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Two Parables: the field and the net - what do they have in common?

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  • Two Parables: the field and the net - what do they have in common?

    Matthew 13:24-30

    24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 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?’ 28 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?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
    Matthew 13:47-50

    47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    Two parables sharing something in common. Can you see it? Maybe not, and that might be by nature. The parable of the net brings to shore not only good fish, but also bad; the parable of the field in which the owner leaves the tares to grow together with the good wheat until the harvest. Jesus himself provides an interpretation in Matthew 13:13-43. The field is the whole world, not just Israel or the church. God withholds immediate judgment for the sake of the Elect who are in the world. The righteous have had to live in the midst of the unrighteous from the beginning. Again, those who belong to the kingdom of heaven and those destined for destruction awaits the close of the age. Until that time, believers and unbelievers coexist as God's reign advances quietly and invincibly.

    Something further to think about, I'd like to suggest an article on the Visible and Invisible Church by Brian Schwertley:

    Perhaps the most succinct and the best statement of the church as invisible and visible is found in the Westminster Standards. Chapter 25, "Of the Church," states: "The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation" (sections 1, 2).

    Reformed theologians emphasize that this distinction does not mean that God has two separate churches. Indeed, they assert that Jehovah has founded one church, that Jesus has only one bride, people, church, or body. Our Lord does not have two churches but only one. The terms "invisible" and "visible" are used to describe two distinct aspects of the one church; or, to put it another way, the church is considered from two different perspectives. It is not that there are two separate air tight categories with one group on heaven and another on earth. On the contrary, there is a great overlap between both categories. All genuine believers are members of the invisible church whether they are living in heaven or on earth, whether they are alive or dead (i.e., have died physically). Not all professing Christians, however, who are members of the visible church, are members of the invisible church. Some people who make a profession of faith and are baptized are hypocrites. Such people do not truly believe in Christ (thus are never truly united to Him by faith) and are not part of the invisible church. This reality will receive further elucidation below.

    The term invisible as defined by the Reformed symbols and theologians does not mean that some Christians are invisible like ghosts floating around in the spirit realm. It refers to the fact that the invisible church cannot be fully discovered, distinguished or discerned by the eyes of men, by empirical means. There are a number of reasons why this statement cannot be denied. (a) No one has the ability to look into the human heart and see if a person is truly united to Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. That reality is the reason that, historically, Presbyterian churches have admitted members upon a credible profession of faith. (b) The inward, effectual calling of the Spirit and the application of redemption to the human soul are all spiritual, unseen events. Further, the Holy Spirit gives genuine saving faith only to the elect. The counterfeit faith of unregenerate professors of religion often is indiscernible to mere mortals. We can only perceive outward signs, statements and actions. No person has the ability to determine or observe the whole body of God's elect irrespective of time (i.e., throughout human history prior to the last judgment) or place (i.e., there are many real believers in the world of which we are not aware). Williamson writes: "It is invisible to us because it has extension in both time and space. It reaches from one end of the earth to the other, and from the beginning to the end of the age. But it is invisible only to us. It is not invisible to God. He who infallibly discerns the hearts of men, knows them that are his. "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal: 'the Lord knoweth them that are his' (II Tim. 2:19)."Jesus prayed for the invisible church—the elect present and not yet born in John 17. "Christ is speaking of a special company which had been given to Him. The reference, then, is to the sovereign election of God, whereby He chose a definite number to be His 'peculiar people'—His in a peculiar or special way. These are eternally His: 'chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world' (Eph. 1:4); and by the immutability of His purpose of grace (Rom. 11:29), they are always His."

    The visible church is designated "visible" because it is discernable by the senses, by empirical means. It consists of everyone who professes the true religion along with their children. Because men do not have the ability to see into the minds of men and read the human heart, anyone who professes Jesus Christ in credible manner (i.e., he has a knowledge of the gospel, he is orthodox in doctrine, he professes faith in Christ and repentance toward God, he is not as far as anyone is aware committing habitual or scandalous sins) is allowed to join the church along with his children. In the visible church there are genuine believers who are truly united to Christ and false professors or hypocrites who only taste of heavenly gifts but do not really partake of the Savior. Their relationship to Him is only outward. "On this account the church is compared to a floor, in which there is not only wheat but also chaff (Matt. iii. 12); to a field, where tares as well as good seed are sown (Matt. xiii. 24, 25); to a net, which gathers bad fish together with the good (ver. 47); to a great house, in which are vessels of every kind some to honour and some to dishonor,—2 Tim. ii. 20."[5] People who are members of the visible church yet who never truly believe in Christ receive the outward privileges of membership (fellowship, the word, the sacraments and the guidance of church government), but are never regenerated, saved, forgiven, united to Christ and spiritually sanctified. The blood of Jesus never washes away their sins.

    The visible church is set apart from the world by profession as well as its external government, discipline, and ordinances (e.g., the preached word and the sacraments). The members of the visible church have obeyed the outward call of the gospel, professing Christ, submitting to baptism and placing themselves under the preaching and authority of the local church. All such persons who obey the outward call of the gospel place themselves in covenant with God. They have separated themselves from the world and at least outwardly enjoy the privileges of being members of the visible church (e.g., the teaching of the word, godly guidance, the fellowship of the saints, etc.). While in a certain sense those who outwardly profess the truth participate in an external covenant with real responsibilities and privileges, it does not mean and theologically cannot mean that they truly participate in the saving merits of Christ. Such persons (for a time) are in the covenant but are never genuinely of the covenant. They participate in the covenant externally as professors of the true religion, but they never participate in the covenant of grace which flows from the eternal covenant of redemption...

    It needs to be recognized that although God deals with the visible church as one church, as one people of God, the external administration of the church with the preaching of the word, the ordinances and discipline in the present and in the long run (e.g., after the final judgment, in the eternal state) only truly benefit the invisible church or the elect. While outward professors receive temporary benefits resulting from intellectual insights from the word, pressure to conform to God's law, the outward influence from a society of family-oriented, ethical people, etc., they receive greater damnation on the day of judgment for spurning the great light to which they were exposed under continual gospel preaching.
    let us examine a few passages of Scripture that strongly support the traditional view of the church as visible and invisible:

    a) 1 John 2:19-20: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things." In this passage John discusses certain persons who at one time had professed apostolic doctrine and were members of the church.

    Note the Spirit-inspired analysis of the apostle John regarding this all too common situation. John says, "they were not of us." That is, they were never genuine members of the church. While it is true that they were baptized and professed the true religion, they were never united to Christ or saved. They were chaff on the same floor as wheat (Mt. 3:12), or tares among the wheat (Mt. 13:24-25). They were members of the visible church but never of the invisible church. In this context John uses the term "us" (emon) in the sense of true Christians.

    The apostle makes two observations ...First, he says that true Christians or members of the invisible church cannot apostatize: "for if they were of us [i.e., true believers], they would have continued with us." The fact that these professing Christians departed from the church is empirical proof that they were never true Christians. "They went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us." "The meaning here is that secession proves a want of fundamental union from the rest."[9] Second, John says that true believers have received the Holy Spirit from Christ which secures them against apostasy or desertion: "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things." True believers or members of the invisible church cannot fall away because they are baptized with the Holy Spirit and thus permanently abide in Christ (see 1 Jn. 2:27; 5:4). Our Lord concurs: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand" (Jn. 10:27-28).

    1 Jn. 2:19-20 teaches: (1) the church is composed of true and false believers; and (2) the doctrine of perseverance. True Christians are united to Christ by the Holy Spirit and can never apostatize while those who are not baptized in the Spirit and not united to the Savior can. "Their presence in the visible church was temporary, for they failed in their perseverance. If they had been members of the invisible church, they would have remained with the body of believers."

    b) Matthew 7:21-23: "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!'" After warning His disciples of the danger of false prophets, Our Lord warns them of the consequences of a false profession of religion. He describes people who profess Christ; who acknowledge His Lordship; who are even engaged in some type of Christian service; yet who never had a saving relationship to Jesus. These people were obviously members of the visible church. But, they were never truly united to the Lord or saved; they were never members of the invisible church.

    This section of Scripture contradicts Arminianism, which teaches that if people accept Jesus as Savior they are truly saved but can later reject the faith and fall away. It also explicitly contradicts the Auburn teaching that people who profess Christ and are baptized are really united to Him, loved by Him and forgiven by Him even if they are not among the elect (individually) and thus eventually fall away.[11] Note, Jesus says to all false professors of religion on the day of judgment, "I never knew you." Since God is omniscient, the word "knew" in this context does not refer to a mere intellectual knowledge (e.g., in John's gospel see: 1:47, 49; 2:24, 25; 21:17). Rather the term "knew" in this passage is used in the Hebraic sense of love, acknowledgment, friendship, intimate fellowship. Our Lord says that everyone in the visible church who is not really saved (i.e., they do not have true saving faith and the works that demonstrate the reality of that faith.) never, ever (i.e., for even a single moment) had a relationship or vital union with Him. There is no other way that the Savior's words can be interpreted without doing violence to the text of Scripture. Although Jesus' words are in complete harmony with the classic Protestant distinction between the visible and invisible church, they cannot be harmonized with the new Auburn theological innovations.

    (c) Romans 9:6: "But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel." In the epistle to the Romans, Paul explicitly recognized the two-fold aspect of the church when he explains why the majority of the old covenant people of God did not embrace their Messiah.

    In order to properly understand Romans 9:6 we briefly need to consider the context. In Romans chapter 8 Paul elaborates on the major theme that all those who are in Christ shall never be condemned. Believers are delivered from the law by Jesus' death. They are freed from the pollution of sin by the indwelling power of the Spirit. The Spirit's power also guarantees a believer's resurrection and glorification. Christians have their assurance rooted in their union with Christ. There also is the comfort of the intercession of the Holy Spirit. Toward the end of the chapter the safety and assurance of believers is founded upon God's electing love from eternity. Here the apostle discusses the unbreakable chain of the order of salvation (ordo salutis) and the fact that "if God is for us, who can be against us?"

    In chapter 9, as Paul turns his attention to the design of God in reference to Jews and Gentiles, he needs to answer the question: "What about Israel?" If election and perseverance are rooted in the eternal-unchanging love of God, how can the mass apostasy of the Jewish people be explained? They were God's people, the church, who received the word, the promises, the sacraments and ordinances. Does not God's rejection of the Jewish nation contradict the promises to Abraham and the perseverance promised in chapter 8? No, absolutely not! The apostle explains that it is to true Israel (i.e., the elect or the invisible church) that the promises are made. It is to these people only that God's eternal electing love is directed. There is national election—the nation of Israel or the visible church—and within Israel, the visible church, there is true Israel—the invisible church. The Jews who did not reject the Messiah are "a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom. 11:5).

    For Paul there is true Israel (the elect, the invisible church, the remnant) within national Israel (the visible church). In other words the elect or the invisible church is hidden in the visible church. Further, when describing why the church is composed of true Israel (i.e., real believers) and false Israel (i.e., hypocrites) the apostle turns our attention to the doctrine of election

    Paul discusses the twin brothers Jacob and Esau. These twins were conceived at the same moment and were born only minutes apart. Both were covenant children born of the patriarch Isaac. Both received circumcision and were part of the visible church—the covenant people of God. Since Esau was circumcised does Paul argue that he was loved and forgiven by God? No. God hated Esau before he was even born (Rom. 9:11-13). Although Esau was a circumcised member of the visible church, he was never united to Christ, loved by God or forgiven. Instead, he was a vessel of wrath prepared for destruction (Rom. 9:22). Esau's circumcision was never efficacious because he was never regenerated and given the gift of saving faith. As Paul says, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation" (Gal. 6:15).

    d) Another section of Scripture ... is 2 Peter 2. This chapter describes men who at one time were baptized, members in good standing and who had even become teachers. Peter, does not say that they were loved or forgiven but that they for a time "escaped the pollutions of the world" (2 Pet. 2:20). That is, they had an external reformation of behavior based on an intellectual knowledge of the word. Peter makes it crystal clear that these men were not united to Christ, regenerated, forgiven or saved because he says their natures were never, ever truly changed. He says, "But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: 'A dog returns to his own vomit,' and, 'a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire'" (2 Pet. 2:22). A dog and a pig act according to their own nature. One can wash a pig and make it clean, but a pig is a pig. It will return to wallowing in the mud—in disgusting filth—because that is what pigs do. The apostle is saying that people who apostatize, who return to their former lifestyle, never had an interior work of the Holy Spirit. They were never regenerated and united to Christ. Their natures were never changed. The apostle is, in fact, teaching that if we could look at the hearts of those who apostatized, "we would discover that at no time were they ever activated by a true love of God. They were all this while goats, and not sheep, ravening wolves, and not gentle lambs." In other words the visible church contains not only real believers but also unsaved hypocrites.

    God bless,
    William

  • #2
    GINOLJC, I agree with, "The parable of the net brings to shore not only good fish, but also bad; the parable of the field in which the owner leaves the tares to grow together with the good wheat until the harvest". may I add one more parable to these two. Luke 17:34 "I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left 37 And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together". END TIME, "Day of the Lord", or his second coming. for the Lord will separate, tares from his wheat. tares taken first.
    May God bless.
    Comment>

    • #3
      The illustration that Jesus gave of the "wheat and the weeds" at Matthew 13:24-30 (and explanation at verses 36-43) provides insight into what would happen to the Christian congregation Jesus established especially after all the apostles died.

      He begins by saying that "the Kingdom of the heavens may be likened to a man who sowed fine seed in his field. While men were sleeping, his enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat and left. When the stalk sprouted and produced fruit, then the weeds also appeared".(Matt 13:24-26)

      Who is the "man who sowed fine seed in his field" ? Jesus.(Matt 13:37) Who are the ' men that fell asleep ' or died that could no longer prevent “an enemy” or Satan from oversowing "weeds" or "sons of the wicked one" (counterfeit Christians, Matt 13:39) in among the "wheat" or "sons of the Kingdom" (anointed ones chosen to serve as "kings and priests” in God’s Kingdom, Rev 5:9, 10) ?

      The apostle Paul answers this by writing to the Thessalonians concerning the coming apostasy before “the day of Jehovah”: “Let no one lead you astray in any way, because it (“the day of Jehovah”) will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction”.(2 Thess 2:3)

      He then notes: “And now you know what is acting as a restraint, so that he (“man of lawlessness”) will be revealed in his due time. True the mystery of this lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who is right now acting as a restraint is out of the way. Then indeed the lawless one will be revealed (or be exposed), whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence”.2 Thess 2:6-8)

      Who was “acting as a restraint” of the apostasy (apostasia meaning “falling away, defection”) that was already in progress in 51 C.E. when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians ? The apostles. They were a bulwark against the apostasy which was beginning to make inroads into the Christian congregation.

      Who is the “man of lawlessness” ? Who “exalts himself “ ? Who “sits down in the temple of God, publicly showing himself to be a god “ ?(2 Thess 2:4) The religious leaders of Christendom. Paul explained that the revealing of the “man of lawlessness” would happen before “the day of Jehovah” or Armageddon.(Rev 16:14, 16)

      And Jesus explained that until the “harvest” (that began in 1914 with Jesus installation as king of God’s Kingdom and continues down till the start of the “great tribulation” in the near future), that “weeds” or counterfeit Christians would be allowed to grow and thus flourish. No action was to be taken by the “master” or Jesus until the “harvest” of our time period because initially it would prove to difficult to distinguish a “weed” from real “wheat”.

      But after John, the last of the apostles died in about 100 C.E., apostates began to grow in earnest and by the 4th century C.E., the Christian congregation had ceased to exist and Catholicism came into existence. Only about ten years after John’s death, Ignatius began to separate “overseer” (Greek episkopos) as distinct from the “older men” or “elders” (Greek presbyteros), thus laying the groundwork for a clergy-laity class, though both terms mean the same.

      Cyprian (200 ?-258 C.E.) of the 3rd century C.E.(who was one of the first to use the term “Catholic church”) was a strong advocate of the authority of the “bishops” as a group separate from the presbyters (later know as priests), the “deacons” (from the Greek diakonos meaning “ministerial servants”) and the laity or common people. A hierarchical arrangement was now forming, though Jesus said that “all of you are brothers” and not to have any religious titles such as “Father”, Pope (meaning “papa”) Monsignor (meaning “my lord”) Reverend, etc.(Matt 23:8-10)

      Then came the heated discussions of who Jesus is, who the Father is as well the holy spirit. Roman Emperor Constantine, seeing that his kingdom was being severely fragmented by these differences, sought to keep his empire together and was not really interested in the religious discussions, just as long as his kingdom remained intact.

      He called the “bishops” from all over the empire to “settle” the question of who Jesus is (only about 300 of about 1,800 attended), with some such as Arius (256-336 C.E.) saying that Jesus is inferior to the Father and created (see Rev 3:14 and John 14:28) while Athanasius (about 293- 373 C.E.) said that Jesus was of same “essence” or substance as the Father.

      Roman Emperor Constantine brought the “bishops” together in 325 C.E at Nicaea to settle this serious dividing issue for his kingdom and ruled that Jesus is of the same “substance” as the Father which laid the groundwork for the later Trinitarian doctrine that was finalized at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 C.E.

      Thus, little by little, and then by a landslide, pagan teachings and doctrines were coming into play as Catholicism became the state religion of Rome during the reign of Theodosius (346 ?-395 C.E.). The “weeds” became so numerous that the “wheat” was almost impossible to find until the “harvest”, our time period.

      At this time now, the “wheat”, genuine Christians, stand out in stark contrast with the “weeds” or fake Christians. Jesus said of the “weeds”: “Therefore, just as the weeds are collected and burned with fire (or destroyed at Armageddon though false religion as a world wide entity is already wiped out, Rev 17:16, 17).....the Son of man (Jesus) will send his angels, and they will collect (them).....and they will pitch them into the fiery furnace (or Gehenna, everlasting destruction from there is no resurrection)”(Matt 13:40-42) But here is the “kicker”, for Jesus now says that the “weeds” or counterfeit Christians will not go peaceably: “There is where their weeping and gnashing of their teeth will be”.(Matt 13:42b)

      These cannot believe that Jesus would reject them, even becoming very angry when he shows this by force. At Luke 13, Jesus illustrates this again by saying of ones who profess to be his disciples by failing to do the works of true Christianity (such as being “no part of the world” and its political arena with its wars, John 15:19; “touching nothing unclean” (2 Cor 6:14-18) such as pagan teachings and doctrines [the Trinity, immortality of the soul, hellfire, clergy-laity class, etc), but which Jesus rejects and then says: “I do not know where you are from. Get away from me, all you workers of unrighteousness. There is where the weeping and the gnashing of your teeth will be, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets (faithful ones) in the Kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown outside.....And look ! there are those last (ones whom the churches of Christendom looks down upon as not Christian) who will be first, and there are those first (the churches who feel they are in the “driver’s seat” for salvation) who will be last (or discarded by Jesus as fake Christians)”.(Luke 13:27, 28, 30)
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