Parable of the Sower

(Mat. 13:3-23; Mark 4:3-20; Luke 8:4-15)

A parable takes a non-personal real life situation and uses it as an illustration to teach a specific spiritual truth.

The illustration itself is only a teaching aid and not designed to identify or correlate with any other place where a similar illustration or symbol may occur.

Every parable has one major spiritual truth to relate and each detail in the illustration works together to highlight that spiritual truth without drawing significant attention to itself.

The parable of the sower is a teaching aid concerning entrance into God's kingdom of light, and progress in God's kingdom as the believer lives here on earth. It is thus, primarily, a parable about spiritual growth. We have four different soils to indicate four points of focus for relating to God on His terms.

Number ONE refers to the unbeliever, who never enters the kingdom of God.

Number TWO refers to the one who enters the kingdom, but fails to grow in grace and knowledge with the result that he is intimidated by the reproach of Christ and and is non-productive as a child of God.

Number THREE refers to the one who enters the kingdom, but who fails to grow in grace and knowledge with the result that the material things of life (details of life) have greater value to him than spiritual truth, and he also is non-productive.

Number FOUR refers to those who enter the kingdom and pursue an understanding of God's word, with the result that they advance in growth and have production (reflect God's righteousness in their life) with consistency based on the stage of growth they have reached (babe, adolescent, adult).

The parable is stated at Mat. 13:3-9, Mark 4:3-9, and Luke 8:4-8.

As is characteristic of the Synoptic Gospels, each of the three need to be carefully compared in order to get all the details of what Jesus taught. Each of the three writers emphasizes different things that Jesus said and did. However, the "Three" are not contradictory but complementary.

Matthew was an eyewitness to the personal presence of Jesus, but will still emphasize what was most impacting to him as he saw and heard.

Mark was not an eyewitness but was closely associated with the other disciples, especially Peter, and would record what most impacted him as he was taught by the others. Matthew and Mark almost perfectly parallel each other, which should certainly indicate a dependence one upon the other. Which one came "first" is still undetermined, but traditionally, Mark is viewed as having been written after Matthew. It is probable that Mark leaned heavily upon either Matthew's teaching or his written record, but at the same time, still flavored his record with his own amplification. For example, in the parable before us, Matthew uses the term, "the evil one," and Mark uses the name "Satan." Thus, it can be seen, I trust, that the majority of differences are subtle amplifications rather than contradictions.

Luke also was not an eyewitness, but was diligent in pursuing the historical account chronologically as he gathered the facts from the eyewitnesses involved and then depended on the inspiration of the Spirit.

Thus, we find with Luke, the more severe of differences from both Matthew and Mark, but what should still be viewed as amplifications rather than contradictions. There are difficulties in harmonizing the "Three" perfectly, but for the most part, a very clear and complete picture can be painted by integrating into a whole that which each one has contributed.

Thus, again, given the parable before us, Luke provides many different amplifications so that we are given a complete account of what Jesus said.

Jesus has been conducting massive teaching campaigns with the multitudes.

Usually, He speaks plain and direct about the issues of entrance into God's kingdom and the quality of life that is available through participation in it, but upon this occasion, He chooses to "speak to them in parables." The disciples of course, find this strange since they are unable to perceive what truth lies behind the parables and certainly think that the multitude is likewise limited. So they ask Him why He is teaching this way (verse 10).

The answer Jesus gives is found at verse 11.
Matthew 13:11

1. To you it has been granted: The verb is didomi in the perfect passive indicative, to indicate the fact that "new covenant" truth (mysteries of the kingdom) are presently being taught to the disciples by Jesus. The disciples (with the exception of Judas, of course) have trusted in Jesus as the Messiah and are "in the kingdom of God." However, the multitudes for the most part are "outside" the kingdom (Mark 4:11), and are not really interested in truth. They are much more interested in being "entertained", and having their bellies filled (John 6:24-30).

Jesus takes this opportunity to illustrate what Isaiah taught concerning not only his own generation (c. 755-696 BC), but the generation of Messiah's first advent as well. That is, that the people as a whole are not interested in God's policies for spiritual reality. They are saturated with their own lusts and have distorted the rituals and celebrations (Isaiah 1:10-15; 29:13) that God designed for the nation of Israel as a foreshadowing of the spiritual reality that would become embodied in the person of Jesus the Messiah (Col. 2:16-17). They are those who "call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light, and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter," (Isaiah 5:20).

Jesus wants to expose the negative attitudes of the "nation" by teaching them truth through symbolism. After He tells the story, He adds, "He who has ears (to hear) let him hear," (Mt. 13:9; Mark 4:9; Lk 8:8). This is a challenge to the hearers that they concentrate and wait patiently for the teaching of Jesus that will clarify the story. Those who are truly interested in the person and message of Jesus, will "hang in there" until the symbolism is explained by Him. Those who are not interested will be bored, but "hang around" for the refreshments; or give Him lip-service, thinking to impress Him and gain His favor; and others will simply move on to other things like at John 6:66.

2. to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven: The disciple were constantly being taught by Jesus all the issues of spiritual truth in reference to the person and work of the Messiah. Although they do not "understand" why Jesus is cloaking his message in such strong symbolism (the parable), they "hang in there" and await the first opportunity to gain insight into what had just been spoken. The multitude is in hardness of heart, which is a condition where the self-consciousness of the soul (ego and volition), expresses itself independent from God and God's revelation to the human race. At that time, God's revelation consisted of the Old Testament Scriptures, the messages of a few prophets (John the baptizer, Simeon, Anna) and the present deeds and words of Jesus.

3. but to them it has not been granted. Something has been denied to these unbelievers. The reason is because they are not truly interested in spiritual value. They have rejected God's Messianic truths as previously revealed and are now perpetuating that negative volition toward Jesus. These are the ones described below as "whoever does not have," and are further described at verses 13-15.

At Mark 4:11, Jesus describes these "negative" citizens of Israel, as "those outside." This indicates that they have not accepted the value system represented by the Messianic promise and have not embraced God's plan of salvation through that promise. They are thus "outside" the kingdom of God and do not have the capacity to comprehend the new truths that Jesus is teaching.

Matthew 13:12

1. For whoever has: This refers to the Old Testament believer who is occupied with God's truth and the Messianic promise. He has embraced the Divine Value System as it is revealed in the Old Testament. Many such believers were alive during this time, but they are in the minority. These can be summarily described like Simeon is described at Luke 2:25, "this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel." The notation that "the Holy Spirit was upon him," is not characteristic of Old Testament believers, but is restrictive based on special jobs God had for specific believers. Not all believers had the Holy Spirit during the Old Testament time.

See Topic: HOLY SPIRIT: Indwelling

2. to him shall {more} be given, and he shall have an abundance:

The "more" that is given is not in the Greek, but it is implied by the context. It refers to the "new body" truth that Jesus is teaching about and which will come into full function after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, that is, when He has been glorified to the right hand of the Father and sends the Holy Spirit to indwell, empower and to build the new body. The abundance that this person will have refers to a combination of old body truth and new body truth. It refers to the "spiritual" principles that have been taught all throughout the Old Testament and not to the "ceremonial" regulations given just to the nation of Israel, which will be be discontinued as a means of worshipping God.

This understanding explains the parable at Mat. 13:52, And He said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old."

The "scribe" is the Old Testament believer. When he accepts Jesus as the Messiah, he becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven (God). He is then enabled to utilize truth (spiritual principles) from the Old Testament as well as truth from the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.

3. but whoever does not have: This is the citizen of Israel who has rejected Jesus as the Messiah, and as we shall see, has rejected God's plan all along, even as it was revealed in the Old Testament (verses 13-15).

4. even what he has shall be taken away from him: What does the citizen of Israel have that could possibly be taken from him? He has the "national" commission that was given to Israel "as a whole" and applied to every individual within the nation (Ex. 19:5-6). Those who failed to trust in the Messianic promise, were still under the "national" commission as a member of God's "chosen people."

Paul describes the 7 "possessions" of the nation of Israel at Rom. 9:4-5.

1. The adoption: reference to being chosen as God's special offspring.

2. The Glory: refers to the presence of God dwelling in the tabernacle.

3. The covenants: the land, seed, blessing covenants given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.

4. The temple service: The Levitical code

5. The promises: All the national promises with a view to the future Messianic kingdom.

6. The fathers: Directly related to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

7. The Messiah: The "physical" source for the humanity of the Messiah.

The "physical" factors, of course, cannot be removed from an Israelite.

And the covenants and promises will not be rescinded from the nation (Rom. 11:29; Mal. 3:6). But personal benefit and "function" within the privileged nation can be and is removed from those who fail to trust in the Messiah (Mat. 21:23-45; 23:37-39; Rom. 11).

a. They are members of the national priesthood of Israel (Ex. 19:5-6).

b. But since they are unbelievers, they are not functional in that priesthood.


Matthew 13:13, Therefore I speak to them in parables:

1. because while seeing they do not see: They have been eye witnesses to the presence and works of Jesus but have not accepted Him as the Messiah sent from God.

2. and while hearing they do not hear: they have heard His teaching, but have not accepted it as the word of God.

3. nor do they understand: they have no cognizance of spiritual reality and the Divine Value System. They are too occupied with their own human viewpoint "religious" pursuits of a works salvation that manifests itself in self-promotion, self-praise and independence from God (John 6:44).

Matthew 13:14

"And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;

Because they are negative to the Messianic promise and in hardness of heart (See topic: Hardness of Heart), they will continue to reject truth. God however will continue to communicate to them by the personal presence of the Messiah for 3 1/2 years until their final rejection is demonstrated at the cross.

Then God's final plea will extend for the next 40 years until the nation is "formally" removed from being a "people of God" and will be physically destroyed in 70 AD.


Matthew 13:15

1. FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL: The aorist passive indicative of pachunō indicates the status of hardness of heart. The negative attitude toward the things of God and the resultant failure to perceive spiritual reality.

2. AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR: Because of hardness of heart they close their ears from hearing the message of the Messiah.

3. AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES: Because of hardness of heart, they shut their eyes to the Messianic credentials evidenced by the personal presence and works of Jesus.

4. LEST THEY SHOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES: The word, "lest," communicates a negative result clause and should be translated, "And they have closed their eyes with the result that they do not see with their eyes." It is explaining the natural consequences of rejecting spiritual truth. This does not teach that they close their eyes "in order to" not see, but they close their eyes "with the result" that they do not see.

The same negative result clause is carried forward into the next 4 verbs to indicate the complete chain of consequences that comes from hardness of heart.

5. AND (nor) HEAR WITH THEIR EARS: Since they have said, "no" to the Messianic credentials evidenced in the life of Jesus, they are incapable of comprehending any aspect of spiritual value.

6. AND (nor) UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART: If they did perceive, then they would understand, but since they have chosen not to receive the Messianic truths, the result is the perpetuation of spiritual blindness.

7. AND RETURN: If they did "hear" and did "understand" then they would, as a matter of course, act upon the information and embrace Jesus as the Messiah, and "return" to God. But since they persist in hardness of heart, the chain of results continues to prevent a "turn around" and a return to God.

8. AND I HEAL THEM: If they were to "return" to God, then they would receive spiritual healing and reap the blessings of identification and relationship with the Messiah, but God is unable to heal them; unable to bless (provide happiness for) them because they refuse to walk through the door, which is to embrace Jesus as the Messiah.


Matthew 13:16

1. But blessed are your eyes, because they see: The word blessed, is makarios, and means HAPPY. When a person responds to spiritual truths and embraces God's truth, the result will be happiness to the soul. The "happy eyes" is simply an image that expresses the means by which true happiness can be experienced; perception and acceptance of God's truth.

2. and your ears, because they hear: It is by receiving the spiritual truths that God makes available to us.

This is true in principle (John 15:11; James 1:25, "this man will be happy in his doing;") but is also specific and restrictive to just the disciples in this context.

Matthew 13:17, For truly I say to you:

1. that many prophets and righteous men: Reference to Old Testament believers who understood the Messianic promise and continually lived their life in anticipation and expectation of the fulfillment of God's promise.

2. desired to see what you see, and did not see {it}; and to hear what you hear, and did not hear {it}:

They wanted to be living in the generation that saw the presence of the Messiah.

They were not "unhappy" that they did not see the Messiah, for their happiness depended on relating to God through His word (Ps. 1:1-3; 119:1-2), but their joy would of course have been greatly enhanced by seeing the actual person of the Messiah -- whether it be as an infant (Luke 2:25-32) or as the "functional" Messiah addressing the nation with words and miracles.

Those who had embraced the Messianic promise as represented in the Old Testament Scriptures expectantly looked forward to the reality of His presence on the earth. Divine revelation had provided many general truths concerning both the person and the work of the Messiah (Isaiah 7-9, 40, 53; Psalm 22), as well as the general time-frame of His appearance (Daniel 9:25), but no one knew exactly WHO the Messiah would be nor exactly WHEN He would arrive. Even the "prophets" who received the direct revelation from God concerning the future coming of the Messiah, still did not have the details and had to continually search for clues concerning WHO would be the Messiah and WHEN the Messiah would arrive (1 Peter 1:10-11).

Thus, Jesus wants to impress upon the disciples the unique privilege that is theirs as the direct recipients of His personal presence, His message and His works.

Matthew 13:18-23, the explanation of the parable
Verse 18

Hear then the parable of the sower: The word "then," follows upon verses 16-17, and explains the issues of perception and acceptance of the word of God.

Verse 19, The unbeliever

1. All who hear: akouō as a present active participle, describes the first category of person. "Hearing" is the one CONSTANT for each of the persons represented here. It represents the issue of gospel hearing, which is that occasion when a person who has reached God-Consciousness and expresses a positive desire to "investigate" God, is given the specific "salvation information" that is needed to enter into relationship with God.

For those who express such a desire, God is faithful to provide the details of the gospel so that the Holy Spirit can "convict of sin, righteousness and judgment," (John 16:9-11).

See Topic: The Way of Salvation

Jesus describes this at John 12:32, as, "I will draw all men to Myself." This does not mean that everyone will trust in Him, but that everyone will be given the necessary information to trust in Him if they choose to. In his gospel, John describes this as the light which, coming into the world, "enlightens every man," (John 1:9).

See Topic: The Drawing of God

Thus here, after a valid and accurate communication of the gospel of the kingdom, this person refuses to accept Jesus as the Messiah. And since he has rejected the information placed into his soul by the convicting ministry of the Spirit, that information is now subject to distortion by the darkness viewpoint of the devil. The result is that, not only does the person fail to become saved, but he is unable to get saved through the information he previously received. It has been distorted (taken from his heart by the infiltration of false issues and darkness) and unless he hears AGAIN a clear gospel message, he will be unable to come to an understanding of the message of salvation.

2. The word of the kingdom: logos basileia refers to the good news for ENTRANCE into God's kingdom through trust in the Messiah. Just as Jesus taught, "repent and believe the gospel," (Mark 1:15).

We know this is a salvation issue because of Luke 8:12, which says, "so that they may not believe and be saved."

3. And does not understand it: the word is suniāmi and indicates both the idea of comprehension and acceptance of value. The implication is that if one truly comprehends the spiritual value of the gospel message, he will as a matter of course, embrace it. This is called "learned" at John 6:45, and indicates the acceptance of value which then leads to believing in Christ (coming to Him). The issue in our context is NOT whether someone accurately PERCEIVES the message, but whether they accept the VALUE that is presented in the message. When a gospel message is heard, accurate perception is always accomplished by the Holy Spirit as He convicts the person of the issues of "sin, righteousness and judgment," (John 16:9-11). Thus, when someone does not comprehend and embrace the VALUE of the gospel of salvation, the information received is de-emphasized in the soul and becomes subject to distortion from darkness viewpoint. This illustration portrays the condition of the people as described at verse 15. The reason they do not understand is because they have chosen to "close their eyes" to God's invitation to them. This is stated by Jesus at Matthew 23:37 when He says, "but you were NOT WILLING."

The devil (Luke 8:12) cannot literally TAKE AWAY information from a person's heart (the mentality of the soul). But what he is able to do, is infiltrate the soul of that person who does not believe, with darkness viewpoint (from the outside of course--Satan cannot "insert" information DIRECTLY into anyone's soul) which causes the gospel information that was originally sown, to become distorted.

Paul describes this at 2 Cor. 4:3-4.

A. Even if our gospel be veiled: That is, hidden from a person.

B. It is veiled to those who are perishing: This is a present middle participle of apollumi and indicates the present "status" of one who has made a conscious decision to reject Jesus as Savior; the one who is described at verse 4 as, "the unbelieving" (apistos). The issue with this word is not just the fact that they have never believed, but the fact that they have consciously NOT believed. That is, they have already made their decision to reject the gospel, and it is only then that Satan can distort the content of the message so that they are unable to see "the light of the glory of the gospel of Christ."

C. This means that a person who has heard the gospel and rejected it, then becomes susceptible to having that gospel message distorted. Once the "pure" gospel is corrupted, the person is unable to "call to mind" the content of the message and MUST have the gospel accurately taught again before he can become saved.

At Luke 8:12, we see that Jesus actually said, "So that they may not believe and be saved."

So then the idea that the devil "takes away" the word is explained by the fact that through his influence he actually "alters" the content of the message, which effectively "removes" the original "seed" of the gospel from the heart of the rejecter. Thus, because of the distorting influence of the devil, these who have rejected the gospel CANNOT be saved unless they hear again a clear gospel message.

When we pray for the unbeliever, we should be asking God to give them the gospel. We should not ask God to "save them" or "make them believe," for God will not do that unless the person CHOOSES to trust in Christ of his own free will. However, God will answer the prayer that asks that a new or "fresh" gospel presentation be given to the unbeliever so that the issues will be clear and undistorted by all the human and darkness viewpoint that has infiltrated his soul since he initially heard the gospel. In order for someone to be saved, they must HEAR the gospel. This is seen at Romans 10:14 and 17,

"How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?"

"So faith {comes} from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ."

And is also seen at 1Ths. 2:16,

". . .hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved;. ."


4. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road (NASB).

Lit: This is the one who was sown (received seed) beside the road.

But since the PERSON was not sown, but instead, had seed sown upon him (who is represented by the type of soil), we need to amplify the translation to indicate this.

A. The NASB attempts this and does so adequately in my opinion.

B. However, if we give the verb (speirō, in the passive voice) the idea of receiving seed, we can translate, "This is the one who received seed beside the road," which is better.

C. Another option is to express a "representation" idea, such as, "This is the one who is represented by seed sown beside the road." The idea of representation is understood in the context of the parable and would not be lost upon the hearers.

This is certainly not a major problem in understanding the parable so I am going to render it according to example B.

Here, there is no soil. Salvation indicates that a "successful" planting has taken place. The issue for germination of the seed of the gospel, is positive volition, represented by the soil. If there is no soil present, then there is no positive volition. The seed of the gospel will not germinate and not generate spiritual life.

The "quality" of the soil is not an issue for the FACT of germination.

It is the "presence" of the soil that is required and produces life.


In the next category of person, we have the first of three types of believer. Two types have difficulty "growing" after germination. The third type grows profusely and is further categorized into 3 groups based on the "quantity" of production which is related to three levels of growth.

Verses 20-21

1. The rocky places: The soil is very shallow here, but it IS present.

The issue here is NOT the fact of germination but the growth of the plant afterwards. The fact of germination indicates the reality of a genuine conversion while the adverse effects on the plant indicate failure to grow and produce after salvation. This does not affect the possession of salvation, but the personal benefits and production that should result from salvation when there is success in spiritual growth.

2. This is the man: This introduces us to the first type of believer.
He is described as both hearing and receiving the salvation message.

Furthermore, he is said to "receive it with joy," which indicates a genuine recognition of the spiritual value in the message and a personal acceptance of that value as applicable to his own life.

The word, receive, is a present active participle of lambanō and indicates the positive acceptance of the gospel message.

It corresponds with John 1:12, "but as many as received Him . . ."

Here we have lambanō as an aorist active indicative, which emphasizes the "point of time" decision that one makes to trust in Christ. This decision, in a moment of time (aorist tense) is set in apposition with "to those who believe." The word, believe, is a present active participle of pisteuō and expresses the "nature" of the receiving. In other words, receiving Christ is trusting in His name. Name, refers to the character and reputation of the person in view. In this case, the name of Christ refers to the fact that He IS the God revealed in the flesh (v. 14) as the Messiah/Savior, and He is the one who provides salvation for all who receive Him.

It is imperative to discuss at this time, the nature of the salvation decision that secures eternal life for all those who make it.

A summary is found at Eph. 1:13-14, where we see the three steps involved. The three steps are the hearing step; the believing step; and the sealing step. This is from the perspective of the church age, after the resurrection of Jesus and His ascension to the Father. But in principle, all who ever trusted in God's promise of salvation--looking forward to the arrival of the Savior, went through the same steps. For in principle, it is the character of God which is the TRUE seal of our salvation, based on the fact that He has promised. During the church age, the "experiential" sealing of the Spirit at the moment of time that a person believes, is simply an amplification of the fact that GOD KEEPS HIS WORD.

THE HEARING STEP: It is God's responsibility to get the gospel to those who have responded in a positive way at God consciousness. God certainly uses functional believers to communicate the gospel to the world, but ultimately, it is God who controls and directs the administration of the gospel.

THE BELIEVING STEP: It is man's responsibility to respond to the gospel message. The only two choices are acceptance or rejection. There is no "half-way" decision, for anything less than total trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ is rejection. If a person dies physically in the condition of "rejection" his destiny is sealed as an eternity in the lake of fire. Whenever a person trusts in Christ as Savior, at that very moment of time, his destiny is sealed as an eternity in the presence of God.

THE SEALING STEP: At the very moment that a person trusts in Christ, God the Holy Spirit indwells the soul, places that person into union with Christ, and begins to administrate a filling/control of that person's life. It is the very FACT that the Spirit indwells that constitutes a down payment or guarantee from God that He will complete the work He started. The believer is SECURE in the plan of God because God's very character of faithfulness makes it impossible for God to take away what He gave freely by grace when the person accepted the gift of salvation by trusting in Christ.

The invitation and "statement of fact" of what one must do to be saved, is often given in the present active participle. Many have misconstrued this use of the present tense to teach that a person must "keep on" or "continually be believing" in order to be saved. This is not correct.

The issue of continued faith or "faithfulness" once a person becomes a Christian, is an issue of understanding growth and fellowship with God.

The quality of spiritual growth determines the consistency of being in fellowship with God and the resultant function of temporal faithfulness.

The issue of growth and fellowship also determine the quality of life the believer will experience while here on earth, but has no bearing on his eternal inheritance which is secured by the power of God (1 Pet. 1:3-5).

The use of the present tense in the PARTICIPLE is used to indicate the spiritual principle involved for salvation. The emphasis is on the FACT of belief, not on the duration of belief.

Grammatically speaking, the present participle carries no "present" emphasis as is noted by A. T. Robertson, "It may be said at once that the participle has tense . . . giving the state of the action as punctiliar, linear, completed." "The participle was timeless," but "in relation to the principle verb there may be suggested time," (page 1111, Grammar of the Greek NT).

What this means is that the "time" or "kind" of action of the participle is directly dependent on context and the main verb of the clause and NOT dependent on the basic function of the tense.

Furthermore, concerning the present tense itself, A.T Robertson notes that, "the so called 'present' tense may be used therefore to express an action simply (punctiliar), a process (durative), a state (perfective)" (page 865).

So it is just as possible to have an aoristic (punctiliar) idea with the present tense as to have a continuous idea. We must rely on the entire context of scripture to decide the case.

This is further established by observing the many times that the present participle is qualified by an aorist indicative in the context. The aorist tense emphasizes punctiliar action (or "point of time" action) and indicates a decision that is made in a moment of time.

John 1:12 provides us with one such example.

First, we see the aorist indicative, "as many as received Him," which indicates a point of time expression of the soul. Then to amplify that "act" of receiving, we have a present participle, "even to those who believe," to indicate the "principle" of faith and not the duration.

When we see specific instructions given to someone regarding salvation, we then no longer deal with the "principle" of it, but with the mechanics. An example of this is found at Acts 16:31, where we find, "believe" as an aorist active imperative to indicate exactly and specifically, what this person must do, and the nature of the decision is viewed as taking place in a "point of time" as in "right now believe" and the result will accrue right now; "you shall be saved."

Although this is not absolutely universal (such as at Mark 1:15, with the present active imperative, "repent and believe the gospel") It occurs frequently enough to establish the parallelism between the present and aorist tenses, which in turn establishes the fact that the salvation decision of trust (belief) in Christ as Savior (receiving Him), is a MOMENT-IN-TIME decision that authorizes God at that very instant to place the person into God's family and give him eternal life.

This is further amplified when we see the word, "receive," in the present tense to indicate a "point-of-time" reception of the gospel message and the salvation benefits that accrue immediately, and not an "on-going" reception, for that is completely inconsistent with the word, receive (Mat. 13:20; Mark 4:16, 20; Lk. 8:13, 15).

We return to the parable.

3. With joy: the word, chara, expresses the fact that the person has recognized the value factor in the gospel message and has claimed it for himself. The value factor is forgiveness of sin, removal of the penalty of sin, and the promise of eternal life with God. This elicits immediate joy from all who trust in Christ. The actually "manifestation" of that joy will differ from person to person, but the reality on the inside is a natural "feeling" when the truths of the gospel are realized and accepted. There will always be some experience of joy when the knowledge of one's salvation reality hits the soul. Joy comes from knowledge, perceived and received, as truth that removes the inner enmity and conflict concerning any particular issue in life. In this case, the doubt and fear concerning the after life is resolved by the content of the gospel message and the result is inner peace and joy.

But of course, their are many other issues that need to be resolved before the believer can experience consistent peace and joy.

The soul retains its old character flaws and habits; the mind is saturated with all the human viewpoint learned prior to conversion; the sin nature remains very powerful and influential as it continues to wage war against the soul (1 Pet. 2:11); Satan is ever prowling around seeking to neutralize the believer and to keep him from glorifying God (1 Pet. 5:8); the material pressures of life continually demand our attention; and the pressures and hardships that come from others who oppress us, are a major undermining influence to the new believer's growth.

To handle these things, the believer needs to learn the value system of Divine viewpoint contained only in God's word (the bible). As he feeds on God's word, he will progressively build an understanding of God's character, plan and viewpoint, and develop the right perspective about everything in life. And as these truths control the soul on an ever more consistent basis, the believer will become stabilized and experience a consistent abundant life of peace and joy.

The one who fails to cultivate the Divine Value System within his soul, will not have the answers needed to survive spiritually and to experience the abundant life. It is this concern that the parable addresses.

In the scenario before us, we find a person who has accepted the gospel of salvation and has been born again into God's family. However, this believer fails to fill his soul with the word of God. New believers especially need to be taught the value of learning God's word. This is demonstrated by Jesus as recorded at John 8:21-32. Jesus had been teaching the gospel as was His custom (Mark 1:14-15), and at a key point in His message "many came to believe in Him," (verse 30). Accordingly, Jesus redirected His teaching "to those Jews who had believed Him," (verse 31). He told them, "If you abide in my word, then you are truly my disciples." This means that for these new believers to become functional followers of Jesus, representing Him as lights in the world (Mat. 5:14), they would need to learn the standards of spiritual truth that He was teaching. When they would do that, they would enter into the experience of true functional freedom that goes beyond the salvation reality of freedom from sin's penalty. The message in the parable of the sower is the need to advance beyond one's salvation decision of trusting in Christ, and to "abide" in His word; the value system that operates on dedication to God and beneficent love to mankind. The ones who fail to "grow in the grace and knowledge" of Jesus also fail to produce fruit that brings glory to God. The ones who do advance in spiritual growth bring forth fruit on three levels based on the three levels of growth.

Verse 21

1. He has no firm root in himself: This is not referring to the status of his salvation, but the progress of his faith after salvation. The example clearly presents us with a successful germination of the seed of the gospel, so that we have a person having sprouted and started in his Christian life.

2. Only temporary: That is, it does not last very long with the pressures from the elements. IN the spiritual application, the believer does not get enough sustenance from its root system (through spiritual growth) in order to remain strong and faithful. But the permanence of his salvation status is no in view.

3. When affliction: thlipsis simply means pressure in general. This is the same word that is translated tribulation so often, but even in that case, it simply refers to pressure. In the case before us, this pressure refers to various troubles that tempt (Luke 8:13) a person to de-emphasize spiritual things and be more concerned with creature comforts. The next word involves persecution pressure.

4. Or persecution: diōgmos, refers to pressure that comes upon the believer because other people disagree with him and his belief system (notice, "because of the word"). In this case, he is intimidated and is tempted to disassociate from his new found faith.

Luke does not describe the TWO aspects of attack, but simply uses the word peirasmos to indicate that they are temptations.

5. Immediately: This does not mean "immediately" after he becomes a believer, but immediately upon facing the pressure. It is clear by the phrase, "because of the word," that this person has attempted to speak up for his new faith and to tell others about the Messiah. But because he is unequipped he is intimidated by the antagonism and caves in to the pressure.

6. He falls away: Matthew uses the word, skandalidzomai to indicate the fact that this new believer is intimidated by the pressure. The word does NOT mean "to fall away," but rather to a stumbling in the soul that CAUSES a falling away if it is not countered. It occurs as a present passive indicative to indicate that the subject (the new believer) receives (passive voice) the affect of intimidation from others. This is a mental condition that occurs when there is no confidence in the soul. Confidence comes through learning God's word and failure to do so leaves the soul vulnerable to the slightest negativity from others. Luke uses the word, aphistāmi as a present middle indicative, to emphasize the result of being intimidated. First comes the intimidation (skandalidzomai, Matthew) and then comes the falling away (aphistāmi, Luke). CT: And when pressure or persecution comes because of the word, he is immediately intimidated.



Verse 22

1. And the one who received seed among the thorns: This one also accepted the gospel message and failed to grow. His distraction is in the area of the normal details of life; all the issues of creature comfort and abundance.

2. He hears the word: This one also accepted the gospel message and failed to grow. There is no basis for viewing this person as not having accepted the gospel message just because the "detail" of having received it with joy is not repeated. The end result is no different from the previous person who did receive it with joy. That is, they both fail to advance in growth and have no production that is honoring to God. At Luke 8:14, we see that this person, "goes on his way" which indicates that after salvation, he continues in his normal life activity. However, that normal life activity will become his downfall, as he fails to grow in the faith.

3. His pressures are described as being worry and wealth. At Luke 8:14, his pressures are described as, "worries, riches and pleasures."

See Topic: The Details of Life

4. These normal life distractions "choke the word" and prevent it from carrying the new believer further in his Christian life. This is why it is so important to teach a new believer about fellowship and growth.

5. And it becomes unfruitful: This is described at Luke 8:14 as bringing "no fruit to maturity." He fails to abide in the word and fails to learn the truth so that he lives according to the standards of his old life, placing value on creature comforts and luxuries and misses out on the quality of life that God has designed for those who are in His family; the abundant life of peace and joy.


Verse 23

And the one who received seed on the good soil.

It says that this is the one who "understands" the word. However, that does not mean that the previous two did not understand the word, for it is quite obvious that in order to "receive it with joy," the person must understand it. The issue here is an understanding that not only elicits a salvation decision, but also a subsequent interest and pursuit of spiritual value after salvation. This subsequent pursuit is spiritual growth, exactly what the previous two believers failed to focus on.

The word for understand is the same in verses 15, 19 and 23 (suniāmi) but the emphasis is on true recognition of value that continues beyond a salvation decision through participation in the growth process. Luke describes the continued positive volition of this believer by describing him as having "an honest and good heart."

I do not accept the idea that the previous two people did NOT become believers just because they are not described as having "an honest and good heart." This phrase is used to emphasize the attitude of devotion that characterizes the life AFTER salvation, not what is necessary for salvation. The previous two people did in fact accept the gospel message based on genuine understanding and motivation, but they simply allowed the various temptations of this life to distract them from perpetuating that understanding into a consistent faithfulness to God. And because of that failure, they were unable to endure the pressure and unable to bear fruit.

The 3rd believer is the one who maintains consistent faithfulness beyond salvation and "bears fruit with endurance," (Luke 8:15). The use of the word endurance (hupomonā), indicates that he has encountered the very same pressures as the previous two believers, but he is able to endure because he holds onto the word. The production is described in three levels, "some 100% production, some 60% and some 30%." This is probably referring to the fact that Christian growth progresses through three levels; the baby stage, the adolescent stage and the mature stage. The levels of growth have nothing to do with salvation, but with the consistency of endurance based on how much divine viewpoint the person has in his soul.

The more he knows and uses, the more consistent will be his capacity to endure the various temptations. The mature Christian will be more consistent than the baby and the adolescent; and the adolescent will be more consistent than the baby. However, all three can be in fellowship and bring glory to God. They are each characterized by learning and using God's word, but respectively, some will have more consistency of endurance than others, and based on that, have more consistent success in serving God.

See Topic: GROWTH: Spiritual growth

Questions and Comments are Always Welcome

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