Andrew asks a good question about parables:
My friend says most parables are about salvation and that the main theme in the NT is salvation. I think most parables are about Fellowship lost. What is the main theme, in your opinion?
An internet search shows that there is great diversity about how many parables people think the Lord Jesus gave. I found one article that suggested He gave forty-six parables (see here). Another said forty-three (see here). Gotquestions.org lists thirty-seven (see here).
Thirty-six is a good number since I would not count the judgment of the sheep and the goats (Matt 25:31-46) as a parable, which gotquestions.org does. Like them, I would not count Luke 16:19-31 about the rich man and Lazarus.
For this blog, I have considered half the parables. Maybe I’ll analyze the other eighteen later, but I believe these eighteen are sufficient to answer Andrew’s question.
Here is how I would break down the parables in terms of salvation and discipleship:
None. There is not a single parable that is evangelistic. Some do allude to both salvation and discipleship. See below. But none are exclusively about salvation from eternal condemnation.
The Pearl of Great Price (We are the merchant; we buy kingdom inheritance, that is, rulership with Christ; kingdom entrance is a free gift received by faith alone), The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, The Prodigal Son, The Day Laborers in the Vineyard, The Just and Unjust Servants, The Wise and Foolish Virgins, The Minas, The Talents, and The Unclean Spirit.i
Parables Touching on Both Salvation and Discipleship
The Four Soils, The Wheat and the Tares, The Wedding Banquet, The Two Builders, and The Children of the Marketplace.ii
Some of Jesus’ parables are about the coming kingdom. They tell us that the kingdom is coming, that Jesus is the King, and that He buys the kingdom. Those parables include The Sprouting Seed,iii The Hidden Treasure (Jesus is the Man; He buys the kingdom), and The Mustard Seed.
There are some parables that imply or state that salvation is by faith, but they do not give sufficient detail for an unbeliever to be saved since they fail to specify that Jesus is the Giver of the gift of everlasting life. The parables I list under “Both Salvation and Discipleship” can be understood as teaching that all who believe in Jesus have everlasting life; however, we must bring the teaching of John’s Gospel to those parables in order to gain that understanding.
i Matthew 12:43–45; Luke 11:24–26. That generation of first-century Jews was like a man out of whom an unclean spirit had been cast. They had the opportunity to live free from bondage. However, if they rejected Jesus and His message, their latter state would be worse than it was before Jesus instructed them.
ii Matthew 11:16-19; Luke 7:31-32. This parable is very difficult to interpret. I think it is likely that the Lord Jesus and John the Baptist are represented by the children who played the flute, but without the audience dancing to the music. The Jewish people, for the most part, rejected the preaching of John and the Lord Jesus, regardless of whether the message was evangelistic or aimed at discipleship.
iii Mark 4:26-29. Some commentators think this parable is about evangelism. Others think it refers to the spiritual growth of believers. But most likely, it refers to the coming of the kingdom.