Understanding The Value Of Parables In Scripture

Sun am 21st November 2010 – Kobus Swart

Gal. 4:24; (Luke 15); (Matt. 13); John 12:24-25; (Gen. 1-3)

What most people forget to do when reading the Bible is to read deeper than the story itself. The only correct way to understand the Old Testament is to interpret it through the New Testament. Then you go back to the Old Testament and you look for the types, shadows and parables or allegories. There are certain principles and emotions that are very difficult to describe, unless you get a good artist to paint something that communicates what you are trying to say, or if you write a story to convey a principle.

The Bible has not been written primarily to convey historical or geographical facts, but to teach us spiritual realities and the purposes of God. Our children are normally taught Bible stories, and that is a good place to start.  However, as they grow up, we need to show them what lessons could be learnt from the stories. Old Testament characters like Adam, Moses and Elijah are real. When you go to the New Testament however, you find characters like the prodigal son, the good Samaritan and the harlot. They never existed. Jesus told these parables to convey spiritual principles that apply to you and me in today’s world. They represent a nature or character that is found in people in society today. We have to read the Bible with new eyes of revelation.

In Gal. 4:24 Paul refers to two women, Sarah and Hagar. Here they are called allegories representing two covenants. Paul looks deeper at these two women and explains what they represent. This kind of reading of the Scriptures can only be done effectively with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Even some of the miracles in the New Testament need to be read deeper than what is written in black and white. For example Jesus healing the man with the withered right arm. The cause of the problem was not in the arm but in the brain and was probably caused by a stroke. Jesus healed the man. If you were an evangelist of a previous season, you would lay hands on the arm and prayed for healing. Read this story with new eyes of the spirit in this season, and you will realize that the problem with the church today, is its inability to move in the Spirit using God’s power (symbolized by the right arm). Instead, much of what the church is doing today, is done by using human skills and qualifications – thus leaning on the (left) arm of the flesh. What is needed is the renewal of the mind. The same language is used in John 21, when Jesus told the disciples – who had tried all night to catch some fish, but failed (obviously casting their net on the left-hand of the boat) – to cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat. The result was enough fish to tear their nets!

As important as the historical facts and the geographical references are, there is more truth behind them. Why did Jesus talk in parables? What is a parable? Understanding the word ‘parallel’ will help, for example, a railway line consists of two tracks running alongside each other in the same direction. A parable tells a story of something in the real (the physical, the outward) world, and gives you the parallel of the spiritual principle (the inward) alongside. Jesus would say, “The Kingdom of God is like a sower ….” (Matt. 13).

In the first three chapters of Genesis you will find the plan and purpose of God for humanity. The story contains much more than historical facts about Adam and Eve. And if you can link the first three chapters of Genesis with the last chapters of Revelation, you will begin to get a glimpse of the final picture. What then helps, is when we realize that we are part of the last Adam not the first Adam.

We know that the letter kills but it is the Spirit that gives life. What we are yearning for, is for the Spirit of God in us to bring a new focus, a new hunger and thirst, to understand the purpose and plan of God more fully and better than we have up to this point. “Put in everyone of us a new hunger and thirst for the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit to enlighten us. Then give us insight and help us appropriate and flesh it out.”