Monday, September 1, 2008

Four Soils or Four Seeds?

I recently heard a good comment from Alistair Begg about the Parable of the Sower and the Soils which the below comments are based. Here is the parable from Mark 4:1-20:

He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land. And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching, “Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. “Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. “And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. “Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. “Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN.”

And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables? “The sower sows the word. “These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. “In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. “And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. “And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” (NASB)

Isn't it interesting today that many by their actions seem to believe that this parable should actually be about the 4 types of seed rather than the 4 types of soil. The word or seed in the parable today is often changed to make it more receptive to the hearers or soils. But notice in the parable that the seed is the same. It does not matter what type of soil is being sown, the seed is the same that the sower sows. The parable points to the fact that the success of the seed bearing fruit is determined by the soil representing the hearers of the word. The receptivity of the word is according to Scripture determined by God. He must change the heart of a hearer to receive the word properly. This is the act of regeneration or being born again. If He does not change the heart, it will become like one of the 3 unfruitful soils in the parable.

The point is that the seed should always be the same. We should never water down the gospel based on the type of hearer. The gospel alone, by the Spirit, is the power of God to salvation for everyone that believes (Romans 1:16). We can't control the receptivity of the hearer, but we can control the word being sown. Let us be faithful to sow the gospel seed and trust God to prepare the soil to receive the seed and bear fruit. And let us also throw the seed far and wide knowing that God's Word will never return empty, but will always accomplish His purpose (Isaiah 55:11). To God alone be the glory for the salvation of every soul!