A study of sevens

Study 1: Love from the heart

The Life of Our Lord

John 3:16 (NIV) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Luke 1:35 (NIV) The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Mat 1:20 (NIV) But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

“God so loved” has in its phrasing the idea of deep abiding love. A love from the heart, from deep within. Jesus was begotten of God and given because God loved us from the heart.

The earthly life of Jesus began from the very nature of the Eternal God. Love was the seed that brought forth the Saviour.

(1 John 4:16 NRSV) So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

The disciples’ prayer

Mat 6:9 (NIV) “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

Luke 11:2 (NIV) He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.

This prayer which the Lord taught us to pray divides into sevenmain sections which are progressive in relation to the walk of a disciple. Under the heading of the seed of love, we are concerned with “Our Father in Heaven” who is the source and essence of divine love.

Jesus recognised this father relationship early in His life. In the prayer the first two words in particular are profound in their simplicity and meaning.

a … “Our”

Not just Father but “our” father. This word points to the central tenet of our Lord’s teaching. He gave us as the centre of all the commandments, that we love one another.

John 13:34 (NIV) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

In the word ‘our’ comes the recognition that all of us are one in Him. God is love!

A deep abiding love relationship is implied in this first word of the disciples’ prayer.

b … “Father”

In this word Jesus brought an idea to the people of those days which was unusual and startling. To bring God into a personal and intimate relationship was revolutionary.

This is a togetherness and privilege into which the believer may enter. To be one with the family of God by partaking of the divine nature as a result of being born anew, is underlined as we come to the joy of having a heavenly Father.

Jesus teaches that the fatherhood of God is only extended to those who are born again of His Spirit. In no instance does Jesus teach that God extends this privilege to those who are unsaved. In fact His remarks are pointed …

John 8:44 (NIV) You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

c … “in heaven”

A reminder of the divine nature of our father God and is both a call to reverence and a promise of the glory of the family to which we are called.

The Disciple’s Walk

Acts 16:31 (NIV) They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

This word ‘believe’ means more than just mental assent. This believing means to wholly rely on, to adhere to, or to commit oneself to.

More significantly it means to respond to the Lord’s commandments. It is a HEART response.

Mat 22:37 (NIV) Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

Luke 6:45 (NIV) The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

Rom 10:9-10 (NIV) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

This also involves the new birth which enables us to say ‘Our Father’

John 3:3 (NIV) In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

1 Pet 1:23 (NIV) For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

1 John 5:1 (NIV) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well

So it is that in the walk of the believer the beginnings involve a seed of the Word of God which invokes a response in the heart of love towards the Creator.

The Parable of the Sower

Jesus told this parable and made it the seed thought for understanding all parables. The theme is to do with a heart response.

Mat 13:3 (KJV) And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

Then followed the interpretation …

Mat 13:18-19 (NIV) “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

This is the most important of all the parables as it is basic to our understanding.

Mark 4:13 (NIV) Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?

Notice how clearly our theme is stated in verse 19. The SEED which is sown in his HEART.

Six kinds of ground are mentioned.

Three relate to the heart of the unfruitful servant.

Three relate to the heart of the fruitful servant.

Unfruitful Fruitful
Thorny ground: The world.
Stony places: The flesh.
The wayside: The devil.
  Good ground: 30 fold. Good ground: 60 fold. Good ground: 100 fold.

Thorny ground = The World:

The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches are as the thorns that grow up and choke the Word. Misdirected love is found to be the danger for the disciple. We are to learn that the LOVE of money is the root of all kinds of evil and from it a love of possessions, worldliness, greed and in the end a turning away from righteousness.

Mat 13:7 (NIV) Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.

Mat 13:22 (NIV) The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

1 Tim 6:10 (NIV) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Heb 6:8 (NIV) But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

It is the LAND that will be burned. not the thorns & thistles. A prophetic statement.

(2 Pet 3:10 KJV) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

Stony places = The Flesh

The story of the stony places. We need a soft heart in order that the Spirit might speak to us. A hard heart does not hear the words of the Spirit and the Word gains no entry into the heart. When tribulation comes the carnal nature is offended and rises up against the Lord. Because there has been no entry of the Word into deeper ground and no real change in the spiritual nature the person reacts with hostility and rebellion to God. There is no submission and the new growth withers and dies.

Ezek 11:19 (NIV) I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh

Mat 13:5 (NIV) Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow

Mat 13:20-21 (NIV) The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.

Rom 8:7 (NIV) the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

2 Cor 3:3 (NIV) You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts

The wayside = The Devil

The active work of the enemy against God’s people. For those who just hear the Word and fail to understand it are open to the wiles of the devil and the truth can be stolen from them. We are counselled to study the Word of God that we might understand it more fully. In the story the unclean birds of the air are quick to snatch up the scattered seed.

Mat 13:19 (NIV) When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

Luke 8:5 (NIV) “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up

John 10:10 (NIV) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Eph 2:2 (NIV) in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient

1 Pet 5:8 (NIV) Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Rev 18:2 (NIV) With a mighty voice he shouted: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird

We are warned to be alert for the devil prowls as a lion.(note: a copy) … We have the true lion of Judah. The devil is the prince of the powers of the air hence the bird analogy. The devil seeks to devour, i.e. take into himself, make a part of himself any who are unwary.

Good Ground

All who commit their life to Jesus and allow their hearts to receive the Word and be born again are good ground. They become new creatures in Christ.

What follows is the time of cultivation and bringing forth. This parable tells of a threefold harvest or fruit bearing.

30 fold 60 fold 100 fold
blade of corn
ear of what
more fruit
full corn
much fruit

This is related to the entry of the seed into the heart, (ground) the interaction of the heart with the truth of the seed, Consider also the action of the rain, the sun and the life that is in the seed.

Mark 4:26 (KJV) And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

Mark 4:27-28 (KJV) And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. 28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

There are three stages of development.

John 12:24 (KJV) 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.

(1 Cor 15:40-42 NIV) There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. [41] The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. [42] So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;

There are three groups of splendour. Does this relate to the fruitfulness of the seed?

In the sower parable which is the seed of all of the parables we find a central truth for the church.

Mark 12:30 (KJV) And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

The Church at Ephesus

(Ephesus = to let go or give way.)

Rev 2:1 (NIV) “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lamp stands:

The church was probably founded by Aquila and Priscilla in c. A,D.52 when Paul made a short visit and left them there.

Acts 18:18-19 (NIV) Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken. 19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.

A remarkable church abounding with God’s gifts and a teaching center for all Asia. It is profitable to read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in this regard. As with the parable of the sower and the other parables, understanding the Ephesian church can help in understanding the other six churches. There are many truths found in the Epistle which make clear the structure and form of the universal church. (portrayed by the lamp stand in Rev.!)

Rev 1:12-13 (NIV) I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lamp stands, 13 and among the lamp stands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.

Nevertheless knowledge and works are of no value without love. Jesus found a servant in this church’s nature but we should remember that He is looking for is a bride.

Mat 24:12 (NIV) Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,

1 Cor 13:1-2 (NIV) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing

Be careful to notice that it is not the mysteries, knowledge or prophesy that is nothing but the PERSON. In this case the Church at Ephesus. They had left their first love. God looks upon the heart and where the heart has lost its first love sin stands at the door and soon begins to corrupt the walk. Jesus called them to repentance and a return to the first love.

They were commended for their hatred of the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. This is derived from ‘nikeo’ = to conquer and ‘laos’ = the people. These were they who borrowed from the Jews and the pagans the idea that there should be a priestly class. This philosophy sets aside the ministry of the believer (who scripturally may minister all things), and gives exclusive authority to a ‘special’ class called ‘the priesthood’. During the times of the early apostles this idea did not gain a foothold but today’s ‘carnal ecclesiasticism’ finds its roots here.

The Overcomer’s condition

Rev 2:2-4 (NIV) I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

Lots of hard work, and patience and works but these are no substitute for a heart that loves.

The Overcomer’s Reward

The overcomer will be given to eat of the tree of life that stands in the paradise of God.

Church History

This era of the church continued until the decree of Diocletian in AD This is the early church period and the book of Acts. The edict of Diocletian began a time of great persecution for the church.

“A cautious effort to rid the army of Christians was followed by great three great edicts of persecution in rapid succession. Churches were ordered destroyed, sacred books confiscated, clergy imprisoned and forced to sacrifice by torture. In 304 a fourth edict required all Christians to offer sacrifice. It was a time of fearful persecution.”
— Walker. A History of the Christian Church.

Many died for their allegiance to the Word and their obedience to the call of the faith. The seed that had been planted in their hearts brought forth the love spoken of by Jesus.

John 15:13 (NIV) Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Up to the time of Diocletian most that was fresh from the Apostolic teaching still remained. This was the beginning of questionable change in the ways and doctrine of the church.

The Feast of the Passover

This is the first of the feasts of Israel. It is symbolic of eating of the lamb and departing from the house of bondage. In its story is portrayed the Lamb of God who was given as we read earlier because of God’s love.