The Church

The Church


      In talking about the church, I will be talking about the body of Christ or the bride of Christ, and also the congregation. I will not be talking about the church building.

      I am going to use Matthew 13 to talk about the church. In verse 1 Jesus leaves the house that He had been teaching in and goes down to the seashore. A great multitude gathers so He gets into one of the fishing boats and sits down to speak to them. When He speaks to them, He speaks to them in parables. A parable is a short story drawn from nature or human circumstances with the object of setting forth a spiritual lesson.

      The parable of the sower: Matthew 13:3-8; Mark 4:3-8; Luke 8:5-8. This parable has 4 parts. First of all, we are not told who the sower is, but we are told what the seed is. In Luke 8:11, Jesus says, “The seed is the word of God”. In Matthew 13:18-23, the seed is just called the word. From this we can surmise that the sower is anyone who is spreading the word of God. All the farms in Israel had a path through them so that you could go from one place to another. These paths were hard packed dirt. In this parable the sower is not planting the seed in rows but spreading it all over the ground. I picture it like someone feeding chickens in a barnyard, just tossing the feed all over the yard.

      The first part of the parable: In Matthew 13:4, Mark 4:4 and Luke 8:5, when the sower sowed, some seed fell by the wayside. Luke 8:5 tells us that the seed was trodden down or stepped on so we see that this is the hard packed dirt of the pathway. The 3 gospels tell us that the birds came and devoured that seed. You have to understand that there is only one type of seed sown, (the word), but there are 4 different results. Jesus gives the explanation of this first part in Matthew 13:18-19, and the birds there are called the wicked one. In Mark 4:15, the birds are called Satan and in Luke 8:12, the birds are called the devil. There is no question as to what the birds represent. This part of the parable talks about the people who completely reject the Lord and are the unsaved. God is the only one who knows who will accept or reject Jesus. So, it is up to us to keep on witnessing. I’m going to use myself as an example. I was born again on June 29 1968 when I was 38 years old. After my wife got saved, she started witnessing to me. For over a year I kept rejecting her. She didn’t beat me over the head with a bible but she was persistent. On that morning in June the Lord convicted me of my need. So, I went upstairs and got my wife out of bed and she came down to the kitchen and led me to a saving relationship with my Lord. So don’t stop witnessing. In all 3 gospels, Matthew 13:9; Mark 4:9 and Luke 8:8, Jesus says “who hath ears to hear, let him hear”. What does this mean? There was a great multitude that heard the words of Jesus but they did not understand. Why didn’t they understand? In Matthew 13:10, the disciples ask Him a question about why He teaches in parables and in verses 11-17 He answers that question. In verse 14 Jesus says that in these people a prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled. The prophecy is in Isaiah 6:9-10. God is speaking to Isaiah and through him to say that with ears they will hear but not understand and with eyes they will see but not perceive. All that means is more or less the same thing, they will not understand what they are looking at or hearing. This happened in Isaiah’s time, and in Jesus’ time and is happening now in our time. Why does Jesus say in Matthew 13:16; Blessed are your eyes and ears for they see and hear? Does this mean that the apostles and the disciples had special eyes and ears? No. They were just like the others. If you look at Mark 4:10 and Luke 8:9, you get the answer. When they are alone, the apostles and disciples ask Jesus what the meaning of the parable is. What can we gather from this? As we read or study our bibles, or listen to preachers or teachers, and we don’t understand something we need to ask someone about it. Some things that I had problems with the Lord waited over 20 years before He revealed the answer to me. When He did, it was like a neon light flashing on in my mind. The Holy Spirit will reveal the meaning of scripture to us in His own time, but He will not reveal it to someone who is not seeking to learn on his   or her own.

      The second part of the parable: In Matthew 13:5-6 and Mark 4:5-6, the sower spreads the seed on stony ground. In Luke 8:6, the seed is sown on rock. Israel, just like Connecticut, has a lot of ledge in the ground, so when it talks about stony places or rocky ground, it’s not talking about anything on top of the soil, but ledge under the soil. If you read all 3 gospels you will get a good picture of what happens to the seed. If you look at Matthew 13:20-21; Mark 4:16-17 and Luke 8:13, Jesus explains what happens to the persons who received the word on stony ground. They are full of joy and hot to trot about Christianity. They remain this way for a time, some 1 or 2 or 6 months or even a year, and then they fall away. They looked like Christians, they talked like Christians and they acted like Christians, but they were not Christians. You’ve heard many times that you need to receive Christ in your heart not just in your head. When they talk about the heart, they are not talking about the pump that is in our chest, but to the seat of all feeling in our minds. Those who received the word on stony ground are not true Christians, so they fall away.

             The third part of the parable: In Matthew 13:7, Mark 4:7 and Luke 8:7, the sower spread the seed and some fell among thorns. The persons who receive this word are not as jubilant or animated as those who received it on stony ground, but are quiet and sedate. The soil here has thorns in it. When it is time to sow seed, it is also time for weeds or whatever is in the soil to start growing. So the seeds and the thorns grow together. Read in Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:18-19 and Luke 8:14, where Jesus explains this part of the parable. They are not Christians, just like the ones on stony ground aren’t Christians. The reasons for them falling away are different. Hebrews 6:4-6 talks about those persons who fall away and the bible tells us that it is impossible to restore them. True Christians backslide and are out of fellowship, but they can be restored to fellowship. They never lose their salvation. Hebrews tells us that those persons represented in these two parts of the parable have received all that is needed for salvation but did not commit themselves. They had been enlightened. By receiving the word, they had tasted of the heavenly gift, but they did not drink. Jesus explains what the heavenly gift is in John 4:10, (living water). They were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost will do everything He can to help us commit ourselves to Jesus but will not force us. That is our decision to make. They had tasted the good word but they did not eat. To receive Jesus as our personal Savior we go to the cross and Jesus comes down off the cross to be with us. For the rest of the world, Jesus is still on the cross. Those of parts 2 and 3 of this parable have gone to the cross and Jesus has come down to them but they did not commit themselves to Him. It was head knowledge and not heart knowledge. In other words, they received him in their head and not in their heart. So they fall away for the reasons given. Once they’ve fallen away they cannot be restored because in order to be restored they have to go back to the cross, (Hebrews 4:6). Jesus is no longer on the cross for them and it is impossible to put Jesus back on the cross a second time. That’s why those who fall away are lost. Remember a Christian backslides and can come back but those who fall away cannot. These two may look alike and we can’t tell them apart, but God can.

              The fourth part of the parable: In Matthew 13:8; Mark 4:8 and Luke 8:8, the sower sows seed on good ground and produces fruit. Jesus explains about the good ground in Matthew 13:23; Mark 4:20 and Luke 8:15. Those on the good ground in Matthew understand and those in Luke, hear, and in a good and honest heart receive the word. The word goes beyond the head to the heart and they bear fruit. What is fruit? Look at Galatians 5:22-23, and you see what the fruit of the Spirit is. The first one is LOVE, and if you have that one, the rest will follow. When accepting Christ as Savior, those on the good ground can react just like those on the stony or thorny ground by being full of joy and hot to trot or quiet and sedate. It’s all up to the individuals and their makeup as to how they act when they receive Jesus. In Matthew 13:11 and Mark 4:11, Jesus tells the disciples that the kingdom of God is a mystery. How do you get to understand mysteries? Through the Holy Spirit. He reveals them to us as we study, ask questions and talk to others. There are some mysteries that we will never understand in our lifetime, but the Holy Spirit wants us to keep looking for answers. There were mysteries in the first century church that were not revealed to them. All through the years, the Holy Spirit has been revealing mysteries to us, (believers), and he will keep on revealing them long after we are gone.  The last thing I want to say about this parable is, that it pictures the church congregation, (kingdom of God), and there are many in the congregation who are not saved. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves”.

              The second parable: Matthew 13:24-30. This is another picture of the kingdom of heaven, (God), and it pictures the church congregation again. It is called the parable of the tares, (weeds). The wheat in this parable represents the Christian and the tares represent the unbeliever. This parable is a little different than the parable of the sower. The field represents the congregation. The good seed represents the believer and the enemy is Satan who spreads the tares. Satan is out to destroy all congregations, and to do that he puts his people into the congregation to disrupt. The Holy Spirit also leads people into congregations to hear the word and get saved. We do not know who they are, so we are told   not to try to root them out. God will take care of that in His time. The bible teaches us to examine ourselves, not others, and to make sure that we are born again. In Matthew 13:36 the disciples ask Jesus the meaning of the parable of the tares. The multitude was sent away not knowing the answer to the parable but not asking either. Jesus answers the disciples in verses 37-43. Jesus uses the world as the field and the Son of man, (Himself), as the sower. From the time of Jesus, His disciples sowed the seed and people have been sowing the seed all through the years to us. We sow the seed now. We sow the seed in the world and the results from the good seed usually end up joining some congregation. The tares that Satan sows also join various congregations. Remember, the tares are not Satan worshipers. They are persons who think that they are good enough and that they do not need a savior. The bible teaches us that we are either a child of God or a child of the devil. The unbeliever is a child of the devil no matter how good he or she thinks they are. I am comparing this parable to a congregation so that it would be closer to home and be more       understandable.

              The third parable: Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32 and Luke 13:18-19. This parable is called the parable of the mustard seed. Again it’s talking about the kingdom of heaven (God), and it pictures another congregation. The seed is the word and it starts as a very small seed. For one thing, it shows that it does not take many words to lead a person to Jesus. Many Christians use too many words in witnessing to people and drive them away rather than lead them to Christ. The Holy Spirit, not us, is the One who converts people to Christ. He can use 1 word as well as 50 to do that. Another thing it shows is that the church, (congregation), starts out very small but grows into a large body. This mustard seed grows big enough to allow birds to rest on the branches. The leaves and the branches represent the congregation, (church), and the birds represent the unbeliever. The birds are just like the tares in the parable of the tares. The reason I say this, is because in the parable of the sower, the birds represented Satan. To use the birds in one parable as Satan and as Christians in another is confusion. Jesus never taught this way. I say this because many Christians believe that the birds represent believers in the church. I had a problem for a long time with picturing unbelievers in the kingdom of God. When I finally realized that the kingdom of heaven on earth is a work in progress of the Holy Spirit, it made sense to me. The birds just lodge in the branches, they do not nest.

              The fourth parable: Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:20-21. It is called the parable of the leaven. No explanation is given for this parable but like all the other parables, it pictures the kingdom of heaven. In the New Testament, leaven is always used in a bad sense. In Matthew 16:6, Jesus tells the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They reasoned among themselves, thinking that Jesus was talking about bread. This is why I have said before; when you are in doubt, ask about it. In verse 11, Jesus mentions the leaven again and in verse 12, they understand that the leaven that Jesus talks about is not yeast, but is the doctrines, (teachings), of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Mark 8:15, also has the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees but adds Herod to the list. The Herodians had their own teachings. In Luke 12:1, the Pharisees are the only ones named and the disciples are told that the leaven is hypocrisy. In 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, Paul is upset with the Corinthians because they had allowed a man to sin flagrantly in the church and they did nothing about it. They were puffed up because they thought that they were showing their love for him by doing nothing. In verse 6, Paul says that their glorying in themselves was not good, because the leaven would go through the whole lump. The leaven in this verse does not represent teachings, but sin and this can go throughout the whole congregation. In verse 7, Paul talks about Jesus as our Passover. Read Exodus 12:1-20. The Lord speaks to Moses about the Passover and He tells him that they cannot use leaven in their bread.   On the Passover, a lamb was sacrificed for the Israelites, but for the believers today, Jesus is our Passover. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper, (Communion), and we are celebrating His sacrifice. So there should be no leaven, (sin), in our lives when we take Communion. In 1 Corinthians 5: 1-5, we see the sin of fornication. In verse 8, the sins mentioned are malice, wickedness, insincerity and lying. In this parable, the three measures of meal can stand for a church or various ministries in the church, such as committees, finances, teaching, preaching and any others. Any ministry can go bad when leaven enters in. Read 2 Timothy 2. It has a lot of information for us. We should be interested in God’s truth and not in man’s or our own truth. That’s why we need to study and ask questions.

              The fifth parable: Matthew 13:44. It is called the parable of the hidden treasure. I had problems with this parable from the beginning of my Christian walk. I was taught that the buried treasure was Jesus. At that time I accepted this teaching, but I could not believe that a Christian man could find treasure in a field, bury it, and then go sell everything to buy the field without telling the owner about the treasure. The pastor and his wife at the church where I was a member had asked me how I was doing and I told them of my problem. The pastor’s wife explained to me that, if I went to a flea market and saw something that I wanted and bought it from a vendor, it would be treasure to me, but not to the vendor. The answer sounded good, so I accepted it. As I grew older in the Lord I didn’t like the explanation of that parable. If the treasure was Jesus, then the man who bought the field was buying Jesus and we all know that we cannot do that. I kept studying and asking questions but never got an answer that I could accept. For over 30 years I didn’t have a good answer for that question. About 2 or 3 years ago I was studying this passage. One of the commentaries I was using was by Vernon McGee. He said that the treasure in the field is Israel and the man selling everything is Jesus. The reason the treasure is buried is because the Israelites rejected Him and they were put aside (buried), and salvation went to the gentiles. When I read that, I said to myself, “finally something that makes sense”. Some Israelites are saved but most are still rejecting Jesus.

              The sixth parable: Matthew 13:45-46. It is called the parable of the pearl of great price. I had problems with this parable also. In all of my studying and all of the preachers and teachers that I heard, everyone said that the pearl of great price was Jesus. I never had a better answer for it, so I accepted it. However, I still asked questions about it because the merchant sold everything to buy the pearl and if we were the merchant and Jesus was the pearl, we would be buying our salvation and we cannot do that. Again, in studying Vernon McGee’s commentary: he said, that the pearl of great price is the church and the merchant is Jesus. Jesus was the one who sold everything to buy the church. We received Jesus as a gift from God. We didn’t buy or sell anything. When I read this, a light flashed on in my mind and again I said, “finally something that really makes sense”. When the church is mentioned here, it is not the building or the congregation, but the born again believer. In 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19 and 2 Corinthians 6:16, we are called the temple of God and the Holy Spirit. That’s why we are a church in ourselves. This parable is the only one that is about born again believers. All Israelites who are born again come under this parable. All other Israelites come under the buried treasure parable.

              The seventh parable: Matthew 13:47-50. It is called the parable of the net. It’s the last parable in this section of Matthew 13. It pictures all the congregations of every church and again it shows that some are good and some are bad, some are wicked and some are just. The angels come to separate them because they can discern the just and the good from the wicked and the bad. Those unbelievers in the congregation can fool the believers into thinking that they are saved and they can even fool themselves but they cannot fool the angels. That’s why it’s so imperative that we examine ourselves and make sure that we are saved. Remember, if you know Jesus as Savior, you are for Him and if you don’t know Him as Savior, you are against Him. There is no middle ground. All of these parables talk about the kingdom of God. It is hard for some to believe that in God’s kingdom, there are so many unbelievers. You have to remember that this kingdom is on earth and it is a work in progress. The kingdom of God in heaven is a finished product and all in that kingdom are pure.

              Getting back to the words that Jesus spoke in the parable of the sower: “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear”. These were words spoken to individuals. In Revelation 2:7,11,17,29 and 3:6,13,22, we read; “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”. These words are spoken mostly to congregations, even though some individuals are mentioned. The seven churches that are spoken to represent every type of church that has ever been or ever will be. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus teaches us that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church. So there is no way that Satan can prevail or dismantle one of God’s churches. Revelation 2&3 show us that God is the one who does away with a church. If you have seen a church that seemed to be flourishing one year and is gone the next year, Satan was not responsible, God was. The individual Christians in these churches do not lose their salvation. God separates them and sends them to other churches. God takes apart a church because of the believers, not because of the unbelievers. Hopefully if you have been involved with a church that God has taken apart you have learned a lesson. The congregation of a church is only as good as the individuals of that congregation make it. There are many areas of ministry in a church. Don’t focus on one and forget about the others, and then think that you’ve done your job.




Bill Gauthier


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Category: UNCLE BILL
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