Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 2 Study # 4
February 1, 2009
5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.
6 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.
8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
9 And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be?
10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
1901 ASV Translation:
5 The sower went forth to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden under foot, and the birds of the heaven devoured it.
6 And other fell on the rock; and as soon as it grew, it withered away, because it had no moisture.
7 And other fell amidst the thorns; and the thorns grew with it, and choked it.
8 And other fell into the good ground, and grew, and brought forth fruit a hundredfold. As he said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
9 And his disciples asked him what this parable might be.
10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to the rest in parables; that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
12 And those by the way side are they that have heard; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved.
13 And those on the rock are they who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
14 And that which fell among the thorns, these are they that have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
15 And that in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience.
- I. The Details of the Parable.
- A. The seed that fell upon the road.
- B. The seed that fell upon the rock.
- 1. It is called "heteros".
- a. This, typically, means "another of a different kind".
- b. There is this "problem": in the interpretation, the seed is identified as the Word of God but it is pictured as though it represents the hearers instead of what they heard.
- 1) The "interpretation" is "those by the way side", "those on the rock", "that which fell among the thorns are they", and "that in the good ground are such...".
- 2) But the imagery is not hard. The seed is what is heard and the soil issues are the qualities that identify the hearers.
- 3) Thus, the "heteros" is referring, not to the seed, but to its host.
- 2. It "fell" (emphatic) upon the rock.
- a. This is the only one of the four in which the word for "fell" is intensified by the addition of a prepositional prefix. [It should be noted that this alteration is not found in the Greek text behind the AV, but the editors of the Nestle/Aland 26 did not feel that that text had enough manuscript support to even reveal that there was a difference between the textual traditions. It seems apparent that the copyists responsible for the faulty text did some "smoothing" of the actual words by eliminating the prepositional prefix.] This intensification makes the picture a bit more graphic. The seed, in this case, did not merely fall upon rock; it fell into the dust filled nooks and crannies formed by cracks in the rocks and breaks between rocks. This is where the wind would naturally blow the dirt so that it lodged just out of that wind.
- b. There is, thus, a significant "difference" between the hard-packed path and the rock. The rock was never amenable to the seed; it is the soil that is what gives the seed its "reception" or lack thereof. If the hard-packed path had not been trampled upon, it could have given the seed its proper setting. If the dust that was blown by the wind into the nooks and crannies of the rocks had not been so shallow, it could have been a good host for the seed. In every case in this parable, the "dirt" has the capacity to bear fruit except that it has been compromised in one form or another. The issues involved have to do with the nature of the compromises.
- 3. It "grew" (aorist passive).
- a. The verb is found only twice in the New Testament It signifies "growth" as a kind of "expansion" illustrated by the swelling of one's cheeks when one "puffs". The picture of a seed that swells with moisture as it germinates is suggested. This involves the passive tense: the seed was acted upon by the moisture that the shallow covering of dirt held around it.
- b. There is no indication of just how much "growth" occurred. This was determined by the depth of the dirt and the amount of moisture it could hold.
- 4. It "withered away" (aorist passive).
- a. The problem was that there simply was no sufficient supply of water so that whatever growth did occur retrogressed as the moisture disappeared.
- b. It this case, it was not the "birds" that were the problem.
- 5. It "had no moisture".
- a. Clearly an impossible situation.
- b. But, Jesus' cry from the cross, "I thirst", if taken metaphorically in harmony with His promise to the woman at the well that she would never thirst again, is indicative of an explanation: "moisture" is a metaphor for the union between God and the human beings who "drink of His water". For those who wish to see a "loss of salvation" here, Jesus lends them enough "rope" to do that. But, the issue is not "whether a person is saved, or not"; the issue is whether there is any fruit brought to maturity or not. And, the fact is: without a significant "union" of harmony between God and men there will not be any such fruit. The faith that results in justification is not the faith that results in fruitfulness. The former is fixed upon the Person and works of Christ in exclusion of any works by the person; the latter is fixed upon the Person and works of the Spirit which actually produces legitimate works by the person. Even so, the "saved" psalmist wrote of times when he lacked the moisture he wished to have much like the deer that "panted for the brooks of water".
- c. Jesus' interpretation of this element of His parable gives this explanation: the "problem" is a lack of a "root" and the arrival of "trial". The combination of the absence of a root and water is deadly. The disciples need to understand that there will always be those who are initially enthusiastic but do not handle testing at all.
- 6. It "suggests" but does not "address" a major theological issue: what about the long term condition of those who "believe for a while"? Luke wrote of the first soil type that they were not "saved". Then he mentions it no longer. It is a matter that is left to the "theology" of men to address. The facts, however, are these ...
- a. The Word of God has many areas of "fuzz" in it. There are multiple issues which stand in juxtaposition to each other that give the minds of men serious difficulty. The greatest illustration of this is the one Paul decided to address in Romans 3:26. How can "Justice" stand beside "Mercy" and both be infinite realities? Paul answered this one ... to some degree. But there are unanswered ones, the greatest of which is the question of God's "gift" of faith to men and the claim made in this parable that some men "believe for a time". This raises the specter of action by God that does not "carry the day". This is a major problem. On one side are the triumphalists who quote Philippians 1:6 as a declaration that God's works, once begun, are always triumphant. On the other side are the defeatists who quote Galatians 4:11 as a declaration that God allows the choices of men to defeat His work. Both "positions" have their own set of difficulties. On the triumphalist side, there is the doctrine of "the inevitable perseverance of the saints" which denies the reality of any "faith" that fails and encourages men to believe that they can do just about anything and still be "saved" if they ever "really believed". On the other side there is the doctrine of "the loss of salvation for any who fall too far" which pushes men to fall back on their own resources in order to keep from "falling too far". In both cases, the real issue is the behavior of men and how to explain it in light of the work of God. And the explanations typically dissolve into "fuzz".
- b. The Word of God plainly tells us in multiple places that we are dealing with a God of infinity and that His thoughts are beyond our comprehensive comprehension. This should prepare us to "deal with the fuzz". It is, and there is nothing we can do about it.
- c. The Word of God gives every hope to the humble and none to the proud. Thus, if a person proudly claims to "know" that he is going to heaven when he dies, but is deliberately living in sin, he is lying (1 John 2:4). But, alternatively, if a person humbly comes to God in repentance, he has every reason to believe that God has forgiven him. The lie of the former does not consist of whether he is going to end up in heaven when he dies, it consists of his claim to "know" that. And the confidence of the latter does not consist of any "faith" he may have in his "repentance", but in the God to whom he appeals. The "fuzz" is here. Is the repentance to which God responds what I have exercised, or am I simply calling my appeal to God "repentance" without it being so? And how can I "repent" if I do not "know" what God accepts?
- d. The "bottom line" in the "fuzz" is that the Bible never gives anyone any reason to excuse any "failure of faith" without dealing with it before God. It gives no hope to those who "believe" that Jesus is God's Savior and Christ but who live in blatant contradiction of His words. The only people who can live in legitimate freedom and joy are those who are walking with God in the light and dealing with each of their failures as they come to light by taking them to God.
- e. Thus, Jesus, in Luke's record, simply refuses to say any more than that the seed that sprouts and dies for lack of moisture is what happens when the Gospel is preached and those who preach it need to be sure that they are not moved into their own form of "believing for a while" by the death of faith in others.