The Goodness of God

Despisest thou the riches of his [God’s] goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? —Romans 2:4

There is no way to escape the judgment of God, for it is certain that “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10) and give an account of how we lived life. However, the Lord in His infinite mercy is prolonging time that more people may be saved from the power of sin and have opportunity to prepare for eternity. God’s mercy is extended to the worst of evildoers, and His love reaches to the most despised of society. He has compassion on the vilest of sinners, and He cares for the ostracized and rejected.

So many are despising the goodness of God by ignoring His love and longsuffering and refusing to accept the beautiful plan of salvation. Indeed, it is the goodness of God that leads people to a condition of repentance. When one’s eyes are opened to the great love of God and to the gift of eternal life, it softens the heart and creates a desire to embrace all that God has provided.

We do not deserve kindness, longsuffering, or mercy because we have all been in a state of rebellion against God. It is in that state of rejecting God that He so often manifests His love by helping the sinner during difficult times of life.  When the storms come like a tornado, wreaking havoc, God once again demonstrates His care. When people’s actions cry out for judgment due to the harm and pain they cause others around them, God offers mercy and is longsuffering. He delays His judgment and withholds punishment with infinite kindness. The riches of His goodness are revealed time and time again to fallen mankind.

Why is God so longsuffering? Why is He so good to people when they do not deserve it? Because it is His goodness that will lead people to repentance (Romans 2:4). His goodness and love draw people and encourage them to turn around. It leads people to forsake wrong and cling to those things that please the Lord.

The door of mercy is open and forgiveness awaits the repentant heart. Praise God for His goodness! ■

The Power of the Parable

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24 KJV). Using a simile, Jesus, the son of God, began to tell an engaging story to the crowds in simple yet profound language they could all understand. Without a seminary degree or specialized speech training, the Anointed One engaged multitudes of people with stories of common life that enlightened the listeners with spiritual truths. These stories evoked thought and stirred the spirit, emotions, and intellect. As Jesus ended the story of the wise man and foolish man, “the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (28-29).Read more

The Purpose of Parables

Jesus used parables to teach a truth or to answer a question. He used real-life situations in His stories to connect with His audience. A lawyer once stood tempting Jesus and asked Him: “Who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus proceeded to tell the story of the good Samaritan. Jesus then asked: “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” (v. 36). The answer was evident in the related story, but it caused the listeners to consider and think for themselves. It elicited truth from those who otherwise might have rejected a declarative statement.

The parables of Christ often reveal the truth in a way that a simple declaration would not. Those who have honest, seeking hearts will hear and understand. The telling of parables is a way to convey and reveal truth in ways easy to be understood as in the above illustration.

Other parables that Jesus told were presented in such a way as to conceal truth from those who were choosing to walk in darkness. “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?  He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.  Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” (Matthew 13:10-13). The unbeliever may incorrectly understand the primary point of a parable, as it is hidden to those who “hear not.” It was not uncommon for the disciples to return to Christ and ask for a more in-depth explanation of a parable.

Parables are easy to recall for their detailed imagery and hence are useful to remember spiritual truths. They were and remain vital to the preservation of truth for people of all cultures and backgrounds. ■

Editorial

And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.  But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples. —Mark 4:33-34

The Gospel Truth this quarter highlights the parables of Jesus. Parables were an important part of the teachings of Christ, and they should be a valuable resource for teaching today. Parables illustrate truth in ways that a list of facts can never do.  While Christ’s teachings were not pretentious, He spoke to the heart of issues in relative simplicity.  Bible scholars and theologians quibble at times over the definition of a parable and what makes something a parable versus an illustrative story. A true parable is a story with a hidden truth containing a comparison of a natural occurrence with a spiritual lesson.

My burden is to encourage people to study the parables and to immerse themselves in the wonderful teaching illustrations of Christ. Everyone learns differently, and Christ obviously thought it important enough to reach people with stories and examples that the truth might be understood.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of conducting a ministers’ meeting over a number of days with a group in Africa. On many past occasions we had teaching sessions and doctrinal studies together. I felt the need for something different. God inspired me with the power of the parables. My eyes were opened to the wonderful truths that are contained in the parables of Christ. For days, the ministers studied the parables and shared the lessons together. I was so blessed to be able to give pertinent lessons after each presentation that dealt with a wide array of subjects: prayer, forgiveness, salvation, the love of God, the judgment, sin, the Kingdom of God, mercy, eternity, heaven, hell, evangelism, and the list goes on. There is much doctrine and truth contained in these stories, and they engage people in a way that lecture-style teaching cannot.

I pray that God will inspire you to read the parables and discover the wealth and power contained therein.

Michael W. Smith

July 2021

Preaching Illustrations

Modern illustrations and life stories are valuable in relating truth to an audience. Illustrations can engage the people and make truth relevant in the light of current situations and culture. However, while sharing stories to bring a point can be an important tool in the arsenal of the preacher, the minister of Christ must not become an entertainer or a comedian. Our job is to preach the Word of God. If a story helps, then use it, but do not let the storytelling take precedence over the truth itself.

It is also important when sharing an illustration not to try to make something an issue of truth because it “fits” your example or story. Many a preacher in using an illustration has erred in getting the role of truth and illustration reversed. Something is truth because of the Word of God, not because we tell an engaging story from which we create a truth. ■