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Matthew 13: 47-50

We are five weeks into a series on Jesus' parables of the kingdom of Godwhich are found in Matthew 13, !" #
noted that the seven parables in Matthew 13 have a common theme$the m%steries of the kingdom& '13(11a)"
*hat is, the% reveal a portion of God's kingdom that had not been revealed in the +ld *estament" ,efore we go
on to the ne-t parables, let's briefl% review some general observations about this important issue"
*he +ld *estament view of histor% was that we live in what one biblical author calls $this present evil age&an
age dominated b% rebellion and evil" ,ut God is sovereign over histor%, and one da% he would replace this
present evil age with his own righteous and loving reign" *he event that separates these two periods of histor%
is the coming of God's Messiah"
Jesus affirms the +ld *estament viewbut he adds some crucial additional information" What the +ld *estament
prophets called the coming of Messiah is actuall% his .econd /oming" 0rior to that time, Messiah would come
not as a reigning 1ing but as suffering .ervantto die for the guilt of a rebellious humanit% who God loves" 2is
first coming would usher in an unanticipated form of God's kingdom that is different in important ways from
the kindom in its fullness! *his is what Jesus calls $the m%steries of the kingdom& and describes through
the seven parables in Matthew 13"
*hrough these parables, then, we learn about how God's kingdom is at work in the world toda%, and about how
we can benefit from and cooperate with his activit%" *he ke% to understanding these parables is to ask( What do
the% teach about this $m%ster%& phase of God's kingdom that is different from its completed phase3
4et's look at the final parable in Matthew 13 'read 13(567!8)" *his was a common scene along the .ea of
Galilee" *he dragnet was as much as a mile long" #t was weighted on the bottom and had floats on the top" #t
would be spread in the shape of a huge semi7circle, and then dragged to shore" *hen came the task of getting
rid of the undesirable fish and getting the edible fish read% for market" "o one has ever #een invented a net
that $at$hes only edi#le fish"
What does this parable teach us about God's kingdom3 What new information does it give us about the
$m%ster%& phase3
*here is nothing new about the fact that Jesus returns, he will separate 'and 9udge) those who belong to God
from those who don't '#saiah 38(: echoed b% John in Matthew 3(1)"
*he new information is that in the $m%ster%& phase, the activit% of God's kingdom will $gather up& even those
who do not trul% belong to /hrist"
*he dragnet is clearl% a picture of the work of Jesus and his followers as
the% invite people to enter God's kingdom through faith in the gospel" Jesus often used this $fishing& analog% to
describe his mission of outreach '4uke !(18; Matthew 5(1<)" 2is own ministr% illustrated this point( man% who
followed him for a time did not trul% believe in him 'John (375), and one of his own disciples was in fact an
agent of .atan who betra%ed him 'John 13(, 6)" 2is point is that the worldwide movement he was
inaugurating would inevitabl% include man% that do not in fact belong to him"
What is the practical importance of this parable3 =nderstood in light of the rest of the >ew *estament, there are
at least three important lessons we should take to heart " " "
?irst of all, it warns us to #e on the alert for false tea$hers and $ounterfeit versions of %hristianity! *he
bad fish represent 'in part at least) those 'like Judas) who are planted in the net b% God's enem% to disrupt and
discredit his kingdom" Jesus warned his own followers of this danger 'read Matthew 6(1!), and he predicted
that this danger would increase throughout the $m%ster%& phase of his kingdom 'read Matthew 5(!, 18711,
57!)" #f %ou were the devil and %ou wanted to oppose the growth of Jesus' kingdom in this age, what better
wa% to do this than b% proliferating people who talk about Jesus, claim to speak for Jesusbut are perverting
the truth about Jesus3
*he first7centur% church saw an immediate outbreak of all kinds of false teachers" @irtuall% ever% >ew
*estament letter warns against specific false teachings"
As Jesus predicted, one of the ma9or themes of church histor% is the continuous outbreak of false teachers
from Gnosticism 'kind of a Buasi7/hristian >ew Age spiritualit%), to ritualistic legalism '
C 3
centur% over7
reaction to Gnosticism,
peaking in the Middle Ages, still around toda%), to anti7supernatural theolog%
',=4*MA>>; JD.=. .DM#>AE), to wack% cult7leaders 'EA.0=*#>, J#M J+>D., ,EA>/2 FA@#F#A>.), to flak%
healersGevangelists who e-tract mone% and se-ual favors from their followers, etc" *he% all claim to be
spokesmen for Jesus, the% all use the ,ibleand the%'re all counterfeits who lead people astra% and
misrepresent Jesus"
2ow can %ou avoid this minefield3 *here is no protection in denominations, old groups, theological degrees,
social approval, etc" *he onl% sure protection against counterfeits is thorough familiarit% with the real thing
God's written Word 'see Acts 8(:73; *imoth% 3(1371H)" Jesus and the apostles presuppose that ever%
/hristian can learn God's Word well enough to discern truth from error '2ebrews !(11715)" *his is wh% the
position that onl% designated leaders can properl% interpret the ,ible is especiall% pernicious " " "
#f %ou understand the first lesson, it also helps %ou to understand why $hur$h history $ontains so many
divisions and atro$ities!
Man% people are stumbled b% the fact that /hristendom has so man% denominations and sects" *he% reason
that if /hristianit% is the truth, there should be onl% one church" ,ut the truth is actuall% a little more
complicated than this"
.ome divisions are not bad at all, according to the >ew *estament" Jesus and the apostles never envisioned one
organiIational structure for the church" *rue /hristians can be united b% their common faith in /hrist and love
for one another even though the% ma% work among different peoples in different groups 'e"g", 0A=4 C 0D*DE in
Galatians (67<)"
Man% divisions, however, are the result of false teachers and true /hristians' faithfulness to Jesus and his
teaching" #f a false teacher is tr%ing to infiltrate a trul% /hristian group, those /hristians have an obligation to
resist 'and even remove) such people" #f the /hristians succeed, and the false teacher starts a new group, he
will call it $/hristian"& #f, however, the false teacher gains power over the original group so that the true
/hristians leave, the% will of course call their new group $/hristian"& *his is how %ou can get so man% groups
that call themselves $/hristian& even though the% do not believe in the Jesus of the >ew *estament" *hese
kinds of divisions were happening even in the apostolic period, when false teachers whom the apostles kicked
out started their own movements and called them /hristian '.imon in Acts :; 2%menaeus C Ale-ander in
1 *imoth% 1(1<78; *imoth% (1671:; Gnostics in 1 John (1<)" *he same thing has continued over the past
8 centuries" Man% groups were started b% false teachers who were rightfull% removed from /hristian groups"
+thers graduall% took over /hristian groups until /hristians left that group to start new churches"
Man% /hristians 'not to mention non7/hristians) are stumbled b% the horrors that have been perpetrated b% the
/hurch and people who claim to be /hristians" *he /hurch has had an especiall% terrible record in 9ustif%ing
anti7.emitism, for e-ample"
$*he medieval Eoman church progressivel% stripped the Jewish people of legal rights " " " that had taken
centuries to procure under the pagan Eoman Dmpire" *he decrees of the ?ourth 4ateran /ouncil of 11! under
0ope #nnocent ### ordered Jews to wear distinctive garments, ostensibl% to curtail intimate relationships
between Jews and /hristians"&

.ome of the most virulent anti7.emitic attitudes in >aIi German% were approved and promoted b% 0rotestant
denominations" /onsider this 1<3! letter from a 4utheran pastor to Julius .treicher, editor of the hate magaIine
Der Sturmer( $ " " " As a 4utheran pastor, # must thank %ou for the courageous words with which %ou replied to
the incredible statements of the 0rovincial ,rethren /ouncil Jof the /onfessing /hurchK in .a-on%" We stand
enthusiasticall% behind %our struggle against the Jewish death watch beetles which are undermining our
German nation" .o too against those friends of Jewr% which are to be found even in the ranks of the 0rotestant
pastorate" We will fight alongside %ou and we will not give up until the struggle against all Jewr% and against
the murderers of our .avior has been brought to a victorious end, in the spirit of /hrist and of Martin 4uther" #n
true fellowship, # greet %ou with 2eil 2itlerL&
2ow can /hristianit% be true if Jesus' followers are guilt% of these atrocities3 #n general, the answer is( *he%
weren't /hrist's followers at all" Although true /hristians are certainl% capable of seriousl% misrepresenting
/hrist, the most shameful episodes 'like the above) have usuall% been perpetrated b% $bad fish&nominal or
counterfeit /hristians" +ver against this, true /hristians 'like /orrie *en ,oom, for e-ample) have often been
heroic in their efforts to save Jews"
?inall%, it emphasiIes the importance of reali'in that affiliation with a $hur$h (in$ludin this $hur$h)
doesn*t ensure that you #elon to %hrist*s kindom! A famous /hristian preacher from the earl% 8

centur% e-pressed this truth this wa%( $Going into a church doesn't make %ou a /hristian an% more than going
into a garage makes %ou a car"& *he same can be said about church membership, being baptiIed and taking
communion, reciting the Apostle's /reed, etc" Mou could do all of these thingsand still be one of the bad fishL
+r %ou could have done none of these things and be one of the good fishL *his is because belonging to /hrist
and his kingdom reBuires making a personal decision to ask /hrist to live in %our heart"
#n Eevelation 3, Jesus spoke to people who were affiliated with the church in 4aodecia, but who didn't belong to
his kingdom" Dven though the% attended meetings and assented to the teachings, he loves them enough to tell
them that the% are still spirituall% blind and naked" ,ut he doesn't stop therehe also issues this invitation
'read Eevelation 3(8)"
2ave %ou made this decision3 2ave %ou called out to Jesus personall% and asked him to come into %our heart
and forge a personal relationship between %ou and him3 *his is the step that takes %ou from being involved
with Jesus' kingdom to actuall% belonging to him and his kingdom"
1 >ote the similarit% in language between 13(5<7!8 and 13(58b75" ,oth parables speak of the mi-ed
character of the kingdom in this age, and of the certaint% that God will sort people out in the ne-t age" ,ut
whereas the parable of the wheat and tares is about the coe-istence of God's people and .atan's people in the
world generall%, this parable is about the mi-ed spiritual character of those people who are Ncaught up inN the
influence of God's kingdom"
& +f the >ew *estament letters 'including Eevelation ,3), at least 16 contain e-plicit warnings against false
teachers" .ee Eomans 1H(16,1:; 1 /orinthians 1!(1; /orinthians (16; 11(1371!; Galatians 1(H7<; !(187
1; 0hilippians 3(; /olossians (1H73; *hess" (1,; 1 *imoth% 1(3ff"; 5(17!; H(37!; *imoth% 3(17:; *itus
1(1871H; 3(<711; 2ebrews 13(<; 0eter (17; 1 John (1:7H; 5717H; John 1(67<; 3 John 1(<,18;
Jude 1(5ff"; Eevelation (,1!,8"
3 $.alvation was seen as the reward for faithfulness to God and /hristfaithfulness worked out in regular
attendance at worship and in a life lived under the direction of God's law" ,aptism was operative in starting this
life, and communion was necessar% to provide power to continue " " " *his would sum up the beliefs of the
average /hristian 'of the earl% third centur%)"& M" A" .mith, From Christ to Constantine '#nter@arsit% 0ress,
1<61), pp" 1!5,1!!"
4 Favid A" Eausch, A Legacy of Hatred '/hicago( Mood% 0ress, 1<:5), p" H"
5 /ited in Favid A" Eausch, A Legacy of Hatred '/hicago( Mood% 0ress, 1<:5), pp" 1HH,1H6""