TABLE OF CONTENTS
Parable of the Sower Summary
The Parable of the Sower is one of the famous parables of Jesus Christ and is found in the synoptic gospels in Mark 4:3-20, Matthew 13:3-23 and Luke 8:4-15.
Here is the Parable of the Sower summary: a man who is a sower goes sowing seeds everywhere. While some seeds fall on the path where there is no soil, others fall on a rocky ground with very little soil, and other seeds fall on soil which contained a lot of thorns. In all of these three cases, seeds are lost and fail to produce crops. But in one case, seeds fall on a good soil and grow, some yielding thirty, sixty, and others a hundredfold.
In this parable, Jesus Christ starts by telling this parable to the multitude. Then later, only in the presence of disciples, He explains what the parable really represents with the sower being the laborers of God who proclaim the gospel, the seeds being the Word of God and the various soils being the people and how they respond to the preached word. In the first three cases, the gospel was rejected but in the last case in the good soil, the gospel was received and produced fruit.
Parable of the Sower
In this article, I want to lay out the parable of the sower again with some personal comments with the objective being to study the parable with an open mind.
Then I want to look at it from the gospel’s perspective and specifically in a relative way to the doctrine of “Once Saved Always Saved”.
Gospel of Mark
Let’s look at this parable of the sower in its context starting with chapter 4 of the gospel of Mark:
Mark 4:3-20 (KJV)
3 Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
4 And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. (the seed did not spring up on the way side)
5 And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:
6 But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. (seeds among thorns probably had depth of earth and did spring up but thorns choked them up and they did not yield fruit)
8 And other fell on good ground, (suggests depth of earth but ), and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. (the seed on good ground sprang up, took root and brought forth fruit that increased)
9 And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
10 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.
11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
13 And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?
14 The sower soweth the word.
15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.
16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time (this means people who heard and received the word and endure in the word for a while): afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake (for the word’s sake suggests that these believers try to do something about it, produce fruit, shine the light and are persecuted because of it), immediately they are offended.
18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. (among thorns implies believers who the riches and cares of the world choke the seeds of the Word and the Word becomes unfruitful)
20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.
Now let’s look at the same parable of the Sower in the gospel of Matthew.
Gospel of Matthew
For this gospel, I decided to display verses 18 to 23 from the passage in chapter 13 where I found some small but interesting differences with Mark. The parable in this gospel starts from verse 3 but it was practically the same as in the gospel of Mark.
Matthew 13:18-23 (KJV)
18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. (notice the same as the gospel of Mark, believers of the stony ground received the word and endured for a while but when tribulation came because of the word, they were offended. This suggests they tried to do something about it but tribulation discouraged them)
22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and HE BECOMES unfruitful. (This is an interesting difference with the gospel of Mark for the seeds among thorns, Matthew says that the person himself becomes unfruitful.)
23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
And finally, let’s look at the parable of the sower in the gospel of Luke.
Gospel of Luke
In the gospel of Luke chapter 8, the parable of the sower is smaller and has some differences. The parable starts from verse 5 until the end of the chapter verse 15.
Luke 8:5-15 (KJV)
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. (that is an interesting difference with the other gospels where depth of the earth is mentioned. However, depth of earth is needed to hold moisture which this soil had but only a little)
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 (this is in contrast to the other soils, it is kept to the end), and bring forth fruit with PATIENCE. (the use of patience obviously means through tribulation)
The Parable of the Sower Meaning
It is good that I don’t have to dig deep into that one since the disciples later asked the Lord to explain the parable of the sower to them and for that I am grateful 🙂
It is obvious that the ultimate difference between the soils is its capacity to bring forth fruit. In other words, a seed can spring up and increase but then can whither or be choked. If it does not bring forth fruit to perfection, it is useless.
To summarize, I personally understand it like this:
- seeds by the way side: people who hear the gospel but do not believe (in other words unbelievers), the devil comes and removes the Word altogether. The seeds don’t even spring up by the way side because there is no good soil whatsoever
- seeds on stony ground: believers who hear and receive the gospel with joy, they go to live the gospel and shine it out but when they are persecuted because of it, they fall away into unbelief because of the intensity of temptation and tribulation. The seeds spring up on soil with no depth and with very little moisture and then whither because of the sun so they don’t produce any fruit.
- seeds among thorns: believers who hear and receive the gospel, they go to bring forth its fruit but then are distracted by the cares, riches and pleasures of life. These seeds spring up on soil that has depth. The seeds can even start to bring forth fruit but that fruit is not completed to perfection and dies out because of the thorns.
- seeds on good soil: believers who hear, receive the gospel and keep it to the end. They go to bring forth its fruit with patience while enduring temptations and tribulation. Each person brings forth fruit according to his capacity. The seeds spring up, take root, endure the sun because of their strong deep roots and a lot of moisture. And they bring forth a lot of fruit.
So you see my friends, it is not enough to hear the gospel, receive it with joy and believe it. We must yield its complete fruit that is meet to be gathered by God at the harvest. In other words, we can hear the gospel, accept it with joy and believe it with good intentions but that won’t be enough to be saved. We have to keep the gospel during temptations and tribulations, we have to live it out everyday and its fruit must remain until the harvest.
It is interesting that this fits exactly with what Jesus says the gospel of John:
John 15:16 – Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you
Of course, those with ears will hear.
Parable of the Sower vs “Once Saved Always Saved”
In this section, I want to look at the parable of the sower from the perspective of the doctrine of “Once Saved Always Saved”. The point is to see whether this parable gives us some clues as to whether this doctrine is false.
I think there would be no disagreement with our brothers from the “Once Saved Always Saved” camp about the seeds by the way side and the ones on good soil. The seeds by the way side were never saved because they never believed. On the other hand, the seeds on good soil yielded much fruit and were saved. We all agree on this.
The question to ask is whether the believers represented by the stony ground and among thorns were “born again” or “saved”. I will look into each of these categories separately.
Stony Ground Believers
Firstly, it is obvious that people represented by the stony ground are ones who heard, received and believed the gospel. However, that does not necessarily mean they received the Holy Spirit and born again. How do I know this? It is because of the story of the believers of Samaria in chapter 8 of the book of Acts. We see in the story that upon seeing the evangelist Philip’s miracles, the people in Samaria heard him and believed him but they still did not receive the Holy Spirit. The apostles Peter and John had to come to lay hands in order for them to receive the Spirit.
Secondly, another thing we can say is that the seeds sprung up on this stony ground. This is in contrast to the seeds by the way side where the seeds did not spring up. So the question is to see whether “springing up” means “born again”. Unfortunately for “Once Saved Always Saved” believers, it does when we look at other verses as this one:
1 Corinthians 3:6 – I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
Therefore, to say that seeds sprung up means that the plant is increasing. If God gives the increase, that means God has to be already working IN the soil. That is born again.
Thirdly, the plant withered in the time of tribulation because of the Word. If these believers are persecuted because of the Word, that suggests they were attempted to do spread the Word, produce its fruit and shine the Light of the gospel. Otherwise, why say that they were persecuted because of the Word. It would not make sense. That suggests born again believers even though it doesn’t necessarily prove it.
Among Thorns Believers
The study of believers among thorns is also interesting especially when we do a comparative study of the synoptic gospels. It’s important to note that in this case as well, the seeds sprung up and since we saw that it is God who provides the increase, that also suggests born again believers. But another interesting question for this case is to see whether the seeds were in the process of growing fruits that were not completed. Why is this relevant? Because it is harder to say that a believer is in the process of producing Godly fruit while they are still “not saved”.
Look at John 15:4-5.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Now let’s look more closely at the verses for the seeds among thorns across the synoptic gospels.
Gospel of Mark
Mark 4:7 – And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
Mark 4:18 – And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
Mark 4:19 – And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
Looking at the parable of the sower in the gospel of Mark, at verse glance, Mark 4:7 says that the seeds among thorns yielded no fruit. However in Mark 4:19, the verse says that after the seed sprang up, the Word the believer received became choked by the cares and the riches of the world and the Word itself became unfruitful. The word “becometh” suggests that the Word was fruitful and became unfruitful.
What does it mean So it all comes back to the word “fruit” in Mark 4:7. A simple definition of the word “fruit” is the usually edible reproductive body of a seed plant. If the seed didn’t yield fruit and at the same time the Word became unfruitful, that means that it was in the process of making the fruit but became unfruitful because it was choked.
Gospel of Matthew
Matthew 13:7 – And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them
Matthew 13:22 – He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and HE BECOMES unfruitful. (Matthew said the believer himself became unfruitful. That reinforces what we said that the person was producing fruit but became unfruitful so he did not yield a full grown fruit)
Gospel of Luke
Luke 8:7 – And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it
Luke 8:14 – 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. (notice it brought no fruit to perfection. This confirms strongly what we have been saying that it was bringing fruit but it didn’t bring the fruit to perfection or completion. In other words, it was not a full grown fruit that is edible and ready for the harvest of God)
Therefore, this comparative study shows that believers among thorns were not false believers. They were believers who heard the gospel, accepted it and believed it. The seed sprang up, increased and was in the process of producing fruit but did not bring any fruit to perfection, it did not produce a full-grown fruit ready for harvest.
Now to OSAS believers, my question is this: how can a plant be increasing and be in the process of producing spiritual fruit if it is not nourished by God Himself? It is God who provides the increase. This does not sound like believers who were never saved or false believers, this sounds like true believers who were genuinely in the way of salvation and lost their way because of the distractions of the world. They did not complete the race. They did not produce a full-grown fruit for the harvest.
The parable of the sower amazingly fits perfectly with the parable of the Vine and the Branches in John 15:1-6. Jesus says “Any branch IN ME that does not bear fruit will be CUT OFF“. “In Him” means born again.
The parable of the sower is one of the deep parables of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even after the Lord Jesus Himself explained it, we can still learn from it the depth of God in each word used. I really believe that not one word from the bible is uninspired.
My Christian brothers, please look at the parable with an open mind. It is not enough to receive the gospel and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We have to produce the fruits of the gospel of Christ which is IN Christ. That is the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31) where we are led by the Spirit of God. Every branch that is in Christ will produce Spiritual fruits that remain and that are meet for the harvest. If we think we don’t have to live out the gospel of Christ every day, if we think that we don’t to keep the faith until the end, if we become unfruitful, we will not make it. We are saved now but we have to remain saved.
My brothers, how is your soil? Do you have depth and is the Word being rooted deep in your souls? Are you being watered every day by the Word? Are you producing the fruit that God is expecting for His Kingdom on the day of the harvest?
Don’t fall away because of tribulation. Don’t let the deceptive riches of the world choke your fruit. May God help keep your fruit meet for harvest day!