Recently a friend sent me a link to one of Jan Markell’s radio broadcasts. It was an interview with Pastor Cary Gordon about a movie he had produced entitled, “Enemies Within the Church.” I watched the link (part is actual video clips and part is just audio of the actual interview), and I’ve also ordered the full DVD so that I can review the movie itself. Pastor Gordon’s concern is the increasing false teaching that is creeping into the church.
Today’s read (Matthew 13) addresses this very issue. Jesus tells eight parables (some only a verse or two) about the kingdom of heaven, but Matthew only relates the interpretation of two of them: the parable of the sower, and the parable of the tares. Jesus is making a point. Not everyone who appears to be “Christian” is a true believer or a son of the kingdom.
The parable of the tares describes a landowner who sows good seed in his field, but while his servants were sleeping, an enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. They realize this when the plants sprout, but by this time the roots of both tares and wheat are intertwined. They cannot remove the tares without uprooting some of the wheat. The landowner tells his servants to let them grow until harvest time, when they will be separated out – the good wheat to his barns and the tares bound in bundles for burning.
There is actually a “tare” wheat that has existed for centuries and has caused wheat farmers problems by infiltrating their fields. It’s a grass called “darnel” and is poisonous in large doses. In smaller doses, it can cause nausea, dizziness, causing one to be off-balance. It was often added on purpose, brewed into beer, or baked into bread to give it an extra “kick.” It has the effect of making people drunk, as an escape from the realities of their lives.
When the disciples ask Jesus to explain the meaning of the parable, He reveals that the wheat is the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are sons of the evil one. The field is the world; the enemy who sows the tares is the devil, and the landowner is Jesus Himself. The reapers are the angels, and at the end of the age, Jesus will gather the tares out for destruction (the furnace of fire; hell), and the sons of the kingdom will go to the Father.
How can we know the difference between someone who appears to be a son of the kingdom but in reality, is an “enemy agent?” Jesus uses two adjectives: they are stumbling blocks and they commit lawlessness.
Stumbling block is translated as “offend” in the KJV. The Greek word is skandalon; its original meaning was “the name of the part of a trap to which the bait is attached, hence the trap or snare itself” (Vines). It’s used in the Bible to describe any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall, (a stumbling block, occasion of stumbling) i.e. a rock which is a cause of stumbling.
Lawlessness (iniquity, KJV) is anomia, literally the condition of being without law, either by ignorance of or willful violation of it. It is a contempt of the law, often translated as wickedness.
Here’s the thing. According to the parable, we can examine the fruit produced to discern what is real and what is deception. It’s not our role to destroy the tares…that authority will be given to the angels by God Himself at the end of the age. But it is our responsibility to notice the difference and avoid the tares.
A person who claims to speak for God and from the Bible may or may not be telling you the truth. How will you know? You must examine their fruit. Do their teachings line up according to scripture, or are they preaching a gospel that is a stumbling block that will ensnare us to false doctrine and false security? Do they preach a gospel that allows lawlessness – the transgression of God’s commands – so as to make it “appealing” or “inoffensive” to the world? At the least, they are themselves deceived; at the worst, they are a tare planted by the enemy to deceive you.
As disciples of Jesus, we are obligated to know God’s Word for ourselves and hold every teacher accountable to the plumb line of scripture. As a teacher, I want the accountability of my brothers and sisters to examine the words I speak or write, to be “Bereans” of the best kind, examining every teaching for its truth according to God’s Word alone.
God warns us in the last days there will be a spirit of antichrist, and a great falling away from the faith (1 John 2:18; 1 Timothy 4:1). Our enemy, Satan, has worked for centuries to deceive, if it were possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24). He won’t be as obvious as you might think…he will entrap you with what appears to sound good to your ears, but in reality, will bring death. In these last days, we must be diligent to know our Bibles well, so that we will not be deceived ourselves, and faithful to warn others so they may escape the trappings of our enemy.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 – The Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.