Three Parables on Leadership Failure :: By Gene Lawley

The fact is that Jesus went back to heaven and left in the hands of eleven men the whole plan of God for the redemption of mankind – such as would receive His gift of salvation by receiving Him as Savior – was He taking a bold chance for success? Or was there a certainty underlying His purpose?

In His commission to them in Matthew 28:18-20, He begins it with, “All power is given to Me in Heaven and earth; go therefore….” That smacks of confidence at the highest level. And after Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:16 identifying Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus said, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!” (Matthew 16:18). And He knows the end from the beginning, but how would man perform for Him in those centuries ahead?

The three parables (Matthew 24:45-51, Matthew 25:1-13, and Matthew 25:14-30) target Israel’s leaders, then leaders of the Christian era (the Church), then individual Christians and their leadership of discipleship and personal witness.

Israel was God’s “chosen people” and still is, as the legacy of Abraham is now established as a sovereign nation, by the United Nations on May 14, 1948. (God’s promise to restore them to their land was begun then.) The children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were to be a message of redemption from God to the whole world. Psalm 107:2 and other Old Testament directives pre-exist the Great Commission of the Church Age but say the same thing, essentially: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy.” What happened?

The parable in Matthew 24:45-51 tells their story: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The predictions in Isaiah 5:1b-6 look at Israel as a vineyard that is neglected by its custodians:

“My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst and also made a winepress in it. So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes.

“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: l take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; and break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, but there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain on it.”

Jesus summed up their results quite well in Matthew 23:15: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” However, God does not let His name be profaned or blamed for their failures. He will ordain 144,000 Jewish evangelists to take the gospel of the kingdom to the farthest ends of the earth, according to Revelation 7.

That final scattering of the Jews into all the world, as He had promised, was done when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. and continued to empty the land of Jews for 65 years. Annual rainfall diminished to hardly any in the land until 1870 when nomadic Jews began to drift back into the land. Thus, God preserved it until His time for them to return, as the creation of a sovereign state began to arise in God’s plan for the end of the age. This parable, among many such accounts, tells of the failure of Israel’s leaders to obey God and to choose idol worship instead.

Then, Jesus tells a parable based on the format of a traditional Jewish wedding that illustrates the failure of leadership in the Church Age who will not take their duties seriously but forget that Jesus is the head of His Church, the body of Christ.

It is detailed in Matthew 25:1-13. The Bridegroom and the Bride, identified in the New Testament as Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, and His body of believers, the Bride. In the Jewish wedding, the bridegroom finds his bride-to-be, is betrothed to her, then goes away for a year to prepare a place for her to be with him. Then, he comes back to claim her and takes her with him. Meanwhile, a number of bridesmaids are looking after the bride to ensure her purity and continued commitment to the bridegroom.

In this parable, the issue is the faithfulness of the bridesmaids to their commitment of service to the bride, that she is keeping the integrity of her vows and will be ready when the bridegroom returns. This parable tells the truth of the failure of many of the church’s caretakers, the leaders of the church-at-large over the centuries, until He, Jesus Christ, returns for His Bride.

This is the time of the Rapture, the imminent return of Christ now waiting for the time of “falling away” to end and the One who restrains the rushing force of evil to be removed with His body of believers.

Many of the organized churches have lost their sense of purpose, the telling of the gospel to the ends of the earth, and have turned to idols of modern-day design, denying even the reality of Christ. Sexual deviation and abuse have become steadily prominent yet not exposed and dealt with. Deviation from the validity and recognized inspiration of all Scripture has led people away from the truth to follow their own ideas and understanding, making a mockery of God in their worship. It is definitely an invitation for the judgment of God, just as it was in the days of Noah and of Lot (Luke 17:26-30).

In the final parable of the three, the issue is of the handling of talents given to servants — ten to one, five to another, and one to another. It seems to speak to the individual believer, finally, and his manner of service to the Lord with the gospel and his own life. A talent may have been a type of investment unit, but let’s look at it as what we believers have received from the Lord as a responsibility to Him. While salvation is a free gift, there are good works that God has ordained for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10 tells of the gift, then the “works” that follow:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Again, that Old Testament directive is as clear of a “Great Commission” for the individual believer as any found in the New Testament: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:2).

In Ephesians 4:11-13, the Word says God gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Looks like this passage fits into that second parable, as well.)

The question that arises is what happened to the Great Commission that Jesus gave in Matthew 28:18-20, which included the making of disciples who are trained to obey the commandments? Those would be the ones in the Ephesians passage above who are “equipped for the work of the ministry.”

However, it may be working out in these last days; it has always been and always will be God who calls one to a ministry, and that one must respond to the call. In Romans 12:3, Paul makes it clear how it works in God’s plan: “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” The Scripture says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do according to His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12b-13).

Judgment will come to the believer at the throne of Christ, according to 2 Corinthians 5:10, where one will answer to what he has done with his talent or talents, or how he has taken up the challenge of preparing the Bride to be ready for her Bridegroom. It will be by individual appearances. May God’s mercy excel over judgment.

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A Thriving False Doctrine Now Present :: By Gene Lawley

About a decade ago, a friend and I were visiting on the telephone when he mentioned, with great confidence, that Jesus did not die for the whole world but only for those who believe. He had been listening to Bible teachers on the East Coast, he said, and was convinced they were telling the truth.

It was a shock to me, for I knew the Scriptures, that the first action in John 3:16 was that “God so loved the world that He gave….” I remembered 1 John 2:1-2 also that says clearly, “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” My friend Carl has since gone to heaven where he has learned the Biblical truth firsthand, no doubt.

The thriving false doctrine is just that, claiming that Jesus only died for those who believe, not for the whole world of lost sinners. What that does is to diminish the adequacy of the deity of Jesus Christ, the only One who has been given all authority in heaven and earth over all things. It makes a claim that the death of Christ on the cross is not sufficient to cover such a vast number of lost souls. If He is not, then who is sufficient?

Those who wallow in their pre-conceived ideas, which they try to support from Scripture, are the Reformers who spring out of Calvinist beliefs. They are at least uncertain, and some are firmly set on where the Millennium occurs in human history, when the Rapture, if there is one, will be, as well as when the Second Coming of Christ will be. They do not know or refuse to learn the truths of Proverbs 9:10, which says, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” They do not recognize that Revelation is a straightforward, chronological presentation of the future in prophetical visions. It seems their struggle is how God’s love can be unconditional when He requires a sinner to believe in Christ in order to be saved, thus obedience is a required condition.

Yet, “we love Him because He loved us first,” John wrote in 1 John 4:19. Is it not His love that draws us into obedience? That first and great commandment is awesome in its demand, that one is to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. If that must come first, there is no hope for mankind. The compelling love of God draws man to conviction of sin, and then a transformation of life happens—by a gift of faith.

Their challenging opposition is called the Dispensationalists, who believe and conduct themselves as the Bereans did, according to Acts 17:11, which says, “These [Bereans] were more fair-minded [noble] than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” They searched the whole counsel of God for His truth.

From the beginning, it was God who initiated an act of love for mankind’s redemption. When Adam and Eve learned, suddenly, that they were naked, they covered themselves—the only two people there—with fig leaves to hide their sinfulness. But God came and provided them coverings of animal skins, His solution of a blood sacrifice to cover them instead. It was the forerunner for the coming sacrifice of His only begotten Son, Jesus, the Christ.

God’s love for the sinner is unconditional, according to Scripture, but His hate for their sin is well established. Look at Romans 5:6, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Then, go on to Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

From John 3:16 through these two verses in Romans 5, no one can honestly twist them around to convince anyone that God requires an action on man’s part before He will love him. Again, God loves the sinner, but He cannot condone his sinfulness.

In John 3:16, the word “whosoever” opens up the doors of God’s response to anyone who chooses a relationship with God. It also is echoed in Romans 10:13 that “whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The whole of the Romans 5 chapter speaks of the obvious fact that Adam’s disobedience brought physical death and spiritual death to all mankind. Then, it compares that with what Jesus Christ has done by providing a gift of salvation to those who would accept that gift. See Romans 5:18: “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” Note that God did not make that gift of life a universal provision but a gift to be willingly received. The transforming action was not directly within the individual but was a substitutionary provision by Jesus, the Christ. A gift must be received for it to become applicable in a person’s life.

The Jewish leaders did not receive Christ, and at His trial, they cried out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Let His blood be upon our hands and the hands of our children!” The Apostle John wrote of this in John 1:11-12: “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

It is clear that His Jewish kinsmen did not receive Him and, for the most part, have denied Him for over 2,000 years.

Romans 6:23 clearly contrasts two directions a person may choose to go: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

The denial of the death of Jesus Christ covering the sins of the whole world sets up another false doctrine that God’s love is not unconditional, that He cannot look on sin, even to provide a covering for it, but a response from mankind must come first. But what could that be? Jesus even prayed from the cross before He died, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Again, we have seen that God has acted first to provide the way of salvation and offer it as a gift to be received.

Jesus says, “No one can come to Me except the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). And in Revelation 3:20, He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and live with him and he with Me.” Thus, no one will be in heaven who does not want to be there.

The hardcore Calvinists have a problem with Christ’s atonement, for if Christ died for the whole world, then the whole world would be covered in His atonement. The simple answer to that is that atonement is provided for only those who believe in Christ. It is as simple as that.

They have another problem, too, that of thinking they are chosen and elected, therefore they are saved. God’s foreknowledge has never saved anyone; His eternal ability to foresee the future reveals who will choose Him when they hear the gospel and believe and be saved. Paul makes that clear in 2 Timothy 2:10, saying, “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” The Philippian jailer cried out, “What must I do to be saved,” and Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” He did not say, ‘you must be chosen.’

At the end of that very revealing parable told in Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus sums up its message by saying, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” The parable presents a likeness to the future when the marriage supper of the Lamb—the Groom—and the Bride, the redeemed Body of Christ, are together just before they, together, come to the earth at the Second Coming. But the presentation shows how those who were to receive the gospel first (Romans 1:16) reject God’s invitation:

“And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ‘But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.

“But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Psalm 40:1-3 tells the true story of how God looked upon mankind. Mankind was in the horrible pit, and God was outside of the pit. No one in the pit could lift out another one. God did it for those who want to be lifted out of the pit:

“I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth—praise to our God.”

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