Wheat Or Chaff
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.Matthew 3:12
Viewed with the eye of man, the earth contains many different sorts of inhabitants. Viewed with the eye of God, it only contains two. Man’s eye looks at the outward appearance: this is all he thinks of. The eye of God looks at the heart: this is the only part of which He takes any account. And tried by the state of their hearts, there are but two classes into which people can be divided: either they are wheat or they are chaff.
Who are the wheat in the world?
This is a point that demands special consideration. The wheat means all men and women who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ; all who are led by the Holy Spirit; all who have felt themselves sinners and fled for refuge to the salvation preached in the gospel; all who love the Lord Jesus, live to the Lord Jesus, and serve the Lord Jesus; all who have taken Christ for their only confidence and the Bible for their only guide; all who regard sin as their deadliest enemy and look to heaven as their only home. All such – of every church, name, nation, people, and tongue; of every rank, station, condition, and degree – all such are God’s “wheat.”
Show me people of this kind anywhere and I know what they are. I know not that they and I may agree in all particulars, but I see in them the handiwork of the King of kings, and I ask no more. I know not whence they came and where they found their religion. But I know where they are going, and that is enough for me. They are the children of my Father in heaven. They are part of His “wheat.”
All such, though sinful, vile, and unworthy in their own eyes, are the precious part of mankind.
They are the sons and daughters of God the Father. They are the delight of God the Son. They are the habitation of God the Spirit. The Father beholds no iniquity in them. They are the members of His dear Son’s mystical body: in Him He sees them and is well pleased. The Lord Jesus discerns in them the fruit of His own travail and work upon the cross and is well satisfied. The Holy Ghost regards them as spiritual temples that He Himself has reared and rejoices over them. In a word, they are the “wheat” of the earth.
Who are the chaff in the world?
This again is a point that demands special attention. The chaff means all men and women who have no saving faith in Christ and no sanctification of the Spirit, whoever they may be. Some of them perhaps are infidels, and some are formal Christians. Some are sneering Sadducees, and some self-righteous Pharisees. Some of them make a point of keeping up a kind of Sunday religion, and others are utterly careless of everything except their own pleasure and the world. But all alike, who have the two great marks already mentioned – no faith and no sanctification – all such are “chaff.” They bring no glory to God the Father. They honor not the Son, and so do not honor the Father that sent Him (John 5:23). They neglect that mighty salvation that countless millions of angels admire. They disobey that Word that was graciously written for their learning. They listen not to the voice of Him who condescended to leave heaven and die for sinners. They pay no tribute of service and affection to Him who gave them “life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25).
Therefore, God takes no pleasure in them. He pities them, but He reckons them no better than “chaff.” Yes, you may have rare intellectual gifts and high mental attainments. You may sway kingdoms by your counsel and move millions by your pen or keep crowds in breathless attention by your tongue; but if you have never submitted yourself to the yoke of Christ and never honored His gospel by heartfelt reception of it, you are nothing in His sight. The smallest insect that crawls is a nobler being than you are: it fills its place in creation and glorifies its Maker with all its power – you do not. You do not honor God with heart, will, intellect, and members, which are all His. You invert His order and arrangement and live as if time was of more importance than eternity and body better than soul. You dare to neglect God’s greatest gift – His own incarnate Son. You are cold about that subject that fills all heaven with hallelujahs. And so long as this is the case, you belong to the worthless part of mankind. You are the “chaff” of the earth.
Let this thought be graven deeply in the mind of every reader of this article, whatever else he forgets. Remember there are only two sorts of people in the world. There is wheat, and there is chaff.
There are many nations in the world. Each differs from the rest. Each has its own language, its own laws, its own peculiar customs. But God’s eye divides them into two great parties – the wheat and the chaff. There are many classes in the world. There are peers and commoners, farmers and shopkeepers, masters and servants, rich and poor. But God’s eye only takes account of two orders – the wheat and the chaff. There are many and various minds in every congregation that meets for religious worship. There are some who attend for a mere form, and some who really desire to meet Christ; some who come there to please others, and some who come to please God; some who bring their hearts with them and are not soon tired, and some who leave their hearts behind them and reckon the whole service weary work. But the eye of the Lord Jesus only sees two divisions in the congregation – the wheat and the chaff.
I know well the world dislikes this way of dividing professing Christians. The world tries hard to fancy there are three sorts of people and not two. To be very good and very strict does not suit the world: they cannot, will not be saints. To have no religion at all does not suit the world: it would not be respectable. “Thank God,” they will say, “we are not as bad as that.” But to have religion enough to be saved, and yet not go into extremes; to be sufficiently good, and yet not be peculiar; to have a quiet, easygoing, moderate kind of Christianity and go comfortably to heaven after all – this is the world’s favorite idea. There is a third class, the world fancies – a safe middle class – and in this middle class, the majority of men persuade themselves they will be found.
I denounce this notion of a middle class as an immense and soul-ruining delusion. It is a refuge of lies, a castle in the air, a vast unreality, an empty dream. This middle class is a class of Christians nowhere spoken of in the Bible.
There were two classes in the day of Noah’s flood: those who were inside the ark, and those who were without; two in the parable of the gospel net: those who are called the good fish, and those who are called the bad; two in the parable of the ten virgins: those who are described as wise, and those who are described as foolish; two in the account of the Judgment Day: the sheep and the goats; two sides of the throne: the right hand and the left; two abodes when the last sentence has been passed: heaven and hell.
And just so, there are only two classes in the churches on earth: those who are in the state of grace, and those who are in the state of nature; those who are in the narrow way, and those who are in the broad; those who have faith, and those who have not faith; those who have been converted, and those who have not been converted; those who are with Christ, and those who are against Him; those who gather with Him, and those who scatter abroad; those who are “wheat,” and those who are “chaff.” Beside these two classes, there is none.
See now what cause there is for self-inquiry. Are you among the wheat or among the chaff? Neutrality is impossible. Either you are in one class or in the other. Which is it of the two?
You attend church, perhaps. You go to the Lord’s Table. You like good people. You can distinguish between good preaching and bad. You attend religious meetings. You sometimes read religious books. It is well; it is very well. It is good; it is all very good. It is more than can be said of many. Still, this is not a straightforward answer to my question. Are you wheat or are you chaff?
Have your been born again? Are you a new creature? Have you put off the old man and put on the new? Have you ever felt your sins and repented of them? Are you looking simply to Christ for pardon and life eternal? Do you love Christ? Do you serve Christ? Do you loathe heart-sins and fight against them? Do you long for perfect holiness and follow hard after it? Have you come out from the world? Do you delight in the Bible? Do you wrestle in prayer? Do you love Christ’s people? Do you try to do good to the world? Are you vile in your own eyes and willing to take the lowest place? Are you a Christian in business, on weekdays, and in your own home? Oh, think, think, think on these things, and then perhaps you will be better able to tell the state of your soul.
I beseech you not to turn away from my question, however unpleasant it may be. Answer it, though it may prick your conscience and cut you to the heart. Answer it, though it may prove you in the wrong and expose your fearful danger. Rest not, rest not until you know how it is between you and God. Better a thousand times find out that you are in an evil case and repent betimes, than live on in uncertainty and be lost eternally.