PARABLE OF THE TREE OF MUSTARD SEED
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: 32 But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.
Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.
I. Matt. 13:31.
A. The Kingdom of God, not the church.
1. The Kingdom of God has been defined as all the saved on the earth at any one time, the church is a particular assembly of the saved, scripturally baptized.
2. The Kingdom of God is more than the above definition: it includes:
a. Rule of Christ.
b. The people of Christ
c. His authority to rule
d. The territory He will rule.
B. The man is God, Matt. 13:37. He sowed the seed.
1. It must be understood that a parable is a true example. It is a physical picture of a spiritual reality. The listeners to the parable could visualize a man sowing the mustard seed, which would finally fill the entire world.
C. His field - Shows possession, Christ created this world and everything in it for His own glory and honor.
1. The kingdom of God is shown to be separate from the world, as it is placed in the world.
2. In the parable of the tares, the field is the world where God places the seed.
D. A grain.
1. In every passage, the Bible speaks of a single grain, not multiple grains.
2. There is only one kingdom of God, not many.
3. God didn't need many, in case some died out.
4. He is well able to keep only one alive for all eternity.
II. Verse 32. The kingdom of God started out very small, as a single grain of mustard seed, and developed until it filled the entire world.
A. Three subjects reflecting the kingdom of God.
1. The family. The kingdom of God started on this earth by God creating one man - Adam. The word "Adam", and the word "man" means exactly the same thing. They are the same Hebrew word. The word "Adam" not only speaks of the first man, it also speaks of mankind, or the entire human race. This is the time when God was using the family as the basis of his kingdom. The family having failed, as shown in the Tower of Babel and the Noadiac flood, God turned to the nation of Israel, whom He established.
2. The nation of Israel. God next established His kingdom through the nation of Israel, whom He chose when they were the least of all nations, Deut. 7:7, The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: This people, He caused to become a great nation but they refused to yield themselves to His will, putting their own will in that place.
3. The local church of the Lord Jesus Christ. God next established His kingdom through His church, which at first numbered only 12 souls, but on the Day of Pentecost has grown to 120 souls, Acts 1:15. The church soon increased until its enemies said they were filling the earth. Today, however, there are many churches who have failed to understand God's will and have replaced His will with their own will, plans, and programs. God will soon take these failed "churches" out of the way at the rapture of the saints. His true church will also be raptured out, and Christ will return to the Jews as a nation, giving them a true heart with which to worship Him. The passage in the Old Testament that tell of the greatness of Israel will be fulfilled during the Time of Jacob's Trouble and the millennium.
B. More scripture concerning the growth of Israel from the single seed of Abraham to the great nation it became. Psalms 72:16 - There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.
1. The kingdom of heaven shall start out very small, but shall increase mightily.
2. The fruit - not the original corn itself, but future generations.
a. The longer this physical kingdom of God exists, the greater it becomes, and the more people are involved in its fulfillment.
b. This is what God commanded, not that one generation shall accomplish everything God determined, but that many generations will be used to accomplish God's will.
3. Isaiah 9:7 - Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
4. Isaiah 54:1-3, Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD. 2 Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; 3 For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. Notice that the Gentiles shall be added to the blessings of the kingdom.
5. Isaiah 55:5, Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee. This verse shows the addition to Israel's glory because Gentile nations are added to her. Please notice that Israel hasn't received this addition to their glory because they misunderstood the mercy and grace of God upon them, and upon other unbelieving nations.
6. Isaiah 60:5, Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. Actually verse 1-5 speaks very forcefully concerning the increase to Israel because the Gentile nations come to see her as the light that reflects Christ.
C. Changed to a Tree. God's permissive will was that Israel be the nation to show forth His light into a dark world. Israel refused this privilege, but that didn't stop God's will. (In God's foreknowledge, it was no surprise that Israel would reject Christ!) God turned to the Gentiles by organizing a church made up of Jewish believers, who would continue to preach the gospel to the Jews after the crucifixion. The Jewish believers would turn to the Gentiles after giving the Jews a "chance". The entire world would be reached with the gospel by this Gentile church before Christ would turn back to the Jews.
1. This is different from an herb. More durable. (1) The church is different from Israel. (2) Eph. 3:21 - The church will continue to give glory to God throughout all ages, world without end.
2. The herb is temporary and the saved are pilgrims.
a. Heb. 11:8-10 - Abraham sojourned, looking for a city which hath foundations.
b. I Peter 2:11 - Peter calls the saints of God, "strangers and pilgrims".
3. Shows the popularity of being a "Christian".
a. There was a time when being a Christian meant separation from the world, when Christians didn't fit into the scheme of world policies.
b. There was a time when the world persecuted Christians, driving them away.
c. There is a time now when "Christians" fit into the world.
d. The problem is that "Christians" have changed to allow themselves to fit into the world, not that the world has changed to allow themselves to fit into the world of the Christians.
4. Birds didn't lodge until it became a tree. The nation of Israel destroyed from within because they didn't fulfill the commission given to them by God. The church is "dirtied" by the misunderstanding of the word "church".
a. In the very beginning, those not in the kingdom of God fought the kingdom.
b. Those outside the kingdom could not destroy the kingdom of God, although they constantly tried, therefore, they merged Christian principles into their false system.
c. This "conversion" took place over thousands of years.
D. Birds of the Air.
1. Matt. 13:4,19 - In the Parable of the sower, the fowls of the air describe the devil and his people.
2. Rev. 18:2 - And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. Pagan Babylon is made up of people called birds.
3. I Tim. 4:2, II Tim. 4:2-4 - In the latter days, the kingdom of God will be made up of apostates.
4. They come not to eat or sing, but to roost.
5. Mark 4:32, the fowls are under the shadow of the tree.
a. In Matt. 13, the fowls are roosting in the branches of the tree.
b. The placement of the fowls doesn't change the meaning of the parable. It only shows that the fowls are everywhere, completely surrounding the kingdom of God.
III. Lessons to learn.
A. In Daniel 4, the dream God gave to Nebuchadnezzar concerning his seven years as a beast.
1. The dream of Nebuchadnezzar is compared to the parable of Christ in that one is completely physical and the other is completely spiritual.
2. The physical fulfillment of Nebuchadnezzar's dream is proof that the spiritual fulfillment of Christ's parable is sure.
3. Just as Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom (which represents the kingdom of Satan, and is a part of Satan's slow development of his kingdom) filled all the earth, so will the kingdom of Christ fill all the earth.
4. The only difference between the two kingdoms is that Satan's kingdom will finally be completely destroyed while the kingdom of God will never be destroyed.
B. This parable is not talking about the Lord's church for she will remain faithful until His return. Christ will chose his bride from His church. This parable is speaking about and describing the kingdom of God. This parable is speaking about the kingdom of God that is located on this present earth, not the kingdom of God that will exist during the millennium, or the kingdom of God that will exist during eternity.
C. Don't be discouraged, but be aware of what is going on.
1. Matt. 24:12 - Jesus said, "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." He didn't say that to discourage anybody, but to protect them.
2. Acts 20:28-30 - Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. Paul didn't say this to discourage anybody, but to protect them.
D. If somebody says they are saved, you don't have to believe them!
1. Matt. 7:15-20 - Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Jesus warned of wolves in sheep's clothing. You should know them by their fruits.
2. Gal. 5:22-25 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. The definition of the fruits of the spirit. The affections and lusts of the flesh are crucified with Christ.
E. If the birds are symbols of lost people, where are the saved?
1. They are included in the symbolism of the tree - the ones on whom the lost are lodging.
2. There is coming a day when the saved will allow the lost to roost in their midst.
a. Gen. 15:11 - Not like Abraham who scared the birds of the air away lest they should defile the promises of God.
b. We should never allow the wickedness of the world to become a part of our lives.
3. The saved will be dirtied and stinking by the excrement of the fowls, which can eventually destroy the saved, if left unchecked in the local churches.
4. Many saved people today are polluted by the religion of the world to such an extent that they cannot believe most of the promises of God, nor will they believe the church is local and restricted to those that are scripturally baptized. They want to include everybody; regardless of what they teach, preach or believe, in the church of God. They want to say that everybody; regardless of what they teach, preach or believe, is doing the will of God, even when they contradict each other and also contradict the Word of God.
F. Are you lodging or eating? Are you studying or singing? Are you a speckled bird (Roy Acuff), allowing the lost to spoil you.