Matthew 12:30a says: “He who is not with Me is against Me…” This is the uncompromising assertion of the text. What we may call the unmistakable amplification of these words comes next: “and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” In these words Jesus amplifies and explains what he means by being with him and not against him. Being with Christ means gathering with Him. Being against Christ means scattering. Both the word, gather, and the word, scatter, need careful explanation.
The verb translated, gather, here is used 59 times in the New Testament. 24 of these, or about 40% of the entire total uses in the New Testament, are in Matthew. Parallel uses in Matthew to the one in our text are these:
- Matthew 3:12 “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
- Matthew 13:30 “Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.'”
- Matthew 13:47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind.”
- Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
- Matthew 22:10 “Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.”
Listen to other relevant uses of “gather” in the New Testament.
- John 4:36 “Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.”
- John 11:52 and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
Evangelism biblically defined is to gather men into Christ and His people. Every Christian needs to have in a part in that work and gather with Christ!
The verb translated, scatter, is also an important New Testament word with a meaning you may not immediately understand.
It is used of the dispersion of the Jews under the judgment of God.
- Ezekiel 5:12 ‘One third of you will die by plague or be consumed by famine among you, one third will fall by the sword around you, and one third I will scatter to every wind, and I will unsheathe a sword behind them.
It is used of what a wolf does to a flock of sheep.
- John 10:12 “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
- John 16:32 “Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.
The bottom-line is that gathering is the work of a shepherd or friend, while scattering is the work of a wolf or enemy.
Jesus in Matthew 12:30 describes His ministry and work in the world as gathering men. He gathers them first to Himself as the good shepherd of their souls. But he also gathers them together into His church—the place or fold where He can protect His sheep from the wolf.
- John 10:16 “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”
To gather with Christ, then, is to join Him in his effort to gather sheep into the safety of His protection. This includes ultimately gathering them into the safety of the fold, a reference to His church. To scatter is to act the part of a wolf and oppose Christ’s work and mission in the world. Only certain destruction can befall such a wicked sinner and enemy of Christ.
To be “with” Jesus means to be instrumental in gathering people to be his followers (Prov. 11:30; Dan. 12:3; Matt. 9:37, 38; Luke 19:10; John 4:35, 36; 1 Cor. 9:22). To be “against” him means to be unwilling to follow him in his mission to gather the lost. It means to leave them in their shepherdless, scattered condition, an easy prey for Satan.
EGNT contains this comment:
But in all cases, when one man scatters what another gatheres their aims and interests are utterly diverse. Satan is the arch-waster, Christ the collector, Saviour.
All this is confirmed by the context of Jesus’ assertion here in Matthew 12. The Pharisees opposed Christ and attempted to scatter what He was gathering by claiming that He was doing what He did by the power of Satan. In so rejecting the miraculous evidence of the Spirit to Jesus’ divine mission and identity, they were bringing upon themselves a sin that could never be forgiven. But Christ states in our text a further thought. Anyone who does not join Him in the work of bringing salvation to the world is actually on the side of His enemies.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.