personal illustrations and movie clips. I have even been guilty of this in the past. Don’t misunderstand me, I think that personal illustrations can be good from time to time to help make a point and they can help the redeemed understand Gods truth better. Just don’t use the old excuse “Jesus spoke in parables, so I should tell lots of stories for the unsaved to understand ” The real reason he spoke in parables though was actually to make it harder to understand for the unredeemed. Jesus explains this to the disciples when they ask him about it in Matthew 13:
10Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
“‘You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
15For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
These verses should serve as a somber reminder that salvation is through Christ alone. Salvation is Christ’s alone to give and Christ’s alone not to give. Some would say this is unfair of Christ to do this, after all doesn’t the Bible say “whosoever will” call upon His name will be saved? But in reality it was a fair act of a righteous judge. Jesus knew who his sheep were and who were not His sheep. It also allowed the unbelievers to remain in the darkness they loved while it also saved them from further condemnation. We do not know much more about hell than what Jesus illustrates in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich man, but one thing I’m sure Dante got right was that there are levels to hell. And Jesus using parables as he did was actually keeping the unredeemed from suffering further in hell. Jesus parables did these things while simultaneously fulfilling scripture, prophecy about Jesus written hundreds of years before, and making it easier for the redeemed to understand God’s truths. If you can understand the truths Jesus revealed in parables about the kingdom…not what you think it means, but what it actually means in context, in light of the entirety of the Bible you have been given a great and wonderful gift that God has reserved for the elect few.
The thing is is that while Jesus knew who His sheep were and who they weren’t we do not have that same insight. What we do have though is the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will lead people to you and put people in your path that need to hear the gospel. I believe the Bible when it says “faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the Word of God” thus we should never neglect our duty to proclaim the gospel perhaps though we should be more cautious and more spirit-led when it comes to who we proclaim the gospel to. There will be those people in your life who will not believe the gospel and sometimes maybe it’s better that instead of trying to prove your point we need to let it be, and remember that it’s not up to us to convince and convict, it’s just up to us to be a witness. Sometimes I think we are too apologetic with our apologetics. We try to get the unredeemed to understand spiritual truths that it has not been granted to them to understand, in a way we could be furthering their condemnation. Now before you go labeling me a hyper-Calvinist try and understand all I am saying is that we could be wasting our time doing outreach (okay I’m not helping my case any am I?) I mean a “shot-gun” approach to outreach anyway. Jesus said in Matthew 7 ”Do not cast your pearls before swine, do not give to dogs what is holy, lest they turn and tear you to pieces” The unredeemed, those who are outright hostile to Christianity, will use what they know of the Bible and Christianity to tear Christians down and belittle them. Think about it, how many times has an unbeliever used what little they know about the Bible to make a mockery of the faith? It happens all the time.
Much to our own detriment we often neglect our biggest and best weapon in the Christian toolbox…prayer. How much time do you spend praying for the lost? Those outside your community? Those outside your country? Those who are hostile to Christianity? How many times do we pray specifically for God to put someone in our path to witness to? Sometimes prayer is our best weapon, not being an expert apologist. 1 Peter 3:15 says this: “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” This verse tells me that God will put people in our paths who will ask questions and be receptive to the gospel and we should be ready for that occurrence. Lets stop debating atheists and do away with large scale, shot-gun style outreach events and pray for more people to be put in our path who will ask us about Jesus.