The Work of the Enemy

Book Reflection // August 13, 2022

The Parables of Jesus by James Montgomery Boice

Chapter 2 // Matthew 13:24-43

Just like the previous parable that focused on the different types of soil that receive the gospel seed, Boice classifies this triplet of parables as dealing once again with the Kingdom of God. In this section Boice takes a bit of a different approach than what I have heard in the past and what I have seen in my small circle of Christian influence. Boice groups these three parables (weeds, mustard seed, and leaven) as speaking directly about the influence and work of evil in the Kingdom of God as it spreads throughout the world. These parables highlight the work of the enemy in our lives and the life of the church. Jesus tells us these parables to highlight the strategies and designs of our enemy to infiltrate, influence, and ultimately hinder the work of God in this world.

Parable of the Weeds

In this parable we see the establishment of the Kingdom in this world and the growing of gospel minded faithful followers is infiltrated by the followers of the enemy and are wholly set to hinder and cause harm to the work of God. Boice brings up three applications that we need to pay attention to:

  1. “If the devil is mixing his people in among true Christians, then we should be alert to that fact.” We should not be surprised when we hear or see people who claim to follow Christ and then walk away from the faith or repudiate it all together. The strategy of the enemy is to infiltrate deceivers into the group and let these false believers grow up among the true believers. All in the hope of leading the faithful astray and bringing damage to the name of Christ.
  2. “The mixed nature of the Christian assembly should not be an excuse for unbelievers to refuse to come to Christ.” There should be no excuse that someone doesn’t attend church because it is full of hypocrites. All hypocrites are welcome into the church. Jesus came to call sinners, even the sinners who happen to be attending church.
  3. “No one should take comfort in sin.” This warning is to not get comfortable with sin in our own heart. As we look around our world and our church, we will see sinners and false believers among us. We must not get comfortable or envious of their sin not being judged. The time of judgement will come and we must all be ready. Examine your own heart and be mindful to confirm your calling.

The Mustard Seed and Yeast

This section is where Boice takes a somewhat different approach to the parables than I had previously understood. I need some more time to really contemplate what he is saying here, but I agree with him that this section does seem to be focused on the infiltration of the enemy in the work of the Kingdom. As such, the mustard seed that is planted in the garden becomes bigger than expected and rises above all the other plants of the garden and provides shade and relief. This tree attracts birds who come and make nests in its branches. In the previous parable of the soils, the birds were identified as the devil or his messengers. So, it is significant that these same birds come into the garden and make their nests in the branches of this mustard tree that has grown so large. For me, it is a picture of the danger of allowing the birds to come and make a nest at all in the garden. As the gospel message goes out and the Kingdom grows, the messengers of the enemy will come and set up among its branches. This is a similar message with the yeast. Yeast is typically a symbol of evil and is used to represent this in many different passages of the Bible. This leaven was hidden in among the flour. It was mixed in and spread around until it was thoroughly spread throughout the whole three measures of flour.

The Secular Church

“The secular church is one dominated by the world.” This is the result of the influence of the evil one working his “weeds” into the places of influence in our churches. How do we recognize a church that has become secular? There are two quotes, that I think summarize Boice’s point on this topic.

  1. “We are warned not only against his infusion of his own people into the Christian community, but also against the visible church’s bureaucratic growth (which confuses size and structure with spiritual fruit.”
  2. “The visible church when it is secular, is one that seeks to do God’s work but in the world’s way. It looks to the media and money rather than to God and His power, which is unleashed through prayer.”

This is danger that this group of parables is addressing. The influence of the enemy into the working of the church and the lives of believers is designed to ultimately draw people away from dependance on the Lord. The weeds of influence give the same message that the enemy told to Adam and Eve. That message is that you can’t trust what God is telling you, because he wants to keep you down. We look around and we become prideful and arrogant and think we know better than God. So, we join with the weeds and trust in our own wisdom and strength instead of embracing humility and dependance on Christ for every need with thanksgiving.

Satan is active in this world, but our God is still sovereign and in control of everything.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to ta yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1

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