1. TEACHING IN PARABLES
a. What circumstances existing among God’s professed people at the time of Christ’s ministry made the use of parables necessary? Matthew 13:10–13.
“The gospel of Christ was a stumbling block to [the Jewish people] because they demanded signs instead of a Saviour. They expected the Messiah to prove His claims by mighty deeds of conquest, to establish His empire on the ruins of earthly kingdoms. This expectation Christ answered in the parable of the sower. Not by force of arms, not by violent interpositions, was the kingdom of God to prevail, but by the implanting of a new principle in the hearts of men.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 35.
b. To what prophecy did Jesus relate His teaching in parables? Isaiah 6:9; Matthew 13:14, 15.
“To minds that were open to the Holy Spirit, the significance of the Saviour’s teaching unfolded more and more. Mysteries grew clear, and that which had been hard to grasp became evident.”—Ibid., p.21.
2. THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
a. What was the parable of the sower about? Matthew 13:3–8.
“That with which the parable of the sower chiefly deals is the effect produced on the growth of the seed by the soil into which it is cast. . . .
The question of greatest importance to you is, How do you treat My message? Upon your reception or rejection of it your eternal destiny depends.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 43, 44.
b. What is meant by the seed sown by the wayside? Matthew 13:19.
“The seed sown by the wayside represents the word of God as it falls upon the heart of an inattentive hearer. Like the hard-beaten path, trodden down by the feet of men and beasts, is the heart that becomes a highway for the world’s traffic, its pleasures and sins. Absorbed in selfish aims and sinful indulgences, the soul is ‘hardened through the deceitfulness of sin’ (Hebrews 3:13). The spiritual faculties are paralyzed. Men hear the word but understand it not. They do not discern that it applies to themselves. They do not realize their need or their danger. They do not perceive the love of Christ, and they pass by the message of His grace as something that does not concern them.”—Ibid., p.44.
c. How does God consider those who sow discord in the church? Proverbs 6:16–19. How does this practice aid the devil in his work? Luke 8:11, 12.
“Many who profess to be Christians are aiding the tempter to catch away the seeds of truth from other hearts. Many who listen to the preaching of the word of God make it the subject of criticism at home. . . . The message that should be regarded as the word of the Lord to them is dwelt upon with trifling or sarcastic comment. The minister’s character, motives, and actions, and the conduct of fellow members of the church, are freely discussed. Severe judgment is pronounced, gossip or slander repeated, and this in the hearing of the unconverted. Often these things are spoken by parents in the hearing of their own children. Thus are destroyed respect for God’s messengers, and reverence for their message. And many are taught to regard lightly God’s word itself.”—Ibid., pp.45, 46.
3. UNWILLING TO SACRIFICE
a. What happened to the seed which fell upon stony ground? Matthew 13:20, 21.
“Many who make a profession of religion are stony-ground hearers. Like the rock underlying the layer of earth, the selfishness of the natural heart underlies the soil of their good desires and aspirations. The love of self is not subdued. They have not seen the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the heart has not been humbled under a sense of its guilt. This class may be easily convinced, and appear to be bright converts, but they have only a superficial religion.
“It is not because men receive the word immediately, nor because they rejoice in it, that they fall away. . . . [They] do not count the cost. They do not consider what the word of God requires of them. They do not bring it face to face with all their habits of life, and yield themselves fully to its control.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 46, 47.
b. How did the rich young ruler show himself to be a stony-ground hearer? Matthew 19:22. How can we show the same attitude? John 6:60.
“Many receive the gospel as a way of escape from suffering, rather than as a deliverance from sin. They rejoice for a season, for they think that religion will free them from difficulty and trial. While life moves smoothly with them, they may appear to be consistent Christians. But they faint beneath the fiery test of temptation. They cannot bear reproach for Christ’s sake. When the word of God points out some cherished sin, or requires self-denial or sacrifice, they are offended. It would cost them too much effort to make a radical change in their life. They look at the present inconvenience and trial, and forget the eternal realities.”—Ibid., pp.47, 48.
c. What does God require of us, and how did Jesus leave an example for us? Luke 9:23; Romans 12:1; 5:6–8.
“Christ gave all for us, and those who receive Christ will be ready to sacrifice all for the sake of their Redeemer. The thought of His honor and glory will come before anything else.”—Ibid., p.49.
4. CHOKED BY THE THORNS OF WORLDLINESS
a. What is meant by the thorns which choke the good seed? Mark 4:18, 19; Luke 8:14.
b. What should we remember in order to prevent the cares of this life from choking the good seed of truth? Matthew 6:25–32; Psalm 55:22.
“Christians must work, they must engage in business, and they can do this without committing sin. But many become so absorbed in business that they have no time for prayer, no time for the study of the Bible, no time to seek and serve God. At times the longings of the soul go out for holiness and heaven; but there is no time to turn aside from the din of the world to listen to the majestic and authoritative utterances of the Spirit of God. The things of eternity are made subordinate, the things of the world supreme. It is impossible for the seed of the word to bring forth fruit; for the life of the soul is given to nourish the thorns of worldliness.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 51, 52.
c. What attitude shows that the good seed is being choked by worldly riches? Deuteronomy 8:17.
“The love of riches has an infatuating, deceptive power. Too often those who possess worldly treasure forget that it is God who gives them power to get wealth. . . . Instead of regarding wealth as a talent to be employed for the glory of God and the uplifting of humanity, they look upon it as a means of serving themselves.”—Ibid., p.52.
d. How can we prevent “the lusts of other things” from choking the Word? Mark 4:19; Matthew 6:33, 34.
“ ‘And the lusts of other things’ (Mark 4:19). These are not necessarily things sinful in themselves, but something that is made first instead of the kingdom of God. Whatever attracts the mind from God, whatever draws the affections away from Christ, is an enemy to the soul.”—Ibid., p.53.
5. THE SEED PLANTED IN GOOD GROUND
a. If our hearts are like the good ground, how will we receive the Word of God? 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Jeremiah 15:16.
“Only he who receives the Scriptures as the voice of God speaking to himself is a true learner. . . .
“The word of God often comes in collision with man’s hereditary and cultivated traits of character and his habits of life. But the good-ground hearer, in receiving the word, accepts all its conditions and requirements. His habits, customs, and practices are brought into submission to God’s word. In his view the commands of finite, erring man sink into insignificance beside the word of the infinite God.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 59, 60.
b. How important is the personal cultivation of the heart? Jeremiah 4:3, 4.
“Throughout the parable of the sower, Christ represents the different results of the sowing as depending upon the soil. In every case the sower and the seed are the same. Thus He teaches that if the word of God fails of accomplishing its work in our hearts and lives, the reason is to be found in ourselves. But the result is not beyond our control. True, we cannot change ourselves; but the power of choice is ours, and it rests with us to determine what we will become. The wayside, the stony-ground, the thorny-ground hearers need not remain such. The Spirit of God is ever seeking to break the spell of infatuation that holds men absorbed in worldly things, and to awaken a desire for the imperishable treasure.”—Ibid., p.56.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Who only is able to understand Christ’s teachings?
2. How can we help the wayside hearer?
3. Some readily accept the truth and fail to count the cost. What is this cost?
4. How can something good choke the precious seeds of truth?
5. As we study the Word of God, what will we notice about some of our habits and character traits? What should we do about these?