“The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’
“And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’
“But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.
‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘” (Matthew 13:27-30)
In this parable of the wheat and the tares, the Lord taught His disciples that it is not their work to separate the true believers (the wheat) from false believers who look like true believers externally (the tares that look like wheat from the outside). The disciples learned from this that they should consider every believer a brother in Christ, with sincerity, without judging the persons whether they are true brethren or false brethren; but they also learned that they should be careful of their fruits to avoid associating themselves to their conduct or walk, as the Lord warned them in Matthew 7:15-23:
“But beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but within are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them. Do [men] gather a bunch of grapes from thorns, or from thistles figs? So every good tree produces good fruits, but the worthless tree produces bad fruits. A good tree cannot produce bad fruits, nor a worthless tree produce good fruits. Every tree not producing good fruit is cut down and cast into the fire. By their fruits then surely ye shall know them. Not every one who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but he that does the will of my Father who is in the heavens. Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied through thy name, and through thy name cast out demons, and through thy name done many works of power? and then will I avow unto them, I never knew you. Depart from me, workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:15-23)
These false brethren looked very similar to the true brethren, as they did great things in Christ’s Name; and yet, the Lord does not know them, because they are workers of lawlessness: they do not have the righteousness and holiness of Christ in their hearts, and all their deeds are legalistic deeds that dishonor God; they work lawlessness. And in the parable of the wheat and the tares, the Lord said that these workers of lawlessness should not be separated by our human efforts, but they will be gathered on the last Day to burn in Hell: “As then the darnel is gathered and is burned in the fire, thus it shall be in the completion of the age. The Son of man shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all offences, and those that practise lawlessness; and they shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:40-42)
In this parable of the wheat and the tares, the landowner is Jesus Christ, and His slaves are the ministers of the Gospel, primarily the Apostles. These servants of Jesus Christ should not separate the tares from the wheat, and yet they should declare openly what are the fruits that distinguish the true brethren from the false brethren. As the Epistles and the Word of God in general are addressed to the whole field of the man who sowed good seed in his field (cf. Matthew 13:24), so many false Christians build an argument similar to the following: “As you see, Matthew 13:24 says that this man sowed good seed in his field, so if we see tares in this field, these tares must have been originally good, and then they have fallen away and have become bad…” But the context of Matthew 13:24 doesn’t say that those tares were sown by this man… His enemy has sown them… They are children of the devil BY NATURE… But as this good man told his servants NOT to gather up the tares so that they may not uproot the wheat with them (cf. Matthew 13:29), so those who refuse to believe God’s promises consider this as an approval from this good man that those tares are good wheat… Indeed, the Apostles of Jesus did just as this good Man (Jesus) told them to do: in all their Epistles, they address the whole field considering them the field of this good man, i.e. good wheat, and they don’t gather up the tares. They leave the work of judgment to the Lord; the Lord’s Word will judge the hearts of those who are tares. Indeed, each Epistle is addressed to the whole field, and the author calls the whole field “brethren” or “saints”, and yet we meet also in each Epistle warnings addressed to the field so that the tares may believe and repent. A very simple example of this is found in the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians: Paul begins his Epistles with expressions like “to [those] sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2), and yet in those same Epistles he warns the Corinthians of some among them that are carnal and are not true believers; he warns them with expressions like “Awake up righteously, and sin not; for some are ignorant of God: I speak to you as a matter of shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:34) and “examine your own selves if ye be in the faith; prove your own selves: do ye not recognise yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Yes, the Apostle Paul has understood the parable of the wheat and the tares: he addresses the whole church as “brethren” or “saints”, and yet he also warns that there are false brethren among them:
“in journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from [my own] race, in perils from [the] nations, in perils in [the] city, in perils in [the] desert, in perils on [the] sea, in perils among false brethren” (2 Corinthians 11:26)
“and [it was] on account of the false brethren brought in surreptitiously, who came in surreptitiously to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage” (Galatians 2:4)
“for many walk of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they [are] the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end [is] destruction, whose god [is] the belly, and [their] glory in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19)
The Apostle John also explains that there are people among us (brethren or saints) who are not truly of us (they are false brethren and false saints):
“They went out from among us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have surely remained with us, but that they might be made manifest that none are of us.” (1 John 2:19)
A summarized picture of the Epistles is presented in the letter of the Lord to the church of Pergamos:
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” (Revelation 2:12-13)
The Lord addresses the whole church of Pergamos as “thou” (“you”), and He describes the good works of this church as a whole. And yet, this “thou” includes people who do not do those good works, but they bring wrong teaching:
“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Revelation 2:14-16)
Note how the warning also is addressed to the church as a whole: “against thee” (meaning “against you”); “thou hast” (“you have”); “repent” (addressed to the whole church there), although not all of them were heretics. And yet, the judgment will not come upon the whole church there (all believers), but the Lord will fight “against them” who do those bad deeds (and not “against you”, i.e. not against the whole church). Note also that it is the Lord who will fight against them, and not us as individuals separate from the Lord, and it is by His Word that He will fight against them (i.e. Christians should use the Word of God to fight against false teachers and against the tares in the Church, and not personal efforts and human methods of ban or discipline).
All Christians are called brethren and saints, and yet many of them are tares, false brethren and false saints who need to be born of God. Let’s test ourselves and make sure that we are wheat; let’s make sure that the Lord knows us.
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ