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9. The Parable of the Wheat and the Darnel

– Chapter 9 –

The Parable of the Wheat and the Darnel

Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43

Montreal, August 13, 1978


Today we come to the Parable of the Wheat and the Darnel in Matthew 13:24–30, along with its explan­ation in verses 36–43. First we read the parable which is given by the Lord Jesus:

He put another parable before them, saying, “The king­dom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So 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.’” (Matthew 13:24–30, ESV)

His 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, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is 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 law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:36–43, ESV)

How do we understand the kingdom of God?

The kingdom of God means the kingship of God

As you look at this parable, you will immediately see that it deals with two kinds of planting in the kingdom of God: one of wheat, the other of weed or tares. Correspondingly, I would like you to ponder on the observ­able differences between two types of people in the kingdom.

This parable is about the kingship of God, as seen in the opening words: “He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The king­dom of heaven …’” (v.31). The “kingdom of heaven” is Matthew’s parallel to Luke’s “kingdom of God”. People today are unfamiliar with the term “kingdom of God,” so they ask, “Is the kingdom of God the church? What does it mean?” The kingdom of God simply means God’s rule, God’s kingship.

The Revised Standard Version translates John 18:36 correct­ly as “My kingship is not of this world,” whereas the Authorized Version (KJV) has, “My kingdom is not of this world.” The English word “king­dom” for this sense is somewhat archaic, whereas “kingship” is more understand­able today. This para­ble, like many of Jesus’ parables, is about God’s kingship, God’s rule, God’s government in the world.

The kingdom of God can be given or taken away

It will take many sessions to expound the kingdom of God, but we can turn to Matthew 21:43 which is a good verse for understand­ing what “kingdom” means. Here the Lord Jesus says to the Jews:

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. (NKJV)

Instead of “kingdom,” you can read the statement with the word “kingship,” and it will say the same thing:

Therefore I say to you, the kingship of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

I hope that you as a Christian would truly understand what God’s kingdom or God’s kingship means. What does it mean? For one thing, we notice that the kingdom of God is not equivalent to the church, for the kingdom can be taken away from a nation and given to another. God’s kingship was taken away from Israel, and then given to this new nation, the church, which is called “a holy nation” in 1 Peter 2:9.

In Scriptural teaching, the kingship of God can be given to you, but it can also be taken away. The kingship of God is not some kind of permanent possess­ion that you can keep for good. God was King over Israel, but He took His kingship away from Israel and gave it to the church. That is Paul says in Romans chapters 9 to 11, especially in 11:17–18, which says that Israel was broken off, and now Christians are planted into the tree despite not being originally part of the tree. It is another picture that says the same thing, namely, taking away the kingdom and giving it to another.

Privileges and responsibilities

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

Have you received God’s kingdom? That will depend on whether God is King of your life. Having God as King of your life brings responsibilities and supreme privileges. What are the privil­eges? God will bring all the blessings of eternal life, the fruit of the Spirit, and holiness, into your life if He is King of your life. But if God doesn’t reign in your life, you are not part of His kingdom. So there are Christians and then there are “Christians,” this being the point of this parable on God’s kingship.

Two stages to the kingdom of God

Furthermore, we need to be aware that there are two stages to God’s kingdom or kingship. One is the present stage, the other is the future stage. The first part of the parable is about the present stage, whereas the last part, verse 30, speaks of a future stage when all evildoers will be gathered out of the kingdom, and God will establish His kingdom in judgment and justice.

That this parable is exceedingly important is seen in the closing words, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” which when used by the Lord Jesus always indicates that what he has just said is important. Some have ears, but do not hear. Regard­ing those who have ears to hear, who are Jesus’ sheep, and who have God as King of their lives, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.”

The second reason for the importance of this parable lies in the fact that it is the only parable, along with the Parable of the Sower, for which an explanation is given. Whereas the other parables are not given an explanation, the Lord Jesus explains this parable; hence it is a foundation parable, just like the Parable of the Sower.

Come to Jesus’ teaching with an open mind

The more I study the teaching of the Lord Jesus, the more I am amazed by its depth, riches and power. Today we will pick out the central elements of this parable and look at them. But I am also amazed that this parable is usually not expounded in detail in the church today. How many of you have heard this parable expounded in a systematic fashion? I have been a Christian for 20 years, and I seldom hear Jesus’ teaching expounded mean­ingfully anywhere. It seems that preachers stick to a handful of verses from Paul, and have little use for those outside these limited few verses. You cannot preach the Word of God like that, or else you will be completely lopsided by dwelling on the same few verses all the time. You must preach the full Word of God, the whole counsel of God. That is why we are study­ing all of Jesus’ teaching, seeking to understand it by the Spirit’s guidance, and not merely selecting a few passages here and there.

The more I study the Lord Jesus’ teaching and compare it with the church’s teaching today, the more I see that if you start with the church’s teaching, you will be unable to expound Jesus’ teaching properly, because your mind will be closed to what it says. If you come to Bible with certain fixed dogmas and doctrines in your mind, this will prevent you from understand­ing the Lord’s teaching. This was what hap­pened to me. When I first studied the Lord Jesus’ teaching, I could not understand it. It was speak­ing a language I did not under­stand because my mind had been taught certain doctrines and dogmas. My doctrines were in conflict with the Lord’s teaching, so I shut out his teaching, something that happens all too often in the church today.

I say this by way of warning: Unless you come with an open mind and put away your dogmas and doctrines, you will not under­stand Jesus’ teachings. Some pastors like to say, “Teach the people dogmas and doctrines.” Yes indeed you can teach dogmas and doctrines, but whose dogmas and whose doctrines? Are we going to teach someone’s dogmas? Dogmas are formulations and definit­ions made by man, and once you accept them, you won’t accept anything else. That is why pastors are keen that you should be given dogmas, because this will fix your thinking in a particular way.

If we have to speak of dog­mas, I wish we had only one dogma, and that is to accept as true whatever Jesus says. That is enough for me. I am going to stick by this. His words are spirit and life! (John 6:63) I won’t allow anybody’s dogma or doctrine to decide whether I accept Jesus’ teaching as he taught it. If any dogma can be expounded in the light of his teaching without disagreement between them, that would be wonderful! But I won’t 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, with my mind closed to it.

For example, if you come to the Word of God with the standard church teaching that eternal life is attained through a faith that does not require holiness, with holiness being a “second stage” of the Christian life, you will find it impossible to accept Jesus’ teaching. You are not going to listen to him because you have decided in advance what is true and what is not. This is the disaster!

All too often today, when one speaks of doctrines or dogmas, it means the doctrines of Calvin, the doctrines of Augustine, the doc­trines of the Roman Catholic Church. If you are Catholic, you would hold on to the doctrines of Catholicism, and won’t listen to what the Bible has to say. If you already believe in purgatory, which is a dogma of the Catholic Church, what would you do when you read the Bible and find no purgatory in it? You will say, “It doesn’t matter that the Bible says nothing about purgatory. The Catholic Church says there is purgatory, and I accept their dogma.”

The Roman Catholic Church used to say that there is no salvation outside their church. Then they modified that statement at the council called Vatican II, but that used to be a dogma. You see, human doctrines can be changed! So which is right, the doctrine before Vatican II or the doctrine after Vatican II?

To take another example, a common definition of faith is: “We are saved by faith alone, with no need for holiness.” When I preach holiness, people would say, “Don’t talk about holiness, lest you preach salvation by works!”

Do you see how dogma has closed our minds to the teaching of the Lord Jesus? I only ask that each of us come with an open heart. Whose dogmas or doctrines are we teaching? Those who promote doctrines like to say, “Let us teach the doctrines of Calvin,” as though Calvin’s doctrines are equivalent to the Word of God. Or the Roman Catholic says, “Let us teach the doctrines of the Catholic Church,” as though its doctrines are equivalent, even superior, to the Word of God.

What will this lead to? It will be as what the Lord Jesus says to the Pharisees, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” (Mark 7:9) To the Pharisees, the word “tradition” simply means doctrines. You only need to look at the Mishnah to see how they push the Word of God aside to hold on to their doctrines.

The totally committed: changed, sanctified, saved

I am going to expound what the Lord Jesus teaches about salvation in concise terms, and let you compare it with what the church teaches, to see if they are teaching the same thing.

In the teaching of the Lord Jesus, we are saved through a faith that is a total commitment to God, expressed in following Christ, the One sent by God (John 17:3) and who is under God’s authority (Mt. 8:8–9). Jesus expresses this in words which cannot be mistaken: “He who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me” (Mt. 10:38). Unless a person imitates the Lord Jesus in committing him­self totally and without reserve to God as King of his life, and doing whatever God commands him to do, even to the point of taking up the cross to be crucified, he is not worthy of the Lord Jesus.

How plain are the words of Jesus! But we don’t listen to his teach­ing because our doctrines have predisposed our minds to reject it. “It is impossible that Jesus would de­mand so much from us. He gives us everything but will not demand anything from us.” That is the teach­ing today, and I will leave you to decide whether that is what the Lord Jesus teaches.

What about the one who fulfills Jesus’ teaching? When he comes to God and says, “Lord God, I repent of my sins. I will 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 Biblical sense, and it means transform­ation. You are no longer the person you were before; you are a changed person.

The new birth mentioned in John 3:5 is often preached today. But it seems to me that it is often taught as being merely a new status, not a transformation of life. But the Lord Jesus teaches a deep and total change, in the same way that Paul understands the matter: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). The new creation is also preached today, but often as little more than a new status.

But a new creation is more than a new status. If I create something anew, that thing is changed in itself. A new creature means that it is changed. It is not just a new legal status before God, which is what most preachers limit it to. Through faith expressed in total commit­ment, you are trans­formed and be­come a new person in Christ (John 3:3–5). This is the powerful and dynamic teaching of the Lord Jesus, in contrast to the feeble and watered-down message we hear today.

What will be the result of this change? This transformat­ion, which is so complete in its depth, does not mean that you become totally sinless, but it does mean that God’s Spirit so works in your life that you produce the fruit of a new life which is holiness. Hebrews 12:14 says, “without holiness, no man will see God.” I have quoted this verse again and again so that you may get its message, which sums up so perfectly the teaching of Scripture. If your life has been transformed by the Holy Spirit of God in you, you are bound to be holy!

God says, “You shall be holy for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:44–45). The word “perfect” is another word for “holy” in Scripture, which is why the Lord Jesus says, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). God is holy, God is perfect. Both the phrases “be holy” and “be perfect” are used in the Bible, and are a summary of the Lord Jesus’ teaching.

The good seed: God’s children who glorify Him

Let us get to the central points of the parable. First we notice that this parable is in effect a prophecy which illustrates in picture language the kingdom of God. The Lord Jesus says that there are two kinds of plant. One is wheat, the good seed which the Lord Jesus sows into the world: “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world.” (Mt. 13:37–38a) The good seed are the sons of the kingdom, the children of God who live under God’s kingship. This symbolism is differ­ent from that of the Parable of the Sower where the seed is the Word of God.

How does a seed grow? John 12:24 speaks of a seed that falls into the ground and dies, so it grows by dying. There is total commit­ment again. Nobody is prepared to die who is not totally committed. The true Christian is one who is prepared to die, for he is dead to the world and has finished with the life of sin. Only this kind of person can live the kind of life that fulfills God’s Word given 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.

Hence wheat is easy to understand; it represents the true children of God, those who genuinely live under His kingship, having yielded to God as King of their lives.

Jesus sows into the world those who live under God’s kingship. 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 Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “that men may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Yet our church dogmas and doctrines influence us to regard “good works” as a dirty word. Among evangelicals today, “good works” has become a dirty word. But it is not a dirty word to the Lord Jesus who says, “that men may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Why would people give glory to God when they see your good works? When people see your good works, you would expect them to give glory to you. How is it that they give glory to God? It comes from a distinction in the types of good works. The right kind of good works stems from holiness and carry God’s presence. Even the non-Christian can tell that the good works are done by God’s power, and that the holi­ness in you is something that comes from God, not from yourself. They may not know about the Holy Spirit, but they do know that the holiness in you is not something you worked up in yourself, but something that God has done in you.

So perfect are the words of the Lord Jesus that even by this state­ment he has already indicated the kind of good works he means: that which stems from the Spirit of God, and causes people to give glory to God, not to you. Have you ever known a righteous man of God? Do 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 own life the capacity to deflect you to God and away from himself. That is the test of whether your holiness is one that comes from God. If people praise you instead, something must be wrong. But if people look at you and say, “How wonderful God is!” then you have the right kind of holiness and the right kind of good works.

The darnel is found in God’s kingdom

What then do the weeds represent? It is most important for us to have an accurate understanding of what the weeds are. We must not read our own ideas into the Word of God, but expound it with absolute precision.

After Jesus had sown good seed in the world, the enemy, who is the devil, comes along and sows weeds among the wheat. The weeds were not origin­ally in the field, which is the world, but came later.

Do the weeds refer to non-Christians? If so, this would mean that the weeds would have been in the field long before Jesus sows good seeds, since unbelievers were in the world long before Christians appeared. But in the parable, we see the reverse chronology: the weeds were sown by the devil only after the good seed had been sown.

And where are the weeds sown? Among the wheat! The weeds are planted, with deliberate intent, among the wheat rather than somewhere else in the field.

We also see the words “gather out of His kingdom” in Matthew 13:41. In the kingdom there are the evildoers and causes of stumbling, so they have to be taken out. Wouldn’t this mean that unbelievers and evildoers are found in the kingdom of God? As we press on, we will see this point emerging ever more clearly.

What is translated as “weeds” in the Revised Standard Version, and as “tares” in the Authorized Version, are in fact darnel, a kind of plant that grows up looking very much like wheat. To the non-specialist, darnel is indistinguish­able from wheat in the early stages of their growth. Even today, in all the Middle Eastern countries, darnel do not grow in the wild but among wheat. Some even think that darnel is a degenerate form of wheat, but other specialists disagree with that because wheat and darnel are structurally different. That is why in Matthew 13:26–27, the servants see the darnel in the field only after the plants have grown and borne fruit. They previously hadn’t seen the darnel even though it had been growing for a long time before their eyes. Then one day they said, “Look at this! The field is full of darnel!” They went to the master and said, “Did you not sow wheat in your field? How come there are darnel?” The darnel’s true character finally came out.

In this parable, the translation “tares” in the Authorized Version is inaccurate, but we cannot blame the translators for this because back in 1611, they did not know enough about this Greek word, zizanion (ζιζάνιον). The translation “tares” is inaccurate because tares belong to the bean or pea family, and bear no resemblance to wheat. Even a non-expert like me can immediately tell the difference between tares and wheat. But we are talking about a kind of plant that you cannot distinguish from wheat until the grain appears. So the Authorized Version’s rendering “tares” is quite inaccurate.

The same goes for RSV’s translation “weeds.” Have you ever seen weed bearing fruit? Weed does not bear fruit at all. But RSV probably chose this word because the general reader would not know the technical name for this kind of weed, since few of us are botanists. So RSV deliberately chose this general word “weeds.” But if you are a thinking person, you would immediately ask, “Since when do weeds bear fruit? I have never seen weeds bearing fruit or grain!”

The Chinese translation bai zi (稗子) has much the same problem. It refers to a type of weed that grows in rice fields, not wheat fields. It looks like rice plant while the rice is growing, so the Chinese trans­lators have decided to speak of a rice field in which weeds are coming up. Unfortunately for them, the Lord Jesus is talking about wheat; so speaking of rice weed growing among wheat is problematic.

In fact the technical name of the plant is “the bearded darnel”. What is darnel? The Chinese term for it is revealing: du mai (毒麥), which means “poisonous wheat”; this is a good translat­ion of “darnel” for conforming to what experts say about the plant in the parable.

Let us consider the darnel, this “poisonous wheat,” which usually grows only in wheat fields. Darnel so closely resem­bles wheat that even an expert would have difficulty telling which is wheat and which is darnel until they produce fruit, the ears of grain. But before that, how would you tell them apart? By the kernel, which is black. If you bite it, it is bitter. You will be wise not to eat it because darnel grain is poison­ous. Hence the Chinese term du mai “poisonous wheat” is accurate in its description of darnel. Darnel looks like wheat but is poisonous. Anyone who eats darnel mistaking it for wheat will end up with dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, diarrhea, convulsions (cramps and shaking), gangrene (the rot­ting of various parts of your body) and even death. The fruit of darnel is black and poison­ous, whereas the fruit of wheat is whitish and nourishing. This is very important for understanding this parable.

We are dealing with two plants that look similar but are completely different in essence. How then do you tell the difference between these plants? By what the Lord Jesus says in Matthew 12:33, “By their fruit you will know them,” for a good tree yields good fruit, and a bad tree yields 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 parable and others tell us. We are reminded of the Parable of the Wedding Feast in Matthew 22:1–14, in which a man went to a wed­ding feast without a wedding garment, and was slung out of the feast. What a tragic situation!

The next thing to notice is the close relationship of the darnel and the wheat. The two are intertwined in their relationship to each other, indicating that they both function inside the kingdom of God. That is why the Lord Jesus warns that pulling up the darnel will also pull up the wheat. You have to leave the darnel there for now until the Judgment.

Where do these darnel come from? Jesus says, “These are sown by the enemy.” He identifies this enemy as “the devil” — Satan. In his war against God’s kingship, Satan sows darnel in God’s kingdom. Bear in mind that the darnel represent people as is the case with wheat.

The darnel do not represent unbelievers. The devil sows, into the church, people who in essence are not genuine Christ­ians, yet have the outward appearance and behavior of Christians. They behave like Christians up to a point, and talk like Christians up to a point, but they are not Christians in their hearts. As Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:5, they have the outward appearance of godliness, but do not have the power of God’s life inside them.

The darnel think they are genuine Christians

The next point we have to develop is that although the darnel are not genuine Christians, these people don’t necessarily know that they are not true Christians. As we study this parable, we realize a further tragedy: The darnel think they are wheat! It is precisely because they look so much like wheat that they believe themselves to be wheat. That is the greatest tragedy of all.

It is not that these people are in the church with a deliber­ate intent to destroy the church. They are simply people who are not genuine Christians, yet function inside the church and think they are genuine Christians. In this prophetic para­ble, the Lord is saying that where God works, Satan also works. Where God is bringing forth life, Satan is bringing forth death.

That raises a vital question: How do you tell whether you are wheat or darnel? Don’t reassure yourself by saying, “I am a church member,” or “I’m active in church,” or “I’ve been baptized,” and all this. That is no consolation at all, for darnel are found inside the church.

There are two different kinds of life in the church: the life of the wheat versus the life of the darnel. One comes from God, the other from the enemy, identified as the devil in the parable. Non-genuine Christians are found in the church even in abun­dance, for when Satan sows darnel among wheat, he doesn’t just sow one or two seeds. Why does Satan do this? In order that the darnel — the false Christians — will choke the wheat, those who have made a genuine response to the gospel.

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

The darnel do not submit to God’s kingship

How do we tell whether we are wheat or darnel? In Matthew 13:41, in the explanation of the 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.” The darnel are the stumbling blocks inside the church. The Greek word skandalon (σκάνδαλον, “stum­bling blocks”) is here trans­lated as “causes of sin.” The other Greek word anomia (ἀνομία) in this parable is translated as “evildoers” in the RSV, but that is not accurate because anomia literally means “doers of lawlessness.” But we can appreciate why the RSV rendered “doers of lawlessness” as “evildoers,” for if you commit law­lessness, you are an evildoer. As we examine how this word is used elsewhere in the New Testament, an important un­der­standing of the darnel emerges. This same word anomia is used in Matthew 7:23. Let us read 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 workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23, ESV)

Notice that “you workers of lawlessness” (in boldface) do not refer to unbe­lievers but to Christian workers! How striking! These people call Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” but he will say to them, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven — the future kingdom — but only those who do God’s will now.”

This passage speaks of “that day” — a day of judgment in which many will be found to be “evildoers” despite calling Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” and despite having prophesied in Jesus’ name, casting out demons in his name, and doing mighty works of healing in his name. Here the term “evildoers” is from the same Greek word for “evildoers” in Matthew 13:41, that is, doers of lawlessness. Here we see an allusion to the Parable of the Wheat and the Darnel.

These doers of lawlessness are in fact Christian workers rather than unbelievers. They call Jesus “Lord” with sincerity, at least to some extent, but they don’t do God’s will. Jesus’ desire for us is that we honor him by obeying his teaching faithfully. This is the Biblical teaching. I don’t care what kind of dogma or theology you hold. You can teach dogma, doc­trines, whatever you like, but you had best see to it that your doctrines are Scriptural, for if they are not, your doc­trines will land you right into the situation of these peo­ple. On that Day of Judgment, they will end up in the flames of fire.

Did those who call Jesus “Lord” have faith? Certainly. Any­body who does things in Jesus’ name has faith. They cast out demons in Jesus’ name. They believed in Jesus’ name through which God’s power is 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 certainly had faith, but they did not do God’s will. Prophesying is not the equivalent of doing God’s will. Doing miracles — and there are many faith healers today — is not the equivalent of doing God’s will.

Doing God’s will is living a life of holiness. Now you can see why the Scriptures emphasize holiness. Living a life of holiness means that you live totally under God’s kingship such that He is truly King of your life. That is the 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 God’s truth not plain enough to us? Unless we are committed to doing His will and are totally com­mitted to Him, we are in danger of finding ourselves to be darnel!

Let me sum up. Unless you crown God the King of your life, you won’t be saved, not even if you do miracles by faith in Jesus’ name. It is not the faith to do miracles that saves, but the faith in Jesus Christ by which one lives under God’s rule (cf. Gal. 2:20b).

Distinguish so-called “faith” from Biblical faith carefully. The apostle James says, “Show me your faith by your works, for I want to see what kind of faith you are talking about” (cf. James 2:18). If your faith is the type that does miracles, that alone won’t save you. What God requires of you is a faith in Jesus Christ that acknowledges God as King in your life moment by moment, day by day, though it might not be as specta­cular as doing miracles. If in addition to that faith you also do miracles through the God-em­powered name of Jesus, that would be wonderful! But a faith that performs miracles is not a substitute for saving faith.

I hope that we can by God’s grace see what God is saying to us. What matters to God is what you are. What you do is not as important to Him. I say this as warning to the young people who think that by being busy in the church, running around organizing this and that, you are a good Christian. Some people who have only recently come to this church have said, “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. By all means go, because you need to understand that God wants to see what you are, first of all. I want to see what you are before you are given something to do. It is easy to find things for people to do, but this can harm them more than be a blessing to them, for they will think that they are wonderful Christians by their many activities. “I am presi­dent of the Chinese Christian Fellowship, I am running this, I am organiz­ing that, I am leading Bible studies.” I don’t doubt that you are busy, but what are you in yourself? Are you wheat or are you darnel? The activities give you the outward appearance of a true Christian, but what are you inwardly?

The darnel thought they will be saved

Notice the tragedy: The people in Matthew chapter 7 thought that they will be saved! On the Day of Judgment, they will even bring up their works of miracles, saying, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do this and that in your name?” They honestly thought that they will be saved because they did all this. They had sincere faith in Jesus, but he rejects them.

The Day of Judgment will be a fearful day of surprises. Many 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. Are you falling for his lie that you can be a true Christian without holiness, and 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 wheat and darnel is the parallel between two kinds of people in the church: those who believe in Jesus as Savior, and those who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. If you are a Christian simply because you believe that Jesus is your Savior, saying, “Jesus is there to do something for me, like getting me to heaven, which is all I want,” then you have believed a lie, and you are in danger of being darnel. The darnel want eternal life, they want salvat­ion, but they don’t want to do God’s will, or follow Jesus as Lord of their lives.

A.W. Tozer, that great servant of God who wrote many wonder­ful books, made this statement in his book, 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.”

Jesus is Savior only to those to whom Jesus is Lord. The Bible often speaks of him as “Lord and Savior,” in that order. Lord first, then Savior. You don’t have him as Savior without having him as Lord, so you must commit yourself to following him totally. So often today, in the teaching of the church, evangelists and pastors like to say, “Accept Jesus as Savior,” but not a word is said about submit­ting to him as Lord. The preaching of Christ’s lordship is reserved for con­secration or discipleship gatherings: you first become some sort of Christian, then later become a “higher” Christian by consecrating yourself to God. In this teaching, even if you don’t go on to the “higher” stage, you will still be saved. They leave out the part about submitting to the lordship of Christ as Christ submits to the kingship of God, and so people make use of Jesus to save themselves. Maybe one day, if they are up to it, they may say, “I now also have Jesus as Lord, but this is not a necessity.”

Alas! Anyone who teaches this is teaching the devil’s lie, as the great servant of God, A.W. Tozer, has repeatedly warned about. But that is the standard teaching today, isn’t it? I was brought up in this teach­ing. If you and I are nurtured in this teaching, we will close our eyes to the Word of God. But this teaching is wholly unscriptural. Unless Jesus is Lord right from the start of your Christian life, he is not your Savior at all. If you don’t do God’s will as Jesus did, you won’t find salvation in Christ. The darnel will not enter the king­dom of God in the 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 would say of me, “He confuses consecration with justification!” I have confused nothing. I may appear to be a fool to them, just the Corinthian church made Paul appear as a fool in their eyes (2 Cor. 11:16–18). There are not many who have spent as much time in theo­logy as I have, and I am not going to make elementary mistakes of this kind. I confused nothing, for this is Scriptural teaching. Dividing justificat­ion into two stages — accept­ing Jesus as Savior and then as an option submitting to him as Lord — is simply Satan’s lie!

The darnel are blinded by religion

I want you to understand this because it concerns your salva­tion. The darnel were sown by Satan. They sincerely believe that they are Christians and are in the kingdom of God. This will continue until they are thrown out.

The darnel are the sons of the devil, but do you think they know that they are sons of the devil? Alas, no! You only need to read John 8:39–44 to realize this. The Jews were saying to Jesus, “Abraham is our Father,” but the Lord replied to these chosen people of God, and to the Pharisees who were the most religious keepers of the law, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did.” Abraham fol­lowed God as King in his life. He did whatever God told him to do, and went wherever God sent him. Then in verse 44, Jesus says, “You are of your father the devil.” Non-believers are not normal­ly called sons of the devil, but that is exactly how these religious people with their own right­eousness are described. Search for yourself to see that the Bible does not call non-believers “sons of the devil.” Sometimes you get the shock of your life when you see these things in the Bible.

The Lord Jesus did not say this to insult them, but in the hope of giving them a true diagnosis so that they may be saved. You have to tell a sick man that he is sick, or he will think he is healthy. You may have cancer, yet still feel healthy up to a point. My father was feeling fit before he died of cancer. One day he went for a routine checkup, and the doctor said, “What is this lump here?” He said, “What lump?” “This lump here.” “Oh, it’s nothing! It doesn’t hurt.” Two months later, he was dead. Yet he felt fine at his medical checkup.

It proves absolutely nothing that you feel fine. The quest­ion is, What is your true spiritual state? Would you know whether a disease is killing you? Not necessarily.

When Jesus tells them, “You are of your father, the devil,” he is not trying to insult them, but simply saying, “Come to your senses. Unless you receive God as King of your life, you will remain as sons of the devil, and you will perish in your sins.”

In John 9:41, he says to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but because you say you see, your guilt remains.” They thought that they could see, and that everyone else was blind. Nothing is more frightful in our lives than to think that we are what we are not. That is the utmost tragedy! God save us 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 what I truly am, not what I think I am.”

Distinguish the wheat and darnel by their fruit

How then can we know ourselves as we truly are? Does it depend on our inner feelings to guess whether we are true Christians? Thanks be to God we are not left in that desperate state! In this parable, in verse 13:26, the Lord Jesus tells us how to tell: When fruit comes out, we can see the difference between the wheat and the darnel.

What is fruit in the Bible? You already know it is the fruit of the Spirit. It is also holiness. Do you have holiness in your life? Or do you go home and quarrel with your brother or sister? Or quarrel with fellow Christians or with your landlord? Do you behave like a non-Christian at college? Do you keep losing your temper? How do you behave? Do you know whether you are saved? You will know by your fruit (Mt. 7:20).

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

You will know that you are a true Christian when others begin to see a change in you, and you genuinely know that this change is the result of God’s work in your heart. You are bearing the fruit of the Spirit in your life, and, as Romans 8:16 says, the Spirit of God witnesses with your spirit that you are a child of God. You have a powerful assurance because God’s Spirit witnesses with your spirit, and is at the same time producing fruit powerfully.

Do you still lose your temper? How do you behave? Don’t say that your behavior doesn’t matter, because that is exactly what Satan wants you to believe, that you are going to be saved. How you behave is an indication of whether you are a new creature. “Without holiness, no man shall see God” (Heb. 12:14) — the holiness that God’s Spirit works in your life.

Are you wheat or are you darnel? Darnel is poisonous, so it must be carefully separated from the wheat. If errors are made during the reaping process, and some of the darnel is mixed with the wheat and ground into flour, people are going to get very 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 understand this message, to open your eyes and mine, so that we together may ever say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart, and see if there is any wicked way in me” (cf. Psalm 139:23–24).

A final point: These evildoers are not people who go around com­mitting things like murder or adultery. Don’t say to your­self, “Well, I don’t commit murder, I don’t commit adultery, so I’m not one of these evildoers.” Don’t deceive yourself. The word “evildoers” is even applied to those who perform mira­cles, with the same Greek used of the Pharisees (Mt. 23:28). As we have seen, the Greek word for “evildoers” actually means “doers of lawlessness,” namely, those who don’t live under God’s law or kingship. They believe what­ they want, and do what they want.

Keep all these matters in mind so that holiness may be 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. (2 Cor. 7:1–2, ESV)

Why not separate the wheat and the darnel?

Why does God tolerate a mixed church in which the good and the bad coexist? Why doesn’t God separate the darnel from the wheat? Why does He stop His servants from pulling up the darnel? The answer to this question lies in under­standing the nature of darnel.

1. Darnel are hard to distinguish

We have seen how difficult it is to distinguish between darnel and wheat. Can you tell which is wheat and which is darnel? We saw in John 8:33f that the Jews and Pharisees 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” (v.44), a most shocking and straight­forward answer. He also says, “If you are sons of Abraham, spiritually speaking, and hence sons of God, you would live and do as Abraham lived and did.”

When God said “Go,” Abraham went without asking questions. He did whatever God told him to do. He was a man of faith which is total commitment. He obeyed God totally.

Jesus is saying to the Jews, “Don’t say to yourselves that you are sons of God, for you don’t even do the Father’s will.” That is exactly the teaching in Matthew 7:21f. If we are God’s children, we would do His will. The Spirit of God in us will motivate us to live the kind of life that Jesus lived.

2. It’s not up to us to judge

How do you tell whether a person is doing the Father’s will or not? Jesus can tell, but can you? To some extent we can, but we cannot be sure. So it is not up to us to judge. I cannot say to you, “You’re not doing a few things right, so I declare that you are not a son of God. You are darnel, not wheat.” I must not make that kind of judgment.

Many Christians don’t do God’s will, or live under His king­ship. They do what they want, and might not even behave like Christ­ians. But because they have not committed any serious sins, they are like those in Matthew 7:21f who say, “Lord, Lord,” without having done the Father’s will, yet they also don’t commit murder or adult­ery. You cannot apply church disci­pline on them because they have not done any­thing terribly or seriously wrong.

But most non-Christians don’t commit murder or adult­ery either. They live decent lives when you look at them from the outside.

On what practical basis do you remove the darnel from the church? If you test their faith and ask, “Do you believe in the name of Jesus?” the darnel would say “Yes” just as those who say “Lord, Lord” but do not do the Father’s will. Anyone can say, “Lord, Lord.”

The Israelites said the right things too: “This people honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29:13) They have “a form of godliness,” so on what basis do you judge them and remove them from the church? Once you understand the nature of darnel, you will see that you cannot simply remove them. It is because they are so hard to distin­guish, but also because it’s not for us to judge. It is my task to preach the gospel, not to judge people.

The darnel cause great harm to the church

Do the darnel cause harm to the church? Certainly! In what ways do they harm the church? It is not by anything they do outwardly. If you look at a field of wheat with darnel in it, the darnel is not doing any obvious harm to the wheat. The darnel stands there and the wheat stands there. The darnel is not hurting the wheat in any obvious way, so it can say, “I have not done anything bad.” That is the problem.

So where is the damage being done? The parable tells us it is being done underground, invisibly. Their roots absorb the nutrients that the wheat could use, slowing the growth of the wheat. Some of the darnel roots may even choke the wheat, as we saw in the Parable of the Sower. Darnel cause real damage. They damage the witness of the church. The church ought to be shining much more brightly than it does. Why is it not shining? Well, look at the church, it is full of darnel. It is hard for the church to shine with all the darnel in it.

Do we then remove the darnel? The parable says if you pull up the darnel, you will pull up the wheat with it, since the wheat has its roots tangled with those of the darnel. If you pull up the one, you will pull up the other. In the very attempt to remove all false Christians from the church, you could damage many true Christians. That is what the Lord Jesus warns against. He doesn’t want even one true Christian — one true disciple — to be damaged. He cares for every one of them. So what can we do about the darnel? Nothing! 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 simply have to wait.

What is God’s purpose for not removing the darnel?

You may protest, “I understand that we cannot remove the darnel from the wheat, for is hard to dis­tinguish the entangled roots, and there is the risk of hurting some of the wheat. But why doesn’t God do anything about it? Why doesn’t He strike down these false Christ­ians? Or purge His church so that it will become what it should be?”

Oh, how we long for that! Like the disciples in Luke 9:54, we want to call down fire from heaven and say, “Burn the darnel! Let God create a special kind of bug — as in biolog­ical warfare — that will eat up only the darnel and leave the wheat standing. It is not beyond God’s ability to create a bug that will destroy the darnel without up­rooting the wheat. Why doesn’t God do anything about the darnel?” That is the way we think.

True Christians are toughened by persecution in the church

Ponder for a moment. Doesn’t God have a purpose in all this? What is that purpose? First and foremost, it is that in the struggle to survive against the darnel, the wheat will become a stronger kind of wheat. The struggle for survival has a strength­ening effect. A tree that grows on a mount­ainside, blown by every fierce wind, will have powerful roots. Such a tree is strong, and can withstand the weather. But a tree that lives in a sheltered place topples when the storm comes because it has never put its roots deep down to anchor itself upon the rock.

Trials are unpleasant. We don’t like trials or sufferings. We don’t like to be tested by fellow Christians, so we say, “I’m willing to take all this from non-Christians. They can do what they want to me, but I don’t want to be persecuted by those who call themselves Christians!” If you have been following the Biblical teaching, you would know that those who persecute you most severely are those who call themselves Christians. This has always been the case down through the centuries. You suffer most in the hands of those who call themselves Christ­ians. As I have said many times, beloved brothers and sisters, understand this or else you may fall. This is why the Lord tells us, “You are going to have trials. There are darnel among the wheat, and they will test your patience to no end, and choke you if you are not careful. So put your roots down deep. Draw deep from God’s grace, because His grace is sufficient for you.”

When I was a few months old as a Christian, I saw the behav­ior of certain “Christians,” and I nearly went down. I didn’t want to be a Christian because these Christians disgusted me.

Many have had similar experiences, like the non-Christ­ians who tell me, “I don’t want to have anything to do with Christians because I have seen Christians who disgust me!”

I completely sympathize with these non-Christians be­cause that was exactly how I felt. I know some non-Christians who are nicer than Christians, and more consider­ate and more generous. I am sure that you have also known some such non-Christians. No wonder the non-Christians say, “Who wants to be a Christian? Look at these Christians!” I completely sympathize with them, for I know exactly how they feel. I didn’t want to be a Christian because of such people.

Look to Jesus

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

After I become a Christian, I lived with an elderly Christian woman. Oh, dear me! More than once I nearly decided I have had enough of Christianity. She had been a Christian for 20 years, and I only two months, but her behavior was disgraceful! I kept on thinking about her like this until God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you (2 Cor. 12:9). Follow Jesus’ example. The church has all kinds of disreputable people, but don’t mind what they do.”

You will say, “But they have been Christians longer than I. Should they not be an example to me?” Yes, they ought to, but unfort­unately that is often not the reality. They may be wheat that has become weak and sick, or they may be darnel. I don’t know, and it is not for me to judge. The Lord will sep­arate them one day. As for me, I will keep my eyes on Jesus.

All through my Christian life, I would often encounter this problem. I don’t have much problems with non-Christians. I have suffered minor per­secut­ion from them, but that is nothing compared with the problems I have with Christians who don’t do God’s will or live under His kingship. In time I came to realize that many of them are darnel. One after another, they fell away. As John says, “They went out from us because they were not of us” (1 John 2:19). So they fell away. People who were active youth leaders — prominent people in churches who organized 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, yet don’t live in total com­mitment to God. It is these who give us an awful lot of headaches. So bear this in mind.

The darnel test the wheat, resulting in stronger wheat

Why doesn’t God destroy all the darnel? God has a purpose in this. The darnel will try us to our limits, but thanks be to God, we will learn to put our roots down deeper into God to draw upon His grace. We will also look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2; cf. Rom. 15:5). We may want to remove the darnel, but God has a pur­pose in leaving them in the kingdom.

A related question is: Why doesn’t God stop Satan from sowing darnel in the first place? Whether God allows Satan to sow the darnel, or whether God destroys the darnel after Satan has sown them, both will come to the same thing. In either case, the fact remains that God allows the darnel to live in the field in the present age.

This doesn’t make good agricultural sense. Farmers wouldn’t want to sow darnel among the wheat for the purpose of producing a strong crop of wheat. But the Lord’s parables are not designed to teach us agricultural logic, but to teach us spiritual truth and reality. In the wheat field, it might not work like that, but in the spiritual life, it does.

If we are starting to get discouraged, let us realize one thing. When we look around at the church today, we may wonder how the church could ever be the light of the world. What hope is there for a church that has superficial and non-genuine Christians? We easily get dis­couraged. But 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, for He will fulfill His purposes. At the end of the parable is a great harvest: the wheat is brought in, and God’s purpose is achieved, not only despite the darnel, but in a certain way because of it, for He then produces a strong and vigorous crop of wheat.

If we become discouraged, take heart, for the Lord Jesus gives us a further parable, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, which we will examine in the next chapter, to rein­force the important fact that God’s purposes cannot be defeated.


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