And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume XI, Number 07 January 13, 2008
In this issue:
A series of parables are recorded in Matthew 13 in which Jesus taught the nature of his kingdom, which is his church (Matt. 16:18-19). Repeatedly he said, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” as he “spoke many things to them in parables” (Matt. 13:3, 24, 31, etc.).
The first parable Jesus taught was the sower and the soils, in which we learn the gospel contacts different types of hearts when it is preached which determines whether or not good fruit will be borne.
Another parable Jesus taught was the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24-30). In this parable, a man sowed good seed in his field, but during the night the enemy sowed tares (a false grain which looks similar to wheat). The wheat and the tares were allowed to grow together until the harvest, when the separation would occur.
This parable has given rise to an application Jesus never made nor intended. Some use this parable as proof that sin in a church should not and cannot be confronted and rooted out (because, they say, Jesus said to let the wheat and tares grow together). So, we cannot do anything about sin in the lives of Christians. Of course, that is not at all what Jesus and his apostles taught! (cf. 1 Tim. 5:20)
The interpretation of the parable is given in Matthew 13:36-43. In it, Jesus reveals its meaning and settles the matter:
1) The field is the world (Matt. 13:38). If the foregoing explanation were correct, the field would have to be the church; it is not.
2) The good seed are the sons of the kingdom (Matt. 13:38). Christians live in the world but are not of the world (Jno. 17:15-19).
3) The tares are the sons of the wicked one (Matt. 13:38). The servants of the devil are in this world, too (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:1-3).
4) The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels (Matt. 13:39). A judgment day is coming for all people.
5) The end of the world will be the day when the sons of the kingdom are separated from the sons of the devil (Matt. 13:40-43). The sons of the kingdom of God (Christians) live among sinners in this world, but the Son of Man will gather up the wicked of the world for punishment in the last day (see Matt. 13:47-50).
6) The “kingdom” of verse 41 is the “field” of verse 38 from which the tares are removed. Without doubt, this earth is the Son of Man’s kingdom; he rules over it and will judge all in it (Matt. 28:18).
Nowhere does this parable condone sin among Christians or teach we are impotent to deal with it. (A study of Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5 and 2 Ths. 3:6-15 makes this clear.) In fact, the parable warns those who would go back to the sins of the world face eternal death (Heb. 10:26-31).
It is sad to see a child who has not grown properly. We are distressed when we see a person's body deformed or his mind weakened due to improper development. Jesus and His apostles had compassion on such and so should we (Matt. 20:34; Acts 3:18).
We should also be distressed to see Christians who are failing to develop and mature in Christ. Unfortunately, some Christians do not appear to want to grow stronger. When apathy and indifference toward God prevail we can rest assured that spiritual maturity is absent from one’s life. This must change! In Hebrews 5:11-6:3 we are taught three reasons why Christians must mature. We must press on to maturity…
BY REASON OF TIME (Heb. 5:12). Time gives us opportunities to grow and mature. How long have you been a Christian? How much growth has occurred in your faith in that length of time? The passing of time ought to increase our ability to serve Christ. For instance, time gives us the chance to become teachers of the gospel (5:12).
A probing question to ask ourselves is what kind of preaching and teaching holds our interest? Some can only tolerate the milk of the word, despite having heard the “first principles” for many years. This is not to belittle first principle teaching, for they will always have their important place and need. But, when a Christian objects to anything but first principle classes and preaching, is that not evidence of spiritual immaturity?
Preaching must suit the needs of the hearers. But, when Bible teaching is always described as “over my head” it is worth considering whether part of the reason is because I have never grown up to it! It was for this very reason that some of what needed to be said to the Hebrew Christians would fall on ears that were “dull of hearing” (5:11). To press on to perfection means we use our time to grow in Christ through Bible study as well as prayer, obedience and service.
BY REASON OF USE (Heb. 5:13-14). Exercise helps us grow. Bodily exercise helps us be healthy and strong. This form of exercise is good, but it will not save our souls (1 Tim. 4:7-8). So, we need to be exercise ourselves in godliness. Those who mature in faith are those who exercise their senses to "discern both good and evil” (5:14). Through their experiences of using the word of God they become stronger and more complete Christians (5:13-14). When muscles are not exercised they become weak and incapable of functioning to their fullest potential. In like manner, when Christians do not use God’s word they become weak and frail. In such a spiritually weakened position they are easy targets for Satan. You can be sure that Satan will tempt you in your areas of weakness. Are you strong in the Lord to resist him? (Eph. 6:10-13)
The spiritually weak cannot set the best examples for others to follow. Do you want to follow examples of weakness and doubt, of apathy and indifference? If not, then you cannot expect others to follow you when your influence is weak and your faith is immature. May we commit ourselves to greater devotion to using the word of God in our lives to be a strong example of righteousness (1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Pet. 2:11-12).
BY REASON OF GOD’S WILL (Heb. 6:3). Just as our parents wanted us to grow to adulthood and helped us do so, God wants His children to be strong and mature. He longs for our spiritual maturity and helps us achieve it. He wants us to be "perfect in Christ Jesus" and to be filled "with all the fullness of God" (Col. 1:27-28; Eph. 3:19).
God’s longsuffering gives us time and opportunity to use His word of truth to become spiritually strong (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9; Jas. 4:15). Let us determine to use His blessings to grow in our love for Him and in our knowledge and use of His word. As the inspired teacher said, “let us go on to perfection…and this will we do if the Lord permits” (Heb. 6:13).
· WHEN prayer is a burden and not a privilege.
· WHEN Bible reading is dull and puts me to sleep.
· WHEN the sermon is too long.
· WHEN the preacher’s sermon makes me angry.
· WHEN I try to make excuses for my sins.
· WHEN I feel I am being left out.
· WHEN I don’t feel like singing.
· WHEN I have to be noticed and be constantly visited to be present.
· WHEN I am sick and want people to visit me and yet I seldom visit anyone, well or sick.
· WHEN someone is restored and rededicates their life to God, and I don’t rejoice with them.
· WHEN visitors attend and I sit with my clique.
· WHEN I never invite the unfortunate, only the “elite” into my home.
· WHEN it bothers me to be called on to give more.
· WHEN I get all the religion I want and think I need, in one hour a week.
· WHEN these things happen, watch out for spiritual decay.
LOVE... (1 Cor. 13:4-8)
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 01/11/2008
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA