1 John 1:1 speaks of "The Word of life." Jesus often used objects in nature to explain the laws regulating life. Matt 13:3-8 records a parable told by Him, saying, "Behold, a sower went out to sow, and as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside, and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundred-fold, some sixty, some thirty."
1) When Jesus told this parable, did He mean for us to guess what He meant, or did He explain it too?
Answer: He explained it for us. In verse 19 of the same chapter He said, "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundred-fold, some sixty, some thirty."
2) It is significant that Jesus used the living seed as a symbol of the truths of the kingdom. By this He taught us to see that these truths develop according to the laws of nature.
Answer: Yes. Life is a mystery, yet living things must have certain conditions in order to grow and bear fruit. Matt 13:37 says, "He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man." The seed is the word of the kingdom. Every seed contains power to sprout and grow, which is the life in the vegetation. Likewise, there is life in the word of God. Christ says, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." John 6:63. "He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life."
Every command and promise in God's word contains the power that is His life. By this power His command can be performed and His promise realized. All who receive this word by faith is receiving God's life and power.
Every seed bears fruit after its kind. As long as conditions are favorable, a seed will exert its life. When a man receives the word of truth---an incorruptible seed---into his heart, it will bear fruit in a character and life akin to the character and life of God.
3) The parable speaks of four kinds of seed, three of which are fruitless. What is the relation of fruit-bearing with salvation? Can a believer who bears no fruit be saved?
Answer: There are three kinds of fruitless seed. The first hears the word and forgets it, and does not believe, so cannot be saved. Another "Hears the word and immediately receives it with joy." Since he receives it, he must believe it and is baptized. Mark 16:16 says, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved." "Yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles." Matt 24:13 says, "He who endures to the end shall be saved." Otherwise he will be lost. The third kind "Hears the word and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches chokes the word, and he becomes unfruitful." He also fails to endure to the end, so cannot be saved.
4) Some say that all that believe in the Lord will be saved. The only difference is that their reward will be bigger or smaller. Does that agree with the teaching of the Bible?
Answer: Jesus gives a definite answer to that. He says, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" Matt 7:21-23.
Jesus is "Meek and lowly in heart." Matt. 11:29. Can He utter such cold and harsh words? And they whom He spurns are even preachers! So those whom the Lord is stranger to, must be the ones who merely call Him Lord, but do not do the will of His Father. "That day" Christ refers to is the day of final rewards---no longer a day of salvation. Isa. 55:6 says, "Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near." This means that a day will come when the door of mercy will be shut, and God will no longer call sinners to repent. Once the wrath of the Lamb and He who is slow to anger is roused, He who is meek and lowly in heart will pass sentence on all who have slighted His mercy. Heb. 10:31 & 12:29 say, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. . . For our God is a consuming fire." We must not lightly regard either God's love or His justice.
5) The Chinese have a saying that you reap what you sow. Is that teaching in the Bible too?
Answer: Yes. Gal. 6:7-8 says, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life." Hos 8:7 says, "They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind."
6) "He who sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption." Does it refer to non-Christians, or to Christians as well?
Answer: It refers to everybody. King David was a believer in God (cf. 1 Sam 16 to 2 Sam 24), who sowed to the flesh and of the flesh reaped corruption. Though he later repented and confessed his sin and was forgiven, he still reaped the fruits of his sowing. The law of life bore corrupt fruit. His son Amnon raped his sister, was murdered by his brother Absalom. Then Absalom rebelled against his father and caused a national calamity. This clearly showed that God is not mocked. When a man sows wicked seed, he will certainly reap corruption according to the laws of nature.
7) Some have used 1 Cor. 3:15 to claim that even if a Christian sows to the flesh and reaps corruption, he will still be saved at last. This text says, "If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."
Answer: This text has been used to support the doctrine of "Once saved, always saved." If you examine the Greek text, and study the fate of Bible characters, such teaching does not agree with Bible truth. It can be used to lead people to indulge in sin.
This text has two conjunctions "but" and "yet," translated from the same Greek word de. To make it clear to you, I will now repeat the text, using the two original words Greek words: "If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss, de he himself will be saved, de so as through fire." This Greek usage of two identical words in one sentence is a practice not used in English, so it requires the translator to use his judgment in deciding how the first de and the second de should be translated. Because the two words are identical, the "but" and "yet" may be reversed. In fact, they may not mean "but" or "yet", but could be a combination of "though" and "yet." The Greek rendering of Isa. 49:15 translates de in the sense of "though" "(though) they may forget, yet I will not forget you." So we are justified in using it in 1 Cor. 3:15 this way: "If any man's work is burned, he will suffer loss; though he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."
8) "Though" provides for the possibility of perdition, and denies the certainty of salvation. Do we have examples in the Bible of some believers who failed and were lost, and others who repented after they fell, and were finally saved?
Answer: Yes. I will give two examples of each. (1) King David was one saved "yet so as through fire."(2) Samson was chosen of God to be a judge (cf. Judges 14:1-16:31), but sowed to his flesh and of the flesh reaped corruption. Finally he realized his own folly, repented, and is listed among the heroes of faith in Heb 11:32. He too was one who, though saved, "yet so as through fire." (3) King Saul had faith at first (cf. 1 sam 9 to 31), was later rejected by God, and after consulting a witch, killed himself after he was wounded in battle, so was not saved. (4) Judas was one of Jesus' disciples, held sacred office, but betrayed Jesus and killed himself. He was not saved. These examples prove that 1 Cor. 3:15 should be rendered "though he himself will be saved." For Jesus said, not all that call Him Lord will enter heaven, but only they who do the will of His Father which is in heaven.
9) In Matt 13:24-30 Jesus gave another parable, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, 'First gather the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.'" Please explain this parable.
Answer: This parable has been explained by Jesus Himself in verses 37 to 43: "He who sows the seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."
10) In the first parable the seed was the word of God. In the second one the seed represents people: the good seed typifying "sons of the kingdom" and the tares represent "the sons of the wicked one."
Answer: Yes. It regards all human history as enacted in one grand harvest process, stressing that there must be an end to this stage of history called "The end of this age." Yet the end of this age is not the dissolution of all things, but the extermination of all evil, after which "the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." It means that the sinful world will be past, and a sinless world will appear. For this we are to prepare.
Christ teaches that open and incorrigible sinners must be separated from the church. But He has not committed to us the work of judging the characters and motives of others. If we use our own judgment to weed out the people that we regard as hypocrites, we can easily err. Those that we deem to be hopeless may be the very ones Christ is drawing to Himself. If we venture to deal with such people with our faulty judgment, we may extinguish their last ray of hope. Many who pose as Christians may in the end show up to be deficient. Many will be in the kingdom who are judged by others as unfit for heaven. For men judge by outward appearance; while God looks on the heart. The wheat and the tares must grow together until the harvest, which will be the close of probation.
11) From this parable I can see God's strategy toward evil men and the devil. He waits patiently for final fruitage.
Answer: Yes. Satan is a wily foe. When he first sinned in heaven, even the loyal angels did not see his true character. That was why God did not destroy him instantly. If He did, the holy angels could not have clearly seen God's justice and love. Any mistrust and dread of God would have had serious consequences. He must let sin develop to full fruition, and in the meantime deliver His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ to be crucified, so that the whole universe will be convinced of His love and justice.
When people see church members who are not worthy of their profession, they need not thereby be skeptical of Christianity. Nor should Christians be discouraged because there are false brethren in the church. In the early church there were covetous souls like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), and the sorcerer Simon (Acts 8:9-24) who were all baptized. Demas, who deserted Paul (2 Tim. 4:10), was a church member. The traitor Judas was among the disciples. Christ regrets losing a single soul; His patience with Judas is recorded in Scripture to show us how He deals patiently with rebellious human nature, and wants us also to be patient. The parable teaches that there will be false brethren in the church to the end of time.
People have disregarded Jesus' warning and ventured to pull out the tares. In order to remove those that they deemed to be evil doers, they have sought the aid of civil power. Due to the instigation of those who claimed to be servants of Christ, many who have refused to follow the teachings of the church have been imprisoned, tortured and even slain. It was the spirit of Satan that inspired such atrocities, not the Spirit of Christ. Satan even now seeks to enslave the whole world. In persecuting those that she regards as heretics, the church misrepresents God's character.
Tares appear like wheat at first, but at harvest time the useless weed bears no likeness to the full ears of wheat. Sinners with a semblance of piety may mingle with true believers for a time, and false Christianity can be deceptive. But when the world harvest is reaped, there will be no resemblance between good and evil. Then all that have joined the church, but have not united with Christ, will show up their true colors.
Tares grow up with the wheat, and are benefited by sunshine and rain; but in the harvest, "Then you shall discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him." Mal 3:18. Jesus will judge everyone according to his works. Mere profession is worthless. Character alone decides one's destiny.
Jesus did not say that tares would eventually turn to wheat, but that wheat and tares are to grow together until the harvest. Then the tares will be bound in "bundles to burn them," and the wheat will be gathered in God's barn. "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." Then "The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
Dear friends, ask yourselves an honest question: "Am I a stalk of wheat in God's field, or am I a tare? When Christ comes in the clouds, on which side will I stand?"