What is growing in your field?

Wheat or tares? If only we always knew the answer right away! At times it is only later on that we find out what has begun to grow. This is the subject matter of the New Apostolic sermons in the month of October.

In the congregations of the New Apostolic Church, the theme series for the first three Sunday divine services of the month of October bears the title: “Living by the gospel”—not “with”, not “for”, but living “by” the gospel. There is a difference. The glad tidings of the reign of Jesus is set up like a life insurance policy for the future. Those who carry the gospel of the Lord within themselves, and allow themselves to be guided by it, will live by Jesus’ promises. This applies in both the good times and bad times of life, and it is as sure as the “Amen” in church.

Bright days — dark days

God is always there, whether we happen to see Him or not. The sermon on the first Sunday divine service speaks of the presence of God in all time periods. The principle that man is not to forget his God in good days, and not abandon Him in dark days either, is crucial here. Salvation and eternal fellowship with God have always been accessible—and are still accessible today—in the church of Christ. Man’s response to the compassion of God is worship and praise: “Do not forget by whom you live!”

Good fruits and useless fruits

Weeds are also plants, naturally—but not the kind we are fond of seeing. They deprive the good plants of water and nourishment. The parable of the tares among the wheat makes this clear. In the gospel of Matthew we read as follows: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared” (from Matthew 13: 24-26).

What a scary, unfair story! And yet so real. Christ, the sower, sows the gospel in the field of humanity. It is proclaimed to all human beings, both good and bad. Those who receive it with believing hearts will bear fruits. Justified by faith, they will enter into the kingdom of God. But the field of life is also exposed to the temptations of the evil one. He is quite diligent in his work, and sows his own seed—quarrels and strife—among the wheat fields of God, furrow by furrow—and no one can liberate himself completely from it. And it is precisely for this reason that it is not up to us human beings to make a distinction between good and evil people. This judgement is reserved for God alone. At times we may perhaps see the sin of our neighbour, but we cannot assess the degree of his guilt. At times we may even see the good works of our neighbour, but we do not always know the true intention behind them: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts” (from 1 Corinthians 4: 5).

Thus we are not permitted to condemn our neighbour—however, this does not mean we must approve of his sinful conduct. God expects no less of us than the willingness to love our neighbour despite all his sinfulness, and to pray for his redemption.

God helps—both me and my neighbour!

This is a core tenet of the gospel, whereby we can secure our future life: loving our neighbour brings us closer to God. This is the subject of the sermon on the third Sunday in October. When we are attentive to our neighbour, we attest that God’s salvation also applies to him. Concrete help in both a spiritual and material respect make it clear that we take our faith seriously and that we not only desire salvation for ourselves, but also for all other people. Our love for God and our love for our neighbour belong together. Anyone who believes that one could be separated from the other is either mistaken, or—as Holy Scripture puts it—a liar: “We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4: 19-20).

Not all that simple a commandment, is it?

Photo: Mariusz Blach - stock.adobe.com

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Peter Johanning
Divine service