In chapter 13 of Matthew we read of the kingdom parables, where Jesus tells a series of parables which describe different aspects of the kingdom of heaven. After telling the parable of the sower, the disciples ask Jesus why He speaks to the crowds in parables, and He answers them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom, but to them it has not been granted (13:11).” Here is this simple statement is profound teaching, indeed. For while there are many things that could be said about this verse or this passage, what strikes me most powerfully is how clearly this verse demonstrates God’s sovereignty in revealing truth to some and denying truth from others.
Like the world of this age or of any age, this crowd also is made up of two groups of people. Every single individual in the crowd is in one group or the other. Each person has either been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom or they have not been granted to know. The one who decides who is able to understand the parables and who is not able to understand is God Himself. The ability to know the mysteries of the Kingdom does not depend on education or intelligence or social status or gender or any other human characteristic. The content of the parables is simple enough for a child to understand, but to understand how the parable reveals the kingdom of heaven is only granted by God. God grants to whomever He chooses the knowledge of the Kingdom and to the rest, He does not grant that knowledge. The teaching is thus that God and God alone is the One who sovereignly chooses who will be granted the knowledge of the Kingdom and who will thus be blessed (13:16). God is the One who grants and blesses some, and God is the One who does not grant and does not bless others.
And it is the same with the gospel message. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16), but some are granted to believe that gospel message and some are not granted to believe. As God was sovereign in granting spiritual understanding so that some of these people could understand the parables, so God is sovereign in opening hearts and minds of some to receive the gospel message. The same message that brings one person to faith and repentance leaves another entirely unmoved or drives them finally away from God forever. God and God alone is the one who determines who will believe “the report” (Romans 10:16, quoting Isaiah 53:1) and who will thus be saved. He grants to some and He does not grant to the rest.
How, then, should we respond to this teaching that God is the one who grants the ability to know and who decides who will be saved and who will be condemned? First, if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and you have thus been saved from the wrath to come, then you should praise the Lord for His mercy. Because of nothing that you ever did or ever will do, the Lord granted you salvation and opened your eyes and gave you the ability to believe. By His sovereign choice He granted you faith and repentance. Why did He grant His grace to you? We do not have an answer to that question. He simply granted salvation to us by His grace. Therefore praise Him for His mercy.
Second, I think that we as believers must bow before His perfect justice when we come to truths which we find hard to grasp. That God is the One who grants salvation to some means that He is also the One who does not grant salvation to the rest. How does He decide who will be granted salvation and who will perish? He does so perfectly and with perfect justice. In the end when our finite minds cannot grasp a truth or reconcile truths about God we will do best to trust that the God of all the earth will do right (Genesis 18:25).
SDG rmb 1/23/2017