THEME: Pervasive Evil
These parables show the subtlety of Satan is evil.
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.
As we considered in yesterday’s study, what is the point of the devil’s planting children “in the world” in a general way, if all it means is that the devil’s children and God’s children live side by side? At best that is self evident. Besides, if that is what Jesus means, the parable is not even stating the situation in the best way. If the field is the world apart from the church, it would be more correct to say that the devil’s children are in the world already and that it is Jesus, rather than Satan, who plants his seed among the seed that is already growing. It would be Jesus who does the new thing, not Satan. He is planting seed that is to grow up into spiritual fruit in the lives of his people. But as Jesus tells the story, he stresses what Satan is doing, and that must be after Jesus has already sown his seed. The devil is mixing counterfeit Christians in among true Christians to hinder God’s work.
So that is the real message. Whether the field is the world or the church is actually irrelevant. The point is simply that the devil is going to bring forward people (whether in the church or out of it) so much like true Christians, yet not Christians, that even the servants of God will not be able to tell them apart. Consequently, although we want a pure church and will certainly exercise church discipline to the best of our ability in clear cases, we must not think that we will achieve our full desire in this age. Even in our exercise of valid church discipline we must be extremely careful not to discourage or damage some for whom Christ died. I find the following applications of this parable.
1. If the devil is mixing his people in among true Christians, then we should be alert to that fact. We should be on our guard not to be taken in, and we should not be surprised if the devil’s people show up in strange places or eventually show their true colors by abandoning Christianity entirely. In 2 Corinthians Paul gives just such a warning, pointing out that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” and that “it is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14-15). “Servants of righteousness” means “ministers.” Thus the old proverb, “When you look for the devil don’t forget to look in the pulpit.” Again, we are not to be surprised if some like this eventually repudiate the faith and leave Christian fellowship. John also wrote of such, saying, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” (1 John 2:19).
2. The mixed nature of the Christian assembly should not be an excuse for unbelievers to refuse to come to Christ. Jesus did not pretend (nor should we) that the Christian church is perfect. Sometimes unbelievers say, “I’m not a Christian because the church is filled with hypocrites.” But that is itself a hypocritical statement. It implies that the one making it is better than those whom he rejects. At best it is not the whole truth—there are deeper reasons why people will not become Christians. But the real problem is that if the objection were to be met (that is, if hypocrisy and other sins were to be eliminated entirely among the people of God), then there would be no place for the objector! He or she would not fit in. There is a place for him or her only because Jesus came “not… to call the righteous, but sinners” to repentance (Matt. 9:13).
3. No one should take comfort in sin. The church is impure; we cannot always distinguish between the wheat and tares in this age. But a day is coming when that distinction will be made. The harvest will come. The wheat will be gathered into God’s barn, and the tares will be burned. As a result, we should examine ourselves as to whether we are true children of God or not. And we should be careful to make our “calling and election sure,” as Peter indicates (2 Pet. 1:10).
What is Satan’s purpose in mixing counterfeit Christians with true Christians?
Why does Paul say this should not surprise us?
Why must we make our “calling and election sure”?
Examine the church’s use of discipline in light of this teaching. How can you answer the charge that the church is filled with hypocrites?
List Dr. Boice’s three applications for this parable.
The devil is going to bring forward people so much like true Christians, yet not Christians, that even the servants of God will not be able to tell them apart.