In one of your emails to someone else, you were going over the parable of the talents. You said that you don't think the parable has to do with money at all. That statement really jumped out at me. At the last church I was at, the pastor made a similar statement. Only, he said he didn't believe the passage had any spiritual meaning at all. Basically, he said the exact opposite. I just figured that might interest you.
I'm not surprised by your report of faulty and unsatisfying interpretation coming from a sermon. I don't think I've ever gotten much of anything out of a "sermon" in my life (with very few exceptions; please see the link: " Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing"). The best place for the details on the parable of the talents which tells us much about our blessed eternal rewards and is terrific motivation for pursuing spiritual growth, progress and production in this life so as to win the "three crowns" is at the following link: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church".
Here are the links I have at present about our Lord's parables generally:
The Form and Content of our Lord's Teaching (in BB 4A)
The Teaching Ministry of Jesus Christ (in BB 4A)
The Parable of The Camel and the Needle
More on the Parable of the Camel and Needle
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
The Parable of Sower
The Parable of the Talents
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
The Parable of the Yeast
The Parable of the Widow and the Judge
Regarding 2Pt:2:22: But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again;
A dog returning to his vomit is still a dog. He was never really anything else. If salvation could be lost, Christ died in vain and would have to be crucified all over again:
Rom:6:10: For in that he died, he died unto sin once:
Heb:10:14: For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
Heb:10:18: Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
I don't understand your logic. Christ's death atones for all sin, all sin every human being ever has or ever will sin. These have all been paid for by the blood of Christ. As a result, no one is lost because of sin. Yet many are in fact lost. Those who perish do so for a lack of faith in Christ. Of course Christ died once for sin. We human beings are here in this world to answer the question, "what think ye of Christ?" Those who choose to stand on His work are saved. Those who choose to stand on their own are lost. Failure to accept Christ is the unpardonable sin. And if a person does accept Him but latter renounces Him that is a choice just like never accepting Him in the first place is a choice. But if a person were "once saved always saved" then free will would end at the point of salvation which it demonstrably does not (i.e., we are still here as believers and still making moral decisions). Claiming that those who believe and later fall away were never believers in the first place stands all logic and experience on its head; it also, much more importantly, contradicts scripture, as in the parable of the Sower:
"But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away."
Luke 8:13 NKJV
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Thank-you for replying.
Yes, we have a free will but no one chooses their parents. As children of God, we have been born not of our own will but of the will of God (Jn. 1:12:13; 6:44). God knows the end from the beginning and saves people for a purpose (2Tm:1:9:). Believers are sealed unto the day of redemption and are predestined for an inheritance and to be conformed to the image of his son.
Claiming those who fall away "were never saved" does not contradict scripture. Many sit under the "umbrella" of Christianity but are not saved (Mt:7:22-23, 1Jn:2:19). The ones in the parable you quoted were not saved. They were not good ground and no root was put down. Remember, even the demons believed. Belief can come from head knowledge but it must be from the heart. God knows the heart and Jesus knows his sheep. Does He not protect his sheep? Is Christ not a good preservative (Jude 1:1)? The apostle Paul thinks He is:
2Tm:4:18: And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
You are very welcome.
However, your analogy is invalid because it does take our free will to be born again no one is born again without believing in Christ; on the other hand, our free will does not even exist until the point of our physical birth when God gives us life no one is physically born of their own will. And just as those physically born can and do die, so in the case of those born again faith does occasionally die which explains why the scriptures are replete with protestations and pleadings against apostasy (which would be unnecessary if apostasy were impossible).
Yes the demons are aware of the existence of God how can they not be? But believing in the existence of God, which is what James addresses, is not the same as having saving faith in Jesus Christ. That is a choice to stand on the merits of His work instead of our own. There are many who, like the demons, are aware of God's existence (and I would argue that this is universal with the human race until in some cases hardness of heart blots out that truth), but only those who enter through the narrow gate of putting their trust in Jesus Christ are saved.
If you are making no distinction between this latter trust and what we have in Luke 8:13, merely wishing to designate believers who apostatize as "not-really-believers-who-believed", to some extent, I suppose, one might choose to see that as only a semantic issue (although the position is for all that entirely incorrect pisteuo in the context of human beings and their attitude towards the gospel always means saving faith in scripture). In fact, however, it is a very dangerous theological position because of the false confidence it may impart to genuine Christians. For while it is all very well and good for those of us who are not going to fall away to proclaim those who do as "never really born-again Christians in the first place", for those who are weak in faith the notion that they cannot lose their salvation is an invitation to embark onto all manner of spiritually dangerous conduct (and this is not forcing scripture for practical ends since scripture itself gives precisely these warnings: e.g., Matt.7:24-27; 10:33; Lk.6:46-49; 14:34-35; Jn.15:5-6; Rom.11:17-23; 1Cor.10:6-12; 15:2; 2Cor.13:5; 1Tim.6:20-21; 2Tim.2:12-13; Heb.2:1-3; 3:6-19; 10:35-39; 2Jn.1:8-9). To do so would be problematic enough at any time, but here on the cusp of the Tribulation wherein one third of the Church is destined to fall away in the Great Apostasy (see the link), being misinformed on this critical point will only make matters worse and increase the possibility of falling away especially since many of our brothers and sisters are laboring under the dangerous mis-impression that they will be "raptured" out of the picture before that terrible time with its terrible pressures begins, and so will be caught completely unawares.
The Spirit explicitly says that in the end times (i.e., during the Tribulation) certain men will rebel (lit., "apostatize") from the faith, giving their allegiance [instead] to deceitful spirits and demonic doctrines.
1st Timothy 4:1
In hopes of better things for all willing to heed to the Word of truth, in Jesus our dear Lord,
If you had a son and he "fell away", would you forsake him?
If he disowned me, what could I do about that . . . apart from welcoming him back like the father in the parable of the prodigal son when and if he returned. God doesn't force us to stay, and though He desires our return, He does not make us come back. This is all about free-will. The Father embraces all who embrace His Son, and rejects all who reject His Son. Jesus Christ is great Divider between the living and the dead. That is true for all human beings, and our faith, or lack thereof, continues to be the number one issue of life as long as we remain in this life. Nothing is more important for an unbeliever than to repent and embrace the Son for eternal life; nothing is more important for a believer than to stay true to the Son and preserve faith at all costs since faith in Christ is the basis of our eternal life.
In Jesus our dear Lord,
Dear Dr. Luginbill,
I discovered your website while looking for a rebuttal to what I perceive as the failed logic of a dear pastor friend of mine. Though a layman, I have been an active student over the very many years that I have been a believer.
Our discussion of the parable of the sower finds us seriously divided; my contention being that only the fruit bearer was saved while my friend contends that all but the one represented by the seed on the path were saved hearers.
Without taking too much of your time I will try to briefly state his position and my thus far unsuccessful effort to rebutt. His position is that the use of the word joy in verse 20 proves the hearer was a believer because joy is always used in connection with believers. My contention is that such may be the case but the context of the word's use in this instance precludes such interpretation. To me, logic is lacking, the result of a preconceived notion that merely a profession of belief is sufficient. I argue, as you seem to in "Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith", that what is often called "easy believism is false theology, damning many to Hell. I keep a copy of Walter Chantry's slim volume on cheap grace handy, so handy I can't seem to find it at the moment, which speaks to this issue.
Wishing I had paid more attention studying logic, my sense is that something is wrong with my friends logic though I seem unable to put my finger on it. It is clear from the weight of Scripture that enthusiasm for the Word, be it the Lord or Scripture is not the measure. A life wherein one uses the talents the Lord has provided to "bear fruit, much fruit" seems to be the measure. What the "backslid/carnal" Christian of Matthew 13:20-21 would say to the Lord couldn't even stand up to those unbelievers of Matthew 7:21-23.
Any suggestions would be appreciated. I look forward to exploring your site more fully in the future.
Yours in Christ,
Good to make your acquaintance.
To answer your question, the fact that a person "receives the Word with joy" does mean that the person accepts the truth of the Word and becomes a believer. However, this type of "category 2" person in the parable does not maintain his/her faith in Christ and falls away under pressure so as to be lost. The Greek word expressing this falling away in the parable is aphistemi, the word from which "apostasy" is derived. The reality of this loss of salvation by quondam believers is most clearly seen in the following verse:
And those [whose seed of faith fell] on the rock do receive the Word with joy when they hear it. However these [types] have no root [to their faith]. They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize (aphistantai).
So this scripture clearly shows the reality of what happens in the case of this type. To have "believed for a while", these individuals 1) must have had to have believed previously, and 2) must now, after falling away, believe no longer: both of these propositions have to be true for "they believed (past tense) for a while (meaning that is no longer the case)" to make any sense.
I have written this passage up many times. You will find more information and a number of "leads" at the following links:
The Parable of the Sower (Peter #12)
False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security I
False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II
False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III
No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation.
In Jesus Christ in whom alone we have eternal life,
"They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize."
Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. (Luke 8:13 NIV)
Does this verse mean that they believed it but never repented? It's especially confusing when it says "they received it with joy".
There's also this from Luke 8:14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by lifes worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. (NIV)
When he says do not mature, I know he means they don't bear fruit. Does that mean they are believers but that they're backsliding? Because in the bible it says that he will cast the vine who doesn't bear any fruit into the fire if it does not bear anything a year later and since afterwards it says "where there will be gnashing of teeth" he's obviously referring to casting that person into hell.
On Luke 8:13, a person either is a believer or is not a believer. Biblical repentance is a very much misunderstood concept because the word has been so loaded down with emotional baggage in our language. Repentance is a complete mental change of direction. That may involve emotional outpouring or it may not. One thing is very clear from the scriptures which deal with these issues, however: no one is saved because they have cried and torn their hair and made a public display of being "sorry for their sins". In fact, to the degree that anyone is depending upon such a display for salvation, to that extent the person in question is not saved because this would be salvation by works. Jesus did all the work of salvation; our job is merely to accept that work through faith. Anything else is not "by grace" (Eph.2:8-9). Biblical repentance is the "other side of the coin" from faith in Christ (see the link). A person cannot genuinely believe in Christ for salvation without completely "turning around" in his/her thinking about the world and about God and about the reality of the issues of life versus death and the judgment to come and about the only solution: Jesus Christ, the one way of salvation; conversely, anyone who truly does experience this internal "turn around of the heart" will not fail to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved in responding to this internal change of heart. So whenever scripture links the two, "repent and believe", it does not mean that these are two things that may occur independent of each other, for that is not the case. All who truly repent believe, and all who believe have truly repented. This is a long of saying that the individuals who had "believed for a while" in Luke 8:13 were genuinely believers, but that they had (foolishly) fallen away from the faith / let their "faith plant" die out / apostatized having lost their faith. Only believers are saved.
The believers later in the parable whose production is choked by the weeds of this world (worries, wealth, concern about non-spiritual things), are just that: believers. They do not however, as you correctly adjudge, come to maturity so as to bear the spiritual crop Christ had in mind for them to bear. It is impossible to be a believer and not have some fruit, however small (that is the meaning of "faith without works" being dead in James); however, it is, sadly, possible to be a believer and yet not become mature and so not bear the crop desired by the Lord, "30, 60, a 100-fold". If the plant of faith itself dies, there is then no more "believing" (and apostasy results); if the plant is choked, however, while there is no significant crop (marginality), faith itself may endure (the plant is not dead, merely stunted).
In the history of the Church, it is fair to say that the vast majority of believers have been marginal ("weed-choked"), and have for that reason not attained spiritual maturity, far less progressing in the faith so as to pass significant testing or coming to the point of a productive ministry for Jesus Christ. Believers who are marginal are still believers, and all believers are saved. However, being marginal is dangerous (not to mention dishonoring to the Lord), because such believers are ill-prepared for the temptations, trials, and testing that befalls all who live in this world. Should it come to pass that because of their weak faith such believers not only stumble but actually fall away under pressure so as to lose/abandon/eschew their faith entirely and thus become non-believers even though they had once believed then indeed they are torn out of the vine and cast into the fire (the plant is dead and so is burned). The Bible, being written for our great benefit, for that reason always describes the marginal state as a dangerous state because the worst thing would be for a believer to think that "because I am a believer, I can do whatever I want and have nothing whatsoever to worry about, even though I am not growing on the one hand, and am involving myself in gross sinfulness on the other" (see the link: "The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III"). In fact, both the failure to advance spiritually and the indulgence in behavior which is shameful for a Christian contribute to the diminution of faith and without any faith, a person is not a believer but an unbeliever.
There are four sets of gates to the New Jerusalem, and they represent the four categories of the lives of believers and the relative rewards they have earned in this life. The highest and best is reserved for those who have not only survived this life still believing in Jesus, and have not only grown to maturity, and have not only progressed in passing significant testing, but who have also produced significantly in the ministry Christ had for them. The next highest and next best is reserved for those who have not only survived this life still believing in Jesus, and have not only grown to maturity, but who have also progressed in passing significant testing (albeit not having produced significantly in the ministry Christ had for them). The next highest and next best is reserved for those who have not only survived this life still believing in Jesus, but who have also grown to maturity (albeit not having progressed in passing significant testing nor produced significantly in the ministry Christ had for them). The last set of gates, which, while the lowest, is still wonderful. It is reserved for whose who while they have not grown to maturity, nor progressed in passing significant testing, nor produced significantly in the ministry Christ had for them, have nonetheless survived this life still believing in Jesus. Being a believer, therefore, is the entry point to opportunity and not the stopping point for what our Lord Jesus wants us to do with these short lives we have been given. Those who stop not only forfeit the three crowns that appertain to the three higher areas (i.e., the crowns of righteousness, life and glory respectively), but also put themselves their faith at risk through their lackadaisical and lukewarm approach. Never will this danger be more pronounced the danger of apostasy than in the soon to come Tribulation wherein one third of the Church will apostatize and follow the lies of antichrist (in no small part because they are completely spiritually unprepared for the tests to come).
Here are some links to the details on the above:
The Parable of the Sower
The Judgment and Reward of the Church
The Great Apostasy
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hope you and everyone around you are doing well.
Can you help me explain the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Does the oil represent our faith in this parable?
Love In Christ
Yes indeed. That is how I understand it. Believers during the Tribulation will be made up of three groups: 1) those who apostatize (the 5 whose oil runs out), 2) those whose faith endures to the end (the 5 who have enough oil), 3) those who are martyred. The latter are not mentioned in this particular parable, but are equal in number to the other two groups so that during the Tribulation one third of believers are martyred in the Great Persecution, one third fall away in the Great Apostasy, and one third remain, alive and faithful, to meet the Lord at His return (see the links).
I also treat this parable in the final installment of Coming Tribulation:
All of the main issues which pertain to the need for spiritual alertness during the Tribulation are covered here in the parable of the ten virgins. The ten represent believers during the Tribulation, the light of their lamps represents their faith, the arrival of the bridegroom represents Christ's 2nd Advent return, and the oil which runs out before He arrives and causes the foolish five to miss the celebration represents the truth of the Word of God taught by the Spirit which feeds and empowers faith. The phrase emphasized in verse 13 above, "keep watch", means, more precisely translated, "stay awake!", and refers to the need to maintain one's faith during those dark days to come. Spiritual alertness is all about faith (and prayer is an important part staying spiritually alert: Matt.26:41; Mk.14:38; Lk.22:40; 22:46; Col.4:2).
Just as being physically tired often induces physical sleep which, if it comes on suddenly and unexpectedly at an inappropriate time or manner, may have negative consequences, so also allowing oneself to become spiritually tired is a problem at any time how much more during the dramatic testing of the Tribulation? In the parable of the ten virgins, the light or faith of the five is seen to be on the point of being completely "quenched", with the unhappy result that the foolish miss the return of our Lord which can only mean that they are not resurrected at His return. And since all believers who survive until the Second Advent will be resurrected at that time, this can only mean one of two things: either the five have lost their faith entirely (so as to no longer be believers) or they are no longer alive (having unnecessarily perished not from martyrdom but from poor choices made under the pressures of the Tribulation). The detail of their running off to buy oil at a most inopportune moment is also critical. From this we may surmise that 1) they did not have a sufficient store of truth in their hearts amassed before the troubles began to be able to withstand the otherwise unbearable stresses and strains of the Tribulation, and 2) this lack of usable truth made real in their hearts through believing in it and consistently applying it before the time of testing came rendered them vulnerable to taking actions which for Christians are at the very least not salutary and at worst capable of producing the shipwreck of one's faith. And while it may be true that some such unprepared Christians may not lose faith entirely so as to apostatize (though one third of the Church will do so as we have previously seen, so the danger of this is very real and not to be minimized in any way), that is precisely what the five here are meant to represent: "I tell you the truth, I don't know you".
Whether the believers in this group got themselves involved with inappropriate activities because of their lack of spiritual knowledge (such as becoming involved in some guerilla movement against the beast's forces and being destroyed outside of the will of God as a result; see section II below), or were caught up in the world's enthusiasm for antichrist and through lack of spiritual preparation abandoned their faith altogether and accepted his mark, the result in either case is was apostasy. What then, should the foolish five have done to avoid the horrendous outcome? What should they have done to stay spiritually awake? The answer is the same as it has always been: only God's truth consistently sought out, believed and applied in faith can produce the spiritual maturity which in turn makes possible the corresponding spiritual alertness necessary to avoid falling spiritually asleep. These foolish five should have been growing up through the milk and solid food of the Word before the Tribulation began storing up "oil" for the dark days ahead and, once it did, they should have taken great pains to recall that truth and live by instead of falling into a state of spiritual lethargy. Doing both, i.e., hearing and believing the Word and putting it into practice (Matt.7:24-26; Lk.8:21; 6:47-49) is the hallmark of the mature believer. And while it may be possible for the spiritually immature who are failing to advance to survive life's pressures today and not lose faith, this will be a much more difficult proposition during the Tribulation (as the Great Apostasy will bear witness).
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Many topics are taught nowadays in our meetings concerning Jesus, and these include also the teaching on His second coming. While on Earth, Jesus made it clear of the signs that foretell His coming, He also mentioned the false teachers as another sign, and that we shall distinguish these false teachers by their fruits. But now it concerns me that many people come in the Name of our Lord, they perform wonders, and they are leading many of the children of God astray, and at times is like God is not doing anything, and I wonder, will Jesus come and find the world in this manner, or is it that time that He tarried, as shown in the parable of 10 virgins?
Good to make your acquaintance.
Most of these issues are covered in detail in the Coming Tribulation series (see the link). The parable of the ten virgins is speaking about the Great Apostasy (see the link), the falling away from the faith of a third of the true Church during the Tribulation (see the link: "The Importance of Alertness").
The Tribulation has not yet begun. This is the final era of the Church Age, the era of Laodicea, the era of lukewarmness (see the link). The sad trends you note are indeed indications of all the terrible developments to come, and harbingers of their impending arrival, but there are no distinct signs per se prophesied to occur before the Tribulation begins. Blessedly, when it does start, there will be no doubt about it (see the links: "Signs of the Coming Tribulation", and "The Thunderous voices, lightning and earthquake").
Christians who want to walk pleasing to their Lord ought, therefore, to take these disturbing trends as greater motivation to carry out all the more vigorously their own duties and fulfill their own ministries all the more zealously. With so many Christians and so-called Christian groups falling down on the job, the role of those who choose to stand fast with the truth cannot help but become all the more pronounced and important as things begin to fall apart more and more. We certainly want the answer to our Lord's question at Luke 18:8 to be a resounding "yes!" in our own cases and also in the cases of any and all whom we can help through those dark times through the ministries to His Body with which we have been entrusted.
Please feel free to write back about any of the above.
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I want to ask you a question I have always wondered about. Many Christian books quote the parable of the prodigal son as an example of Gods willingness to forgive a returning, backslidden Christian. When Jesus told this parable he was speaking to the Jews and there were no such thing as Christians at that time or even any that were really believers in Christ because Jesus had not been crucified then. I can see this parable being in relation to the chosen Jews returning to God and being reconciled, particularly through Christ but do you think Christians have taken undue liberty with it pertaining to repentant, backslidden Christians and that Jesus never meant it to apply to that?
I have always wondered when reading people using this as a Christian example if it doesnt apply to after the full revelation of Christ but only to the Jewish audience He was speaking to.
While the cross does divide human history from the divine point of view (the only one that really matters), it is the focal point for us all. Before the cross, they looked forward to it, though through shadows; after the cross, we look back to it, and with a much clearer view of the Savior who saved us. But faith is faith (cf. Heb.11:1ff.; Rom.1:16-17). We know we need help or we are lost; we put our faith in God's provision for that salvation. Those of the Old Testament, gentiles as well as Jews (after all, there were no Jews before Abraham's 99th birthday, some two millennia plus out of Eden), all still had to put their trust in God that He would (somehow) forgive them their sins so as to be saved. Today, we know how He did through the blood of Jesus Christ, His spiritual death for us on the cross. So we accept that perfect Savior as the One who saved us. But the mechanics of trusting God after realizing that we are mortal, sinful, and in danger of eternal judgment, of repenting of our worldly point of view and fleeing instead to the shelter and the safety of the One who made us have always been and always will be the same. It is by no means an insignificant thing that now we know the Name of the One who died for us, and that now there is no "salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12 NKJV) indeed, it is the most significant thing. But those who were saved before the cross we so saved by faith in God's future provision of salvation foreshadowed in His Word and Law (Rom.3:25-26), while those saved after the cross are so saved by faith in the Person and work of the One who provided it, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior. Together, we are one Church, one Body, all belonging to the one who bought us, Jesus Christ the Lord, saved by grace through faith.
So as to the parable of the prodigal son, I don't think we should make too much of the fact that those who heard it were of Israel before the cross. While it is true that there are some special circumstances which do apply to this period of our Lord's earthly ministry, in my view this does not mean that His words are not for the most part directly applicable to us all at all times (otherwise we would have to read all of His words through this other lens). I don't see anything in this parable to identify it as having only a Jewish rather than a universal applicability (even though there are some situational points that do apply; see below).
So the question really has to do with the interpretation of the parable, in my view. Namely, is it to be seen in a collective or an individual sense? Since the son is an individual and since the brother is an individual and since the father (representing the Father) is an individual, it seems preferable to me take it as meant individually. This can also be buttressed from context. Our Lord tells this parable (following two other illustrations, see below) in response to a criticism from the Pharisees and scribes, to the effect that "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" (Lk.15:2 NIV). Understanding the parable as a lesson showing these critics that God, the father in the parable, is only too happy to welcome back sinners and sup with them in the same way that this man did because they are His children too makes the best sense. Seen from this point of view, the brother who has the bad attitude and grumbles against his brother welcomed back is the perfect role for every scribe and Pharisee who is "murmuring" against Jesus' practice of reconciling the wayward.
Also, the two illustrations which precede the parable, that of the lost sheep and the lost coin, even more clearly demonstrate the point that God is concerned for every lost individual, even if the majority, the collective, does not need to be searched for and recovered.
You do have a point about the difference between Israel and the Church Age in this respect: the scribes and Pharisees also represent the historical situation where, ideally, "most" in Israel were saved and only a few needed to repent and be saved. However, as things had developed, by Jesus' day those of the establishment were clearly not saved, merely giving the impression of righteousness in their careful hypocrisy. The hostility they share with the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son leaves anyone who reads it and who has made this identification (as surely Jesus' religious audience had done: cf. "they knew he had spoken this parable against them": Lk.20:19 NIV) in doubt about the salvation not of the one who returns but of the one who never left but resents God's mercy toward the "sinful brother" and that would have been the right lesson for these religious types to draw. Indeed, they were the ones who now needed the saving grace of God. The parable not only teaches God's mercy upon all sinners who repent, but also that not all who appear to be righteous are so. At the end of the parable, the older son has still refused to enter the house. Did he ever go in? Jesus doesn't tell us here (since the lesson was an appeal to these religious types to thaw their hearts and join with those they complained were "sinners"), but we do know from elsewhere in the gospels that "this generation" of stubbornness will endure until His return (the older brother stayed out a long time, and, indeed, has yet to come back in; see the link).
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
You wrote: Challenged as to their true motivations, shown up to be false and dissembling, it was little wonder that, like all of the false prophets who had preceded them, these "wicked husbandmen" would soon seek to destroy the source of that challenge (Matt.21:33-41; Mk.12:1-9; Lk.20:9-16).
You put 'wicked husbandman' in quotation marks - what is the origin of this quotation? Also - although the passages in brackets all tell the same parable, there are some minor differences, for example in Matthew there are groups of slaves sent instead of single slaves to collect the produce - how can this difference be explained?
"Wicked husbandmen" is the name often given these individuals based upon the translation in the KJV version. As to differences in the parables, sometimes we may attribute these to the difference in emphasis in a particular gospel. For example, if you and I saw a car accident, we might describe it somewhat differently when asked about it later yet still be accurate in our different reports. Also, we might describe it in slightly different terms and with slightly different words at different tellings and yet all of these tellings by ourselves and others might be "accurate". As to genuinely different details, it is also true that we have but a small portion of our Lord's three and a half year public ministry recorded. All good teachers use repetition and variation (as for example when John relates how our Lord kept using the theme of the Shepherd during Hanukkah in John chapter 10). We may be sure that Jesus used these parables more than once and that He varied them as in this example to make a slightly different point or to give a slightly different emphasis from time to time and yet made the perfect point every time.
Could you briefly explain Luke 14:12-24? Is the big dinner the Kingdom of God? Do the first guests symbolize Pharisees, the second the poor among the Israelites and the third (from the 'highways and along the hedges) the Gentiles? What is the meaning of the invitation to this dinner?
Yes, I take the "king's banquet" parable to be the celebration in the Kingdom from which most of Jesus' contemporaries will be shut out. They all have their excuses why they will not accept God's will and receive His Messiah who is right there in front of them. This trend to hardness in Israel will continue until our Lord's return (Rom.11:25), and the mystery of the Church is that the gentiles are now flooding into God's family (the people compelled to come in from the highways and byways). I also think you make a good point in identifying the "poor/lame/crippled etc." as those in Israel who were not of the privileged religious caste (cf. Matt.21:31). Thanks!
Could you please clarify John 10:1-9, the parable of the shepherd and the sheepfold - Jesus provides an interpretation and describes Himself as the door, but isn't He also the shepherd in this parable?
Yes. Our Lord does make use of a dual symbolism in this teaching. He is both the gate, the only "door" or "entrance" into salvation; He is also the Good Shepherd of those who have once entered in unto eternal life.
One more question regarding John 10:1-18. I understand that the symbolism is dual, but I would like to comprehend the symbolism of the gate better. Our Lord is the gate - but the gate in this parable is the legitimate access to the sheep, so it doesn't seem it stands directly as a symbol of the entrance of salvation?
Here is what I found on this and what my thoughts are regarding some of the interpretations - please amend and comment as appropriate:
a) Barnes' Notes on the Bible: "I am the door - I am the way by which ministers and people enter the true church. It is by his merits, his intercession, his aid, and his appointment that they enter. Of the sheep - Of the church."
This seems like a reasonable explanation, but our Lord refers to those who came 'before Him', and so I'm not sure whether this passage has got relevance to the 'thieves' of today or not.
On the other hand, the notion every teacher/minister entering the Church through Jesus appears to be quite valid.
b) Clarke's Commentary on the Bible: "I am the door of the sheep - It is through me only that a man can have a lawful entrance into the ministry; and it is through me alone that mankind can be saved. Instead of, I am the door, the Sahidic version reads, I am the shepherd; but this reading is found in no other version, nor in any MS. It is evidently a mistake of the scribe."
Similar as above - but what is the Sahidic version?
c) Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible: "I am the door of the sheep; and of none but them; not of goats, dogs, or swine; none but sheep enter at this door; and all the sheep do sooner or later: Christ is the door to them, by which they enter into a visible church state, and are let into a participation of the ordinances of it, as baptism and the Lord's supper: no man comes into a church, at the right door, or in a right way, or has a right to partake of Gospel ordinances, but he that truly believes in Christ, and makes a profession of faith in him: Christ is the door of the under shepherds of the sheep;"
An interesting point regarding the specification that it is the sheep that are being referred to here and nothing else (Matthew 25:33). The rest seems similar to the two above.
d) Vincent's Word Studies: "The door of the sheep: Meaning the door for the sheep; not the door of the fold. "The thought is connected with the life, and not simply with the organization."
That's another interesting point - the sheep are mentioned and not the fold, which seems to nicely picture the difference between what is truly the church and what people perceive it to be (organization, structure, buildings)."
Summary points would be:
1. Jesus is the door, so he is the only legitimate way in to the Church and so to salvation also.
2. Sheep are those being saved, and could be contrasted with the goats or with the structure of the fold itself (Church as believers and not organization).
3. Since Jesus is the gate, both the sheep and those who minister the sheep enter through him (if the passage refers to ministers that came after our Lord - please let me know your take on this) and there is no other way.
Please let me know what you think of the above interpretations.
This exercise is a good example of the strengths and weaknesses of published commentaries. The Sahidic version is one the two ancient Coptic versions of scripture (the Boharic is the other). Personally, I see very little textual value in either as compared to the actual Greek we possess which is after all the original. And this parable is a good example of the fact that our Lord was concerned with the truth rather than with literature and the expectations of readers. In general terms, what we can say is that this parable is about true sheep who are members of the true flock who entered into that true community by the One Right Way and who are protected by the One Good Shepherd. All other flocks, folds, gates and shepherds are false. So a person wanting to be saved, led, guided, fed, and protected ought to strive to enter into the true fold by the true gate so as to be a member of the true flock, fed and guided and protected by the true Shepherd; and alternatively, such a person ought to avoid all other flocks, gates, folds, and shepherds. While many of the other details and points may or may not be valid or important (I like your synopsis very much), it is typical in the sort of banter in which "commentarians" engage that the over-arching truths tend to get lost in the interpretation of other details. We cannot overlook the detail. The detail is all-important. But it is all-important in that it leads us to the over-arching truths.
You wrote: "He offered neither economic nor political nor social solutions or relief (Lk.19:11; Jn.6:26)." Could you explain why you support your point with Lk.19:11?
Because Luke 19:11 demonstrates that our Lord's contemporaries were expecting just that: immediate political and social solutions from an all powerful Messiah who transform everything in the blink of an eye. However, "he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once" (NIV). The parable of the ten minas shows in stark contrast to their expectations that the coming of the kingdom was actually a long way off and instead of fantasizing about immediate physical deliverance His audience ought instead to be concentrating upon whatever charge their Master had given them so as to please Him and earn a good heavenly reward.
Could you please provide a brief exegesis of Luke 16:1-8, the parable of the "shrewd manager"?
Our Lord explains the parable in verses 8b-9: "For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings" (NIV). We can all appreciate that this unbeliever acting in the secular realm saw ahead of time the danger that was coming, namely, a situation with which he would be unable to cope without prior action, and did what was necessary. In the spiritual realm, the application is that all who turn to contemplate eternity while still alive on this earth would also be "shrewd" to see what is coming and take appropriate action ahead of time. For unbelievers, that means putting their faith in Christ; for believers, that means taking full advantage of our time and resources on this earth to earn maximum rewards. Being welcomed then, analogous to the reception expected by the shrewd manager, will mean being welcomed into heaven (as opposed to be shut out) for those not yet saved, and being welcomed with a good reward and a good report from our Lord at His evaluation of our lives for those who are saved and respond to the advice and example of this parable.
How are you? Will you explain to me the parable of the shrewd manager Luke.16:1-15?
1 Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.' 3 "The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to beg-- 4 I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.' 5 "So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' 6 " 'Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied. "The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.' 7 "Then he asked the second, 'And how much do you owe?' " 'A thousand bushels of wheat,' he replied. "He told him, 'Take your bill and make it eight hundred.' 8 "The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. 10 "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own? 13 "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." 14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.
I am still waiting and praying for the good news of your deliverance!
Great to hear from you, my friend! I am especially thrilled to hear that you are still in the scriptures so that your faith remains strong. I am waiting for news of my deliverance too! And also for news of your deliverance! This is my constant, daily prayer. God is good. He will give an answer for us both. Our place is to wait, as difficult as that is to do when the pressure is on. But God helping us that is precisely what we shall do.
As to your question, in my view the key point of the parable is that money is of no importance to God and should be of little importance to us, so much so that our attitude ought to be to be willing to part with all we have if that is spiritually profitable. The "wise steward" had no problem with handing over someone else's resources to which he had access because he was looking to the future. So also with us. We recognize that money is of this world; it belongs to Caesar. If we have any, it is only because God gave it to us. It will not last beyond this world, and we cannot take it into the next life. Our attitude, therefore, ought to be to make use of it as a tool only to prepare for our future judgment of reward. That is the antithesis of what the world thinks and how the world acts. To the world, money is one of if not the ultimate goal, and its collection and hoarding constitute the end all and be all of human existence. But God laughs at this derisively. He will soon do away with money and the need for it. We believers also look down on this idea at least we did. The kingdom of God is the "pearl of great price" for whose possession we were willing to "sell everything". And so we have. We still do have to live in this world; we still do require money to do so; so we still do have to work for it by the sweat of our brow. But we don't have to serve Mammon. We can recognize in all that we do that this need is temporary, that it is unimportant in the true grand scheme of God's plan for us, that God will provide for this need as He does all others, so that we can be liberated from the greed and need the rest of the world has for this false means to "eternity". For, really, the Pharisees and all today who do so "loved money" because, insanely, they identified it with security. But beyond all argument no amount of money can turn away the day of death and then all such plans come to naught (Ps.146:4).
Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround methose who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches? No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for themthe ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enoughso that they should live on forever and not see decay. For all can see that the wise die, that the foolish and the senseless also perish, leaving their wealth to others. Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. People, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like the beasts that perish.
Psalm 49:5-12 NIV
I do pray for your success and the great success of your business! I am confident that when the Lord blesses you materially, you will not be undermined spiritually, but will use the means He gives you to continue to serve Him first and foremost.
In great anticipation of your coming deliverance, your friend in Jesus Christ,
Hi Dr. Luginbill,
Please help me with further questions.
8 "The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.
Why did the master praise the manager? Wasn't the manager cheating again?
What is the meaning of the second part of the verse?:
For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.
Yes indeed, the manager was doing something terribly wrong, immoral, and illegal to boot. Our Lord is certainly not recommending this behavior. What He is doing is giving us a point of comparison on what the world values and what we value or should. As Jesus says in the parable, the reason why his master praised him when he found out about what he had done was that his master recognized that what he had done was very clever. We are not told what happened next (he could have had him thrown into prison for all we know); the point is that even the master who was being defrauded had to admit it was a pretty clever thing to do.
As to the second part about those of this world being "more shrewd" than most believers, this is to wake us up about our own values and priorities. We say that the kingdom of God is the most important thing to us. But if that were really true, we would be willing to put everything into our efforts for what comes next and worry very little about what is here and now. The shrewd manager used whatever he could get hold of to prepare for what was next and that was the "right" thing to do from a purely practical and amoral perspective. But what about us? We are responsible to be moral and righteous but also practical. If our reward in the next life and if the report our Lord gives us on that great day really were more important to us than whatever might happen down here on earth, then that would affect the ways in which we use the resources God has put at our disposal (very dramatically so, in the case of some lukewarm believers). Doing so would be "shrewd" and "clever", because doing so would be recognizing the actual reality which the noise and confusion of this world has a tendency to mask, namely, that the entire stock of worldly possessions earth contains, all the money and gold and jewels on the planet, are not worth the smallest heavenly reward. The former, moreover, are soon to be destroyed, while the latter will exist for all eternity. So if we were really "clever", we would strive with all we have to maximize our reward . . . in a manner similar (but obviously not identical) to what the shrewd manager did. If we really were using everything we could get our hands on legitimately (and in a legitimate way) to produce a crop for Jesus Christ, that would be absolutely the "best investment" that it would possible for us to make and to an infinitely more beneficial degree than whatever else we might do with our wealth, our time, and our strength here on this temporary earth.
In hopes of rejoicing with you, my friend, in your great reward on that blessed day of days!
In Jesus Christ our Savior,
Thanks again for the truly amazing site. It is an incredible testimony.
I was wondering if you could share your opinion on the story the Lord tells concerning The Unjust Steward in Luke 16.
I suspect that it has to do with the relative policy or attitude of the manager/steward. It has the feel of Necker cube. Just as one feels that one has a grip on it flips over. I have chatted about the meaning of the parable but as we discuss the goal posts seem to shift.
I was wondering if the way it was told in its original language and cultural surround might solidify the a particular view.
How do you understand this puzzling parable? Do you discuss this in your material perhaps you could just supply a link.
Yours in Christ
I don't have anything posted on this passage. It seems to me that the main point our Lord is trying to make here is that worldly wealth is of absolutely no value whatsoever to Christians unless we are using it to further the Plan of God. The unjust steward provides a telling comparison because he was looking into the Abyss of disaster in time which is clearly parallel to the eternal disaster of dying without Christ. Like the pearl of great price or the treasure hidden in the field, the kingdom of heaven is worth everything we have or might ever have in this life. People can see this parallel in secular terms (pearl obtained, field purchased, and, here, potential future supporters made to feel indebted). It is only that when it comes to things that are eternal where people in general and even, sad to say, believers don't allow themselves to realize that this principle is all the more true when it comes to eternity (whether the issue is one of salvation for the unbeliever or of eternal rewards for believers) and infinitely more so, because eternity lasts forever by definition. And if we believers really did realize as viscerally as we appreciate worldly wealth just what the eternal rewards we stand to gain by putting our priorities right in this life will mean for us forever, we would, in a manner loosely analogous to the unjust steward, make every effort to pursue those rewards just as the unbeliever ought to be willing to do absolutely everything to be saved. Somewhat ironically, of course, Herculean efforts are in fact not necessary for salvation. That Word of deliverance is very close, on our lips and in our hearts., so that unbelievers are without any shred of an excuse. Believers too should take it to heart that we are not being asked to do what this steward did nor required to have this sort of worldly shrewdness. What we are being encouraged to do is to wake up and realize where our true priorities in this life ought to be.
Yours in the One who gave His life for us that we might live forever in paradise with Him, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Today, I came across Matthew 20, and the parable of the vineyard. I must admit, it's true meaning escapes me, so I came to ask you about what it means. I came to the conclusion it is about salvation, and how everyone is saved, from someone who grew up with Christ, to those who finally accepted him much later on in life. I'm I right in assuming this? Also, on Matthew 21 and the Parable of the two sons, I must admit, I am confused by the parable itself, as well as Jesus' reaction to what the crowd had guessed?
Good to hear from you. As to your questions about the parables, the workers in the vineyard is all about our Lord's point that many of the "first shall be last" (this "frames" the parable at Matt.19:30 and 20:16), namely, that many in this life who seem to the secular world to be "great" in the kingdom of heaven will receive little or no reward, while many who are toiling in obscurity are really doing His will and will be greatly rewarded (for the details, please see the link: in CT 6 "The parable of the workers in the vineyard").
On the two sons in Matthew 21, this seems to me a bit more straightforward and something we can all identify with, namely, the difference on the one hand between a person who resists "getting with the program" at first but eventually does do what is right, and on the other hand a person who says all the right things but in spite of appearing to be willing never does what it is necessary to do. The only surprising thing to the Pharisees is that they are found to be in the latter group while the "sinners" who repent and follow Jesus are in the former. This parable certainly does underscore the truth of the scripture, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1Sam.16:7 NIV).
Hope things are going well with you my friend!
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
In the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, Jesus states, Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together /first the tares/, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matthew 24:30) In a previous email, you mentioned how the imagery of a corpse and vultures in Luke 17:37 (And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.) didn't have the negative connotations that are present today.
However, Jesus says in his parable that /first/ the tares will be taken, and /then/ the wheat will be gathered into his barn. Likewise, in Luke 17:37, Jesus describes the taking of men, and then he qualifies what the disciples said. He qualifies what he said by saying wherever a dead body is located, vultures will be present. Because Jesus says that /first/ the tares will be taken, can we reasonably assume that Jesus is describing the rapture of wicked people, and that the imagery of a corpse and vultures is negative?
Good to hear from you as always.
As to your question, the parable of the wheat and the tares is describing the end of the Millennium (covered at the link: in CT 6: "The Gog Magog Rebellion"). On the other hand, our Lord's prophecy about the ones left and the ones taken is speaking of the end of the Tribulation (covered at the link in CT 5: "The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride"). In the latter case those "taken" are resurrected, marshaling in the sky, in a way analogous to circling birds of prey, to meet our Lord at His return (1Thes.4:16ff.). In the former case, the righteous are also resurrected and brought safe into the barn (analogous to eternity) while the tares are burned at the last judgment (cf. the sheep and the goats: Matt.25:31-46). In the former case, there is no mention of any judgment upon those "left behind". In the latter case, no one is "left behind", but all are gathered up, one group for blessing and the other one for cursing. So what we have here is a case of two different situations being described. Please have a look at the links above for the details, and, as always, feel free to write back about any of the above.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hello Robert, thanks for your replies. I have been considering them much. I have a question regarding my salvation before I fell back into such grievous sin. It seems to me that if someone truly believes then that belief results in obedience and that is how one knows for sure their calling and election. By their obedience. Since I fell into a long period of sin and disobedience is that proof that I did not truly believe with saving faith? And if that's the case how do I know I truly believe with saving faith now? I'm not sure backsliding can last that long. I was sure I believed then and I'm sure I believe now but it seems that doesn't count for anything if it's not true saving faith obviously.
Just as an aside question, how much scripture do you read on a daily basis?
I read some scripture every day not as much as I should. The important thing is to try to be consistent in Bible reading as with everything else we know we should do: prayer, ministry, and accessing good Bible teaching and believing the truth of it being of the more important things. As I have probably said before, I honestly believe that as you move forward spiritually the false, negative gravity of the past will begin to exert less and less pull on you and you will begin to have the peace in the Lord to which we have all been called.
Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
Luke 15:4-7 NIV
The scripture is clear: like the prodigal son, the Lord "longs to be gracious" to us (Is.30:18). He is only hindered by our stiff-necked refusals to return to Him. He disciplines and trains those who are walking along with Him, but He calls back in mercy all who have fallen behind. The entire Old Testament is awash with the doctrine of returning. Indeed, the whole history of Israel is all about return. God never stands in the way of return. God stands there with open arms waiting for us to return, encouraging us to do so. The God of love and mercy who judged all of our sins in His one and only Son so that we might be saved through His blood is not looking for ways to condemn us. He has already condemned Jesus Christ for us. We are the only ones who stand in the way of His unreserved mercy, compassion, goodness and love. It is very important not to blame Him for our unwillingness to respond to Him. He is consistent. Jesus Christ is the same "yesterday and today and forever" (Heb.13:8). He loves us and is always willing to show His love to us. We are only hindered from that love when we insist on hindering ourselves.
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt."
Jeremiah 31:3b-4a NIV
Our God is a God forgiveness. There is nothing He cannot forgive, if only we are willing to be forgiven. Let us therefore embrace His mercy and cast aside the guilt of the past, knowing that Jesus has covered all these sins with His blood. And let us resolve to return to Him with all our hearts, walking with Him faithfully through whatever lies ahead.
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Our Lord Jesus Christ has used you mightily, and I am no novice to such works. I have read many systematic theology texts and the one you quote from, here and there, I love, knowing though, it's limitations.
In these days so far removed from our precious earlier saints, it is hard to comprehend that if the tribulation started in our lifetime, that most of those who proclaim faith in our Lord would be asking at the closed door for entrance.
The persistent widow parable which you expounded on at the end of your tribulation series, God used to rock me to the core. "And not lose heart"!
How I have not seen that and how you were able to point out to me, is to the glory of our Lord, Jesus Christ, through his precious Spirit working in his holy word.
God bless you brother. I will meet you in His coming kingdom.
Your brother, in Our blessed Lord Jesus Christ
Very good to make your acquaintance and thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words!
I'm always happy to hear when my brothers and sisters in Jesus find some of these materials useful.
In our dear Lord and Savior,