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Matthew 13:24-30 The wheat and the tares
Another parable put He forth to them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened to a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said to him, Sir, did not you sow good seed in your field? from where then has it tares? He said to them, An enemy has done this. The servants said to him, Will you then that we go and gather them up? But he said, No; lest while you gather up the tares, you root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather you together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
Matthew 13:36-43 The meaning of the parable
Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and His disciples came to Him, saying, Declare [explain] to us the parable of the tares of the field.
He answered and said to them,
He that sows the good seed is the Son of man;
the field is the world;
the good seed are the children of the kingdom;
but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
the enemy that sowed them is the devil;
the harvest is the end of the world;
and the reapers are the angels.
As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who has ears to hear, let him hear.
The Lord does not leave the work of judging to finite man; for unless the Holy Spirit sanctifies the soul, man cannot be a cautious, safe judge. In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the Lord gave special directions to warn His disciples against uprooting those from the church who they supposed were spurious Christians. He had said,
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.
This lesson has been strangely neglected by many of those who profess to be doers of the words of Christ; for if a brother or sister erred, and did not meet their ideas, they manifested hard-heartedness, a cold, critical spirit, and rashly followed their impulses, and turned the offender adrift.
The Lord sums up the whole duty of man in the following words:
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 The LORD God will be the Judge
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Matthew 12:36-37 Our words will be the evidence
But I say to you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.
Acts 17:30-31 The certainty of the judgment day
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men everywhere to repent: because He has appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has ordained; whereof He has given assurance to all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead.
Isaiah 55:6-11 The word of God (the truths of the Bible) will do the separating
Seek you the Lord while He may be found, call you upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and returns not there, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
There are many who are treated as tares and hopeless subjects, whom Christ is drawing to Himself. Men judge from the outward appearance, and think they discern the true measurement of a man's character; but they make many blunders in their judgments. They put a high estimate upon a man whose appearance is as an angel of light, when in thought and heart he is corrupt and unworthy. On another whose appearance is not so favorable, they pass criticism, make him an offender for a word, and would separate him from the church because of his supposed defective character, when it may be that He who reads the heart, sees true moral worth in the man.
Human judgment does not decide any case; for the Lord's thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are His ways our ways. He whom we would separate from the church as altogether unworthy, is the object of the Lord's solicitude and love. All heaven is engaged in doing the appointed work of drawing souls to God, and the Lord has said concerning His word, It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
Then since the Lord is working through His own divine agency upon the hearts of those whom we would term hopeless subjects, let not man be officious, let him stand out of the way of God's work; for His word that goes forth from His mouth, will accomplish its appointed work, and prosper in the thing whereunto it is sent. Let not man set himself up as judge of his brethren; for God has appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has ordained; whereof He has given assurance to all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead.
And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick [the living] and dead.
Romans 14:10-13 We will give our own account
But why do you judge your brother? or why do you set at naught your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
John 5:22-26 Jesus is the Judge
For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son. . . For as the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself; and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man.
Jesus clothed His divinity with humanity in order that He might reach humanity. The apostle says,
Hebrews 2:14-18 We can know that He will be fair
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself like wise took part of the same. . . . For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like to His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted.
Jesus is the only one that has ever walked in the flesh who is able to judge righteously. Looking at outward acts, men may condemn and root up that which they think to be tares; but they may be greatly mistaken. Both ministers and laymen should be Bible students, and understand how to act in regard to the erring. They are not to move rashly, to be actuated by prejudices or partiality, to be ready with an unfeeling heart, to uproot one and tear down another; for this is most solemn work. In criticising and condemning their brethren, the accusers wound and bruise the souls for whom Christ has died. Christ has purchased them with His own precious blood; and although men, judging from outward appearances, pronounce sentence against them, their judgment in the courts of heaven is more favorable than that of their accusers. Before any of you speak against your brethren, or act decidedly to cut them off from church fellowship, follow the injunction of the apostle:
2 Corinthians 13:5 We must examine ourselves
Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?
Let those who would dispose of their brethren, look well to the character of their own thoughts, their motives, their impulses, purposes, and deeds. Compare your experience with the law of God, and see whether you are an example in character, in conversation, in purity. Said Christ, I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified. See John 17:19.
Before condemning others, let us ask ourselves, Am I an example to my brethren in bearing fruit to holiness? Do the fruits of the Spirit, -- love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, appear in my life? Have I that charity which suffers long, and is kind; that thinks no evil? Do I reveal the fact to others that I am in the faith? If upon careful, prayerful examination of ourselves, we discover that we are not able to bear the test of human investigation, then how shall we endure the test of the eyes of God, if we set ourselves up as judges of others?
Before judging others, our first work is to watch and pray, to institute a warfare against the evils of our own hearts through the grace of Christ. We are to stand under the shadow of the cross of Calvary, humbling our hearts, confessing our sins, and entreating the Lord to pardon our defects of character, and strengthen our love for our brethren. If we neglect this heart searching in the light of divine truth, self-love will blind our eyes, and we shall have a much better opinion of ourselves than God has of us. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. And it is written,
He that trusts in his own heart is a fool.
The reason is plain why Christ has said, Judge not; for it is natural for man to exalt his own goodness, to shun a candid examination of his own heart, and depreciate others. If we looked upon things in the right light, we should see that we need mercy from Christ every moment, and should render the same to our brethren.
Jesus has not placed man upon the judgment seat; for he knew human nature too well to give man the power to judge and condemn others. He knew that in their fallible judgment, they would root up some as tares, who were worthy of their sympathy and confidence, and would pass by others who deserved to be dealt with in a decided manner.
Matthew 18:15-17 The Bible rule when you want to accuse someone
Moreover if your brother shall trespass against you [not against your God, He can look after Himself], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hear you, you have gained your brother.
But if he will not hear you [and you still want to carry on], then [go again and] take with you one or two more [from the church who will listen to your accusation], that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established [two heads are better than one for getting at the truth].
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church [and let them judge you and him]: but if he neglect to hear the church [if they agree with the accusation], let him be to you as a heathen man and a publican [whom you would like to save].
When there are cases in the church which need to be dealt with decidedly, let the rule of the Bible be carried out. If the influence of erring members has an influence (through an open and obvious sin) that corrupts others, they should be disfellowshiped; and heaven will ratify the action. It is the work of the enemy to sow tares among the wheat; and there will be men found in the church whose influence, as far as we can discern from outward appearance, is no blessing to the church. But even in cases of this character we are to move cautiously; for Christ and heavenly agencies are at work to purify to Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
While Christ is at work to preserve a pure church in the earth, Satan ever seeks to counteract his agency and work. Spurious Christians are found in the church of God; for we find men, while professing the name of Christ, more firmly united to Satan than they are united with pure and holy influences. They gather darkness and unbelief from Satan, and they communicate it to the church. They profess to have the power of discernment, and discover spots and stains in the character of their brethren, and are not slow to communicate their suspicions to other members of the church. They distribute the leaven of distrust, of malice and accusation. And as a result, alienation and estrangement come in between brethren.
All these false accusers, though their names are on the church records, are under the control of Satan, and work as his agents to weaken and confuse the church, and divide the brethren of Christ on earth. When this has been accomplished, Satan exults over the divided state of the church, and points the world to the professed followers of Christ, thus bringing the name of Christ into dishonor before the world, and intrenching men in their unbelief and rebellion against God.
Matthew 7:3-5 Not all sins are equal
Why behold you the mote [of dust] that is in your brother's eye, but consider not the beam [a large log] that is in your own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull out the mote out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the mote out of your brother's eye.
The time to check is before entrance into the church
We have great need to search the Scriptures that we may be representatives of Christ, and act our part as laborers together with God to build up the church in the most holy faith. There is not enough careful, prayerful, painstaking investigation in accepting members into the church. We cannot follow the example of the world, or allow their criticisms to sway us from the path of duty. They will blame us if we refuse to admit certain persons into church fellowship, and on the other hand, they condemn the church for its unworthy members.
They will say, The church is no better than the world; for its members deceive and cheat and bear false witness; so the world's say so in this matter of who shall be admitted into church fellowship, should have no weight with us. There is one thing that we have no right to do, and that is to judge another man's heart or impugn his motives.
But when a person presents himself as a candidate for church membership, we are to examine the fruit of his life, and leave the responsibility of his motive with himself.
But great care should be exercised in accepting members into the church; for Satan has his specious devices through which he purposes to crowd false brethren into the church, through whom he can work more successfully to weaken the cause of God.
It should be the earnest desire of every heart to keep the church pure, and individually we are to keep our hearts in the love of God, and practice the truth daily, that this may be accomplished. The question is asked in regard to the tares, Will you then that we go and gather them up? But He said, No; lest while you gather up the tares, you root up also the wheat with them. We are not required to criticise, to condemn, or root out all that we suppose to be tares, lest we root out also the wheat. The church will not be free from those whose influence is out of harmony with that which should characterize the servants of Christ.
It is our Father's house
The children of God will be stirred in spirit by the doings of these unworthy members, and they will desire to do something to cleanse the church, that its members may be a light to shine in the world; but even under these circumstances, let them be careful to heed the words of the great Teacher: No; lest while you gather up the tares, you root up also the wheat with them. There is such a thing as zeal not according to knowledge; and could all the circumstances be opened which surround these souls, the zealous church-members might have their ideas modified, and be led to pursue an entirely different course.
They would see that a work devolved upon them to seek and save instead of to destroy, to manifest longsuffering, gentleness, patience, and love, to those whose character and life are below the standard. To cut them off from the church would, perhaps, extinguish their last hope. And who can determine how God looks upon these manifestly erring ones? In many cases it is evident that those who are most zealous to see the church without blemish, have serious defects of character which they do not discern. Because of their own mistakes and failings, unconsciously to themselves, they may be doing greater harm than the one they judge unworthy to remain in fellowship with the church.
Many a church trial is the result of personal likes and dislikes. Evil surmisings have led to evil speaking and accusing. Because of some mistake in business dealing, men have become suspicious of their brethren. Instead of going to their brethren privately, and speaking plainly to them of their errors, thus manifesting true love, and removing the cloud of difficulty, they have brought about a church trial, and would have the questions which vex them settled by the church by digging up the supposed tares. Many have been severed from the church because of these personal spites, and have been thrown upon the enemy's battle-ground, where they have become discouraged, and through manifold temptations, have fallen into the very sins of which they were accused.
Let the words of Christ be carefully studied, Let both grow together till the harvest. Let there be no triumphing over a brother that has stumbled, but rather let there be a following of the Scripture injunction:
Galatians 6:1-2 We are to help, not hinder
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted. Bear you one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
The scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman whom they accused as guilty of breaking the seventh commandment. They said to Him,
John 8:5-7 The first stone
Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what say you? This they said, tempting Him, that they might have [something] to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said to them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. Curiosity led them to draw near, and read what was written on the ground. There they saw their own sins plainly stated, sins of a far more aggravated character than that into which she had been betrayed; for her accusers had induced her to sin, that they might lay a snare for Christ. And they which heard the words of Christ, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even to the last.
Those who are most guilty of wrong, are the first to see wrong; therefore let every church-member see to it that his own heart is pure before God, that his name is not only written on the church books, but registered in the Lamb's book of life. Then he will not be a judge of his brethren, he will not be a despiser of those whom he considers defective. He will remember the words of the apostle,
Romans 2:1-4 Judges do the same things!
Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whosoever you are that judge: for wherein you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you that judge do the same things. . . . And think you this, O man, that judges them which do such things, and do the same, that you shall escape the judgment of God? Or despise you the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
Satan is the accuser
The spirit that instigates accusation and condemnation in the church which results in uprooting those that are looked upon as evil-doers, has manifested itself in seeking to correct wrongs through the civil power. This is Satan's own method for bringing the world under his dominion; but the Lord Jesus Christ has given us no such example for thus dealing with the erring. God has been misrepresented through the church by this very way of dealing with heretics; He has been represented as the One who empowered the church to do these wicked things.
Those who have differed from the established doctrines have been imprisoned, put to torture and to death, because the dignitaries of the church could not endure those who dissented from ideas which these leaders deemed to be true. Satan himself is the sower of tares; but even though he is the sower of them, they are not to be rooted up, lest by chance the wheat be rooted up with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and the harvest is the end of probationary time. Fiendish zeal has been manifested in excluding dissenters from the fellowship of the church, and passing upon them the sentence of excommunication by which the Roman Church asserted its power of excluding them from all possibility of entering heaven.
How does heaven look upon such things? With what amazement do angels hear men judging and condemning their brethren, causing them most cruel suffering of body and mind, and claiming that they do it under the sanction of God? Instead of being under the leadership of Christ, they are following the leadership of Satan. Paul at one time pursued this course, actually believing that he was doing God service; but Jesus spoke to him, and told him that in persecuting His saints he was persecuting Him. All persecution, all force employed to compel conscience, is after Satan's own order; and those who carry out these designs are his agents to execute his hellish purpose. In following Satan's cruel proposals, in becoming his agents, men become the enemies of God and His church, and will be judged in that great day by that Man whom God has ordained; for He has committed all judgment into the hands of His Son.
The time is at hand when the third judgment will sit, and the books will be opened, and every one will be judged according to the deeds that have been done in the body. What an hour that will be! What human depravity will come to light even among those who claim to be Christians, but whose practical life has testified that they had not a saving knowledge of Christ!
To-day many of these are members of the church, and are fellowshiped as Christians; but they are self-deceived, as was the young man who came to Christ asking what he should do to inherit eternal life.
Matthew 19:17-20 The height of self-deception
Jesus answered, If you will enter into life, keep the commandments. He says to Him, which? Jesus said: You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother: and, You shall love your neighbor as thyself. The young man says to him, All these things have I kept from my youth up, what lack I yet?
Jesus looked upon the young man, and loved him, knowing that he was sincere, and had no knowledge of his own defects. This young man had preserved an unblemished outward character; for he had not been tried by circumstances to bring out the selfishness of his heart. And he verily thought his life perfect, as he asked, What lack I yet? Then Jesus touched the plague spot of his heart, saying,
If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
The words of Jesus tried his heart; for he had an idol there, -- the world was his god. He professed to have kept the commandments, but he revealed the fact that he did not love God supremely, or his neighbor as himself. This want meant the want of everything that would qualify him to enter the kingdom of heaven. Love of self and worldly gain controlled his modes of thought and modes of life.
And he was registered in the books of heaven as wanting, although Christ saw in him lovable traits of character.
But genuine Christlikeness cannot be manifested in the character until Christ is received by faith, and formed within, the hope of glory. Jesus looked upon the young man, and longed after his soul, desiring that every intrusted talent might be recognized as the gift of God, might be sanctified to His use, and employed to His glory. Jesus desired to see the young man seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, that he might be a light to the world, imparting to others the knowledge of Christ, by precept and example.
The young man wanted eternal life; but he could not accept the conditions upon which Christ offered it to him, and he turned away from Christ with a sorrowful heart. And yet Christ was not asking of him a sacrifice which He had not made Himself, for He had left His glory, His riches, His honor, and for our sake had become poor, and of no reputation, that He might win for us eternal riches and immortal glory. He enlightened this young man in regard to his own heart, showing him that he could not hoard up his treasures for personal gratification, and yet possess a Christian character. Christ says, Sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me. But the young man was not ready to follow the Prince of life, to become poor that He might make others rich.
The love of the world disqualifies a man for the service of God. Those who would be servants of God must give their best energies to the work, planning ways and means by which the cause of truth may be made successful. If a man's best thought is concentrated in devising ways and means to gather in earthly treasure, his heart is with his treasure, and he minds earthly things. Those who consecrate themselves to God, and constantly seek wisdom from on high, know that they cannot engage in business where their whole energies are devoted to the world, and still be the servants of God; for everything they do must be to His glory. Spiritual advancement in no wise disqualifies men for engaging in worldly business; for where Christ is formed within, the hope of glory, they can do their business as in the sight of the Lord and for his honor.
But the servants of Christ cannot bind themselves up with the world in politics; they cannot belong to secret societies, without binding themselves in with the tares. He who has placed himself under the banner of Christ, has pledged himself to follow no pursuit, to engage in no enterprise, that shall interfere with his service to the Lord of heaven. Christ is to be his all, and in all.
Christ requires personal faithfulness of His servants, and we are to show that we have no fellowship with the secret, hidden things of darkness. The wheat is not to sow itself among the tares; for although we may not practice the works of some of the members of the secret orders, in joining them we are registered in heaven as partakers of their evil deeds, responsible for their works of evil, and bound up in bundles with them as tares. Thank God, it is not too late for Christians to sever themselves from all unholy connections, and come fully to the side of Christ.
But while the church is to separate itself from evil-doers (open sinners), to come out from among them, and be separate, and touch not the unclean, the Lord would not have His people judge and condemn others. The tares are permitted to grow among the wheat, to have all the advantage of sun and shower; but in the time of the harvest, shall you return, and discern between him that serves God, and him that serves Him not; for then every soul will be revealed in his true character. The tares will be bound into bundles to be burned, the wheat gathered into the heavenly garner.
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