How are we to understand, “receive you into everlasting habitations” in Luke 16:9?
A brief explanation of the context is crucial to understanding this intriguing verse. The Lord has been telling a parable of an unrighteous steward who has just been notified by his wealthy employer that he is to be terminated from his position for wasting or squandering his assets. He shrewdly secures his own future “retirement” by immediately cutting deals with his master’s debtors, generously lowering their bills, and making friends with them so that they will feel obligated to take him in when he loses his job. It would be interesting to know how long that would last! In verse 8, the master grudgingly commends the unrighteous manager for acting prudently in view of his own future. This is the key point picked up by the Lord Jesus, as He expresses the concern that “the sons of this age” are behaving more prudently than “the sons of light.” This would not be true in an absolute sense, for they will perish for eternity, while we will be blessed for eternity. But as people of this world, they plan ahead for their retirement years when they can no longer work for a living. The point He makes is that we may fail to act wisely as stewards today in view of our true future in His kingdom. In verse 9, as He begins to apply this point to us, He encourages us to act now with the prudence this steward showed, for our true future in eternity. God (as the rich owner) has entrusted us with temporary earthly riches, which we cannot take with us into eternity, but which we can transform into heavenly currency and value by using it to influence and help people into His kingdom, and to help people who are already in His kingdom. Our stewardship here is limited, and will one day be terminated, expressed by “when ye fail.” This does not necessarily imply a failure of stewardship, but simply its end. Some translations give, “when it fails,” which could refer either to money or our stewardship of it. It is a wonderful reality to contemplate that friendships made through kindness and care shown, may indeed be eternal. Paul speaks of rejoicing in the day of Christ with those he had been instrumental in reaching for the Lord (Phil 2:16-17; 4:1; 1Thess 2:19-20). Will there be anyone to joyfully welcome you home, when you arrive in heaven? The passage concludes with a challenge to faithfulness in our use of money, as being the least of what He has given us, and not worthy of comparison with the true eternal riches that He desires to bestow upon us as our eternal possession. These treasures surely include eternal salvation, companionship with Himself, friendships with fellow inheritors in His kingdom, and positions of authority and management in the ages to come. The Lord, through these parables, longs to reveal the generosity and goodness of the Father’s heart.
Is it scriptural to build a doctrine on a parable? I have heard the doctrine of being able to lose your salvation based on the parable of the sower in Matthew 13?
Considering the frequency with which our Lord spoke in parables, this is indeed an important question. In order to come to a Scriptural discernment, we must understand the purpose of parables.
Parables are illustrations, not statements of doctrine. Generally, they are intended to illustrate one particular aspect of a subject. In Matthew 13:24, 31, 33, 44, 45, and 47, we notice the recurrent statement, “the kingdom of heaven is like to (likened unto).” This repetition alerts us that no individual parable gives us all the “doctrine” of the kingdom of heaven. Each parable illustrates a particular aspect of the kingdom. We must determine what aspect is being illustrated, and consider this in our interpretation, and all of the aspects must be compatible with one another and with the rest of the Word of God.
A parable is like a picture, with the rest of the Word of God supplying the caption that explains the picture. Different individuals viewing the picture by itself, without a caption, might arrive at far different ideas as to what the picture depicts. A caption tells the viewer what to look for in the picture. Parables are sometimes introduced by words that direct our attention to what we should learn from the parable, as in Luke 18:1, “And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Other times, we will have to use the rest of the Word of God to supply the “caption.” If our interpretation has sound basis in the plain teaching of the Word of God, we will be safe, but if imagination is allowed free reign, confusion will result.
A principle that recurs throughout the Scriptures is that, in order for testimony to be taken as true, it must have the confirmation of two or three (or more) witnesses. See Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15, and 2 Corinthians 13:1. This is a wise principle to apply to the interpretation of parables, or of any passage of Scripture. Any interpretation we arrive at must be in full accord with all the rest of the Word of God. Thus, we cannot use a parable to “build” doctrine that is not confirmed by the rest of the Scriptures.
In reference to Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23, the parable of the sower, we will have to arrive at an interpretation that will stand the test of all the Word of God. The suggestion that it teaches that a believer, once saved, can be lost again is contrary to the testimony of Scripture. The parable of the sower is the first of a series of seven parables setting forth the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 13:11). In studying all these parables we must conclude that the “kingdom” includes the true and the false, the believer and the unbeliever, within the realm of Christian profession – often referred to as Christendom. For example, consider Matthew 13:47-48, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.” See also verses 24-30 and 38-43. Thus, we must realize that every aspect of these parables will not relate to true believers. We will need to use the rest of the Scriptures to guide our interpretation.