Growing God’s Kingdom
Posted June 25, 2023
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Our lesson this week is going to be one that is very familiar to us as I have taken a deep dive at looking at the seed of God over my most recent series of sermons – The Harvest of God. The scripture for our lesson today is scripture that I preached from a month ago when I preached about the harvest of God. In our lesson today, we get to take another look at the kingdom of heaven being like a man who sowed seed in a field.
As you have heard me say recently, we often use the phrases “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven” interchangeably when speaking about God’s eternal dwelling place. However, some theologians/commentators will tell you that the kingdoms aren’t synonymous with each other. The kingdom of God, you will see some say, includes the whole universe whereas the kingdom of heaven speaks to God’s rule over the earth which is a part of the kingdom of God.
The Parable of the Wheat and Tares
With the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, along with the Parable of the Sower, and the Parable of the Growing Seed, the kingdom of heaven is used to speak about the condition of the world. These parables ask the question as to whether or not we are ready for the coming reign of God.
In the opening verse of our lesson, we are told that the kingdom of heaven is like a man that sowed good seed in his field (v.24). The man that sowed the good seed, Jesus would later tell the disciples, represented Himself (Matt. 13:37). The field, Jesus explained, represented the world (Matt. 13:38). The good seeds, Jesus also told the disciples, represented the sons of the kingdom (Matt. 13:38).
Who are the sons of the kingdom? The sons of the kingdom are all of those who accepted and received the Word of God. So, in other words, the good seeds in the field are all of those that sincerely believe in God’s only begotten Son.
Sadly, the field – the world – is not just filled with the good seeds. Jesus said to the people that after the owner of the field had sowed good seeds, while men slept, the owner’s enemy sowed tares in the field (v.25). When the wheat that the owner had sown began to sprout, the tares were also sprouting with them.
The enemy, Jesus explained, represented the devil (Matt. 13:39). Jesus then explained to the disciples that the tares represented the sons of the devil; Satan is the Father of all of those who live in the conviction of sin.
Lastly, I feel that we need to call our attention to who it was that went to sleep prior to the devil sowing his seed in the field. Was it the Lord? Absolutely not. Scripture tells us that it was while men slept that the devil had sown seed. It was not God that went to sleep, but the world the fell asleep after the Word had been sown by Christ. There are many who are asleep today to the devil’s sowing of his doctrine and it takes root in them while they are asleep.
The condition of the field
The Parable of the Wheat and Tares doesn’t necessarily dive into the specific surfaces of the field. We know from the Parable of the Sower, that three-fourths of field is not conducive for growth of the seed sown by Christ; one part is stony, another is thorny, and another is at the edge of the field – the wayside. So, on that note, a fourth of the field is conducive for growing anything good.
With that in mind, for the tares to be growing among the wheat, that would imply that tares were growing on the good fertile ground as well. For the enemy, this was great news because the enemy sowed the tares with the desire to ruin the harvest. A tare is a weed that looks similar to wheat in wheat’s early stages of growth. Because it is a weed growing among the wheat, it would have the ability to pull in the same nutrients as the wheat which could hinder the growth and fruit of the wheat.
So, with that in mind, I would suggest to you that the field was a mess. Like I have already mentioned, only a fourth of the field was any good. Now, that fourth of the field is producing a good crop but there are weeds all over the place as well. What was to be done about the tares growing in the field?
Now, to drop the figurative speech for a moment, Jesus is speaking to our world. In the world, Jesus sowed the Word of God and some grew from the Word; we who are of faith are the good that is in the field (world). However, Satan has been very busy in the field and has done his best to spoil and ruin God’s harvest by sowing weeds.
The good and bad growing together
The servants asked the owner, when they noticed the tares growing with the wheat, if they should go and pull up the tares (vss.27-28)? Pulling up weeds is very common when it comes to gardeners, planters, and folks that like working in their yard. Again, the reason why you would ever pull up weeds is because of the threat they pose to the good that is trying to grow in the yard or garden.
However, when it comes to pulling up weeds, if you don’t pull them up carefully, you can end up daming or even pulling up the good plants. So, the owner said to the servants to not pull up the tares, but to let both grow together until the harvest (vss.29-30). Why? Because the owner did not want any of the wheat to be uprooted and pulled up with the tares.
To drop the figurative speech, instead of removing evil from the world, the Lord allows it to remain so as not to upright the righteousness that is in the world. Yes, our world is getting worse and worse, all of the time, however, we must come to realize that there is still good in the world. Not only is there good in the world, but the good is growing as well even though it may not feel like it.
You see, the Lord has planted righteousness in the world not to cut off righteousness before it is ready to be harvested. If you are a child of God, the Lord is not going to cut you off before you have flourished; He won’t cut you off from being able to bear fruit of holiness and righteousness in the world. Some of us grow upset with the Lord because He allows evil to persist, but God’s love of righteousness and the future fruit of righteousness outweighs wickedness.
God’s kingdom is always growing, even if it may only be growing in a fourth of the field. The Lord allows us to continue to grow in this world because we are able to fear the fruit of the Spirit; a fruit that is able to give and sustain those that eat it. As we discussed in some of our recent lessons last quarter, the Lord desires for the true and sincere believers to bear much fruit.
The Mustard Seed
Our lesson now takes us into another familiar parable that I have mentioned recently, the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Jesus said to the people that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man sowed in his field (v.31).
Now, the mustard seed parable is an interesting one because off the top, at first glance, it sounds like it is speaking great of the mustard seed. However, I want you to understand that the parable is not necessarily speaking great about the mustard seed. In fact, as Jesus states in the very next verse, the mustard seed is the least of all seeds; in Mark’s gospel, Jesus states that it is smaller than all seeds (v.32).
Now, the size of the kingdom of heaven cannot be defined as it is spiritual and also eternal. However, the seed of heaven – the Word of God – is of great value to those who are of the spirit, but to those who are of the world, it holds absolutely no value. The Word of God is a Word of peace, joy, and salvation and while this means something to all of us who are of faith, it means little to nothing to those who are of the world.
So, though the Word of God may not hold much value to the world, we know that there is great treasure in the Word because of the promise of an eternal kingdom. In the parable, Jesus tells us that the mustard seed grows into a tree and birds are able to come rest in its branches. This, again, all sounds great, but when we dig deeper, this statement is not a great statement for the mustard seed.
You see, in general, the mustard seed holds more value than when it actually grows; it does not actually grow into a tree, it grows into a shrub. The mustard plant has little no value as its leaves can be consumed but that hardly happens. The mustard seed holds the value when it is ground up and mixed with vinegar, water, and other liquids to make the condiment.
To make what I am saying to you very clear: the mustard plant does not bear any fruit. Even the tree from the parable does not bear any fruit; it offers a resting place for the birds but the bird would have to go elsewhere just to find food. The believer should grow into a tree that bears fruit, rather than the tree of this parable; we are not mustard!
You see, if we only grow into a tree like the one in the Parable of the Mustard Seed, I would tell you that we haven’t grown enough and that something has hindered us in bearing fruit. Let us remember, Jesus said that we, the believers, are to be the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13). As we learned last quarter, if we are branch growing from the true vine and aren’t bearing any fruit, something is off because we should bear some kind of fruit in our season of fruit bearing.
The Parable of the Leaven
The Parable of the Leaven introduces what may have gone wrong in the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Again, at first glance, this parable will sound pretty good because it is said that the kingdom of heaven was like a woman that took leaven and hid it in three measures of meal (v.33). Leaven, we should know, is yeast and we add yeast to dough to make it rise. So, at first glance, it would sound like adding leaven to the kingdom of heaven is good because it would cause the kingdom to grow.
However, I would tell you that the kingdom of God does not need any outside additions, like leaven, to help it to grow! No where in scripture is leaven spoken of as a good agent for righteousness, so it should not be thought of in good light here. Let us remember back to the children of Israel’s exodus from Egypt; they were to eat unleavened bread on the night that death passed over them.
Unleavened bread, while it may be bland, is a representation of the Word without any additions. Leaven, the addition, is always viewed as an agent of sin in scripture. We are all warned in the book of Revelation not to add anything to the Word of God (Rev. 22:19). The problem, however, is that many people bend, twist, and corrupt the Word of God with their adding of leaven.
In the Parable of the Leaven, the Word of God is represented by the three measures of meal. The three measures of meal – the Word of God – should have gone untouched but the woman in the parable touched it and messed it up. There has been much confusion about the kingdom of heaven today because of man’s adding of leaven to the Word of God.
I want you to understand, the Lord does not need for any of us to add anything to His Word. If none of us would be willing to become the propitiation for the world, why should we feel we should be able to add our two cents to the word. God, I want you to understand is not the author of confusion. Yes, the Word may be difficult for those who are without the Spirit to understand, but for those that the Spirit dwell in, there is no confusion.
So, from the parables, Jesus speaks to the state of the world’s readiness for coming of the Lord. Sadly, Jesus shares with us that the world is simply not ready. Why is the world not ready? Because many of us are asleep spiritually to Satan’s deceptive work. Secondly, some may be awake but there is much confusion about the Word because of man’s additions. Lastly, some of us are growing in the world but are not bearing the holy and righteous fruit of God.
In order for this world to be ready for the coming of the Lord, we must truly turn to Him and to Him alone. Only then when we receive the Spirit, can we truly come to know the Word and the divine truth. Only when we receive the Spirit can we bear the holy and righteous fruit of God.