In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus told a parable about the “tares among the wheat” (v.25). A “tare” is a weedy grass “resembling wheat in appearance” (W.E. Vine). Simply put, someone planted a “counterfeit crop”– a deceitful imitation of the true. Jesus’ interpretation (v.36-43) contrasts “the sons of the kingdom” (i.e., the church) with “the sons of the wicked one” (sinners, v.38). Note carefully that this parable does NOT contrast faithful and unfaithful Christians. The sons of the wicked one were NOT “good seed gone bad;” instead, they were bad seed from the start! In other words, they were “counterfeits” – they might appear to be Christians, but they were fakes. While the Devil has many ways of producing counterfeits, I want to use this parable as a vehicle to look at “counterfeit religion.” I’m quite aware that our modern “PC culture” does not like to discuss false religion; but it does, in fact, exist! Let’s notice some things that are needed to produce a counterfeit religion…
First, there must be “a counterfeit gospel.” Jesus said, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man” (v.37). In an earlier parable, Jesus called it, “the word of the kingdom,” which is just another word for the gospel (v.18-19). Only the pure, unadulterated, “incorruptible seed” of the gospel can produce a true Christian (1Pt.1:22-25). On the other hand, a counterfeit seed (or gospel) will only produce a counterfeit Christian. Sometimes, the Devil sows counterfeit seed that is a completely different kind of seed (e.g., “the tradition of men,” Col.2:6-8). Other times, the Devil sows a seed that is “mixed” with the pure gospel (cf. Ga.1:6-8). These facts should impress upon our minds the importance of making sure that what is taught is “nothing but the truth” (cf. Ac.17:11).
A counterfeit gospel is sown by “a counterfeit preacher.” The landowner of our parable said, “An enemy has done this” (v.27-28); and Jesus identified that enemy as “the Devil” (v.39). In the larger scheme of things, God has His preachers, who sow the good seed (2Cor.2:17; 4:2). And the Devil has his preachers, who sow the bad seed; they are identified as false apostles and teachers (2Cor.11:1-4, 13-15). Our common enemy, the Devil, has been very busy scattering bad seed! That bad seed takes the form of various human creeds and opinions, which are eagerly spread by multitudes of counterfeit preachers. Sadly, many are deceived into believing the Devil’s lies! (2Th.2:9-12)
A counterfeit gospel and preacher produce “a counterfeit Christian.” In the parable, they are identified as “tares” (v.38) – they resembled wheat, but they were NOT wheat! It is a God-ordained, scientific principle that every seed reproduces “after its kind” (Gn.1:11-12; cf. Ga.6:7-8). The pure seed of the gospel will only produce Christians; and any counterfeit seed will only produce counterfeit Christians! Such a one may resemble a Christian (e.g., assemble, worship, etc.), but he is “as phony as a three-dollar bill.” To be specific, a counterfeit seed like, “faith only,” CANNOT produce a true Christian (Jm.2:24). And a counterfeit seed like, saying “the sinner’s prayer,” CANNOT produce a true Christian (Mk.16:16). Such people may be sincere, and they may look like Christians; but they are not!
Finally, an organized group of counterfeit Christians is “a counterfeit church.” Just as true Christians will organize themselves into local churches (cf. Ph.1:1); even so, counterfeit Christians will organize themselves into counterfeit churches. Keep in mind that if “the basic building blocks” of a church are counterfeit Christians, then the resulting church will also be counterfeit; there is simply no way around that! The Scriptures are quite clear that there are many “synagogues of Satan” out there (Rv.2:9; 3:9) – which is just another way of saying “counterfeit churches.” Those who are faithful to God MUST REJECT counterfeit Christians and churches (Tit.3:10-11). Men have produced many churches; but God has only one! (1Cor.12:13; Ep.4:4).
“Counterfeit religion” will not stand in the Day of Judgment! (cf. Mt.13:30, 40-42). We must make sure that we have been made from “good seed” – i.e., the pure and unadulterated gospel of Christ! Have you examined your religion lately?