Lesson 8

February 16 - 22

The Great Controversy in the Parables of Jesus

Lesson graphic

Sabbath Afternoon   February 16

READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Matt. 13:1-9, 18-30; 21:33-41; 22:1-14; Luke 15.

MEMORY TEXT:   "'Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father' "(Matthew 13:43, NKJV).

KEY QUESTIONS: What do Jesus' parables teach us about the great controversy? What themes run through His stories that enlighten us regarding the nature of the war between good and evil and, most importantly, its outcome?

HE SPOKE MANY THINGS TO THEM IN PARABLES"  (Matt. 13:3, NKJV). As stated in an earlier lesson, Christ came to this earth so people could see the striking difference between the two contenders in the great controversy. Another way people could see this difference was through Christ's parables. With this method, Christ illustrated the unknown with the known and "sought to remove that which obscured the truth. The veil that sin has cast over the face of nature, He came to draw aside, bringing to view the spiritual glory that all things were created to reflect. His words placed the teachings of nature as well as of the Bible in a new aspect, and made them a new revelation."—Christ 's Object Lessons, pp. 18, 19.

This week we will study the parables of the soils, the tares, the vineyard, the wedding feast, and the lost coins in order to see what they reveal about the war between good and evil and how it is fought in our lives.  

*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, February 23.)

Sunday  February 17

THE FOUR SOILS (Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23).

List at least four things the above texts teach about the great controversy:   

  1.  _______________________________________________________________________________

  2.  _______________________________________________________________________________

  3.  _______________________________________________________________________________

  4.  _______________________________________________________________________________

Matthew 11 and 12 record how the religious leaders rejected Christ and plotted to kill Him. In every age, some people accept Jesus, while others reject Him. Why? The answer, simply, is that there's something in the human heart that leads people to choose either life or death. What, exactly, is it, and why, specifically, do some accept and some reject Christ? It remains a mystery, at least to us, at least here and now. (See 1 Cor. 4:5.)

In every case, however, Satan stands ready to snatch away what is sown or to prevent the seed of Christ's righteousness from taking root. Then there is always worry and anxiety to strangle our joy in the gospel. In every instance, it is his plan to cloud our understanding and confuse the issues so God's Word will not yield fruit.

What hope does the parable give us regarding the outcome of the great controversy? Matt. 13:8, 23.  

This hope is manifested in two ways: (1) Those who hear God's Word and live accordingly are good not because of anything in themselves (Rom. 7:18) but because the Holy Spirit lives in their hearts (Phil. 2:13). Thus their lives are transformed by faith in Christ. They are assured of victory in the great controversy. (2) Symbolizing Jesus, the sower casts the seed, regardless of where it might fall. No matter how much of the seed goes to waste, the sower knows a harvest is sure. So we should never become discouraged when Satan seems to be winning all the battles. In the end, Christ has won, and through faith in Him, we can win, as well.

In what ways do our own choices determine the quality of our own soil?  In the end, can we blame Satan if our soil is poor?  If not, why not? 

Monday  February 18

WHEAT AND TARES (Matt. 13:24-30).

Read the text above. Then tell what each of the symbols in the parable represents. Check your responses against verses 37-41.  

the field _________________ the good seed _________________
the tares ________________ the two sowers ________________
the harvest ______________ the harvesters ________________

The parable teaches us the following about the great controversy: (1) Evil owes its origin to the "enemy." Though God is not responsible for evil, He is aware of the enemy's presence. (2) It is the enemy who hinders the spread of the gospel. (3) Good and bad will exist within the world and the church until the end of time.  (4) While we must be ruthless with the weeds in our own lives, we should never rush to judge others. (5) Once again, God's people are assured of victory (vss. 40-43).

The tare looked so much like wheat that, until it formed a head, not even the best farmers could identify it. Likewise, "Satan is a deceiver. When he sinned in heaven, even the loyal angels did not fully discern his character. This was why God did not at once destroy Satan. Had He done so, the holy angels would not have perceived the justice and love of God. A doubt of God's goodness would have been as evil seed that would yield the bitter fruit of sin and woe. Therefore the author of evil was spared, fully to develop his character. Through long ages God has borne the anguish of beholding the work of evil, He has given the infinite Gift of Calvary, rather than leave any to be deceived by the misrepresentations of the wicked one; for the tares could not be plucked up without danger of uprooting the precious grain. And shall we not be as forbearing toward our fellow men as the Lord of heaven and earth is toward Satan?"—Christ 's Object Lessons, p. 72.

How do you respond to a church member who—facing church discipline—claims that our actions against him or her are in violation of the parable of the wheat and the tares?  

Tuesday  February 19

THE VINEYARD (Matt. 21:33-41).

In the chart below, state what each of the main elements in the parable of the vineyard symbolizes, based on the following list: the prophets and priests who remained faithful to God and preached to Israel; God; God's law; Jesus; Israel; Israel's religious leaders; the Gentiles.  

Main Element What It Symbolizes
  The landowner  
  The vineyard  
  The wall  
  The tenants  
  The landowner's servants  
  The son  
  The other tenants  

God is full of love and grace. Just as the landowner protects the vineyard with a fence, so God protects us with His law, if and when we obey it through the indwelling of His Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26). And just as the landowner provided all that was necessary for the vineyard to bear a profitable harvest, and just as he expected his tenants to be faithful, so God provides what we need to bear spiritual fruit and desires us to be loyal. In this case, however, not only were those who were given the responsibilities untrue to those responsibilities, but they even turned vehemently against their master. What a warning!

Jesus ends the parable with these powerful, poignant words:  "And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder" (Matt. 21:44). What a contrast! In each case a person is confronted by that rock, which with great force does something dramatic to him or her. In one case, however, the person is broken by the rock; in the other, the individual is ground down into powder by that same rock. Who or what is the rock, what's the difference between being broken on it or crushed under it, and why did Jesus end the parable on this note?  

Wednesday  February 20


This parable points out four significant elements in the great controversy. Find a verse in the Bible to match each element.

God's invitation to accept His salvation __________________________________________________

God's gracious provisions for salvation __________________________________________________

People's rejection of God's invitation and provisions _______________________________________

God's final judgment ___________________________________________________________  

God 's invitation. As does the parable of the vineyard, this story also illustrates Israel's rejection of the gospel and the extension of God's invitation to the Gentiles. However, God extends this invitation to all people through all time. Christ says to each one of us, "Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me" (Rev. 3:20, NRSV).

God's provisions. The host of the feast provided everything his guests could possibly want. He butchered oxen and fattened cattle and even provided special clothes for them to wear, as was the custom. Likewise, God provided the sacrifice for sin so we would not have to die eternally; and Christ's robe of righteousness is ours through faith in Him (Isa. 61:10; Zech 3:3-5).

Rejection of God's invitation and provisions. Of course, Satan does everything he can to keep us from accepting God's salvation. He can even use everyday items that in themselves are not always bad. In the parable, one person was too preoccupied with his field while another was too distracted by his business (Matt. 22:5). In contrast to them, there was the one who came to the feast but who, because of pride and self-sufficiency, had decided he did not need to wear the clothes the host provided.

God's final judgment. Because of his own wrong choice, the guest was unfit to remain at the feast. And so it is with each of us. We lose or win in the great controversy based on the choices we make, both before and even after making a profession of faith in Christ. In other words, just because someone makes a choice to come to the wedding doesn't mean he's going to enjoy the final fruits of it. This should be a sobering thought to all who claim to have accepted the invitation.

If someone asked you right now (and you are being asked right now), Are you covered with the robe of Christ's righteousness? what answer would you give, and what grounds do you have for answering it as you do?  

Thursday  February 21


As soon as the great controversy entered this world, humanity was lost. Such a condition arises when we separate ourselves from God, either through innocent wandering, rebellion, carelessness, self-righteousness, yielding to Satan's temptation, or rejecting God's invitation.

Three parables in Luke 15 portray this human condition through three objects that were lost. Identify these objects, the elements that symbolize God, and what each of those elements teaches us about His response to lost humanity.  

3 Parables of Luke 15   Verses 3-7     Verses 8-10     Verses 11-32  
Lost object(s)



  prodigal son  

Symbol of God       
What God's response teaches us about Him      

God's response to sinners stands in direct contrast to what Satan has said about Him. These parables show us that God's love is so vast and so amazing that He would empty heaven to save one lost person.

The parable of the two sons not only portrays God's love through the sons' father; it also focuses on humanity's response to its lost condition. The younger son began his journey into the wasteland of sin by exclaiming "Give me!" Self was his goal, self-sufficiency his god. Such a focus could bring him to only one place—Swineland. But then came the return journey, prompted by the memory of his father's love. "In his restless youth the prodigal looked upon his father as stern and severe. How different his conception of him now! So those who are deceived by Satan look upon God as hard and exacting. They regard Him as watching to denounce and condemn, as unwilling to receive the sinner so long as there is a legal excuse for not helping him. . . . But he whose eyes have been opened by the love of Christ will behold God as full of compassion."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 204.

Self was also the goal of the older son, self-sufficiency also his god. He exclaimed, " ' "You never gave me" ' " (Luke 15:29, NIV), and for years he worked for and obeyed his father, thinking that such efforts would win his heart (vss. 28-30).  It's called legalism.  The Bible does not tell us if this son found the true way home or not. As the parable stands, which son was the victor?  

Friday  February 22

FURTHER STUDY:  What do the following parables teach us about how we can be victorious in the great controversy? Matt. 25:1-13; Luke 12:16-21; 18:9-14.

"The prayer of the publican was heard because it showed dependence reaching forth to lay hold upon Omnipotence. Self to the publican appeared nothing but shame. Thus it must be seen by all who seek God. By faith-faith that renounces all self-trust-the needy suppliant is to lay hold upon infinite power."—Christ 's Object Lessons, p. 159.

Read any or all of the following to learn more about the parables we studied this week and their relationship to the great controversy:  Christ's Object Lessons, " 'The Sower Went Forth to Sow,' " pp. 33-61; "Tares," pp. 70-75; " 'Lost, and Is Found,' "pp. 198-211; "Two Worshipers," pp. 150-163; "Gain That Is Loss," pp. 252-259; "The Lord's Vineyard," pp. 284-306; "Without a Wedding Garment," pp. 307-319; " 'To Meet the Bridegroom,' "pp. 405-421.  

1. Based on what we've read and studied, not just this week but so far this quarter regarding the great controversy, how do you understand Jesus' words, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad"? (Matt. 12:30).  Why can no one be neutral in this? 
2. The parable of the weeds shows us how Satan works to overthrow God's kingdom.  When you think you have identified tares among the wheat, what should you do?  Or is it even your job to attempt to identify tares?  
3. The parable of the prodigal son portrays two different responses to God's love.  Does our response to God change His love for us?  If not, what does our response change?  (For it does change something, even if it's not God's love for us.)  
4. The younger son symbolizes salvation by faith in Christ's righteousness.  The older one symbolizes salvation by works (legalism).  Discuss the difference between the two.  

SUMMARY:  Jesus came to this earth to uncover Satan's lies about God. He did this not only through the way He lived but through the parables He taught. From many of these, we learn how subtle Satan can be and how he uses everyday things to cloud our vision, affect our attitude, and appeal to our sense of pride and self-sufficiency. But each parable rings a note of victory. There is a harvest. People do accept God's invitation. Some of us do find the way home.  

InSide Story

Timid Christian Becomes Soul Winner

J. H. Zachary

Sri's Muslim father permitted Sri to enroll at the Adventist school, but warned him to never become a Christian. Sri enjoyed studying at the Adventist elementary school, and he especially enjoyed the Bible classes. He continued his studies in a Christian secondary school. After graduation he found work with a bank and married a Christian woman. But he had not committed his own life to Christ.

Sri's wife prayed earnestly that her husband would give his life to Christ. Then one day Sri told her, "I will be baptized, but you must promise not to tell my parents." He knew they would be very angry.

But as Sri's faith grew, so did his desire to share his love for Christ with others. He left his bank job and started his own business when Sabbath problems arose.

Sri agreed to study the Bible with an elderly Buddhist woman in a suburb of Jakarta, Indonesia. Every time he went to the woman's humble home, he found more of her neighbors ready to listen. When the group reached 30 people, Sri asked a pastor for help. He did not feel qualified to teach a large group. But the pastor urged Sri to continue teaching the group. Sri prayed for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction to the members of his class. Today this group has grown to a full-fledged church of 100 members.

Sri found a suburb of Jakarta where no church existed. He began studying with interested people, and today a church of 400 members thrives there. The founding members of this congregation were from Sri's Bible-study group.

So far the Holy Spirit has blessed Sri in raising up five churches. But he is not stopping to count. He is too busy sharing his love for Jesus with others. This former banker and once-timid Muslim is now a leading soul winner in Jakarta, Indonesia.

J. H. Zachary (left) is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.

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