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09. The Parable of the Wheat and the Darnel

Chapter 9

The Parable of the Wheat and the Darnel

Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43

Eric H. H. Chang

Montreal, August 13, 1978


Today, we come to Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. Let me read this parable that the Lord Jesus taught:

Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while 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. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

And the explanation of the parable follows in verses 36-43:

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

How to define the kingdom of God (heaven)?

The kingdom of God means the kingship of God

As you look at this parable, you can see at once that it deals with two kinds of plantings in the kingdom of God: one is the wheat; the other the weeds or tares. I would like you to notice and ponder upon the obser­vable difference between the two types of people in the kingdom of God.

This parable is about the kingship of God because the opening words are: “Another parable he put before them saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven….’” “The kingdom of heaven is Matthew’s parallel to Luke’s “kingdom of God.” Today, lots of people are unfamiliar with the term “kingdom of God,” and they ask, “Is the “kingdom of God” the church? What does it mean?” The kingdom of God means the rule of God, the kingship of God.

The Revised Standard Version translates John 18:36 correctly as “My kingship is not of this world” whereas the Authorized Version has: “My kingdom is not of this world.” The English word, “kingdom” is a little bit archaic, but “kingship” may be a little bit more understandable. So this is a parable—like so many of the Lord Jesus’ parables—about God’s kingship, God’s rule, God’s government in the world.

The kingdom of God can be given to us or taken away

To expound on the “kingdom” could take me many sessions, but we can turn to Matthew 21:43, a very good verse from which to understand what “kingdom” means. The Lord Jesus says to the Jews:

“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.”

Instead of the “kingdom of God,” you can read it like this, and it will say the same thing:

“Therefore I tell you the kingship of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.”

I hope you as a Christian, really understand what God’s “kingdom” or God’s “kingship” means. What does it mean? We can see that the church is not equivalent to the kingdom of God, because here we learn that the kingdom can be taken away from a nation and given to another nation. So God’s kingship is taken away from Israel, and given to this new nation, which is the church, called “the holy nation” in 1 Peter 2:9.

Now I would like you to bear in mind that the Scriptural teaching is, the kingship of God can be given to you, but it can also be taken away. Therefore the kingship of God is not some permanent possession that you can have for good. God was King over Israel, but then He took away His kingship and gives it to the church. That is exactly what Paul says in Romans Chapters 9-11, especially in 11:17-18, that Israel was cut down, and now you, Christians in Rome, who were not part of the original tree, are now planted into that tree. It is another picture to say the same thing.

The privilege and responsibility of having God as King

To have God as King is a supreme privilege because it means that you have entered into a special relationship with God, just as Israel did. Other nations had kings, but Israel had God as King because they stood in a special relationship to God. It was through the covenant that He became their God and they became His people. We also become God’s people and receive the kingdom of God through the New Covenant.

Have you received God’s kingdom? That depends on whether or not God is King of your life. And having God as King of your life brings responsibilities and supreme privileges. What are the privileges? He brings all the blessings of eternal life, the fruit of the Spirit, and holiness into your life when He rules your life as King. But if He doesn’t reign in your life, then you are not part of God’s kingdom. So there are Christians and there are “Christians”, and that is the point of this parable on God’s kingship. I hope you can understand this immediately.

Two stages of the kingship of God

Furthermore, we need to understand that there are two stages to God’s kingdom, or God’s kingship. One is the present stage, and the other is the future stage. The first part of this parable is talking about the present stage, and the last part speaks about the future stage when all the evildoers will be gathered out and God establishes His kingdom in judgment and justice.

This is an exceedingly important parable because those closing words, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear” are always used by the Lord Jesus when he is saying something very important. There are those who have ears, but they don’t hear. But to those who have ears to hear, who are prepared to be his sheep because they are prepared to crown his Father God as King of their lives, he says, “My sheep hear my voice.”

The second reason why it is a very important parable is because this is the only parable outside the Parable of the Sower where an explanation follows. The other parables are told with no explanation. He explains the parable to the people, which means that it is a foundation parable, just as the Parable of the Sower is a foundation parable.

When I study the teaching of the Lord Jesus, I am more and more amazed at its depth, its riches and its power. We are going to pick out the central elements of this parable and look at them.

Come to Jesus’ teaching without preconceived ideas

Also, the more I study the teaching of the Lord Jesus, the more and more I am amazed why his teaching is not expounded today. I wonder how many of you have ever heard his teaching expounded anywhere, and in any sort of systematic fashion. I was a Christian for 20 years and I had never heard the Lord Jesus’ teaching expounded anywhere. It seems that preachers like to stick to a handful of verses from Paul. They seem to be utterly without confidence outside those limited few verses. You cannot preach the Word of God like this because you are going to be completely lopsided if you just select the same few verses all the time. You must preach the whole Word of God, the whole counsel of God. That is why we study the whole of Christ Jesus’ teaching seeking to understand under the Holy Spirit’s teaching, and not selecting passages here and there.

The more I study the Lord Jesus’ teaching and compare the church’s teaching, the more I see that if you start out with the church’s teaching, you are quite incapable of expounding the Lord Jesus’ teaching, because your mind is already closed to that teaching. You have already come with certain fixed dogmas and doctrines in your mind that prevent you from understanding the teaching. This is what happened to me. When I first studied the Lord Jesus’ teaching, I could not understand it. It was closed to me because somehow, it was speaking a language that I did not understand. And I did not understand that language because my mind had already been taught certain doctrines and dogmas. The Lord Jesus’ teaching seemed to conflict with my doctrines and dogmas. Therefore I shut out his teaching, which is too often what the church does.

I want to say this by way of warning: unless you come with an open mind and put away your dogmas and doctrines, you are simply not going to understand it. There are some pastors today, who keep saying, “You have to teach dogmas and doctrines.” Yes indeed, you have to teach the dogmas and doctrines, but whose dogmas and whose doctrines? Have you ever thought about it? Are we going to teach some person’s dogmas? You have to bear in mind that dogmas are formations of teaching and definitions made by man, and once you accept these dogmas, you don’t accept anything else. That is why the pastors are so keen that you should have dogmas, because dogmas will just establish your thinking in a particular way.

I wish that we only had one dogma, if we have to speak of dogmas, and that is, whatever Jesus says is true. That is enough for me. I am going to stick by this. His words are spirit and life! (Jo. 6:63) I am not going to allow anybody’s dogma or doctrine to decide whether or not I accept Jesus’ teaching. And if any dogma can be expounded in the light of his teaching, so that it doesn’t conflict with his teaching, that is wonderful! But I am not going to go back to the old days when my mind was so filled with doctrines and dogmas that I was unable to understand the Lord Jesus’ teaching, because my mind was closed to his teaching.

For example, if you come to the Word of God with the notion that the standard teaching in the church today is true; that eternal life is received through a faith which does not require any holiness; that “holiness is a second stage of the Christian life”, then you are going to find it impossible to accept the Lord Jesus’ teaching. You are not going to listen anymore, since you have decided in advance, what is true and what is not true. This is the disaster!

Today, too often, the person who speaks of doctrines or dogmas means the doctrines of Calvin, the doctrines of Augustine, the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. If you are a Roman Catholic, you would certainly hold on to the doctrines of Roman Catholicism. Then you would not want to listen to what the Bible has to say. For example, if you already believe in purgatory, which is a dogma of the church, what would you do when you come to the Bible and you do not find purgatory? You would say, “I don’t care that the Bible says there is no purgatory. The church says there is purgatory, and I accept their dogma.” It is not surprising that church leaders are so keen to teach dogma and doctrine, is it? The Catholic Church also stated that there was no salvation outside the Roman Church. They have modified that statement since Vatican II, but that used to be a dogma! You see, human doctrines can be changed! So who was right—the doctrine before Vatican II or the doctrine after Vatican II? Alas! Alas! Let us come to the Word of God! Otherwise we are going to do strange things.

Or else if our definition of faith is: “We are saved by faith alone, with no need of holiness,” then when I preach holiness, people would say, “Hey, don’t speak about holiness, otherwise you’re preaching salvation by works!” Do you see how our dogma has closed our minds to the teaching of the Lord Jesus? I only ask for a person to come with an open heart. Whose dogmas or doctrines are we teaching? The people who speak about doctrines are saying, “Let us teach the doctrines of Calvin,” as though Calvin’s doctrines are equivalent to the Word of God! Or if the Roman Catholic says, “Let us teach the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church,” it is as though the Roman Catholic doctrines are equivalent to the Word of God, indeed, superior to the Word of God! What happens then? It would be as the Lord Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradit­ion!” (Mk. 7:9) In fact, the Pharisaic term, “tradition” means doctrines. You only need to look at the Mishnah to see just how they turn the Word of God aside so as to hold onto their doctrines.

Transformation, sanctification, salvation only for the totally committed

I am going to tell you what the Lord Jesus teaches about salvation in very concise terms, and let you compare whether the church teaches the same thing.

This is what the Lord Jesus teaches: we are saved through a faith that has to be defined as a total commitment to God by following Christ whom He has sent (Jo. 17:3), and who is under His authority (Mt. 8:8-9). Jesus expresses this in words which cannot be mistaken: “Unless a man takes up his cross and follow me, he is not worthy of me.” (Mt. 10:38) The Lord Jesus is saying, “Unless a person imitates me, to commit himself totally and without reserve to God, as King of his life, to do whatsoever God commands him to do, even to the point of taking up the cross to be crucified, he is not worthy of me.” How plain are these words of Jesus! But we don’t want to listen to the teaching of Jesus. Our doctrines have already disposed our minds to reject his teaching. “It is not possible that Jesus can demand so much from us. Jesus gives us everything, but demands next to nothing from us.” That is the teaching today, and I will leave you to decide whether or not that is what the Lord Jesus taught.

Now what happens to a person who does that? When a person comes to God and says, “Lord God, I repent of my sins. I take up my cross and follow the Lord Jesus, so that You are Lord of my life,” he is born again of the Spirit of God. His life is transformed because God’s life comes into his soul. That is regeneration in the Bible sense, and regeneration in the Bible sense means transformation. You are no longer the man or the woman you were before; you are a changed person. The new birth is mentioned in John 3:5, which is also often preached today; but it seems to me to be simply a new status, not a transformation of life. But the Lord Jesus means a change, as Paul himself completely understands.

“If any man be in Christ,” Paul says, “he is a new creation” (2Cor. 5:17). We hear that preached today too, but all that seems to mean is a new status. Now a new creation is not a new status. If I create something anew, that thing is changed in itself. A new creature means that it is changed. It does not mean a different legal status before God, which is what most preachers want to limit it to today. So through this faith of total commitment, you are transformed; you become a new person in Christ (Jo. 3:3-5). That is the powerful dynamic teaching of the Lord Jesus compared to the watered-down, feeble talk that some of you may have heard.

What happens as a result of this change? The change so complete in its depth does not mean you become sinless, but it does mean that God’s Spirit is so working in your life that you produce the fruit of a new life, which is called holiness. That is why Hebrews 12:14 says, “…without holiness, no man shall see God.” I have to repeat this verse to you again and again so that you get the message, because those words sum up so perfectly the teaching of Scripture. If your life were transformed by the Holy Spirit of God in you, you are bound to be holy!

“Be holy for I, your God am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:44-45). The word “perfect” is another word for holy in Scripture, therefore the Lord Jesus said, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). God is holy. God is perfect. Both these words “be holy” and “be perfect” are used in the New Testament. That is a summary of the Lord Jesus’ teaching.

“Good seed”— God’s children who glorify Him with their lives

Now let us get to the central points of the parable. First of all, let us notice that this parable is in effect a prophecy, illustrating in picture form the situation with the kingdom of God. The Lord Jesus is saying that there are two kinds of plants.

Then he explains that “he who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world.”

One kind of plant is the wheat, the good seed, which the Lord Jesus has sown. This represents the sons of the kingdom, that is, those who are the children of God (Mt. 13:38), those who live under God’s kingship. (Unlike in the Parable of the Sower, the seed is the Word of God.)

Notice that the Lord Jesus calls the godly, who live under God’s kingship, “the good seed.” How does a seed grow? If you have read John 12:24, you will know that a seed falls into the ground and dies, and then it grows by dying. There is the total commitment again. Nobody is prepared to die if he is not totally committed. The true Christian is one who is prepared to die; he is dead to the world; he has finished with the life of sin. Only this kind of person can live the kind of life that represents God’s Word to this world. We are God’s message to the world. People have to look at our lives if they are going to turn to God. So the wheat is easy to understand; it represents the true children of God, those who live under the kingship of God in a genuine way, who have crowned God as King of their lives.

The Lord Jesus sows those who live under God’s kingship into the world. If you and I are children of God, we are God’s seed sown into the world, to bring forth fruit for His glory, as he says in Matthew 5:16, “that people may see your good works and give glory to God.” He is speaking in the context of shining. Our dogmas and our doctrines in the church have made us think of “good works” as a dirty word. Today among evangelicals, the word “good works” is a dirty word. It is not a dirty word to the Lord Jesus who says, “that men may see your good works and give glory to God.”

Now why should people give glory to God when they see your good works? Normally, if people see your good works they give glory to you. How is it that they will see your good works and give glory to God? This is the distinction of the kind of good works we are talking about. The good works which come from holiness carry with it the presence of God. Even the non-Christian can see that these good works are done by God’s power, that this holiness in you is not something you have; it is something that comes from God. They don’t know about the Holy Spirit, but they do know that this holiness in you is not something that you work up in yourself; it is something that God does in you.

So perfect are the words of the Lord Jesus that even by this very statement, he has already indicated what kind of good works he means. He means the good works that come by the Spirit of God, therefore causing people to give glory to God, not to you. Have you ever known a righteous man of God? Would you give glory to him? No, because you know that the holiness and beauty in his life is the holiness and beauty that comes from God. Without saying a word, a godly man has in his very life the capacity to deflect you towards God away from himself. That is the test whether your holiness is a holiness that comes from God. If people praise you, there is something wrong. But if people look at you and say, “Wow, how wonderful God is!” then you know you have got the right kind of holiness, the right kind of good works in you.

“Weeds” or “Tares” are Darnel—poisonous wheat

Then what do the weeds represent? It is most important for us to come to an accurate understanding—and I mean accurate—of the weeds. We must never read our own ideas into the Word of God. We must expound the Word of God with absolute precision.

After the Lord Jesus has sown this good seed in the world, the enemy, that is, the devil comes along and sows weeds among the wheat. The weeds that are sown here are not weeds that are originally in the field. For the sake of exposition, you must observe this most carefully. The field is the world. Do the weeds refer to non-Christians? If it refers to non-Christians, the weeds would have been in the field long before the Lord Jesus sowed any good seeds in the field, would it not? Of course, the unbelievers were in the world long before the Christians appeared. No, notice very carefully, these are weeds which are sown by the devil after the good seed (the wheat) had been sown. And where are they sown? Among the wheat! They are planted with deliberate intention, right among the wheat, not anywhere else in the field. That is why I paused at the words in Matthew 13:41, “gather out of His kingdom.” The evildoers and the causes of stumbling are in the kingdom, and they have to be tak­en out. Now there are no unbelievers or non-professing evildoers in the kingdom of God, are there? As we press on, we see this point emerging evermore clearly.

Another exceedingly important point is this: what is translated as “weeds” in the Revised Standard Version, and as “tares” in the Authorized Version, are in fact, darnel, the kind of plant which grows up looking very much like the wheat. In fact, they are indistinguishable from wheat in the early stages of their growth. Even today, in all the Middle Eastern countries, the darnel do not grow in the wild; they grow among the wheat. Some even think that they are a degenerate form of wheat, although other specialists disagree because the two are structur­ally different. That is why we see in Matthew 13:26, the servants only realize that there are an awful lot of darnel (weeds or tares) in the field when the plants have grown up and borne fruit. The darnel (weeds or tares) did not appear until their fruit began to appear. That means to say they have been growing for a long time before the servants suddenly realized it. “Look at this! The field is full of darnel!” And they turned to the master and said, “Did you not sow wheat in your field? How come we have darnel in the field?” Their real character came out and was seen. That is very important for understanding this passage.

Here I have to talk about the translation of a word in the parable. The translation in the Authorized Version of “tares” is quite inaccurate, but we cannot blame them because back in 1611, they obviously did not yet know enough about this Greek word, ζιζάνιον. The word “tares” is inaccurate because “tares” belongs to the bean or pea family, and bear no resemblance to wheat. Even a non-expert like me, could immediately see the difference between tares and wheat. But we are talking about a kind of plant that you simply cannot distinguish from the wheat until the grain appears. So the Authorized Version translation of “tares” is quite inaccurate.

The same goes for the Revised Standard Version’s translation of “weeds”. Have you ever seen weeds bearing fruit? You have a hopeless contradiction in your hands here! Weeds do not bear fruit at all. But the RSV probably deliberately uses this word because they know that the general public does not know a technical name for this kind of weed, since most of us are not botanists. So they deliberately used this general word, “weeds.” But if you are a thinking person you would immediately say, “Since when did weeds bear fruit? I have not seen any weeds bearing fruit or grain!”

The Chinese translation, “稗子” has much the same problem. This is a form of weed that grows in the rice fields, not in the wheat fields. There is a kind of weed that looks very much like the rice plant when the rice is growing, and so the Chinese translators have decided to speak of a rice field in which weeds are coming up. Unfortunately for them, they forgot that the Lord Jesus is talking about wheat, and so having rice weeds growing among the wheat creates a problem.

In fact, the technical name of the plant is “the bearded darnel.” Now what is darnel? The Chinese term for it is most revealing; it is called “毒麥”, which means poisonous wheat. Now that is a very, very good Chinese translation of darnel, and all the experts tell us that this is what the plant is.

Let us consider this darnel, the poisonous wheat. It usually only grows in wheat fields, and it so closely resembles the wheat that even an expert has difficulty telling which is wheat and which is darnel until they produce the fruit, the ears of grain. How can you tell when the ear of grain comes up? It is because the kernel of the darnel is black, and if you bite it, it is bitter. But you will be wise not to eat it because the grain that the darnel produces is poisonous! Hence the Chinese name “毒麥” or poisonous wheat is so accurate. It looks like wheat, and it is poisonous. Anyone who eats the darnel mistaking it for wheat will end up with dizzi­ness, sleepiness, nausea, diarrhea, convulsions (cramps and shaking), gangrene (rotting in various parts of your body) and even death. So the fruit of the darnel is black and poisonous, whereas the fruit of the wheat is whitish and nourishing. This is very important for understanding this parable.

By now we must realize that we are dealing with two plants which look very similar, but are completely different in essence. That is very important for understanding this parable. How then do you tell the difference between these plants? Exactly as the Lord Jesus says in Matthew 12:33, “By their fruit you shall know them—a good tree brings forth good fruit; a bad tree brings forth bad fruit.”

Both wheat and darnel grow in the kingdom of God, that is, inside the church, allegedly under the kingship of God. I say “allegedly” because there are evildoers in the kingdom of God at the present time, as this and other parables tell us. You will remember the Parable of the Wedding Feast in Matthew 22:1-14, where this man got into the wedding feast without the wedding garment, and he was slung out of the feast although he was already in it. What a tragic situation!

The next thing I would like you to notice is the close relationship of the darnel and the wheat. The two are intertwined in their relationship to each other, emphasizing the point that they function inside the kingdom of God. That is why the Lord Jesus warns that to pull up the darnel will result in pulling up the wheat. You just have to leave it there for now until the time of the Judgment.

Where do these darnel come from? The Lord Jesus says, “These are sown by the enemy.” The enemy is Satan. By his own strategy of fighting against the kingship of God, Satan has sown these darnel into God’s kingdom. Bear in mind that the darnel represent people just as the wheat do. The darnel do not represent unbelievers. The devil will sow into the midst of God’s church, people who are in essence not genuine Christians, but who have the outward behavior of Christians. They behave like Christians up to a point; they talk like Christians up to a point—but they are not Christians in their heart. As Paul says in 2Timothy 3:5, they only have the outward appearance of godliness, but they do not have the power of God’s life inside them.

Tragedy: the darnel think they are genuine Christians!

The next point we have to develop is that although the darnel are simply not genuine Christians, this does not mean they themselves think that they are not genuine Christians. That is very important to bear in mind. As we study the words in this parable, we realize there is a further tragedy: these darnel think that they are wheat! It is precisely because they look so much like the wheat that they even believe themselves to be wheat. That is the greatest tragedy of all! It is not that the church is full of people who are deliberately in there to destroy the church. Not at all! They are simply people who are not genuine Christians, who function inside the church, and think themselves to be genuine Christians. So all these show us that in this prophetic parable, the Lord Jesus is saying that where God is working, Satan will also work. Where God is bringing forth life, Satan is busy bringing forth death.

That raises a vital question: How do you know whether you are truly wheat or whether you are darnel? Exactly how are you going to tell? Do not satisfy yourself by saying, “I am a church member”, “I’m very active in the church”, “I’ve been baptized” and all this. That is no consolation. Remember, the darnel are all inside the church, as we saw in other parables of the Lord Jesus. There are two different kinds of life in the church: one is the life of the wheat, the other is the life of the darnel. One comes from God, the other from the enemy, Satan, as it says in this parable. Time and again, those who are not genuine Christians are found in the church, and not only that, they are found in abundance, because when Satan sowed darnel among the wheat, he did not just sow one or two. Why does Satan do this? It is very easy to understand. It is so that the darnel or the many false “Christians” will choke the wheat (as we saw in the Parable of the Sower), who had made a genuine response to the gospel.

You may have the confidence that you are a true Christian, but the point is, are you a true Christian in God’s eyes? It is not whether you are a true Christian in your own eyes, or whether I am a true Christian in my own eyes. Paul says, “I do not even judge myself” (1 Cor. 4:3). The question is whether I am a Christian in God’s eyes. Paul says, “Let a man examine himself” (1 Cor. 11:28).

The darnel don’t submit to God’s kingship

How do we know if we are wheat or darnel? In Matthew 13:41, the explanation of this parable, we read: “The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom “all causes of sin and all evildoers.” These weeds are in fact, stumbling blocks inside the church. The Greek word, σκάνδαλον meaning “stumbling blocks” is translated as “causes of sin.” But the other Greek word, ἀνομίαν is translated as “evildoers” [in the RSV, NIV], and it is not accurate at all because it gives the wrong impression. The Greek word, ἀνομίαν means “doers of lawlessness.” You can understand why they translate this term “doers of lawlessness” as “evildoers” because if you do lawlessness, you are an evildoer, and quite rightly so. But as we compare how this word is used elsewhere in the New Testament, a picture which is very important for understanding the darnel emerges. This same word in the Greek, ἀνομίαν is used in Matthew 7:23. Let us read from Matthew 7:21-23.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name and do mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’”

There you discover that what should be translated as “doers of lawlessness” is not used of unbelievers, but of Christian workers! That is something really striking! Verse 21 says that these people call him, “Lord, Lord”, but the Lord Jesus says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven (the future kingdom of God). Only those who do God’s will now will enter.”

Verse 22 says that “on that Day”, that is on the Day of Judgment, many people who called Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” who have prophesied in Jesus’ name, who have cast out demons in his name, who have done mighty works of healing in his name, are “evildoers”, the same Greek word as “evildoers” in Matthew 13:41, and it means doers of lawlessness!

There you see the Parable of the Wheat and the Darnel coming out. These doers of lawlessness are in fact, these Christian workers, not unbelievers! These people call Jesus “Lord” and maybe they even mean it to some extent, but they don’t do God’s will. Jesus’ desire is that we honor him by faithfully obeying his teaching. Now this is Biblical teaching. I don’t care what any kind of dogma or theology anybody holds. You can go on teaching dogma, doctrines, whatever you like, but you would best see to it that your doctrines are Scriptural, because if they are not, your doctrines will get you right to where these people got to. On that Day of Judgment, they will end up in the flames of fire.

Did these people have faith? They certainly had faith. Nobody who does anything in Jesus’ name has not got faith! They cast out demons in Jesus’ name. They believed in Christ Jesus’ name so the power of God can be given to them. They had faith. Do you have that kind of faith? They could prophesy in Jesus’ name. Do you have faith to prophesy? They had faith. But what they did not have was the aim of doing God’s will. Prophesying is not equivalent to doing God’s will. Doing miracles—and there are a lot of faith healers today—is not equivalent to doing God’s will. Doing God’s will is living a life of holiness. Now you see why the Scripture emphasizes holiness. Living a life of holiness simply means that you live completely and totally under God’s kingship, that He is truly King of your life. That is Scriptural teaching. Have we got ears to hear? Or have our doctrines blinded us to God’s truth? Alas for the church! What has happened to us? Is not God’s truth plain enough to us? Thus unless we are committed to doing His will, unless we are totally committed to Him, we are in danger of finding ourselves to be darnel!

Let me sum up again for you very clearly. Unless you crown God King of your life, even if you do those miracles because you have faith in Jesus’ name, you will not be saved. It is not the faith to do miracles that saves. It is the faith in Jesus Christ, which submits to living under God’s rule that saves.

Distinguish carefully between “faith” and faith in the Bible. That is why the apostle James says, “Show me your faith by your works. I want to see what kind of faith you are talking about” (James 2:18). If your faith is the kind that does miracles, it is not going to save you. It is the faith in Jesus Christ that acknowledges Yahweh God as King in your daily life moment by moment, day by day, that God wants in the first place, although it may not be as spectacular as doing miracles. If in addition to that you can also do miracles through the God-empowered name of Jesus, that would be wonderful! But the one cannot replace the other.

How I hope that by God’s grace you can truly see what God is saying to us. It is what you are that matters to God. What you do is not very important to Him. I say this in warning to all those young people who think that by being very busy in the church, running around organizing this and organizing that, shows how good a Christian you are. Some people who have just come to this church say, “I want to do something in the church,” and if they are not given something to do, they will go somewhere else. That is fine with me. Dear brothers and sisters, by all means go, because if you think in this way, you have not yet understood that God wants to see what you are first of all. I want to see what you are before you have something to do. It is easy to find jobs for people to do, but you can harm them more than be a blessing to them, because they think that by their many activities, they are wonderful Christians. “I am president of this CCF (Chinese Christian Fellowship), I am running this, I am organizing that. I am leading this Bible Study, and I am doing that.” I don’t doubt you are very busy, but what are you in yourself? Are you wheat or are you darnel? All the activities make you look like a true Christian outwardly, but what are you inwardly?

The darnel thought they would be saved!

Notice further the great tragedy: these people in Matthew Chapter 7 thought that they would be saved! On the Day of Judgment, they are even presenting their works saying, “Lord, Lord, did we not do this and that in your name?” They had honestly thought that because they did all this they could be saved. They really had faith in Jesus. But Jesus turns them away.

The Day of Judgment will be a fearful day of surprises! There are many people who will be thinking: “My seat is reserved for me in heaven,” but Jesus will say to them, “I don’t know who you are. Depart from me! Who are you? You are not wheat!” The tragedy of it is that they were led to believe that they were true Christians.

The devil is the father of lies. Do you believe his lie that you can be a true Christian without holiness, that you can be saved without having God’s kingship in your life? Then you are in the most pitiful condition of all!

To put it simply, the parallel between the wheat and the darnel is the parallel between two kinds of people in the church: the kind of person who believes in Jesus as Savior, and the kind of person who believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior. If you are a Christian because you simply believe that Jesus is the Savior, and think, “Jesus is there to do something for me. He gets me to heaven. That is all I want”, then you have believed a lie, and you are in danger of being a darnel! They want to have eternal life; they want to have salvation, but they don’t want to do God’s will. That is why they don’t want Jesus to be Lord in their life, to follow him to obey God.

A.W. Tozer, that great servant of God, who wrote many wonderful books, made this statement in his book called The Root of the Righteous: “The great heresy in the teaching of the church today, is to teach Jesus as Savior without teaching him as Lord (Acts 2:36) at the same time.” He is only Savior to those to whom he is Lord. That is why in the Bible, you will find that Jesus is always spoken of as “Lord and Savior”, in that order. It is Lord first and then Savior! You do not have him as Savior without having him as Lord, so that you commit yourself to following him to totally obey God.

Today, so often in the teaching of the church, evangelists and pastors like to say, “Accept Jesus as Savior,” but not a word is said about him as “Lord”. The preaching of the lordship of Christ is reserved only for consecration or discipleship meetings. First, you become some sort of a “Christian”, and later you become a “higher type of Christian” when you consecrate yourself to God. But even if you don’t go on to the “higher” stage you will still be saved. There is no teaching about submitting to the lordship of Christ, as Christ submits to the kingship of God. They want to make use of Jesus to save themselves. Maybe one day, if they are up to it they might say, “Well, I will also have Jesus as Lord, but it doesn’t matter.”

Alas! Anyone who teaches as such is teaching a lie of the devil, as even this great servant of God, A.W. Tozer, has repeatedly warned. But that is standard teaching today, isn’t it? I was brought up on that teaching. If you were brought up on this teaching, that is what has closed our eyes to the Word of God. This is entirely unscriptural. Unless Jesus is Lord right from the beginning, he is not your Savior at all, because you are not doing God’s will as Jesus did, and so you will not find salvation in Christ. The darnel will not enter the kingdom of God in that final stage of the harvest. All this is exceedingly important and basic for us to understand about salvation.

When I preach the Word of God, people say, “He has confused consecration with justification!” I have confused nothing. There are not too many people who have spent as much time in theology as I have, and I am not going to make elementary mistakes of this kind. I confuse nothing. The Scriptural teaching is so. As Paul says, “You drive me to it and I behave like a fool” (2 Cor. 11:16-18). To separate justification into two stages of submission to “savior” and to “lord”, the second of which is optional is simply Satan’s lie!

The darnel are blinded with religion by Satan

I want you to understand this because it concerns your salvation. The darnel were sown by Satan, but they honestly believed that they are Christians and are in the kingdom of God, which they were at that stage until they were thrown out. It is the same tragedy.

The darnel are the sons of the devil, but do you think that the sons of the devil are conscious that they are sons of the devil? Alas, no! You only need to read John 8:39-44 to realize this. There the Jews say, “We are sons of Abraham.” The Lord Jesus also said to these Jews, God’s chosen people, and the Pharisees, the most religious law keepers, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did.” Abraham crowned God as King in his life—he did whatever God told him to do, and went wherever God sent him. Then in verse 44, the Lord Jesus says, “You are of your father the devil”! The unbelievers are not described as sons of the devil, but these religious people who wanted to excel in their own righteousness are. Search and see for yourself that the Bible does not call non-Christians “sons of the devil.” Sometimes, it gives you the shock of your life to understand these things when you read the Bible.

The Lord Jesus did not say this to insult them, but in the hope of making a correct diagnosis so that they can be saved. You have got to tell a sick man that he is sick, otherwise he thinks he is healthy. You may have cancer in yourself, and up to a point you feel very healthy. My father was feeling fit before he died of cancer. He just went for a routine check up and the doctor said, “What is this lump you have here?” He said, “What lump?” “This lump here.” “Oh! It doesn’t hurt. It’s nothing.” Two months later, he was dead. He was feeling fine when he went for his medical check-up.

It proves absolutely nothing that you feel you are all right. The quest­ion is, what is your true spiritual state? Do you know that the disease is there and killing you? No. That is why when Jesus says to them, “You are of your father, the devil,” he is not trying to insult them. He is saying, “Come to your senses. Until you receive God as King of your life, you are still going to be sons of the devil, and you are going to perish in your sins.”

In John 9:41, he says to them, “Because you say you see, your sins are with you.” They thought everybody else is blind, but they are the ones who see. Oh, nothing is more frightful in our lives than when we think we are something we are not! That is the utmost tragedy! God help us to be saved from that! May I ever come before God and say, “Lord, I just want to be open to You. I beg of You, just show me myself not as I think I am, but as I truly am.”

Distinguish the wheat and darnel by their fruit: Do God’s will

How then do we know ourselves as we truly are? Are we left to inner feelings, guessing whether or not we are truly Christians? Thanks be to God we are not left in that desperate state! In this parable, the Lord Jesus tells us how in verse 26. When the fruit came out, we were told you could see the difference. What is the fruit in the Bible? You know at once that the fruit is the fruit of the Spirit. It is holiness in your life. Have you got holiness in your life? Do you go home and quarrel with your brother and your sister? Do you quarrel with fellow Christians, with your landlord or landlady? Do you behave like a non-Christian at college? Or do you keep losing your temper? How do you behave? Are you going to be saved? You will know yourself by your fruit (Mt. 7:20).

You may think I am a wonderful Christian. I know whether I am a wonderful Christian or not. I look at myself and I see just how much I fail, but I also see how much, by God’s grace, He has made me what I am. If I see any good in me, I can only say with Paul, “I am what I am by the grace of God” (1 Cor. 15:10). I know what I was before; I know what I am now. I know what God has done in my life and I say, “Thanks be to You, God.”

You know you are a true Christian when other people begin to see a change in you, and you honestly know that change is God’s work in your heart. You are bearing the fruit of the Spirit in your life, as Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit of God witnesses with your spirit that you are a child of God.” You have powerful assurance because God’s Spirit witnesses with you; and His Spirit witnesses with you because He is producing the fruit powerfully at the same time.

Do you still lose your temper? How do you behave? Don’t say that your behavior doesn’t matter. Satan wants you to believe: “It doesn’t matter how you behave; you are going to be saved anyway.” How you behave is an indication whether or not you are a new creature. That is why it is so important. “Without holiness, no man shall see God” (Heb. 12:14). Without the holiness that God’s holy Spirit works into your life, you shall not see God.

Are you wheat or are you darnel? Remember again, the darnel is poisonous. That is why it must be carefully separated from the wheat. In fact, if any mistake is made during the reaping period, and some of the darnel gets mixed up with the wheat and is ground into flour, people are going to get very badly sick when they eat this mixed flour. That is why the darnel has to be carefully separated and burned. I pray that God will help you to understand this message; that God will open your eyes and my eyes so that together we may ever say, “O God, search me and try my heart and see if there be any wicked way in me.”

One final point: remember, these evildoers are not people who go around committing murder, committing adultery or the like. Don’t say to yourself, “Well, I didn’t commit murder, I didn’t commit adultery, so I’m not one of these evildoers.” Don’t deceive yourself. Remember, the evildoers apply to those people who carried out miracles. This word “evildoers” is also applied to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:28. And as I reminded you, this Greek word translated as “evildoers” actually means “doers of lawlessness”. That means to say they don’t live under God’s law, God’s kingship. They believe whatever they want to believe. They do whatever they want to do.

Bear in mind carefully these matters so that holiness is perfected in your life, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:1-2.

“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.”

Why does God not separate the darnel from the wheat?

Then we ask the question, “Why does God tolerate a “mixed” church, in which good and bad are mixed? Why does God not separate the darnel from the wheat? Why does He not allow His servants to pull them up? Well, the answer to this question depends on whether you have understood what the darnel are.

1. The darnel are so hard to distinguish

We have already seen just how difficult it is to distinguish between darnel and wheat. Do you know which is wheat and which is darnel? We also saw in John 8:33-44, that these Pharisees and Jews thought they were sons of God because they were sons of Abraham. But the Lord Jesus said to them, “You are of your father the devil.” Now that is a shock! His answer was straightforward and simple. Why? “If you were sons of Abraham spiritually speaking, and therefore sons of God, you would live and behave as Abraham lived.

When God said, “Go,” Abraham went, asking no questions. He did whatever God said to him. He was a man of faith, and faith in the Bible is a total commitment. He simply obeyed God totally.

The Lord Jesus is saying to the Jews, “Don’t think to yourselves that you are sons of God. You are not because you don’t do the Father’s will.” It is exactly the same teaching as in Matthew 7:21f. If we are God’s children, we would be doing His will. The Spirit of God in us would motivate us to live the kind of life that Jesus lived.

2. It is not up to us to judge

How can you see whether a person is doing the Father’s will or not? The Lord Jesus can see that, but can you? Well, to some extent we can, but we cannot be that sure. It is not up to us to judge. I cannot say to you, “You know you didn’t do one or two things right, and I don’t think that is very good. Therefore I have decided that you are not a son of God. You are a darnel; you are not a wheat.” I cannot make that judgment.

There are many Christians today, who don’t do God’s will in their lives. They don’t live under God’s kingship. They do whatever they want to do. They don’t even behave like Christians to a great extent, but they have not committed any serious sins, like these people in Matthew 7:21f who say, “Lord, Lord,” but do not do the Father’s will. They did not commit any crimes; they did not commit murder; they did not commit adultery. You cannot use church discipline on them because they have not done anything terribly serious. But the same is true of most non-Christians. They also did not commit murder. They also did not commit adultery. They live reasonably decent lives when you look at them from the outside.

What can you say? On what basis will you exclude them from the church? If you put them through a test of faith and ask, “Do you believe in the name of Jesus?” the darnel would say, “Yes,” just as those people in Matthew 7:21 said, “Lord, Lord,” but they did not do the Father’s will as Jesus did. Everybody can say, “Lord, Lord.”

The Israelites said the same thing. Isaiah 29:13 says, “This people honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.” They have “the form of godliness.” So on what basis can you judge them, and remove them from the church? Once you understand the nature of the darnel, you can see that you simply cannot remove them. Firstly, it is because they are so hard to distinguish. Secondly, it is because it is not up to us to judge. It is my task to preach the gospel; it is not my task to judge people.

The darnel cause great harm to the church invisibly

But do they cause harm? Sure, they cause great harm to the church! In what way do they harm the church? Notice the way they cause damage. It is not by anything they do outwardly. If you look at the field of wheat with the darnel in it, the darnel are not doing anything to the wheat, are they? The darnel stands there and the wheat stands there. The darnel is not hurting the wheat. They say, “I have not done anything.” That is the whole problem.

So where is the damage being done? Well, the parable tells us the damage is being done underground, invisibly. The roots are causing the damage. Why? For one thing, they are soaking up the nourishment that the wheat could use, and so to some extent slowing down the growth of the wheat. Some of these roots might even succeed in choking some of the wheat, as we saw in the Parable of the Sower. These darnel really do cause damage. They hinder the general witness of the church. The church should be shining out much more brightly than it does. Why is it not shining? Well, look at the church—it is full of darnel. It is very hard to shine with all these darnel in it.

How can we remove it? The parable here tells us, if you pull up the darnel, you might pull up the wheat with it, because the wheat has its roots tangled with the darnel. They are so close together that if you pull up one, you might pull up the other. In the very attempt to remove all the false Christians from the church, you could damage an awful lot of true Christians. That is what the Lord Jesus warns. He does not want one true Christian, one true disciple to be damaged. He cares for every one of them. So what can we do? We cannot do anything! We have to wait for the harvest when the Lord Jesus will send his angels to separate the wheat from the darnel. Until then, we’ll have to wait.

What is God’s purpose for the darnel?

But then you might say rather impatiently, “I understand that we cannot remove the darnel from the wheat. It is hard for me to distinguish; the roots are entangled, so I might hurt some of the wheat, but why does God do nothing about it? Why does He not strike down these phony Christians? Why does He not purge His church so that the church will truly become what it should be right now?”

Oh, how we long for that! Like the disciples in Luke 9:54, we want to call down fire from heaven and say, “Burn up these darnel! Or maybe God could devise a special kind of bug—as they do in biological warfare against pests—and this bug will only eat up the darnel and leave all the wheat standing. It is not beyond the capabilities of God to devise such a bug! In this way, the darnel will be destroyed and the wheat will not be uprooted. Why does He leave the darnel there? He does not seem to do anything about it!” That is the way we think.

Persecution in the church makes true Christians stronger

Ponder for a moment. Has God not got a purpose in all this? What is His purpose? First and foremost, what does the wheat have to do although the darnel do become a trial to it? In the struggle to survive against the darnel, the wheat become a stronger type of wheat. The struggle for survival has a strengthening effect. We have always seen these illustra­tions: the tree that grows up on the mountains, blown by every fierce wind always has powerful roots. It is strong. It can withstand the weather. But the tree in sheltered places topples over when the storm comes unexpectedly, because it has never learned to put its roots deep down to anchor upon the rock.

For us, trials are unpleasant. We don’t like trials. We don’t like sufferings. We don’t like to be tested by fellow Christians. We say, “I’m willing to take all this from non-Christians. Let the non-Christians do what they like to me, but I don’t want to be persecuted by people who call themselves “Christians”!” Now if you have followed the Biblical teaching so far, dearly beloved, you will know that those who will persecute you most bitterly will be those people who call themselves “Christians”. It has always been the case down through the centuries. You will suffer most at the hands of those who call themselves “Christians”. As I have said many times before, beloved brothers and sisters, understand it very well because unless you understand it, you may fall. This is why the Lord Jesus told us, “You are going to have trials. There are darnel among the wheat, and they will test your patience no end. They may choke you if you are not careful. So put your roots down deep. Draw deep upon God’s grace, because His grace is sufficient for you.”

When I was hardly a few months old as a Christian, I saw the behavior of certain “Christians”, and I nearly went down. I didn’t want to become a Christian because those “Christians” disgusted me. How many people have had a similar experience! I never cease to meet non-Christians who tell me “Well, I don’t want to have anything to do with Christians, because I have seen some Christians and they disgust me!”

I have complete sympathy for these non-Christians because that was exactly the way I felt. I know non-Christians who are nicer than Christ­ians, who are more considerate than Christians, who are more generous than Christians. I am sure you know those non-Christians too. So, no wonder the non-Christians say, “Who wants to become a Christian? Look at these Christians!” I have complete sympathy for them. I know exactly how they feel. I never wanted to become a Christian because of such “Christians”.

Look only to Jesus!

Then I began to look to Jesus! (Heb. 12:2) My heart is attracted to him. I don’t look at these so-called “Christians” anymore.

After I had become a Christian, I lived with a certain “Christian” elderly lady. Oh, dear me! I think more than once I nearly decided that is enough of Christianity for me. This person has been a “Christian” for 20 years, and I have been a Christian for two months, but look at the disgraceful way she behaves! I thought like this until God said, “My grace is sufficient for you. (2 Cor. 12:9) Just follow the example of Jesus. The church has all kinds of other people in it. Never mind what they do, or what happens to them.”

You will say, “But they have been Christians longer than me. Should they not be an example to me?” Yes, they should, but unfortunately, often you will not have an example. They may be wheat, but very weak and sickly, or they may be darnel. That is not for me to judge. I don’t know. The Lord Jesus will separate them one day. As for me, I will keep my eyes on him.

All through my Christian life, I have had the same problem. I have not had much problem with non-Christians. I have suffered a little persecution from the Communists, but that is nothing much compared to problems we have with “Christians”, people who simply do not do God’s will, who do not live under God’s kingship. In due time, I was able to see that many of them were darnel. One after the other, they fell away. As John said, “They went out from us because they were not of us” (1 Jo. 2:19). They fell away. People who used to be active youth leaders—they used to be loud in the churches; they used to organize this and that—where are they today? They are far from God! They don’t even pretend to be Christians anymore, which is just as well for the church. Unfortun­ately, there are others who still call themselves “Christians”, although they don’t live in total commitment to God. It is these who give us an awful lot of headache. So bear this in mind.

God uses the darnel to produce a vigorous crop of wheat

We ask then, why does God not destroy all the darnel? Oh no! God has a purpose. They try us, but thanks be to God, we will learn to put our roots down deeper into God to draw more completely upon His grace. As well, we will learn to look to Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2; Rom. 15:5). As for us, we would like to remove the darnel, but as for God, He has a purpose to leave them in.

This answers the same question, why did God not prevent Satan from sowing the darnel in the first place? Whether God allows Satan to sow the darnel, or whether He destroys the darnel after Satan has sowed them—either way it comes to the same thing. The fact is that He allows the darnel to be in His field for the present time.

Of course, this may not make very good agricultural sense. I doubt that many farmers would like to sow darnel among their wheat to produce a strong crop of wheat. You can see the Lord Jesus’ parables are not here to teach us agricultural logic. They are here to teach us spiritual truth and reality. In the field, it may not work like this, but in the spiritual life, it does work like this.

So, let us also realize one thing if we begin to get discouraged. When we look around at the church today and we ask, how will the church ever be the light of the world? What hope is there in the church that is full of people who are so superficial, or perhaps not even genuine Christians? We feel so discouraged. Don’t be discouraged! The Lord God is the Lord of the harvest. He knows what He is doing. Don’t worry about the harvest. He will fulfill His purpose. Thus we see at the end of this parable, there is a great harvest. The wheat are brought in, and God’s purpose is accomplished—not only in spite of the darnel, but in a certain way because of it. He produces a strong, vigorous crop of wheat.

In case we become discouraged, the Lord Jesus gives the next parable, the Parable of the Mustard Seed to reinforce this very important fact that, God’s purpose cannot be defeated.


(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church