Wheat and Tares

by Mike Ratliff

9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.” Genesis 3:9-15 (NASB) 

24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 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?’ 28 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?’ 29 But he *said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 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 13:24-30 (NASB) 

36 Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Matthew 13:36-43 (NASB) 

Several years ago a preacher ask me what a tare was. He knew that I was from Oklahoma and he thought I would know. I am no country boy, but when I was a young man, I worked in a grain elevator. Actually, most wheat farmers I knew complained about a weed, which grew in their fields, they called “Cheat.” I may not be spelling it correctly. I have seen the weed though. Wheat looks like a thick-bladed grass when it is young and green. “Cheat” is a native rye grass whose species name is Lolium Temulentum. When it is young, it looks just like the Wheat. However, when it matures, it has a head on it as does Wheat, but you can tell them apart. Wheat has value, but “Cheat” is a nuisance. We offered a Wheat cleaning service to farmers just prior to planting. To clean Wheat seed we ran it through a screening process to remove any other seeds that were not Wheat. We would drop the grain down a chute into a cleaning machine that had several well-placed screens that allowed only the Wheat grains to make it through the process. The rest of the chaff and weed seeds were waste, which we bagged. Some of the farmers took that waste and fed it to their chickens.

I placed three scripture passages at the beginning of this chapter. The first one explains the events immediately after Adam’s sin and is the basis for the Doctrine of Original Sin. God questions Adam who blames Eve. God questions Eve who blames the serpent. God then addresses the serpent who we know is Satan. Let us look at that part of the passage again.

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.” Genesis 3:14-15 (NASB)

This passage is symbolic. The serpent is Satan. The woman represents the Church, which is the elect. The seed of Satan are all reprobate people who are not part of the elect. God proclaims to Satan that He will put enmity between him and the elect. That is no surprise. He also tells him there will be enmity between his seed and the Woman’s seed. Women do not have seed, men do. Women have ovaries and eggs not seed. The Woman’s seed symbolizes those who are not born of Man. This statement symbolizes the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Is there enmity between Satan and our Lord Jesus Christ? Satan bruised Jesus’ heel at the cross, a non-fatal blow. However, Jesus bruised or crushed Satan’s head, a fatal blow, in His victory over sin at the cross. The seed of the Woman also includes the elect who are regenerated, reborn, through saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This regeneration is followed quickly by justification by God declaring these Born Again believers righteous. This is possible because of the act of Atonement for the elect’s sin. (Romans 5:11) Jesus paid the price for the elect’s sin by becoming sin on the cross. This satisfied the justice of God against that sin. As regeneration becomes fact, because of the Atoning work done by the Lord, God the Father adopts all new believers into the family of God. This is why the Woman’s seed includes Jesus Christ and all believers because God the Father considers all in Christ as Jesus’ brethren. (Romans 8:14-18)

As we have seen, there is enmity between Satan’s seed and the Woman’s seed. Since the Woman’s seed is Jesus Christ and all of His brethren, we must conclude Satan and his seed really hate the true Church as much as they hate Him. Satan’s seed are the reprobate non-elect in this world who will never believe. Unlike the unregenerate elect, these unregenerate will always hate God, the gospel, and the true Church.

The next two passages I placed at the beginning of this chapter are a parable Jesus told followed by His interpretation. I have heard many sermons and teachings on the “Wheat and the Tares” parable. After I studied this for myself, I have found that most of those sermons were dead wrong.

Many years ago a very famous evangelist came to our Church in Oklahoma when I was serving as a deacon there. He preached a sermon titled, “The Wheat and the Tares.” His sermon had Jesus give this parable to us as a warning that the Church contained true believers (the Wheat) alongside phony believers (the tares). He has boasted that this sermon usually results in most of the deacons at whatever church he preaches it in “getting saved.” I remember like it was just the other day when he preached it in our church. I knew I was a believer and his sermon did not cause me to doubt. When he gave his invitation at the end, he seemed very disappointed when none of our deacons “got resaved.” His approach was Arminian to the core. He also misinterpreted  and misapplied Jesus parable of the Wheat and the Tares. Let’s look at Jesus own interpretation of this parable.

36 Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, Matthew 13:36-37 (NASB) 

Who sows the good seed? Jesus told us that He does that. This is talking about salvation. This is describing the regenerate, the chosen of God, as seed the Lord sows. The seed do not choose this. The sower sows them. The Lord saves those who are His. There is no human choice involved here at all. Where does Jesus sow His good seeds?

38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; Matthew 13:38 (NASB) 

This verse shows us that Jesus sows His good seed in the world and those seed are the children of the kingdom. The chosen of God are Jesus siblings by adoption. They are God’s children. Since they are in the world this is referring to living believers. This is not a picture of the Church as a whole, but is a picture of believers living in the world. What about the tares, who are they?

38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. Matthew 13:38-39 (NASB) 

This is very clear. The tares are Satan’s seed that he planted in the world. Read this very carefully, the Wheat does not become tares and the tares do not become Wheat. This is a very straightforward teaching on election and perseverance of the Saints. God knows those who are His. He also knows who the tares are. Could it be possible for tares to be part of the Church? There most definitely are tares in the visible or physical Church. If there are tares who are professing believers then they are part of what some of us call the “Counterfeit Church”, spiritually. A local church body may very well contain members of both the Counterfeit Church and the true Church, side-by-side. All genuine believers, the chosen, are part of the true Church, spiritually. However, physically they may be part of the Counterfeit Church if they are mired in false doctrine. The physical churches contain believers and non-believers. However, the spiritual true Church is 100% chosen of God. The Reformers referred to the “Church” as being made up of the Visible Church and the Invisible Church. The Visible Church is made up of both true believers and unbelievers.  There are many “churches” in the Visible Church that are apostate and/or heretical as well.  On the other hand, the True Church or Invisible Church is made up of the Elect of God.  There are no unbelievers or Tares in it. Many of these believers are in churches that are not very good theologically and we should pray that God would cause His people to be led by Godly men.

All non-professing reprobate people are Satan’s seed and are not part of any church but are tares in the world. The false professors are those who claim to be Christian but are not so they are Satan’s seed as well. These would be tares in the visible church. The Spiritual true Church contains no tares. The false professors are not the chosen of God. They are tares. What happens to the tares at the end of the age?

39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:39-42 (NASB) 

There is nothing funny about that message. The chosen of God will avoid the furnace of fire. However, the tares will not. It is at this point the Pelagian, Semi-Pelagian, and Arminian would step up and say something like, “There must be something we can do to get these poor people to decide for Christ in light of their future!” This is not a message of evangelism. This is a message by our Lord about the future of those who are not the chosen of God. However, we must get the gospel to all people because there are many elect who have not yet believed. The gospel must be preached  throughout the world to all peoples so the elect will come to faith, but only the chosen of God will believe because they are the only ones given God’s effectual call by His grace.

Soli Deo Gloria!

15 thoughts on “Wheat and Tares

  1. And Jesus *answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
    “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:23-24

    When Jesus Christ died and went into the earth like a very unique “seed,” is the Holy Spirit producing new life that has exactly the same genetic (spiritual) makeup as the original seed? Is the new birth, born of the will of God, born with a new divine nature as the original seed?

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  2. It seems like there is a lot of tares growing out there that seems to be hogging all the sunlight (attention) and crowding out the wheat.

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  3. Yep. Seeking the glory of man. Unfortunately it attracts all sorts of creatures. I am concerned over those young wheat plants that can be severely damaged in the early growing process.

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  4. Yes indeed! So don’t ever lose heart, Mike. You must keep up the good fight. I for one am really thankful that you do this. God bless.

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  5. Hey Mike, thanks for this post. One thing that has caused some confusion for me is the warning from our Lord not to gather up the tares, but to let them grow alongside the wheat, lest the wheat be uprooted also. If the wheat is the elect, then they cannot be ultimately uprooted, correct? So, then, why the warning?

    Or, is he saying that the young wheat need to be carefully nurtured so that it can get a good root; therefore, let us not seek to pull out the tares due to the fact that we don’t always know how it will affect the young wheat, especially? If this is the case, what does that mean for us, practically speaking? Does it mean that discernment ministries that call out the tares are in danger of harming the wheat? I’m honestly trying to understand what this looks like.

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  6. Carol, remember, this is a parable and an analogy. The command given is not to the Church, but to the Angels. They are not to come in and do housecleaning. Also, the field is not the Church, but the EARTH. Yes, there are tares in the Church, but they come from the world. The true Church contains no tares. It is being made complete by our Lord Himself. Meanwhile in the world there are elect who have not yet come to faith. The times have not yet become complete. We are still in “this age” and the age to come is yet to come. When it comes, then we shall see His mighty hand working in the world as we would like. Also, we are commanded all through the N.T. to be wise and discerning and to call out the false teachers and leaders by name so as to warn the Body of Christ. In this age, we are to obey and grow in Christ and be about our Lord’s business. I see so many who claim they are doing that, but instead are getting rich and/or famous in the ministry. That is not what we are called to do. Instead we are to point out to the Body of Christ not to follow them. Don’t you agree?

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  7. Mike, thanks. I’m looking at Matt 13:28, where the servants ask the householder ask Him if He wants them to gather up the tares. Are you saying these servants are angels? I was seeing them as believers. And then, He tells them not to gather up the tares but to leave that job to the angels at the end of the age. So, it looks like the servants are believers, not angels. So, the servants are not to gather up the tares, lest they uproot the wheat in the process (v. 29).

    When you then cite, for example, Paul’s teaching to expose false teachers, to expose the unfruitful works of darkness, I wonder… Is Paul’s command different from what the servants in the parable desired to do? Were they like the Zealots who would have killed the tares? While Paul is telling us to not pursue the false teachers but only warn the believers about them?

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  8. This is why the householder is not “us.” Do we have the power to go through the earth and uproot tares? The Church in the past has tried to do this and had religious wars, inquisitions, etc. No, we are not to do that. Remember the analogy. Where is the field? Is it the Church or is it the Earth? It is the Earth. The evil one has caused the fall and has his own seed spread throughout the world. We must not get into war with them. They will be gathered by angels at the end of the age, not by us. On the other hand, we are given the task of standing firm on doctrine and the truth in the CHURCH to reveal false teachers, expose them, and warn the true believers about them. To hold them accountable, etc. Do we burn them at the stake? NO! Do we discipline them? Yes! The Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians, and Arminians were all exposed by councils and disciplined, but they still exist to this day don’t they? Yes, unfortunately… Just like Arianism still exists in the J.W. heresy. Gnosticism still exists in weird ways with the Emergent Church. What are we to do? We EXPOSE THEM and let God handle what happens to them.

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  9. Agreed. What I like about your blog is that you teach the truth, exegeting the Bible, instead of just do hit pieces on false teachers. Thanks, Mike.

    There is one other thing in this parable that intrigues me and that is that wheat and darnel are distinguishable once they bear fruit. At that point, as you described in your post, one can tell the wheat from the tares. Until the fruit is borne, it is impossible to tell the difference between the two (kind of like how the disciples thought Judas Iscariot was “wheat”). The servants in the parable ask if they can gather up the tares, meaning that they thought (rightly so?) that they could tell the difference and, therefore, remove the tares.

    But when I look at the Householder’s reasoning as to why the servants are not to gather up the tares, I see that it is because they might also uproot the wheat. He seems to acknowledge that the servants were capable of distinguishing wheat from tares, yet he’s not so confident that they could gather up the tares without uprooting the wheat. Is He saying that if we were to try to gather up tares we may do spiritual damage to the wheat? Or, is He saying that in gathering up tares, we may mistake a wheat for a tare, thus tragically declaring that a wheat is a tare (effectively uprooting the wheat)?

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  10. I suppose you could look at that way, but I think we could be in danger of putting too much pressure on the analogy to go that far. However, I do know that farmers don’t try to weed out the tares from their fields. They harvest their fields knowing that the wheat is heavy while the seed in the tare’s head is very light and will just blow away. That is why we could clean the wheat for planting the way we did. The tare seeds were just screened out and were bagged. The wheat was heavier than everything else and would go out the spout and back into the bed of the truck ready for the seeder. Therefore, Jesus could be saying that the tares are there for a reason. He and the Father and Holy Spirit use their evil pressure to mature the Elect. We don’t like it, but that is the truth. Our fight against sin will continue until we go home. The tares in the world, both in churches and the world are used to mature us in Christ. I know that I do more Bible study and read more intellectual stuff in order to address aggressive heretics and apostates than I would if I didn’t have to encounter them. It is because of my preparing for and getting into the fight that God has developed my discernment and sometimes I have found that I have had to go deeper into study when I encounter a much stronger foe. That has happened. I do not enjoy any of that, but out the other side, I find that I have learned much. To God be the glory.

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  11. Thanks for the discussion, Mike. What you said about the tares being used by God to mature us and lead us further into His Word is certainly true. May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you!

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