After the record of Christ’s ministry is completed, the telling of parables seems to have disappeared from Scripture. What explains this phenomenon? Certainly the largest remaining segment of the New Testament centers around Paul. Fourteen New Testament books have been attributed to Paul, and nearly half of Luke’s historical narrative in Acts revolves almost exclusively around Paul, as well. Though he didn’t use stories in the way that Jesus did, Paul still made considerable use of metaphors, similes, and other creative devices (see Rom. 7:1-6, 1 Cor. 3:10-15, 2 Cor. 5:1-10). Though Paul was no storyteller, Paul’s presentations were neither boring nor without color. Stylistic differences between Christ’s public discourse and Paul’s obviously exist, but both exhibit considerable expressive creativity.
Other New Testament writers demonstrate a somewhat closer affinity to Christ’s use of parables. Jesus’ brother James wrote,
Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring (James 2:2, NIV) to begin a narrative lesson. Yet, neither Christ’s brother nor any other disciple utilized stories as extensively as did Christ. Simile and symbolism, however, are widespread.
He will pass away like a wild flower (James 1:10, NIV).
Take ships as an example (James 3:4, NIV). Peter’s vision (Acts 10) assumed symbolic form. Symbolic narratives shape significant portions of the book of Revelation.
When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman (Rev. 12:13, NIV).
Select a couple of the following texts and identify the metaphors within them. What are the various messages contained within these verses? What imagery is used to convey the message? Acts 10:9-16, James 3:3-12, Rev. 12:7-17, 18:9-20, 19:11-16.
However expressed, the principle remains the same: metaphors, similes, parables, allegories, and other examples of creative language enable us to communicate in an understandable manner. Building upon the listener’s experiences, Christ and His disciples used comparisons and illustrations that stimulated an understanding of truth. We should, when appropriate, not be afraid to do the same.