Keys to the Kingdom
Week 3: Dividing the Kingdom
Some of you may disappointed to hear that I will not be preaching a message on the importance of moms in our lives; though that subject would take multiple messages! The Bible has many great examples of godly women who made a personal and historical impact in our world. Mary, the mother of Jesus, would be the consummate example. Her humility when learning of her fate as the Virgin Mother of the Son of God. Her faith and commitment to raising her son in the ways of God. Her abiding presence with Jesus even at His death. She is truly a supreme example of motherhood.
But today we are going to continue in our third week in the series, “Keys to the Kingdom,” where we are exploring the characteristics of the Kingdom of God and their implications as we seek to live out our faith as citizens of God’s kingdom.
In the first week we defined the Kingdom of God as the reign and rule of God, first in the hearts of human beings, but also in the domain of both the earthly and heavenly realms. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s Kingdom, but the fulness of the kingdom will not be realized until He returns to judge the living and dead.
Last week we looked at Matthew 13:1-9 and the parable of the sower and the soils. We discovered that only ¼ of all seeds (the Word of God) produced fruit. The other ¾ of the soils (the hearts of men/women) were not fit for production because:
- The evil one prevents God’s Word from taking root (taken away)
- The Christian life is too demanding for some to withstand persecution and trouble (fall away)
- Worldliness (personal greed and lusts) is more enticing to the hearer of God’s Word (turn away)
Jesus called his parables “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” NOT because they were some coded message that only the gifted could decode, but because only those whose hearts are open to receive and who have the will to obey God’s Word will hear and understand God’s Word.
If you want to learn more about what was said last week, you can read the sermon on our Website. Let’s move to the second analogy of God’s kingdom found in Matthew 13:24-30.
24Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 “But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 “But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.
27“The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 “And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29
“But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
In the parable last week of the sower and the soils, the seed is God’s Word that is spread to the human hearts of the hearer. The soils represent the different kinds of responses to God’s Word. As we’ve said, a great many more will be unfruitful for the kingdom rather than fruitful.
After speaking four different parables—the sower and the soils, the wheat and the weeds, the mustard seed and the yeast (which we will cover next week)—Jesus leaves the crowd and goes back in the house. It is here that, just like the sower and the soils, Jesus is asked to explain the parable of the weeds in the field and so He does in verses 37-43.
Here’s the gist of the parable: Jesus is describing both the present and future state of the kingdom of God, Christ’s care of the kingdom, the devil’s enmity against it, and the mixture of both good and bad in the world.
First, Jesus explains that the one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. It’s important for us to remember that, whatever good seed there is in this world, it all comes from the hand of Christ, and is of his sowing: truths preached, graces planted, souls sanctified, are good seed, and all because of Christ. When we try to pat ourselves on the backs because of what WE accomplished in leading folks to Jesus for salvation…when we praise ourselves for effective discipleship, we are misplacing the praise. All glory and honor go to the Sower, the Lord Jesus Christ!
In the parable last week, the soil was the hearts of the hearer of God’s Word. Here, Jesus describes the soil as the field, which is the world. This is a large field, capable of producing good fruit; but sadly it produces a lot of bad fruit, too!
In last week’s parable, the seed was God’s Word, but now the seed represents the people of the kingdom. This is where it gets a little tricky. On the one hand, the world is broadly viewed as everybody God ever created. But, the world is also more narrowly seen as the visible church scattered all around the world. Christ is sowing true believers in various places that they might bear fruit.
The weeds in this parable are the people of the evil one, while the enemy who sows the weeds is the devil. It would seem that where ever Christ sows a true Christian, Satan comes and sows a counterfeit. Our spiritual enemy is an imposter. He is the father of lies. He masquerades as an angel of light. He steals, kills, and destroys.
So, if we think in concentric circles: the larger, outer circle might represent the world; while a smaller inner circle might represent the church inside the world. The visible church is the kingdom of God on earth…the reign and rule of God in the hearts of men and women. Some allow God to have complete control, while others only pretend to do so. They are imitators…imposters…hypocrites. And even though there be many hypocrites in the kingdom of God at this time, Christ rules as a King.
Such is the state of the present kingdom. There is an enemy of Christ who sows weeds in the field of God. They look very similar to the real thing but are not. We might even call this a “counterfeit kingdom.”
Satan has many counterfeits:
1. He has counterfeit Christians. In 2 Cor. 11:3-4, the apostle Paul says this: But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
1. They believe a counterfeit Gospel. In the opening verses of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he writes: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
3. Satan encourages a counterfeit righteousness. Speaking of Paul’s fellow Israelites who failed to embrace “being made right through faith in Christ alone,” Paul says this: Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Some in the church today view being right with God primarily by being a “good person.” If we don’t break any of the “Big 10,” go to church on Sundays, and pay our taxes, then we must be right with the Man upstairs.
Satan even has a counterfeit church. In Revelation of Jesus Christ to St. John, Jesus tells the church of Smyrna that there those who are in the “synagogue of Satan.” Jesus says if you are not for Him you are against him. We are Christians or we are anti-Christs.
Finally, at the end of the age, Satan will produce a counterfeit Christ. In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul calls him the man of lawlessness. He will oppose everything that is called God and will in fact proclaim himself to be God.
The parable of the wheat and the tares gives us a challenging instruction to NOT pull up what is counterfeit, but to plant the truth. The farmer tells his servants to let both the wheat and weeds grow together.
The weeds Jesus is speaking of are likely called “darnel,” a weedy rye grass with poisonous black seeds. They resemble wheat in the early stages of growth, but when they mature, they are easily distinguishable from wheat. We will be known by our fruit. The famous commentator, Matthew Henry puts it this way: “It is not always possible to distinguish between weeds and wheat. We might be mistaken. Such is the wisdom and grace of Christ, that He will rather permit the weeds, than endanger the wheat in any way. Pulling up the weeds might damage the roots of the wheat entangled with the weeds.”
Finally, Jesus speaks of the harvest being the end of the world…the FUTURE KINGDOM. Honestly, most of us live as if there is no day of harvest. Work for the weekend…Work for vacation…Work for retirement…Eat, drink, be merry, retire, and one day go to sleep and not wake up. But I think Jesus wants us to see the BIG PICTURE.
This world will have an end. Though it has been going for 2,000 years after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father, it will not continue forever. Time will soon be swallowed up in eternity.
When that time comes, there will be a great harvest-day, a day of judgment. At harvest all is ripe and ready to be cut down: both good and bad are ripe at the great-day. Revelation 14 speaks of this great harvest. When that day comes, the Kingdom will be weeded out of everything that causes sin and all who do evil.
We cannot make the mistake of thinking evil-doers are only those who hurt others with malicious intent. Only those convicted of a crime will endure God’s wrath. Truth is, anyone who opposes the Son of God is an evil-doer. In Luke 9:26, Jesus said that if anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. If you’re not FOR Jesus you are against Him. And, consequently, He will be against you.
Well, that pertains to the Last Day…the FUTURE KINGDOM OF GOD. But until Jesus returns on the Day of Judgment, God is allowing both believers and unbelievers to live in the world. And…not only in the world at large, but even within the Church!
We are cautioned to NOT uproot the hypocrite, the imposter planted by the enemy. For me this can be frustrating! By the same token, we need to be careful to over-apply this parable. It is NOT a teaching on how to discipline those within the church who act ungodly.
We cannot infer from this one passage that Jesus is suggesting we have a “live-and-let-live” attitude about the church, either. To the contrary, we are warned over and over against allowing sin to run rampant in the church (see Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5; the letters of Titus and Jude for example).
Here’s one text that points out how Christ’s body is to deal with those who oppose the Word of truth (2 Tim 2:25): Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
I wish I had easy answers for us this morning. I wish I could wrap today’s message in a beautiful package with a pretty bow and give it to you for Mother’s Day. But I can’t. There is both bad news AND a warning in Jesus’s message to us today: Until He returns there will be false teachers, hypocrites, trouble-makers, etc. in the kingdom of God, trying to tear it apart—whether they realize it or not. AND…we are told NOT to root them out of God’s Kingdom. That’s not to say we are to tolerate sin in the camp. We are to point to God’s truth (that’s why it’s so important to know God’s Word).
BUT…and this is the GOOD NEWS of the parable…Jesus IS coming back! There will be a Day of Judgment…a Great Harvest. And His appointed angels will do the weeding out. THEN we can rejoice as we shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father!
And THAT’S why we continue the good fight…that’s why we love like Jesus loves and we share the Good News to all who will listen. THAT’S why we continue to make disciples for the transformation of the world. We don’t have our hope in THIS world, but in the world to come.
THAT’S why godly mothers and fathers instill in their children the hope that becomes the Gospel to them as they grow old enough to understand their need for salvation from their sins! THAT’S why the Church continues to proclaim and promote the truth.
It doesn’t matter WHO you are or where you came from. You don’t HAVE to be a weed…
you can be a part of the Great Harvest of Ripe Summer Wheat! All you have to do is surrender your life to the Sower of the Good Seed…the Son of the living God…who gave his life for you and me so that we might be made right with Him. We who have sown in righteousness may reap a harvest of righteousness. All who have ears let them hear. Praise the Lord!