Physical & Spiritual
Parables are critically important to understanding the Bible. Understanding parables and understanding the Bible are inseparable. Saying that another way: To understand the Bible is to understand its parables, and visa versa.
Parables are two-sided stories. There is the story itself which is often a simple folk story. This part of the story belongs to the physical realm because it is heard, seen or read with the physical senses. But parables also contain an inner moral lesson. The concealed moral message is associated with the spiritual realm because it can only be understood with spiritual eyes and ears. It is this spiritual knowledge (better thought of as understanding) that Jesus referenced when He often concluded a parable by saying, “He who has ears to hear let him hear.” What He was saying was that the one who would understand His parable was the one who had the right spiritual receptors. This is the person who has a heart that seeks after God and His ways, who lives according to the two great commandments to love God and your neighbor as yourself. In these post New Testament times, it is the one who is born again through repentance and who has received a new heart with which to hear and see the things of the spiritual realm.
The Bible is really a huge parable that contains a vast number of parables. The words printed on the pages of the Bible are the physical side, and the understanding of parables as received by revelation from the Holy Spirit is the spiritual side. It is absolutely critical that you see the Bible as being a parable. Parables bring life to the Bible. It is through parables that the Holy Spirit is able to reveal everything about our God who is without beginning or end. It is because of parables that the Holy Spirit can lead you to the story of David and Goliath and make it relevant to your situation at the very moment you read it. That is to say, this is how believers, be it an individual or a group of any size, receive edification from the Bible.
Those whose hearts have not been changed will only ever see the physical part of the Bible parable. The written word is of course the truth, but it is not all the truth. The whole truth of God is never-ending because God is never-ending. Therefore the printed words of the Bible are only a small part of God’s truth. The rest of the truth is contained within the parables and it is revealed to the spiritual eyes and ears of those who have been born again and received a new heart. A person without a changed heart can only receive understanding of the Bible that comes from his or her own mind, and the mind is fleshly. “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen [not of the Holy Spirit but his imagined insights into the Bible], inflated without cause by his fleshly mind.” (Colossians 2:18) You can be certain of this:
Persons who have not repented and become born again will never see or hear the whisperings of the Holy Spirit revealing the endless truth of God.
12 But man in his pomp [one who has not been born again] will not endure; he is like the beasts that perish.
13 This is the way of those who are foolish, and of those after them who approve their words. Selah.
14 As sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd; and the upright shall rule over them in the morning, and their form shall be for Sheol to consume so that they have no habitation.
15 But God will redeem my soul [I will be born again] from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me. Selah.
16 Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased;
17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not descend after him.
18 Though while he lives he congratulates himself — and though men praise you when you do well for yourself —
19 He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they will never see the light [the whole truth of God’s word].
20 Man in his pomp, yet without understanding, is like the beasts that perish. (Psalms 49:12-20)
Now that you’ve seen the importance parables play in Bible understanding, you shouldn’t find it odd that so much of the world we live in points to this phenomenon. There’s the duality of the universe, the two-sided nature of all things. Then there is the principle of two and only two realms in all of creation … that of the flesh (physical) and that of the Spirit (spiritual).
Human beings have dual natures … physical (our bodies) and spiritual (our hearts and souls). Jesus Christ (the man who walked the earth) also had a dual nature … He was a man (physical) and He was God (spiritual). When a person repents and is born again, he or she receives a new spiritual nature. The original nature that was in sync with the fleshly realm is replaced with a heart and soul corresponding to the realm of the Holy Spirit. In other words, a born-again person has become a new parable.
In this article, I have been trying to illustrate the concept of parables in different ways because of how necessary it is for you catch the vision of the importance of parables. The disciples had a difficult time understanding Jesus, because they weren’t on board with the parable concept. An interesting discourse took place after Jesus washed the disciples’ feet at the conclusion of the Last Supper. Jesus begins to speak to them of His going away, and the emphasis shifts to the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Lets follow along.
1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.
2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
4 And you know the way where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
7 If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”
8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.
11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.
12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. (John 14:1-12)
Jesus said He was the way, the truth, and the life. He wasn’t just a way, but He was and is the way itself. He was saying to the disciples that He wasn’t just the man they had been looking at with their physical eyes for more than three years … there was, in fact, more to Him than His physical being. They were looking at Him the whole time they were with Him, but they weren’t seeing Him with the sight necessary to see His spiritual side. They saw Him only as the person they saw with their physical eyes … a physical body. Jesus knew that they weren’t going to follow a man for very long or with much dedication. His followers would have to see the spiritual Jesus also … God the Son … the only begotten of the Father … if they were to keep His commandments and change the world. Those who see Jesus as the Son of God will follow Him to the ends of the earth. If more Christians understood parables and how to see their inner side, many more would see the spiritual side of Jesus, and they would follow Him with the utmost dedication.
The next words from the mouth of Jesus (verse 7) really confuses the disciples. Jesus says that seeing Him is the same as seeing the Father, and that He and the Father are one. Philip expresses all of their confusion and asks Jesus to stop being so evasive … if He would just show them the Father they would understand what He is saying.
Jesus doesn’t do what Philip requests. Instead, He restates that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. Had He fulfilled Philip’s demand, the disciples would have known the mystery of Jesus, but they would not have understood since they did not see Him with their spiritual eyes. This is the same reason Jesus taught with parables and did not explain them to the people. He did explain the parables to the disciples just as the Holy Spirit does today.
33 With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it;
34 and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples. (Mark 4:33-34)
Next Jesus tells them that they must believe that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. He told them that the Father was in Him and that He and the Father were one, but they neither believed nor understood. The Holy Spirit speaks to people today, He unlocks the secrets of the parables, yet so many Christians neither believe nor do they understand. They experience the Bible only through the words on the pages. It’s a physical experience only. What a sad commentary this is for those who believe they know all the truth when they know only the words on the pages of the Bible.
I hope you are coming to realize that parables are without a doubt the most important things you will ever understand.