Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Parable - A Sower Went out to Sow

I am not going to professionally exegete the parable of the sower. Two bloggers have submitted exegesis of two related parables in the comments of the former post. One is here and the other is there. There are many wide-ranging interpretations of these. I don't agree with many of them, but I think they happen because every detail of exactly what is meant is not spelled out. I am good at offering personal illustrations, so that is what I will start by doing.

When I was converted at the age of 20, I was very zealous for the Lord. At this time, I was living at home with my Catholic mother and going to college. My life changed dramatically as I was discipled by a very charismatic and influential man. I believe God used him to separate me from many of the bad influences in my life. He constantly talked about the Bible and the gospel and my feet became solidly planted on the Word of God. I was very zealous for witnessing and studying the Bible.

A few years later, I went out from my mother’s house and into the real world of living, working, paying bills, etc. etc. John and I had become married and were making a life together, living in a small apartment and trying to save for the monumental goal of owning a small home someday. Suffice it to say, when you grow up with everything easily provided for … and then you and your husband find that material things are not to be taken for granted as you had once done, it is a shock. I did not handle this shock so well. I went through a brief period of depression as I became worried and anxious, especially at the prospect of having a family. I questioned God about different circumstances and became not a very good example of a faith-filled Christian. I can remember unsaved members of my family asking me, “Where’s your faith?” Don’t get me wrong, my husband provided, but I was more intimately familiar with the mechanisms of this than I had been when I was brought up the upper-middle class home that I had been. I became very distracted, fretful and care-filled.

This time of fret subsided VERY slowly. I can remember sitting in church services on at least two different occasions, over a number of years and hearing the Parable of the Sower being read. Both times, I leaned over to my husband, John, as the portion about the seed that was choked by the cares and concerns of this world, and said “That’s me.” I also had this same thought when reading it alone. No doubt – I was the plant that was unfruitful because of thorns that had choked me. Matthew 13:

Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.
No plants there. There is no plant and no plant life – just a wasted seed.

5 Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.
There were plants, but they became withered. The life situation is not conducive to a flourishing plant. I think of people who may hear and receive the gospel and then perhaps get caught up in a cult. I also think of someone who hears the gospel, believes and has saving faith and then has no one to disciple him – no Bible to read or no one to encourage and spur him on. He hadn’t had time for the root of his faith to develop and strengthen ... and then the heat is turned up. But wait - does this have to be the end of the story? With a little water, a little removal of some rocks, a little TLC, this plant could revive and become healthy. – I had some on my porch a couple of weeks ago. Did I need to plant new seed? Did this plant need to be reborn? No, it needed water!

7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.
There was plant life here, but it wasn’t fruitful. Note what He says later on down in the chapter:

22 And the one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.
Does Jesus say the plant died? No. Is there any reason to believe that the thorny plants couldn’t be cut back by the farmer and that with a little TLC, this plant could become fruitful at a later time? It received the Word, and became a plant, but was an unfruitful plant. Would it have to become a seed again and be re-germinated? Think about that. Don’t you know any Christians who fit this description? Couldn’t it have been said of you ever?

8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
This is God’s ideal for the Christian life. The life is ready to produce. This is God’s best for us!

That is my simple understanding of this parable, but as I have mentioned already, it doesn’t seem that simple to others. I guess if your theology doesn't bear the concept of an unfruitful Christian, then you couldn't accept this view. I personally believe that the unfruitful Christian is a valid Biblical concept, revealed in many non-parabolic passages, so I have thought of this parable this way for as long as I can remember since being a believer. I don’t see why anyone would insist that this story is conveying a message that only the seeds yielding a crop had been given life – that just doesn’t seem to be the obvious meaning to me. But who am I?

20 Comments:

  • That is a really excellent post, Rose~.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 6/30/2006 3:59 AM  

  • I'll answer your question ...

    But who am I?

    A great blessing! ;-)

    Once more we agree (surprise!). I also think this parable is an admonition to faithfulness.

    By Blogger Kc, at 6/30/2006 7:32 AM  

  • Mattew,
    Thanks. I like it when you are my first commenter. :~)

    Hi KC!
    Good to see you. Thank you for the kind word.
    So you think the parable is an admonition to faithfulness? Tell me what you mean so I don't miss it. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 6/30/2006 7:58 AM  

  • I like your thoughts on this parable, Rose. I think they are quite reasonable!

    By Blogger The IBEX Scribe, at 6/30/2006 8:14 AM  

  • Resist satan and flee from temptation, care not for the things of the world but be steadfast (patient) and keep the word. These are the qualities of good ground.

    By Blogger Kc, at 6/30/2006 8:24 AM  

  • Rose,

    I believe that any "growth" at all is a type of fruit.

    Both the seed on the rocky soil and the seed in the thorny soil germinated and grew some.

    There was growth which, again is a type of fruit.

    Much growth is necessary in the Christian life to bear mature fruit.

    Notice as well that the thorny soil did produce fruit but brought "no fruit to maturity" (Luke 8:14). It did not produce full-grown, mature fruit.

    The facts are this:

    The last three soils both germinated and experienced growth!

    Like I have said before, in the pro-life movement for plants life begins at germination!

    The Gospel is the word of Jesus. Jesus' word will perform its result when it is planted in the heart. How can it not?

    "The word of truth" will beget anyone who exercises simple faith in it; when the seed is planted in a heart.

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at 6/30/2006 4:23 PM  

  • KC nearly nailed it Rose. We can empathize with all of them in some form. Remember in Matt 13 Jesus said the Prophets desired to hear and the disciples were the ones that received the explanation. It is not an evangelistic text.(These are not the lost coins and sons parables) It is a text telling us and admonishing *us* as believers how to evangelize. Teaching the disciples to sow as a farmer with purpose understanding how an unsuccessful crop comes about. Remeber when Jesus went on with other Parables in this chapter and finished, he asked his disciples if they understood everything and then said that a good scribe brings forth both old and new out of his treasuring. We as teachers shouldn't be asking how much doctrine one must know, but rather endeavor to break up the fallow ground by as much truth as possible. Remember at Pentecost Peter went through a long discourse bringing understanding of how the Old Testement fit into what Christ had just done and bang the Church was born.

    We must understand that we are saved by grace, but we must endeavor to lead men to discover it by exposing the truth. This should be our goal and then the crowds will hear. That is not to say that men will not be saved without good prepatory work, but it means that the success we desire will be met by honor God and his wishes in this endeavor. We must seek to cultivate understanding. Jesus says a good teacher will understand this.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 6/30/2006 6:59 PM  

  • You make a good case there Antonio.There is life. Good thoughts. I agree with you on the fruit being there, but not matured. I do think our desired end though is to cultivate as much understanding as possible. This is profitable all around and ensures there is understanding. I believe the purpose of these parables is to teach the disciples to strive for that good soil and ensure as much understanding as possible.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 7/01/2006 1:23 AM  

  • I appreciate your perspective and accept that some (many?) Christians bear little fruit or even bear fruit only at salvation but I do have to believe that some non-believers hear the word and may even profess belief only to permanently reject it and end up in the lake of fire. How else does one interpret Matthew 7:21-23? William McDonald (if you are familiar with so-called Plymouth Brethren expositors) holds to this view on pages 45 and 46 of his Believers Bible Commentary New Testament, 1990. I agree that we need to avoid the error of involving works in salvation or imposing some extreme lordship requirement but we need to remember that there is pastoral responsibility as part of the counseling/restoration process to question the salvation of those who live in unremitting sin.

    By Blogger Leo, at 7/01/2006 8:01 PM  

  • OOPS!
    The second link in my post was messed up. I have now fixed it.

    IBEX,
    Thank you. I think YOU are quite reasonable. ;~)

    KC,
    Your thoughts have prompted some more thoughts in my mind. Thanks for that.

    Antonio,
    Growth is evidence of life, indeed. Thanks for the Luke reference. I had neglected to look there.

    Brian,
    Thanks for your comments. KC got me to thinking too. Understanding is mentioned in the soil that brings forth fruit. Understanding is key, I think. The more understanding, the better.

    Hi Leo!
    Welcome to my blog. One particular reader of mine will no doubt find your comments re: Plymouth Brethren of interest, since he is quite familiar with them.

    Professing belief and understanding truth are two different things, I agree. And ... Lordship Salvation is yet another thing altogether! Thank you.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/01/2006 9:58 PM  

  • > Lordship Salvation is yet another thing altogether! Thank you. <

    Amen..also you have differing views among the Lordship crowd, just as there is differing views among the Free Grace crowd. For instance I would consider Ray Comfort and John MacArthur to be Lordship, but though I don't always agree with their view...they do call men to rest, but Piper, Sproul and others who fully embrace all the teachings of the Puritans...never let you enjoy assurance, they seem to always dangle the carrot. it is an odd thing isn't it? In working through all of this I do believe there is importance of hearing men like MacArthur, because they do have a burden about understanding of the word, however I am most comfortable with the way Spurgeon preached...but we are all humans and vessels of clay. I do though make a distinction between mental assent and faith.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 7/01/2006 10:34 PM  

  • Actually if you listen to Ray Comfort carefully you will find that some would accuse him of being a free gracer. He just prepares and presents differantly than others. He could go as either or just as Spurgeon could.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 7/02/2006 1:32 PM  

  • Rose, I think you have adequately explained this parable.

    I am amazed that a man like John MacArthur can only think the last soil are true believers. It's so sad, a real wakeup call for us to examine the true condition of our hearts.

    By Blogger Jim, at 7/03/2006 4:27 PM  

  • Hey Rose,

    Great post as ever...

    I like your interpretation. This is a parable that is both calming, the sower quietly throwing seed around, and convicting!

    God bless you :-)

    By Blogger HK Flynn, at 7/05/2006 5:49 PM  

  • Jim and Jodie,
    Thank you for validating my non-professional interpretation. Thanks for visiting!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/05/2006 6:37 PM  

  • Allow me to elaborate as to why I believe Ray comfort understands but prepares differantly.

    On the Way of the Master series where they interviewed Satan worshipers he helped us all see how even in our small sins we are still originally in our condition...Satan worshipers. Of course you know he preaches repentance and stresses it.

    Well in that show he interviews a Catholic who was open and not hostile toward Ray Comfort. Comfort kept taking him through the ten commandments and the guy kept saying that he was concerned. Comfort asked him what he was going to do about it. The man said he knew what he did was wrong and he would go home and repent and that he wanted to repent. After Comfort brought him low to this point he said, "Repentance doesn't save you!"

    The guy said with an exasperated look, "It doesn't?"

    He then said, "No we are saved by grace."

    The scene cut off with him saying in relief, "Oh thank God!"

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 7/05/2006 8:08 PM  

  • Rose,
    I think it should not be missed that the whole point of planting seed is to have a harvest, not just a plant. The goal is fruit. In another parable of the vine, there are only two categories-fruit bearing branches and non-fruit bearing branches. One abides, the other goes into the fire .

    I think in a way, your application of the parable can apply to us as believers because we sometimes act just like unbelievers, to our shame. Sometimes we do worry too much and sometimes we do not bear fruit for God as we ought and grieve the Holy Spirit.

    I think the point of this parable though is the fruit or lack of it. The scorched plant died, the choked plant died both being unfruitful.

    Jonathan Edwards believed that a person could be a "stony ground hearer" for a time, then later in life become one who receives the Word with a good and sincere heart who bears fruit. He believed he had a false conversion experience before his true conversion. I tried to find the quote, but couldn't.

    One instance of this in Scripture is Simon the Magician (Acts 8:9ff) "believing" yet being denounces as being in the gall of bitterness.
    I believe that the interpretation that there is a temporary faith which is not true saving faith makes the most sense. I believe that this is why churches are filled with people who "went to the altar" shed crocodile tears, but then never go back to church, live no better than pagans yet claim to be going to heaven. The devils also believe and tremble. That is why we are to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. We are to look for evidence that we are bearing fruit for God and our hearts have been renewed.
    -----------------------------
    Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

    -------------------------------
    John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
    ----------------------------

    There can be no fruitless Christians.

    By Anonymous VA ~Susan, at 7/26/2007 9:43 PM  

  • VA Susan,

    Just as Rose has pointed out in her fine and original post, opinions vary. We should be diligent to offer holistic Bible truth not just another opinion.

    Try to see if this post helps.

    BTW there is a strange movement in Evangelicalism right now of Christians trying to cast doubt on the salvation of other Christians instead of building each other up in the most holy faith.

    Be encouraged,
    Brother John

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 7/27/2007 7:32 AM  

  • Brother John,
    I believe that all who come to Christ savingly will persevere till the end. No one can take us out of His hand. He will never leave us or forsake us. I also believe that there are many who profess faith who do not possess it and the Bible warns against presumption.
    ---------------------------
    Matthew 7:21
    I Never Knew You
    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
    ---------------------
    My understanding of the passage you refer to in Hebrews is that it is speaking of apostates. The same ones who "went out from us but were not of us" Those who have a "form of godliness without the power." Judas is one such example. He had head knowledge, he preached and even performed miracles, yet did not have the Holy Spirit or true saving faith.

    I think you misunderstood me. When I speak of "temporary faith" I do not mean a temporary salvation. You are either alive or dead spiritually, in the Kingdom of Darkness or the Kingdom of Light, "In Christ" or "in Adam". The "temporary faith" I am speaking of here involves some temproary operations of the Holy Spirit, yet the person never comes to a genuine saving faith. They alone are responsible for rejecting the light given them. King Saul prophesied by the Holy Spirit, yet was ready to murder and to consult a medium and never repented of his sin. Also Balaam the false prophet spoke by God yet led Israel into sin and was eternally lost.
    -----------
    Revelation 2:14
    But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.
    --------------------
    I agree that it would be a sin to make a genuine Christians doubt their salvation and I am not advocating that at all. Paul told Christians to "examine themselves" to see if they were in the faith showing by their lives evidence of a true profession. I believe it is a much greater sin to say "peace, peace" to those who are deluded by an easy believism which requires no examination, obedience or a committed call to discipleship. Jesus says to first count the cost and then follow Him. He does not want them to follow if they are not willing to face the hard realities of true discipleship. He told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and follow him, yet the man went away sad unwilling to give up his idol of mammon. Jesus told people they must be willing to forsake all to follow him and be ready to lose their life, family and friends and possessions, if necessary, for the sake of His Kingdom.

    We can add nothing to Christ's finished work for our salvation. We are justified by grace. We need His righteousness because our righteousness is as filthy rags. Still, we are commanded to live holy lives out of grateful obedience and are commanded to be sanctified. There is nothing good in us and good works and obedience are only possible when God is working in us "to will and to do His good pleasure". Even our best works are not meritorious in our salvation and need to be cleansed by Christ's blood, but they please God and will be graciously rewarded by Him if done out of a heart of love for Him. It is like the small child's gift to his mother of weeds mixed with flowers which still imperfect pleases their mother.

    If we love God we will seek to live our lives in a way that will glorify and honor Him.

    By Anonymous VA ~Susan, at 7/28/2007 9:49 AM  

  • It is very interesting to read about the parable of the sower and many people have different aspects on it.

    You should consider watching True and false conversion by Ray Comfort.

    God bless :-)

    By Blogger True, at 3/19/2008 4:17 PM  

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