It is a misnomer for Christians to use parables when preaching among themselves. This comes from a failure to understand Jesus, who remains enigmatic to ordinary people. Jesus spoke in bifocal terms throughout His mission, depending on who He would be speaking to, at any given time. When speaking to ordinary people, he avoided divulging secrets of the Kingdom of God.
When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise, they might turn and be forgiven!” (Mark 4:10-12 NIV).
Ordinary people are not supposed to receive secrets of God’s Kingdom. This should not be construed as condemning them, but to save them. There is danger, associated with indulging in God’s Kingdom when not ready for it. The negative electric currency cannot be safely combined with the positive one. The two are dichotomous, causing an explosion, when carelessly combined. The same applies when carelessly combining Godliness with worldliness.
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves punishment, who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, having treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of Grace?” (Hebrews 10:26-29 NIV).
One sincerely hopes that the majority of those reverently calling themselves “Christians” would do so, having not yet received the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul depicted the Holy Spirit as the only determinant factor in describing a Christian. I suppose there would be no danger for anyone calling oneself a “Christian”, as long as not having received the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul further enunciated this point when communicating with believers among Roman Christians.
“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s Law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:7-11 NIV).
The apostle Paul was not talking to ordinary people. This shows that a Christian is a new creation, whose life cannot be evaluated by those of this world. That person is answerable to God, just as Jesus was answerable to God. Paul intended to communicate with those who had received the Holy Spirit. Among those Roman Christians, may have been those not having understood what the apostle Paul was talking about. Such people may have not received the Holy Spirit. True Christians should never be regarded as ordinary, just as Jesus was not ordinary. As God’s Children, true Christians are peculiar.
“Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of son-ship. And by him, we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings so that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:12-17 NIV).
Since the first century, not many people have understood the significance of the above passage of Scripture. Only a few may have understood. However, the general conduct of many Christians shows that not many understand Christianity. The misunderstanding emanates from a misinterpretation of the Scriptures. For instance, let us examine the commonly referred “Sermon on the Mount”:
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven…” (Matthew 5:1ff NIV).
The above is a prelude to a lecture covered in Matthew, Chapters 5, 6 and 7. It doesn’t suggest that Jesus was preaching to the general public. Instead, it says He was teaching His disciples, having followed Him up on that mountainside. There is no conjecture that ordinary people followed up on the mountainside, except His disciples. Even the commonly trusted Bible commentaries, refer to Matthew’s passage in Chapters 5, 6 and 7, as comprising Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.”
The common assumption is that Jesus was speaking to the crowds. But the prologue in Matthew 5:1 shows Jesus avoiding the crowds, going up to a mountainside, before sitting down to teach His disciples. That Scripture shows that it was only His disciples who came to Him before He began to teach them.
Christ’s overall teaching, in Matthew 5, 6 and 7, could not, and cannot be understood by ordinary people. Hence, the cynics are known to viciously mock Christ’s apparent contradictions. When picking such Scriptures, as the so-called Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is contradictive. However, the so-called sermon has nothing to do with ordinary people, hence attracting such acerbic criticisms.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen; will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20 NIV).
The above message was intended for His disciples, who had not yet become God’s Children. The disciples were still as ordinary as other people, before the Pentecostal phenomenon (Acts 2). But Jesus had chosen them, before promising them with the Holy Spirit that would make them different from other people. They had merely become disciples, but not yet different from other ordinary people, except for being under the cover of Jesus Christ.
Jesus had said, “Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” This looks contradictive, as Jesus goes further to outline differences between Moses’ Law and how the disciples were supposed to conduct themselves. Also, the cynics would misunderstand the possibility of heaven and earth ever disappearing. However, the Book of Revelation reveals that phenomenon would eventually take place (See Revelation 21:1).
The disciples were expected to conduct themselves better than the teachers of the Law, if entertaining being part of God’s Kingdom. How possible could that be, when even the teachers of the Law were failing to keep that Law? The distinguishing feature among those disciples was in willingness to forsake everything to follow Christ. As long as Jesus was physically present, they were under His cover.
Their righteousness surpassed the teachers of the Law but by Jesus’ works. They erred in many ways. On several occasions, Jesus rebuked them for lacking faith. Teaching them was not easy for Jesus. Peter was, particularly, caught offside many times, but he survived until the Holy Spirit came. Judas Iscariot was the only one unable to make it to the end, although also having been under God’s grace, like the rest of them.
This reveals that even though under God’s protection, one can still forfeit the privilege of grace and be condemned with sinners. The most dangerous thing is to forfeit the privilege, accorded to one. In His gracious love, God calls people at different times and from different backgrounds. This minimizes the number of those to be condemned after becoming part of the elect (See Hebrews 10:26-29).
The entire humanity is subjected to God’s judgment, without anyone escaping that judgment. The possibility of accessing God’s Kingdom has now been made possible in three stages. God’s judgment was initiated by Jesus when considering His experience on the cross. Jesus had not committed any offence, but His blood opened up the desirable grace, now accessible to humanity. We can safely state that Jesus set the preparation for the judgment stages of humanity. The first stage refers to those called during the Christian dispensation, as alluded to, by Peter:
“However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, if it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good”(1 Peter 4:16-19 NIV)
The second judgment takes place at the second coming of Jesus, during the prophesied one-thousand-year period (Revelation 20:1-10). Bear in mind that Jesus said, “Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” The Law would still be existent, as heaven and earth would have not yet disappeared, before the third and final judgment.
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that was in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that was in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15 NIV).
Jesus indicated that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. This projects the fact that none of this world’s humanity should ever assume being better than those considered to be one’s juniors. Humans were created in God’s image. The folly of all time has always been to assume that others are better or worse than others. While allowed to prevail, this folly causes failure to access the secrets of God’s Kingdom, regardless of being assumed to be wiser. The story of Adam and Eve is parabolic, just as most of the Old Testament stories are parabolic.
The only way anyone could access the secrets of God’s Kingdom is through a willingness to surrender everything to follow Christ. Otherwise, there remains no favouritism, suggesting others qualify to access God’s Kingdom, while the rest would be unfairly disqualified. While serving the purpose of redemptive processes for humanity, the timing factor does not count in God’s eyes. As sustained in the parabolic human story; the timing factor serves only to prevent unqualified people from accessing God’s Kingdom.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those who have witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.
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