Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How to Understand the Secrets of the Kingdom

Was reading this week in Mark 4. Here Jesus has been teaching the crowds in parables. And then we are told in verse 10: “And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables.” Jesus says that His disciples have what they need to understand the parables but others do not. But then notice the next verse. Jesus says to them, “Do you not understand this parable?” (they did not!). And then to vv. 33-34. “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.”

Here is what I wondered: Jesus says that His disciples have the key to really understanding the parables. Yet, in the next verse the disciples don't understand the parable, and Jesus must explain it. I thought, "If the disciples have the key to unlock the parables then why must Jesus explain it to them?" Then I wondered if the question didn't carry the answer. They had Jesus. Jesus was the key. Jesus is the one who is able to open His Word to us that we might understand it and see the wonders of God in it and begin to change or own dull and dreary hearts.

We need the same thing if we are to really understand God's Word and God's kingdom. We need Jesus or perhaps more accurately for us--we need the Spirit of Christ. Jesus, himself, said, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things" (John 14:26).

Even as I write this, though, I see a pitfall. It is easy to misuse this doctrine and to say, "Studying and thinking are not important. We just need to ask the Holy Spirit to give us understanding." In 2 Timothy 2:7 Paul commands Timothy, "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." Notice: Who will give understanding? Understanding is a gift of God--God gives it-- just like we said above. What is the means that God uses to give us understanding? Thinking over what we read! Study and hard thinking have a place as we seek more understanding. We study, and we think, and we ask Jesus to give us understanding!

I'll end with a quote from John Piper, "So by all means pray and ask God to give you the light you need. But don't replace thinking with praying. Think and pray. Pray and think. This is the way God has set it up. A historical Christ. A book of preservation and revelation. All of that says: read and study and ransack and think. But all is in vain without prayer. Both-and, not either-or."

1 comment:

  1. Pastor James,

    There is also another way to look at the meaning - verse 11 says that to others the information will always be parables - but His disciples and those other gathered around from verse 10 with them - they are teachable and can learn and understand the meaning of the parables. It was not meant to provide miraculous revelation but establish the concept of the pastor or teacher and his flock that he shepherds. In this case as you note they had Jesus to provide the word of God as an explanation - where we have the Bible text and an expositor to clarify the explanation to us just as the disciples had. In fact the entire system is based on passed on teaching. We must always avoid the pitfalls of saying "God told me" and then have some private interpretation (Benny Hinn is my local example of that here in Orlando). It is not Jesus giving him understanding. It must be scripture with scripture in the Spirit.

    Good thoughts - Thanks,