Keith Sharp | via christistheway.com
Three parables of the Master reveal how the kingdom of God grows. The kingdom of God does not grow the way the rule of men does. The Roman Empire of Jesus’ day and the United States of America today each grew into the mightiest nation on earth through a long series of mostly successful wars and conflicts. Not so with the reign of heaven.
Like Seed Growing
My younger grandson planted sunflower seeds and waited impatiently for them to germinate and grow into plants. By the time the stalks were twice his height, he lost interest. But he learned that the power to produce life is in the seed. Neither my six year old grandson nor a Ph.D. botanist understands how life got into that seed. It is the work of God.
The power to change the self-willed sinner to a submissive child of God, that is to product the kingdom of God within the human heart, does not lie with the eloquence of the preacher (1 Corinthians 2:1-5), clever methods that beguile the sinner into obedience (2 Corinthians 4:2), or carnal attractions that lure impenitent sinners into the fold (John 6:26-27). The power is in the word of God (Romans 1:16; 10:17), which, when faithfully preach-ed and taught, will always accomplish the will of the Lord (Isaiah 55:10-11). It doesn’t matter who plants the seed but Who put the life in the seed (1 Corinthians 3:6).
If my grandson becomes a gardener, he will learn to garden in faith. He will plant the seed and then go about his business, trusting that the seed will germinate, grow into a plant, and produce a crop. We sow the seed of the kingdom into humans hearts in faith that the word will do its work. We preach and teach, then we leave the sinner and go about other tasks, trusting the seed to germinate within the heart, grow into faith, and produce the rule of Christ in the heart. The one who says any method whereby the word is imparted to hearers does no good lacks faith in the Lord and in His word. The word of God is still “living and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12)
The farmer must be patient (James 5:7) as he waits for the sunshine and rain to bring the crop to maturity. We must simply sow the seed and wait patiently for the Lord to yield the increase. There are times of faith testing frustration when all our labor seems to be accomplishing nothing. We must not lose heart. “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psalm 126:5)
Like Mustard Seed
Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19
Though the mustard seed was not strictly the smallest seed known in Palestine, it was so tiny that its miniscule size was proverbial (Matthew 17:20; Luke 17:6). Yet it became such a large shrub, one the size of a small tree in which birds nested, growing to a height of ten or twelve feet, that it was planted the open field rather than the garden.
The prophets foretold the universal (Daniel 2:35), eternal (Daniel 2:44) extent of the kingdom of God and this is indeed the nature of the heavenly reign (Hebrews 12:22-23; Revelation 12:5). But its beginning was so unimpressive that the disciples were to have their faith severely tested. The King began His life in a stable and ended His career on a cross. His twelve emissaries were “uneducated and untrained men” (Acts 4:13). But in one generation the gospel and with it the kingdom of God was carried throughout the world (Colossians 1:3-8), and proclaimed to “every creature under heaven” (Colossians 1:23)
When the foundation of the rebuilt temple was laid by Zerubbabel, the prophet Zechariah inquired, “For who has despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10) Many of the old men who had seen the temple that Solomon build wept loudly (Ezra 3:12). In comparison to that temple the one being build seemed to them as nothing (Haggai 2:3). But the Lord through the prophet declared, “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former” (Haggai 2:9).
In 1948 one Nigerian man, C.A.O. Essien, took a Bible correspondence course sent by the Lawrence Avenue Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennesee. Today there are multiplied thousands of Christians in Nigeria. The mustard seed has grown into a tree.)
Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20-21
The woman and the amount of flour in this briefest of parables are the details that make it a story and have no spiritual significance. It is the leaven that represents the kingdom of heaven.
The work of leaven is … inward and invisible. This parable is a powerful declaration of the spiritual nature of the kingdom… The leaven must therefore symbolize the gospel as it works unseen in the individual spirit (1 Peter 1:22-23) and then moves quietly from one heart to another. (Glimpses of Eternity, 61, Earnhart)
The Word of Christ, quietly and unseen, permeates the human heart until “all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and the son of the kingdom is transformed into the very image of the Son of God (2 Corinthians 3:18). Only when our minds are transformed will we present our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2). Like yeast inside dough, the change must take place within. Reworking society from impoverished to wealth, from autocracy to democracy, will not change people or save their souls. Wicked, lost sinners are the primary populace of Hollywood, whereas thousands of righteous Christians call Zimbabwe home. Only the gospel quietly working inside the heart will change the son of the wicked one to a child of God.
Without the marching of armies or the booming of artillery the kingdom of heaven spreads throughout society until every honest heart is “brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)