|Volume 18 Number 10 October 2016||
Fred C. Nowell. Jr.
Our Lord taught tremendous lessons throughout His earthly ministry. Some of His greatest lessons were taught by using parables. A parable has been described by some as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” The word “parable” comes from the Greek parabole, which means, “a similitude, fictitious narrative” (Strong’s). W.E. Vine defines a parable as “a placing beside, to throw down beside, to compare.” So, a parable is a fictitious story that would liken or describe a reality. A parable is a teaching tool that helps to paint a picture in the minds of the ones being taught. Jesus used parables often to teach those who would hear Him. Some have stated that 30% to 33% of our Lord’s teaching was done in parables.
Let’s consider this short but powerful parable found in Matthew 13:47-50. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but they cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
The Kingdom of Heaven
(Church) Is Like this Net!
The kingdom (church) is likened to a net itself as well as to the contents. A net is an instrument or a tool used to catch fish. In the first century, fishing was (and still is) a means to provide both physically and financially. As the kingdom (church or Christians), there is a need for us to cast out into the water (world). Our desire is to catch souls for Jesus. Remember what Jesus said to Peter and Andrew early in their relationship? In Matthew 4:18-19 He said, “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he said unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Like how fish are drawn in a net, the Gospel is cast by Christians and men are drawn to Jesus. Jesus said in John 6:44-45, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”
This is the whole point of the Great commission, to “Go into all the world [row out into the water] and preach the Gospel to every creature [and cast the net for all kinds of fish]. He that believes and is baptized [those that enter the net] shall be saved [are keepers].” Fishers must cast a “net” to draw fish, and Christians must go to draw men! We are to cast into every body of water to find souls to fill the kingdom. As long as there are fish to be caught, fisherman fish!
The Kingdom of God
(Church) Is Like a Full Net!
When a net is full, it must be brought to shore. Not all the fish in the water were in the net; only those that entered were brought to shore. The full net and coming to shore means that time ran out – no more fishing! Jesus was trying to focus their thoughts (and ours) on the final draw. In Mark 13:32 Jesus said about His final return, “But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
We see a separation of the good from the bad, distinguishing between the acceptable and the undesirable. Having the gift of the completed Bible, we can see a likeness that they could not. In John 5:28-29 and Matthew 25:46, we find the Lord saying, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation…” Some “shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Not all fish are keepers, and sadly, neither will all people be keepers! Some will be diseased or polluted (spotted, corrupt, James 1:27). Some will be too small (kept back from growing, 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; 2 Peter 3:18). Some will be unlawful (not willing to obey the law, Romans 10:2-3; 2 Corinthians 4:4). When the net is hauled in for the last time, some fish will think they are a great catch, but they will be cast away (Matthew 7:21ff). Jesus was painting for them the great scene of His coming with all of His holy angels. He touched on this in Matthew 25:31ff, but the clearest picture is in found in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 where we see the incredible scene of Jesus and His holy angels coming in flames of fire, taking vengeance upon those who do not believe in God and those who refused to obey and remain obedient to the Gospel – God’s power to save (Romans 1:16).
The end of the world will be the end of the world! The end shall come at a time unexpected where all that is will be totally burned up and dissolved by fervent heat (2 Peter 3:10).
The Horrible Reality
that Is Preventable
There is a song by Palmer E. Whealer titled, “Tomorrow May Be Too Late.” This beloved hymn is a plea for those who have not obeyed the Gospel to do so before it’s everlastingly too late. The song begins with these words:
Today is the day of salvation, Tomorrow may be too late.
There's danger and death in delaying, Accept God’s saving grace:
His life on the cross He has given, Oh come while yet you may,
He’s earnestly pleading, oh make no delay, Tomorrow may be too late.
The thought of “Weeping and Gnashing of teeth” gives me a picture of such horrific pain and suffering, which I pray might be before my mind in times of temptation to sin or if I should ever think to leave my Lord.
[This article was written and influenced by a lesson by brother Wesley Simons on “Parables of Jesus,” a course by WVBS.]
Water and the Spirit: Baptism
Prefigured in the Old Testament
When a person desires to follow Christ and to be reconciled to God, we know and understand that such a one must be baptized, “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). Water baptism, for God’s own purpose and pleasure, is how one comes into contact with the blood of Jesus, and that blood is what cleanses us from all our sins (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:7). Yet, many don’t realize that God has used water and the Spirit throughout the Old Testament to bring about life, renewal and salvation. Many Old Testament events are types or shadows of what was to come in Jesus Christ.
The Old Testament is full of types and shadows that find their ultimate fulfillment in Christ and His church. Consider what Paul said about those who ate the manna and drank the water that came from the rock: “…and did all eat the same spiritual food; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them: and the rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:3-4). Paul commented on events found in Exodus 16:15 and Exodus 17:6. He stated that those events, in a real way, point us to Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said that He was the bread (manna) from heaven (John 6:31-35). Again, the Old Testament is full of types and shadows, and one of those types has to do with water baptism.
In Genesis 1, we see God creating the heavens and the earth. In Verse 2, the Spirit is found hovering or brooding over the waters of the deep like a bird over its nest. On day three, God brought dry land out of the water, and only then was life created. Life began on earth when dry land was created, and so out of water God brought life. In the creation account, we have water and the Spirit.
In Genesis chapters 6-9, we have the account of Noah’s flood. The world at that time had become so wicked that the earth was overflowing with sin. It was so bad that God was grieved that He had created man. Therefore, He planned to wipe out every living thing off the face of the earth. The only bright spot was Noah, a righteous man. God told Noah to build an ark. Once the ark was built, he and his family entered it. Then God brought a huge, worldwide flood upon the earth. The earth was once again “without form and void”; it was back to the way it was in Genesis 1, a watery mass of chaos. We should be seeing the echoes of Genesis 1 in this text. God in a very real way “uncreated” the world and prepared to recreate it. After the rains ceased, Noah finally sent out a dove, and the dove hovered over the surface of the deep, finding no place to rest (Genesis 8:8-9). In a symbolic way, this event pictures the Holy Spirit who was hovering over the waters in Genesis 1. God, once again, was about to bring dry land out of the water, and life would again be possible. God cleansed the earth of wickedness and sin through water. God brought about a renewed creation by water and the Spirit.
After the flood, we are told about a man named Abraham who had a son named Isaac. Isaac in turn had a son named Jacob, and he had twelve sons. From these twelve sons, God created the nation of Israel. The Israelites eventually found themselves in Egyptian slavery where they worked in bitterness and heartache for years. After a long time, God led them out of that slavery. He used ten plagues to force Pharaoh to let His people go, but once they left, Pharaoh had a change of heart. He went out with his army after the Israelites, but God through Moses opened the Red Sea so the Israelites walked through on dry ground. The Egyptian army that followed them were, in the end, drowned in the sea (Exodus 14:15-31). The Israelites were finally free or saved from Egyptian slavery when they reached the other side of the Red Sea. God baptized the Israelites in the sea and in the cloud. They were saved through water and guided by God (Exodus 13:21-22; cf., 1 Peter 3:20-22; 1 Corinthians 10:1-2).
Let us now connect the Old Testament with the New and consider two of those New Testament texts that speak about the Spirit and water. In Matthew 3, Jesus went out to John and was baptized by him in the Jordan River. As he came out of the water, the Spirit descended in the form of a dove (Matthew 3:16-17). Do you hear the echoes in this text? Genesis 1 should come to mind where the Spirit was hovering over the waters as well as the symbolic image of the Spirit seen in the dove after Noah’s flood. Genesis 1 describes the creation. Genesis 6-9 describes the renewed creation, and here, Jesus represented the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).
In the book of Acts, we hear a message preached by Peter that ended with him saying, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Again, we find water and the Spirit. Of course, there are plenty of other New Testament texts that discuss water baptism, but my main focus in this article was to present some of those Old Testament texts that prefigure New Testament baptism.
It is clear when we examine the Scriptures that the Old Testament pictures and points us to many things that find their ultimate fulfillment in the New Testament, and one of those things is water baptism. Water and the Spirit have had a long and rich history that began back in Genesis and continues to this day. Through water, God brought about life, cleansing from sin, and renewal – from creation to new creation.