“Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:3b-9 (KJV).
“Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Matthew 13:18-23 (KJV).
The theme of this parable and what Jesus desires His followers to see; and this is discovered by asking; is the condition of the hearts of mankind toward the Word of God. On the surface looking without much thought there appears to be four different types of souls or hearts; however upon further evaluation and study there is only two. Two different heart conditions. The ones who have no heart for God and His Word, and the ones who have a heart for God and His Word.
We are seeing in these studies of Matthew that is Jesus’s day there was a rebellion against the King, and this continues. Jesus is teaching how these things are going to be. Jesus has had some followers who 1) outright rejected His Word – all through the ages; 2) those who followed for awhile, but when trials set in they ran away; 3) those who said they would believe, but soon discovered they had “more important matters to attend”; and 4) those who remained faithful, and fruitful.
This is the second discourse in which Jesus names the Kingdom of heaven. The first one being in the Sermon on the Mount from chapters five through seven. and the term “Kingdom of heaven” is mainly mentioned in the Beatitudes, of verses 3-11 of chapter five, and the whole of the sermon dealing with the deportment of those who have been redeemed. The “kingdom of heaven” includes the Church, with both good and evil within it, and the true and the false. If you doubt that just look at the condition of the kingdom now.
In this parable we find three different aspects of the story. The Sower, the Seed, and the Soil. The first is a person; the second a product; and the third a receiver. The Sower is the witness, the farmer, the broadcaster; the Seed is the Word of God being spread over the field of the world; the Soil is the hearts of men.
We learn from this parable that in the kingdom of heaven there are those who will reject the message of God’s grace, and in fact are not even interested in it, because they see no need. There are others who seem to receive it, and appear to receive it with joy, but then, because of fear they fall away and never bear any fruit. There is another group who give the appearance of receiving it with joy, but are then led away by the draw of the world, pleasures, comfort, wealth, and just the simple cares of the earth bound, and they go their own way. The final soil condition is a condition which has been plowed, tilled, cared for has had plenty of water of the word, and bears much fruit. The ones who bear fruit are the genuine believers; “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” John 15:2 (KJV) Every Christian will bear fruit. It will be a bountiful harvest. Fruitlessness is wickedness.
Let’s look at these soils individually:
First of all there is the soil of rejection (vv. 4, 19). Along side many of the fields of Jesus’s day there were paths which the people would walk. It was hard packed and was not receptive to seeds falling upon it. The path of man’s way is hard topped, and unreceptive to the Word of God. In the days of the Judges of the Old Testament we are told about three times, “There was no king in those days; every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 19:1; 21:25). This is the path that most people would like to walk. To be free of God, free of His Word, free of His witnesses and people, and when the Word of God is preached or sown it is snatched away by the devil and it has no affect on these peoples lives. Let us never think that these are beyond the reach or power of God to grab hold of their hearts and change them into His likeness and image. Let us never think they are unconvertible. God can do marvelous things.
The second soil is one which makes profession but soon falls away (vv.5-6; 20-21). This seed has fallen on shallow soil. The plant breaks forth toward the light, and grows for a time, but then wilts away because of the heat of the sun. There are many who have professed Christ as their personal Lord and Savior earlier in life, but when persecution comes, their friends have rejected their “new lives”, or they just cannot stand the trials that come with the profession they soon fall away. So many of these will profess to be Christian, based solely on the experience they had at the altar. “I prayed the prayer. I said the words the preacher told me to say. It happened on a certain day at a certain time. Surely if I remember the day and time I said those words I’m alright with God”. Where is the fruit? Where is the changed life? Where is the evidence of your salvation? Once being eager to follow and serve. For awhile were interested in always being in worship services on Sunday morning, Sunday Night, Sunday School, Wednesday night services, but then falls away due to trials and bad circumstance.
Many times this one happens as a result of shoddy evangelism techniques which are quick to give the Roman road, or other style of presentation of the gospel without telling them of the COST of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. “Oh, we don’t want to do that. We want converts.” Converts for whom you or for Christ? Your converts are going to fall away and many will have your assurances that no matter what they do, they have eternal life. Then, one day they are going to split hell wide open, and to the evangelist shame. Perseverance is a fruit of the true faith of Christ. True believers will not fall away. A false profession is deceptive and condemning. Remember that when you start telling that soul about Christ, but without telling them there is a COST involved, and that COST is “Take up your cross and follow Me” (Jesus).
The third soil we see is the soil of divided loyalty (vv. 7, 22; James 1:7-8). This soil is under the weeds and thorns, the trash of the field, and is similar to the second, but this one apparently has soil. It is just a matter of its environment. Am I saying that environment makes a difference? Only if that growing seed stays in that environment. When we are talking about agriculture the seed which sprouts forth doesn’t have much choice in where it came up. In some ways this may be so of humanity as well, but as soon as the heart is changed for Christ they would seek the light, and to get out of the environment that would drag it down. The seed has no choice of whether it remains or not the human does. In the case of this type of heart condition it could be that the seed of the Word was received with false motives, such as, beliving that everything will be cushy, and the world will love me. Those things just are not true. This type of heart conditon is quickly sidelined by doing the things of the world, the flesh and the devil rather than the things of God. If there was ever any spiritual understanding it will be lost. Understand spiritual understanding is not equal to spiritual rebirth or godly regeneration. The heart of divided loyalty will be condemned. James tells us that “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8). They allow the material things of earth, friendships and popularity and power become their save all giving themselves to worldliness; “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” 1 John 2:15-17 (KJV). These find themselves choked off from the words of life and condemned.
The final soil representing heart conditions is the soil of perseverance (vv. 8-9, 23). In content the soil is different. It is not hard, shallow, or shaded over with weeds or thorns. This is good soil and God will accomplish what He wills, where He will, and when He wills. The broadcaster or Sower is only responsible for sowing the seed. Who gives the seed? God gives the seed. Who prepares the soil or hearts of men? God does. How does God prepare the soils? By their dealings in life; their loves and losses. He prepares the hearts due to His grace, and because of the humility of the heart and life. When the heart is receptive to the seed of God’s Word, with depth for the root, there will be fruitfulness. There is also a distinct characteristic of the heart. Those who receive the Word brought forth fruit, some brought forth more fruit, and some brought forth much fruit. Understand this has nothing to do with competition. It is according to the heart condition, and God’s provision, and blessing.
Just to note; this final soil is the only one called good ground. The fruitful ones are the ones who heard the Word of God and put it to work. These are the ones whose lives have been genuinely changed. Jesus Christ has made a difference in their lives, and they bear fruit. This is the kingdom of heaven.
In conclusion, When a farmer broadcasts seed upon the soil he is not in full control of where that seed falls. The wind blows and that will change the location of the falling of the seed. The side to side motion of the hand and releasing of the seed will have it landing on the hard places, the shallow places, thorny places and the good places. As God’s people we are called to broadcast the seed of the Word of God. It is not up to us to decide who will hear, or who will not; who will receive the Word and who will not. That is the work of God’s Spirit. Part of the fruitfulness of the receptive soil is not only a changed, pure, contented, joyous, Spirit controlled life, but is also one of sowing the seed.
-Tim A. Blankenship