Tag Archives: parable

“As if he thought every one was going to heaven” by J.C. Ryle

“The clergyman who ascends his pulpit every Sunday, and addresses his congregation as if he thought every one was going to heaven, is surely not doing his duty to God or man. His preaching is flatly contradictory to the parable of the sower.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 254. Ryle is commenting on Luke 8:4-15.

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“Beware of the cares of this world” by J.C. Ryle

“The third caution contained in the parable of the sower is to beware of the cares of this world. Our Lord tells us that the hearts of many hearers of the word are like thorny ground. The seed of the word, when sown upon them, is choked by the multitude of other things, by which their affections are occupied.

They have no objection to the doctrines and requirements of the Gospel. They even wish to believe and obey them. But they allow the things of earth to get such hold upon their minds, that they leave no room for the word of God to do its work.

And hence it follows that however many sermons they hear, they seem nothing bettered by them. A weekly process of truth-stifling goes on within. They bring no fruit to perfection.

The things of this life form one of the greatest dangers which beset a Christian’s path. The money, the pleasures, the daily business of the world, are so many traps to catch souls.

Thousands of things, which in themselves are innocent, become, when followed to excess, little better than soul-poisons, and helps to hell. Open sin is not the only thing that ruins souls.

In the midst of our families, and in the pursuit of our lawful callings, we have need to be on our guard. Except we watch and pray, these temporal things may rob us of heaven, and smother every sermon we hear. We may live and die thorny-ground hearers.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (vol. 1; New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 252–253. Ryle is commenting on Luke 8:4-15.

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“Religious affections” by J.C. Ryle

“The second caution that we learn from the parable of the sower, is to beware of resting on mere temporary impressions when we have heard the word. Our Lord tells us that the hearts of some hearers are like rocky ground.

The seed of the word springs up immediately, as soon as they hear it, and bears a crop of joyful impressions, and pleasurable emotions. But these impressions, unhappily, are only on the surface. There is no deep and abiding work done in their souls.

And hence, so soon as the scorching heat of temptation or persecution begins to be felt, the little bit of religion which they seemed to have attained, withers and vanishes away.

Feelings, no doubt, fill a most important office in our personal Christianity. Without them there can be no saving religion. Hope, and joy, and peace, and confidence, and resignation, and love, and fear, are things which must be felt, if they really exist.

But it must never be forgotten that there are religious affections, which are spurious and false, and spring from nothing better than animal excitement. It is quite possible to feel great pleasure, or deep alarm, under the preaching of the Gospel, and yet to be utterly destitute of the grace of God.

The tears of some hearers of sermons, and the extravagant delight of others, are no certain marks of conversion. We may be warm admirers of favorite preachers, and yet remain nothing better than stony-ground hearers.

Nothing should content us but a deep, humbling, self-mortifying work of the Holy Ghost, and a heart-union with Christ.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (vol. 1; New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 251–252.

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“Take heed how you hear” by J.C. Ryle

“The parable of the sower is preeminently a parable of caution, and caution about a most important subject,—the way of hearing the word of God.

It was meant to be a warning to the apostles, not to expect too much from hearers.

It was meant to be a warning to all ministers of the Gospel, not to look for too great results from sermons.

It was meant, not least, to be a warning to hearers, to take heed how they hear.

Preaching is an ordinance of which the value can never be overrated in the Church of Christ. But it should never be forgotten, that there must not only be good preaching, but good hearing.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 250. Ryle is commenting on Luke 8:4-15.

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“The parable of the three sons” by Sinclair B. Ferguson

“This parable is sometimes called ‘the parable of the two sons.’ But earlier we hinted that there are actually three sons. Have you recognized the third son? Count the sons. One left home and returned. A second stayed at home but remained far away. Where is the third son?

The third son is the Son who is telling the story. He is the Son who was at home with His Father but came to the far country. If we miss Him, we miss the meaning of the parable. For the characters in it—however true to life they may be—are imaginary. Jesus, however, is not.

He is the One who, through costly grace and great humiliation, provides the way for prodigal sons to be welcomed home. This is what the story is really all about. As He told it, Jesus was talking both to prodigal sons and elder brothers, and inviting them to come to Him, to trust in Him, and to experience the joy of being His.”

–Sinclair B. Ferguson, By Grace Alone (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2010), 28.

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“A Parable for Reflection” by Craig G. Bartholomew and Robby Holt

“There were two exegetes who prayed as they entered the library to work on understanding a biblical text. One was a biblical scholar and the other a common lay preacher. The biblical scholar, on route to deep seclusion in the collection of recent monographs, prayed like this:

‘Lord, I thank you that I am not like other exegetes– the youth ministers, authors of popular devotional literature, mass production book publishers or even this lay preacher. I study the Scriptures for hours every day– in their original… and several other languages, not to mention my work in ancient history and historiography, literary theory, social-scientific research, the most important commentaries, the most recent monographs and dissertations, and the most scholarly periodicals!’

But the lay preacher, trying to remember how to use the complicated cataloging system to find an understandable commentary on a passage of Scripture, prayed thus,

‘God, please help me, a mere preacher, find something to help me understand Your word.’

I tell you, this person– who desperately needed it– received help from the Lord.”

–Craig G. Bartholomew and Robby Holt, “Prayer in/and the Drama of Redemption,” in Reading Luke: Interpretation, Reflection, Formation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 350.

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“Jesus was the master creator of story” by Klyne Snodgrass

“Jesus’ parables are among the best known and most influential stories in the world. Even if people know nothing of Jesus, they either know about his stories or have encountered their impact in expressions like ‘prodigal’ or ‘good Samaritan.’ The importance of the parables of Jesus can hardly be overestimated. At no point are the vitality, relevance, and usefulness of the teaching of Jesus so clear as in his parables.

Jesus was the master creator of story, and nothing is so attractive or so compelling as a good story. Children (and adults) do not say, ‘Tell me some facts’; they want a story. Stories are inherently interesting. Discourse we tolerate; to story we attend. Story entertains, informs, involves, motivates, authenticates, and mirrors existence. By creating a narrative world, stories establish an unreal, controlled universe. The author abducts us and– almost god-like– tells us what reality exists in this narrative world, what happens, and why.

Stories are one of the few places that allow us to see reality, at least the reality the author creates. There, to a degree we cannot do in real life, we can discern motives, keep score, know who won, and what success and failure look like. Life on the outside virtually stops; we are taken up in the story. The storyteller is in control so that we are forced to see from new angles and so that the message cannot be easily evaded.

Hearers become willing accomplices, even if the message is hostile. From this ‘other world’ we are invited to understand, evaluate, and, hopefully, redirect our lives. We learn most easily in the abstract. In teaching and preaching the shortcut is to repeat the abstract idea we already know, forgetting that others still need to learn in the concrete. We would do better, at least frequently, to clothe the abstract in concrete experience and story, just as Jesus did.”

–Klyne Snodgrass, Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 1-2.

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