2. Fertile Soil for the Kingdom (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (36:52)

James J. Tissot, The Sower (1886-96), watercolor, Brooklyn Museum, New York.
James J. Tissot, "The Sower"(1886-96), watercolor, Brooklyn Museum, New York. Larger image.


 

Jesus has begun his ministry now and much of his teaching is conveyed by parables, stories that make a point. We'll begin with the point of the Parable of the Soils or Parable of the Sower. Then we'll study it in greater detail.

"When anyone hears the message about the kingdom ... this is the seed sown...."(Matthew 13:19)

We commonly talk about "sharing our faith"-- and that's good. But this parable is about speaking "the message about the kingdom,"that is, that Jesus the King has come to deliver his people and calls for their allegiance. This message is not always received warmly as we intend. The point of the parable is that we are not to be surprised when people don't catch hold as disciples of Jesus and subjects of Christ's reign.

Seeds on the Path (Matthew 13:3-4)

Let's consider the setting of the parable. As an agrarian people, Jesus' hearers needed no explanation, but we do.

"3b A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up."(Matthew 13:3-4)

No machine planting here -- though in parts of Mesopotamia the plow was sometimes built with a vertical tube through which the seed was dropped.1 The kind of sowing Jesus describes involved taking a handful of seed and scattering it evenly onto the field. Each and every hearer in the crowd that day had sowed seed in this manner. Immediately, they were at home with the story as it unfolded. Israelites were familiar with two grain crops -- barley in the areas of poorer soil, and wheat in the better land. We aren't told which grain this was.

Now Jesus observes that some of the seed fell along the path, the narrow strip of hard-trampled dirt along which the farmer and his family walked through the field. Because the soil of the path wasn't broken up, the seed remained on the surface of the ground, "and the birds of the air ate it up."You've seen birds out on a new lawn just after seeding, pecking at the grass seed. Birds haven't changed much; they are opportunists.

Seeds on Rocky Soil (Matthew 13:5-6)

"5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root."(Matthew 13:5-6)

Next, Jesus notes that some seed fell on rock. This wasn't plain rock, but slabs of limestone in certain parts of the field just under the surface with an inch or two of soil over them. The limestone would hold the warmth of the sun throughout the night, and for a while, the new plants would spring up and grow vigorously -- until they ran out of moisture. Since they couldn't get a root down into deep soil, they would quickly wither and die.

Now this makes perfect sense to a California boy like me who grew up in a Mediterranean climate similar to the Holy Land. Rains come in the fall and winter, as much rain as there is, anyway. Late spring and summer see little or no rain. By May the green hills of spring are turning brown as the grass dries up. If you are from a region where it rains all summer, withering and dying may not be part of your experience. But in Palestine, seeds had to be sown in good soil if they had a hope of making it to maturity.

Remember, you are listening to -- and imagining -- this parable as if you'd never heard it before. In your mind's eye you can see the plant growing vigorously only to wither and die when the rains stop. You see it. You wonder what is Jesus getting at. He continues.

Seeds among Thorns (Matthew 13:7)

"Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants."(Matthew 13:7)

No farmer purposely scatters seed into thorns. But there may be thorn seed in the soil in certain spots.

Here in Northern California we have the worst, I am sure, of all thorns. It is called Star Thistle (Centaurea solstitialis), so-named from the painful thorn-spikes that protrude in a star-burst to protect the seed. One spring I went to an area of our property over our newly-installed leach lines, and scattered part of a bag of grass seed, hoping to see grass rather than Star Thistle. Silly boy! The Star Thistle out-grows nearly everything, and thrives in the dry ground of summer. One year, the Star Thistle grew to seven feet high. It's nasty stuff. I would guess that if they had Star Thistle in Palestine, barley or wheat wouldn't have a chance. Sure, you'd see a few stalks in the shadow of the Star Thistle, but it would be out-competed for both moisture and light. No crop here.

Over the crowd where Jesus is speaking you can see the farmers -- and their wives and children -- nodding their heads and smiling. They knew about thorns -- all too well.

Seeds in Good Soil (Matthew 13:8)

"8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop -- a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear."(Matthew 13:8-9)

A good and maturing field of wheat is a wonder to behold -- "amber waves of grain."In a good year, a field might yield 100 grains of wheat for every grain that was sown -- a hundred-fold. That is the goal. That is the dream in the farmer's hopeful eyes as he sows the wheat. Sure, a few grains may fall on the path, some on the thin soil over a limestone shelf, and some in a thorny area. But most, he hopes, will grow up strong and flourish in the sun, producing an abundant harvest.

That's the parable Jesus tells this day. And then he stops. What does it mean? All over the hillside are hundreds, thousands of eager listeners pondering, thinking. What does it mean? What is he getting at? Good parables can both clarify and confuse. The meaning may not be immediately at the surface, but once figured out, the parable can be recalled and retold to pass the truth on to others.

Ears to Hear Spiritually (Matthew 13:9-19)

Now Jesus concludes the parable. With a strong voice that carries to the hundreds, the thousands who are hanging on every word, he speaks a warning:

He who has ears, let him hear."(Matthew 13:9)

They all had ears! They all heard the parable! But Jesus is challenging the hearers to understand what they are hearing, to be discontent until they understand and apply and obey what they have heard. Note very carefully: the Parable of the Soils is all about hearing.

Between the parable and its interpretation is a discourse about spiritual hearing.

"This is why I speak to them in parables:
   'Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing,
   they do not hear or understand.'"(Matthew 13:13, quoting Isaiah 6:9)

"But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."(Matthew 13:16-17)

Now Jesus begins the parable's interpretation. Notice that he is still talking about hearing -- but it is the "message about the kingdom"that they are to hear and discern.

"Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom...."(Matthew 13:18-19a)

What is the message of the Kingdom? It is that the King, the Messiah, has come and he is Jesus Christ the Lord. Before him every knee will bow. He reigns! But not everybody can receive this. Fruitfulness in the parable of seed and soils is not about being religious, it is about embracing the Kingdom of God!

Hard-Packed Hearts (Matthew 13:19)

"When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path."(Matthew 13:19)

The first soil type is the hard-packed path between fields. The seed never sinks into the soil and the devil, represented in the parable by birds, gobbles up the seed before it can have any effect. These are the unbelievers who hear and have closed minds. They are unreceptive. The words just bounce off them. Sure, they may have a smart come-back to defend their unbelief, but the Word does not penetrate their shell, or germinate in their heart.

You have some friends -- neighbors, relatives, business associates, friends at school -- who are like this. Jesus affirms that this kind of unbelief exists. Your words aren't at fault; it is their heart that resists -- though we need to work very hard to communicate the Word of God clearly, unimpeded by a poor witness in our own lives and actions.

I'm going to step outside the parable for a moment to say that soil quality can change -- and sometimes change very rapidly. This isn't Jesus' point, and he doesn't even mention it in this connection. But think of what one plow furrow would do to the receptivity of the "path"soil. Now the seed can drop into the soil and germinate. It is no longer merely birdseed. Life's troubles and problems often have the effect of running a plow through our carefully constructed life and demolishing the values we once held to be true.

Your friends may be utterly closed now. Accept that. But continue to pray that God will bring circumstances into their lives that will make them receptive to the Word. It happens -- not often, not always, but often enough to be a common theme in Christian testimony. "I once was blind, but now I see,"wrote John Newton, a converted slave-ship captain in his hymn "Amazing Grace."

But Jesus doesn't mention soil change in this parable. Jesus moves to the next soil type.

Rocky Hearts (Matthew 13:20-21)

"The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away."(Matthew 13:20-21)

The second soil type is the thin layer of soil over a limestone shelf of rock. There is enough soil for early growth when the soil is still moist from the spring rains. But soon the searing heat of summer comes. The plant has put out green leaves, but no root system has penetrated to moist soil below. The rock stops its growth, and it quickly withers.

Though Jesus doesn't say so directly, I think the rock represents people who have surface enthusiasm, but a hard heart. These people can be sorry for their sins and pray the "sinner's prayer."But, in fact, they haven't really internalized King Jesus' teachings and restructured their lives around him.

You could say, I suppose, that they have sorrow over their sins, but lack real repent­ance (metanoia, "a change of mind"). You may consider the deep wrenching sobs of a repentant sinner to be embarrassing, or perhaps old fashioned. But these tears represent the destruction of an old value system and the foundations of a new one being laid in the heart. The heart is rent. (The English word "rend"means "to remove from place by violence, to wrest, to tear.") I'm not saying that weeping is necessary to salvation, only that true repentance is necessary to the process. Where this doesn't happen, we have the kind of people whom Jesus describes here, with surface growth, but who fall away in time of testing.

"Trouble"(NIV, NRSV), "tribulation"is thlipsis, literally, "pressing, pressure,"but here it is used in the metaphorical sense, "trouble that inflicts distress, oppression, affliction, tribulation."2 "Persecution"diōgmos, is "a program or process designed to harass and oppress someone, persecution."3

Jesus is describing people who have made a surface commitment, but "when push comes to shove"(and push always comes to shove, sooner or later), they fall away. Either it's temptation to fall back to a former sinful pattern, or they lose a job, or a spouse leaves them, or they are now targeted for persecution by those of another religion. When the "heat"is on, these surface Christians wither.

Q1. (Matthew 13:20-21) Why, according to Jesus' teaching here, do some people fall away so quickly? What is their problem?
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Were They Really Christians?

I am always asked the question: "Were they really Christians?"That's hard to answer -- and Jesus doesn't answer it here. You see, the Gospels specify that those who fit this soil type believe for a while and receive the word with joy when they hear it. To first appearances these people seem to be Christians. But they don't persevere in faith, they "fall away."They could be:

  1. Counterfeit Christians. Sometimes you meet individuals who believe that they are Christians, but when you talk with them, you realize that they don't understand Jesus' salvation very well at all. They are Christians in name (i.e., "nominal"Christians), but without the commitment, reality, or experience. The Apostle John makes it clear that sometimes churches experience an exodus of these nom­­­inal or counterfeit Christians: "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us"(1 John 2:19). In other words, John is saying, true Christians persevere, remain, continue. Yes, true Christians sometimes fall flat on their face when persecution or trouble or temptation comes. But true Christians get back up -- often with the help of their brothers and sisters -- and continue to follow the Lord in the fellowship of his Church.
  2. Weak Christians. The Apostle Paul talks about "baby Christians"and "carnal Christians"(1 Corinthians 3:1), about Christians who haven't grown enough to display the fruit of the Spirit's presence, the outward marks of a believer (Galatians 5:22-23; see Matthew 7:16). But true Christians don't drop out, wither, and fall away.
  3. Apostate Christians. The Bible also speaks of apostate Christians who have turned away from the Lord, whom they once followed (2 Peter 2:20-22; Hebrews 3:8-19; 6:1-6). We may not like this fact, and it may not fit our doctrine too well, but it occasionally happens.

The wonderful truth is that there is salvation and forgiveness in Jesus Christ for soil types 1, 2, and 3. Only God can read the heart. We can't. Only God has foolproof diagnostic equipment in his "garage."We don't. Only God can give true assurance of salvation through the Spirit and the Word -- and, praise God, he does! If you are a weak Christian who has fallen away or gotten lost -- or know someone who has -- there is a way back. The Good Shepherd is out looking for you, and will bring you home with joy (Luke 15:1-7). As an old man, the Apostle John wrote these precious words:

"My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense -- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One."(1 John 2:1)

Back to the Parable of the Soils after this excursion -- Jesus wants his disciples to know and understand and that they can expect to see some people who seem to believe at first, but rather quickly fall away. It's a realistic, but unhappy, experience in disciple-making.

Thorny Hearts (Matthew 13:22)

"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."(Matthew 13:22)

The third type of soil is the thorny soil, where thorns grow up alongside the wheat plants, and out-compete them for sunlight and water. As a result, the wheat never comes to maturity to bear a good head of grain. It is stunted. Jesus tells us exactly what stunts people -- worries, riches, and pleasures.

The word that describes the wheat's or barley's condition is Greek sympnigō "to check the growth or well-being of something by pressure, choke"4 This is a compound word, with the Greek preposition syn-, "together, i.e. several ... things united or all in one,"5 and the verb pnigō, "to stifle, choke, strangle, suffocate."In Classical Greek, the word is used to describe a number of rather gruesome and violent incidents.6 Pnigō is a very strong, evocative word, and seems to be heightened by the preposition in its compound form in our passage. Whereas one thorn weed might choke the wheat or barley, all the thorn plants together (Greek  syn-) "choke utterly."7

Let's examine these various noxious thorns. While they may not relate as closely to your country and culture, sadly, I think Jesus' analysis of the factors that choke spiritual life describes contemporary American culture precisely.

Riches

Jesus lists "wealth"(NIV, NRSV), "riches"(KJV) among thorns, but in our society most people are actively seeking riches -- more and more. We Westerners used to decry the "atheistic materialism"of a bankrupt communist ideology, but we embrace the equally deadly greed of capitalism. The Greek word is ploutos, from a root that means "to fill."Ploutos means "fullness of goods."8 In Luke's Gospel, Jesus has a lot to say about riches, mostly by way of warning. Riches, by themselves are not so dangerous as relying on riches as a substitute for God (Luke 12:19), loving riches rather than God (Matthew 6:24), and seeking after riches rather than after God's Kingdom (Matthew 6:33). In Luke we meet several memorable people whose lives tell the story of true riches and death by riches -- the widow giving her two copper coins in offering (21:1-4), Dives and Lazarus (16:19-31), the rich young ruler (18:18-23), the rich farmer-fool (12:16-21), and Zacchaeus (19:1-10).

How about you, my friend? Is your quest for greater material security taking more and more focus away from your relationship with God? Jesus calls wealth "deceitful."Are you self-deceived? Do your possessions still belong to the Lord, or would you wrestle him for them if he were to require them of you? Is your desire for wealth a voracious weed that is competing for sustenance against the growth of Jesus' life in you?

Worries, Cares

"Worries"(NIV), "cares"(NRSV, KJV) is merimna, "anxiety, worry, care."9 Worry is the opposite of trust, and trust is the root idea of faith. All of us have anxieties; Jesus certainly did. But it is how we handle them that decides whether they choke out spiritual life or cause it to flourish. To his disciples'worries of food and clothing, Jesus said, "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well"(Matthew 6:33). The Apostle Paul counseled,

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."(Philippians 4:4-7)

Being consumed with life's worries may be choking your spiritual life. Worry competes with faith for your time and your very life-force. It strangles your relationship with God and the growth of the Word in your life. But while worry may be the scourge of the poor, riches themselves are no better.

Pleasures

Luke 8:14 identifies a third thorn: "pleasures,"the plural of Greek hēdonē.10 Ask the average person on the street what he wants most out of life, and the answer will be, "Happiness. I want to be happy."Thomas Jefferson placed "the pursuit of happiness"in the U.S. Declaration of Independence right up there alongside of life and liberty as unalienable rights. And pursue it we do. But sometimes our pursuit of happiness can be twisted into an all out pursuit of pleasure. Our society has turned "duty"into a negative, and "self-indulgence"into a positive. Our songs croon, "How can it be so wrong, when it feels so right?"We have replaced righteousness and honor with luxury.

But Jesus says clearly to his disciples that the pleasure principle will surely choke out his life in us and make our lives spiritually fruitless and barren. Has that happened to you or someone you love? What if Jesus actually took you up on your vow of discipleship, and asked you to do something that called for self-sacrifice and difficulty in order to serve him. Would you be able to say "yes,"or would you avert your eyes, like the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18:23)?

Q2. (Matthew 13:22; Luke 8:14) Which of the thorns that Jesus mentions do you think is the most dangerous: Riches, worries/cares, or pleasures? Why do you think so?
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Is the Wheat Choked by Thorns "Saved"?

What about these people who are entrapped by worry, money, or pleasure? Are they saved? This isn't Jesus' focus. He is inquiring about their fruitfulness. But let's consider the question.

I would answer: Some of those people are probably saved. If that isn't quite the ringing assurance you were looking for, I'm sorry. Only God can see the heart. Only God can judge whether a person has taken hold of His salvation. We can't. We are only fruit inspectors.

The problem is that people who are derailed by faithless anxiety, money-love, or the pleasure principle don't bear much fruit of the Holy Spirit. You may be able to see some love, joy, and peace. Some patience, kindness, and goodness. Some faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But not a lot. That's the point. Their fruit has not matured. It is stunted, if present at all. From the standpoint of the farmer, stunted fruit is worthless. It's not worth harvesting, and probably doomed to burning after harvest along with the thorns still left in the field.

Are these people saved? Could be. Are they "encouraging one another daily"? Are they hardened by sin's deceitfulness? Is a sinful, unbelieving heart growing within them, that is turning them away from the living God? (Hebrews 3:12-13) Possibly.

Is your life choked by worry, love of money, or hedonism, my dear friend? I urge you to desperately throw yourself on the mercy of Jesus that he might set you free. You can't just "hope"that you have laid hold of Christ's salvation. You must do so with all your heart, or you may end up self-deceived.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"(Matthew 7:21-23)

Too often, people have received assurance from churches or preachers, rather than the assurance that comes from God himself (Romans 8:16). Sometimes even well-meaning pastors have offered assurance prematurely. I recall the Lord's scathing rebuke through Jeremiah to the priests of his day:

"They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
'Peace, peace,'they say,
when there is no peace."(Jeremiah 6:14)

Yes, it is possible that you have been saved if your life is choked with thorns, but you can't take the chance of not knowing, or of being wrong about your assessment. Now is the time to repent and turn to him with a whole heart.

My wife and I have a few pear trees in what was, a half-century ago, a commercial fruit orchard. While most years these trees still bear a few pears, it has to compete with other things that have grown up around it and the fruit never ripens properly. The fruit is hard and bitter, not soft and succulent and sweet like a ripe pear. No farmer in his right mind would try to sell that kind of fruit, or feed it to his family. It is worthless.

Receptive Hearts (Matthew 13:23)

"But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."(Matthew 13:23)

The fourth type of soil is called "good soil,"representing hearers who possess "a noble and good heart"(Luke 8:15).

"Understand"is syniēmi, "to have an intelligent grasp of something that challenges one's thinking or practice, understand, comprehend something."11

The doctrine referred to as "once saved, always saved"or "eternal security,"relies on the Fifth Point of Calvinism, "The Perseverance of the Saints,"i.e. that true Christians will continue in faith and holiness forever.12 Whether or not you agree with this doctrine as stated, it is important to observe that the doctrine gives no assurance at all to Christians who fall away or do not continue on in holiness and faith. Calvin, I am sure, would agree with Jesus wholeheartedly: "By their fruits you shall know them."

What Kind of Fruit?

The final characteristic of good soil and a good heart, is a harvestable crop. I say harvestable, because sometimes a crop that is sparse isn't worth the time to harvest and process. The farmer just turns it under to fertilize the next crop. But a good heart produces fruit. What kind of fruit is Jesus talking about?

I think he has in mind two kinds of fruit. First, there is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, godly character traits that begin to grow in our character when we yield to the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). It is no compliment when someone says to you, "I didn't know you were a Christian!"How sad! Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven"(Matthew 5:16).

Second, there is the result or fruitfulness of our spiritual gifts, the tools that God gives Christians to help build up the Church, the body of Christ. These come in great variety. C. Peter Wagner lists 27 gifts,13 and I expect there are many more besides. If God has given you the gift of teaching, then what is the fruit of teaching? People who learn under your ministry. A teacher who has class after class of knowledgeable pupils is considered successful, fruitful. If your gift is pastoring or shepherding, then the fruit will be a well-cared-for flock. If it is administration, the fruit is a well-set-up, well-run organization of people all working toward the same goal. You get the idea.

Sometimes people think that fruit means "souls"we have won to Christ. Certainly new believers are the natural result of witnessing and sharing the Good News. All Christians are called to do that. But some, those with a special gift of evangelism, will have many "souls"as a result of their ministry, because that is their particular spiritual gift. We don't have to be someone we are not, but we are to seek God for what he calls us to do, and then seek to be fruitful and effective in that to which he calls us.

Q3. (Matthew 13:23) Even good soil can have factors that hinder growth in various parts of the field, or make some areas grow taller and fuller wheat. What factors make a disciple especially good soil for the growth of the word or message of the Kingdom? What might be the reasons for 30-fold, 60-fold, and 100-fold growth?
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Summing Up

This parable gives us perspective that we Christians desperately need. We share with our friends about the Lord, and the next day it seems like we said nothing at all. "Like water off a duck's back,"is our expression for it. Jesus compared it to birds picking the seeds off the hard-packed soil of the paths between the fields.

Then we see new converts begin with great enthusiasm. They flourish until -- until they hit a tough time in their lives -- persecution, temptation, you name it -- and then they wither away and we wonder what happened. Self-deception, the emotion of the moment, lack of deep repentance can all cause this. And we've seen it and wept. Jesus said to expect it, not to be surprised when people who begin well wither suddenly. It breaks our heart, but Jesus told us ahead of time.

Not all who begin in his kingdom are good soil for sustained growth. Until we understand this, we are ripe for disillusionment ourselves. And when we are disillusioned we quit sowing the seed. We become worthless as laborers in the fields. When we do understand it, we concentrate our efforts on the good soil.

Of course, Jesus' point here was not: Root out the thorns and weeds, but: Be aware that thorns and weeds in people's lives will prevent fruitfulness. Don't be surprised or taken aback at this.

Jesus is preparing his disciples for the unfruitful as well as the somewhat fruitful and very fruitful.

I doubt that most farmers spend a great deal of mental energy anguishing over the unproductive portions of their fields. They put their energy into cultivating and sowing the land which is producing a good crop. They don't let the unproductive land discourage them from sowing. Sure, some of our efforts will be wasted, but we will find good soil where the word of the Kingdom will take root and reproduce itself many, many fold.

I come back to the seed -- the word or message of the Kingdom. It is the message first and foremost of the King himself, and then of the blessings of his glorious reign in our lives. This is not our message to share secretly, tentatively with a precious few, hoping that they might be good soil. It is the farmer's seed that we are assigned to disperse wholesale in expectation of a fruitful harvest, in the hope of expanding the realm and reign of the King whom we serve.

The Kingdom. The Kingdom of God. We can extend it by sowing the Word, or we can restrict it by withholding the seed out of fear or busyness or insecurity or disillusionment. But it is royal seed we are entrusted with. Cast it, disperse it into the soil of hearts. And though you see some who reject, or start well, or get bogged down, you will see for your persistent efforts many who will bear fruit for the Kingdom -- to be planted in yet other hearts -- forever and ever. And then the end will come when the harvester bares his sickle and brings the crop home. Amen.

Q4. What did Jesus intend the Parable of the Soils to teach us about the "message of the kingdom"? Why are these truths so important for keeping disciples from becoming disillusioned?
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Jesus and the Kingdom of God: Discipleship Lessons, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
A book of the compiled lessons is available in both e-book and paperback formats.

Prayer

Father, sometimes in our optimism and hope we expect your Word to be received by everybody. Sometimes in our discouragement and cynicism we expect nobody to believe. Forgive us for the times we've failed to get it right. Help us to be both realistic and faithful sowers of the Word of your Kingdom. Extend your Kingdom to those to whom we speak. We pray this in Jesus' mighty name. Amen.

Key Verses

"As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing."(Matthew 13:22, NIV)

"But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."(Matthew 13:23, NIV)

References (Abbreviations)

1. Madeleine S. and J. Lane Miller, Harper's Encyclopedia of Bible Life (Third Revised Edition; Harper & Row, 1978), p. 177.

2. Thlipsis, BGAD 457, 1.

3. Diōgmos, BAGD 253.

4. Sumpnigo, BGAD 959, 1.

5. So Thayer, p. 599, II, 2. Cf. p. 597.

6. Hans Bietenhard, "pnigō ktl.," TDNT 6:455-458.

7. Sumpnigo, Thayer, p. 597.

8. Friedrich Hauck and Wilhelm Kasch, "ploutos ktl." TDNT 6:318-332.

9. Merimna, BDAG 632.

10. Hēdonē, "state or condition of experiencing pleasure for any reason, pleasure, delight, enjoyment, pleasantness" (BDAG 434, 1).

11. Syniēmi, BDAG 972.

12. John H. Gerstner, "Perseverance," in Everett F. Harrison (ed.), Baker's Dictionary of Theology, (Baker, 1960), pp. 403-404.

13. C. Peter Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow (Regal, 1979).


Copyright © 1985-2017, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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