Sermon #98†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††† Luke Sermons


†††† Title:†††††† †††† ďWhat is the Kingdom of God Like?Ē

†††† Text:††††††††††† Luke 13:18-21

†††† Subject:†††††† The Kingdom of Heaven Compared to Mustard Seed and Leaven

†††† Date:††††††††††† Sunday Evening Ė April 13, 2003

†††† Tape #†††††††† X-54b

†††† Readings:†††† Isaiah 43:1-21 Ė Ron Wood

†††† Introduction:


ďWhat is the Kingdom of God LikeAsk a dozen people that question and I will almost guarantee you will get a dozen answers. Few, if any, would come close to being biblical. That should not be the case at all. That question was raised and answered by the Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 13:18-21. Letís read those four verses together and see what the King himself tells us his kingdom is like.


(Luke 13:18-21)"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. (20) And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? (21) It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened."


Proposition: In the two instructive parables of the mustard seed and the leaven our Savior shows us what we may expect to be the result of gospel preaching throughout the ages of time.


I.                   First, I want us to learn The Parable of The Mustard Seed (vv. 18-19).


(Luke 13:18-19)"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."


Remember, parables are common, familiar earthly illustrations of spiritual, heavenly truths. In this case, the parable is drawn from a commonly used proverbial expression during the days of our Lordís earthly ministry. What is the message of this parable? What does our Lord hear teach us?


The old adage, ďBigger is not always better,Ē is frequently repeated; but few, very few really think that way. We are all impressed with big things. We are all terribly prone to look upon small things as insignificant. We tend to despise that which is small, unnoticed, unimpressive, and contemptible in the eyes of men. But we do not see things as God sees them. His thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways. The parable of the grain of mustard seed is designed to teach us never to despise the day of small things (Zech 4:6-10).


In this passage, Luke records the same parable recorded by Matthew (13:31) and Mark (4:30-34).


A.   First, the parable of the mustard seed illustrates the growth of Godís church and kingdom in this world.


The purpose of the parable is, as I said, to teach us to never despise the day of small things. But it is also intended to assure us of the certain growth and blessedness of Christís church and kingdom in this world.


Like faith in the heart, the church and kingdom of God in this world began as a very small thing. The expression, as a grain of mustard seed was a common, proverbial saying among the Jews, referring to anything small and insignificant. As a rule, Godís works in the world are always looked upon by men as trivial, insignificant. Certainly, that is the way it was with the Church of the New Testament.


1.     Those who were chosen to be the foundational apostles of Christís kingdom were poor, unlettered fishermen.


2.     He who is the Lord and Master of this Church, the King of this Kingdom, was a despised Nazarene, a crucified Jew.


3.     The doctrine proclaimed by this Church, the doctrine which they preached everywhere, was the doctrine of grace, life, and eternal salvation by the merit and efficacy of a crucified Substitute.


In the eyes of men, nothing could have been less likely to be successful, nothing could have been more despicable, nothing could have been more offensive. Yet, this was Godís work, Godís Church, and Godís Kingdom.


I repeatóGodís thoughts are not our thoughts; and his ways are not our ways. God almost always does things exactly opposite of the way we would and of the way we imagine he does. The gospel does not triumph all at once. The church and kingdom of God is not set up all at once, neither amongst us in the world nor within us in our hearts. The church of God sprang from a very small seed sown in the earth.


        The Body of Christ Ė (John 12:24).


(John 12:24)"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."


        The One Hundred and Twenty.


Godís works almost always begin in obscurity, with what appear to be insignificant things.


        The Calling of Abram.

        Josephís Coat of Many colors and His Dreams.

        Lutherís 95 Thesies!

        The Work Here!


The work of the gospel, the spread of Godís church and kingdom is a gradual, but consistent thing. Like the grain of mustard seed sown in the ground, its growth is almost unobservable, but steady. As the full grown mustard seed is the greatest and largest of all herbs, so the church and kingdom of God shall, in the end of the world, be immeasurably great and large Ė (Ps. 80:8-11).


(Psalms 80:8-11)"Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. (9) Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. (10) The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. (11) She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river."


The number of Godís elect shall be ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands. Untold millions and billions of people shall inhabit heavenís glory with Christ!


4.     Once planted, this Church and Kingdom grew into a great Kingdom.


Our Lordís parable here was prophetic. Again, he was telling his disciples not to despise the day of small things. Though it appeared a small, despicable thing, like mustard seed, the Lord here prophesied that his Church would become a great, large Kingdom. He said, ďAs the mustard plant grows to be the greatest of all herbs, so shall my church grow to be the greatest of all kingdoms.Ē


So it has come to pass. It began to grow on the day of Pentecost. 3000 were born into his Kingdom on that day. The Church grew so rapidly that nothing can account for it except the finger of God. A few days after Pentecost, 5000 were added to the Church at once. Wherever Godís servants went preaching the gospel, it proved to be the power of God unto salvation.


Romans 1:14-17"I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. (15) So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. (16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (17) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."


        Today the Church of God is the greatest Empire the world has ever known.

        It is not done growing yet.

        God still employs the same means today as he did in the beginning for the building of his Church.


1 Corinthians 1:21-31"For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (22) For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: (23) But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (24) But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (25) Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (26) For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: (27) But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (28) And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: (29) That no flesh should glory in his presence. (30) But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31) That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."


Matthew 16:18"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."


ďIn spite of all the predictions of Voltaire and Payne, in spite of foes without and treachery within, the visible Church progresses, - the mustard plant still grows!Ē††††††† ††† J.C. Ryle


5.     That which is true of the Church as a whole is true of each member of it.


The beginnings of grace in the life of a believer are very small; but where there is life there is growth; and those who are born of God are grown by God. The more they grow, the smaller they appear in their own eyes. Yet, when God is finished with us, we shall at last be transformed into the very likeness of the Son of God!


B.    The second thing that is evident in this parable is this: The church and kingdom of God has a very ennobling, sanctifying influence upon the rest of the world.


Though no one in the world knows it, and few in the Kingdom of God realize it, the Church and Kingdom of God has a profoundly sanctifying effect upon the rest of society. That is, at least in part, what is meant by the birds of the air flocking to and nesting in the mustard plant. The Church and Kingdom of God, like a great tree, provides shelter for the world and influences it for good. We have an example of what I am talking about in 1 Corinthians 7.


1 Corinthians 7:14"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."


As in a home the unbelieving are sanctified by the believing, in a moral sense, so in the world, the unbelieving are sanctified by the believing. Read your history books. Education did absolutely nothing to improve the moral condition of the Greek and Roman worlds. Plato and Aristotle made absolutely no impact upon society for moral good. That which has improved every society, every culture, every family, and every relationship under its influence is the gospel of Christ.


C.   Third, in this parable of the mustard seed, our Lord reminds us again that the church and kingdom of God in this world is a mixed multitude.


The fowls of the air also represent the mixed multitude in the visible Church and Kingdom of God in this world. The visible Church has always been inhabited by both the clean and the unclean.


There is no such thing as a perfect Church in this world. Every true Church has within its fold both goats and sheep. It is a nesting place for birds clean and birds unclean. It is garden enclosed; but a garden with wheat and tares growing side by side.


What are we to do about this? Nothing! Do not try to scare off the crows. If you do, you will drive away the red birds. Do not try to pull up the tares. You will pull up wheat very time. Never try to separate sheep from goats. We are not equipped for it.


        Only the Lord himself can distinguish the true from the false.

        It is his work to do the separating; and he will do it.


II. Now, briefly, letís look at the parable of the leaven (vv. 20-21).


(Luke 13:20-21)"And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? (21) It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened."


This parable is misinterpreted by many. We are often told that the leaven refers to the ever-increasing evil of the world. But our Lord is not talking about the world. He is talking about ďthe kingdom of heaven.Ē He is talking about his church. The parable of the leaven is very much the same in meaning as the parable of the mustard seed. It teaches us that the gospel prevails by degrees and works like leaven in the hearts of Godís elect.


A. A woman took leaven.


The woman, the weaker vessel, represents gospel preachers who have the treasure of the gospel in earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7).


(2 Corinthians 4:7)"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."


B. The leaven was hidden in three measures of meal.


The regenerate heart, like meal, is soft and pliable. Leaven will never work in corn, but only in ground meal. So the gospel has no effect upon the stony, unregenerate heart. It only works upon broken hearts that have been ground by the Holy Spirit in conviction.


C. Once the leaven is hidden in the dough, it works.


So the word of God, hidden in the hearts of chosen, redeemed sinners by God the Holy Spirit, works and brings forth fruit. The change it works is gradual, but it works (Heb. 4:12).


(Hebrews 4:12)"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."


Application: Someone once wrote, ďThroughout creation the grandest and most complicated ends are obtained by the simplest of means.Ē


        Moss is a very small plant. But when its seeds fall into a deep, swampy marsh, they grow and bind the ground together producing a strong bridge across which men may safely walk.

        Natural ferns have such tiny seeds that it was once thought that they had none. They are invisible to the naked eye. If you could see some of the ferns Iíve seen in Jamaica and other tropical Islands, you would never dream that such huge plants came from such a tiny seed, carried through the air by divine providence and placed in just the right soil and climate.

        Who would ever imagine that the towering oak sprang from such a tiny acorn?

        ďThere was only one boy present, so I didnít bother.Ē


Godís work is like the growth of the mustard seed and the spread of leaven, so small and gradual in our eyes that it is almost unobservable. But we must never despise the day of small things. When he gets doneÖ


(Zechariah 4:6-10)"Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. (7) Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. (8) Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, (9) The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. (10) For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth."