Matthew, Mark and Luke all record one of Jesus’ parables which is often call “The parable of the sower”. However, as we shall notice the emphasis in this parable is on the soils, not the sower, therefore, I call it the parable of the soils. A parable is a placing of a physical scenario beside a spiritual one that the physical may help one to understand the spiritual. As I’m sure you know, Jesus taught often by way of parables. Luke’s account of the parable under consideration is found in Luke 8:4-8, 11-15, and is the one that we will use in this brief article.
We begin by taking note of the seed that is sown in the various soils. There is no doubt about the seed, for Jesus said, “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). Paul told the Romans that the gospel of Christ is the “power of God unto salvation” and reveals the “righteousness of God” (Rom. 1:16-17). At this point we need also to note that the “seed principle” comes to bear. The seed principle is as old as the earth. At the creation God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself…” (Gen. 1:11). Most everyone understands if you want to grow corn you must plant corn seed, if you want to grow beans you must plant bean seed and on and on the list goes. If one wants to grow a child of God, the word of God must be sown. Anything else will result in growing something else. Concerning the sower, suffice it to say that the sower is anyone who is teaching or preaching the word of God.
The soil that the seed is being planted in is the hearts of men and women who hear that gospel taught. We can know that to be true because Jesus said concerning that first soil, that the devil “taketh away the word out of their he
arts” (Luke 8:12). Though to many, the heart of man is simply the emotional aspect, the Bible shows us the heart is much more. The Hebrew writer tells us that it is with the heart that we think and intend (Heb. 4:12). Paul tells us that our obedience must be from the heart (Rom. 6:17) and that we believe with our heart (Rom. 10:10). Obviously, the heart under consideration is the mind of man, including both intellect and emotion. This is the part of man in which the kingdom of God exists. Jesus said, “…For, behold the kingdom of God is within you”. When the word of God reaches the heart of a man or woman, various responses can result. When Peter and the other apostles preached on the day of Pentecost, the text says, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). However, the same seed was planted by the same sower to a different audience and, “When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them” (Acts 5:33). Then a different sower, sowing the same seed to yet another audience resulted in, “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth” (Acts 7:54). Obviously, whenever the seed of the kingdom is sown, it will depend upon the soil into which it is sown.
Now in the space remaining, let us turn to the four different types of soils that are presented. There is the wayside soil, the rock, the thorny soil and the good ground (Luke 8:5-8). The wayside would be the packed path upon which man and animal traveled. The ground would be hard, thus the seed would not sink into the ground but would be visible for the birds to eat. Jesus said that this represents the one who hears the word, but does not believe it in the first place. It is pictured as the devil taking the word from their heart (Luke 8:12). Since they never even believe the word, they are never saved. The second soil is represented by the word “rock”. The word itself tells us that it is too hard to actually take root. Though there might be soil enough for it to sprout, the roots are at the surface and the plant is thus unable to survive the heat and will wither away. Jesus tells us that this represent the man who hears the word and even believes it, but not with any real depth. Their faith is so shallow that when trial or persecution arises, they fall away (Luke 8:13). They too are lost. The third soil is said to be that where there were thorns. Most country folk understand the flower or other good plant that might spring up among the briers, only to be chocked out without ever bearing fruit. Jesus said this is the one who hears the word, believes, and serves God, but are tempted by the cares, riches and pleasures of this world and are enticed to turn away from the Lord (Luke 8:14). They too are lost in the end. The fourth and final soil is called the good ground. In it the seed springs up and bears fruit abundantly. Jesus says that it represents the soul that hears God’s word, believes His word and obeys His word, resulting in bringing forth fruit with patience (Luke 8:15). This final soil is the only one resulting in eternal life. The moral of this story is, we need to cultivate “an honest and good heart”.
Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: [email protected]