By John C. Carpenter
Sitting by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus Christ spoke a parable unto the multitudes that were gathered around him, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear (Mat 13:3-9). Parallel accounts of this parable are also given in Mark 4:13-20 and Luke 8: 11-15. What was Jesus teaching in this parable, and what was this "good ground" that He referred to?
The parable begins with Jesus sitting by the Sea of Galilee. In this parable the Lord uses an agricultural example to teach the multitudes, since many of them were farmers and could easily identify with the terms and concepts He used. From a physical and agricultural viewpoint, the parable of the sower is about a sower, a man, who sows seed in four different kinds of earthly ground. From a spiritual viewpoint, the parable of the sower is also about a sower, Christ, who sows spiritual seed in four different kinds of spiritual ground, or hearts. To understand the parable, we must begin by defining some terms found in the parable. Christ began by saying, behold, a sower went forth to sow (Matt 13:3). Later, in the parable of the tares, the Lord clarifies who the sower is. He said, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; (Mat 13:37). Jesus Christ is obviously the sower in these biblical parables. When a man sows, there must be seed, and the scriptures also tell us that The seed is the word [logos] of God (Luke 8:11). The seed is not literal, physical seed, but the gospel message. I believe the "word" of God does not refer here to the Holy Scriptures, but to the "word of truth." [see October 1995 issue of the Herald for explanation of difference between Logos, Graphe, and Rhema]. Scripture clarifies what this "word [logos] of truth" is when it says, In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel [good news, tidings] of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise (Eph 1:13); and And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings [good news] of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11). The seed spoken of in the parable of the sower is the "word" [logos] of truth. The word of truth is the gospel, or good news. The good news is that "in the city of David a Saviour has been born, which is Christ the Lord" [for explanation of "Truth," see the November 8, 1996 issue of the Herald]. Additionally, with agricultural sowing, there must be soil, or ground. The word ground (Mat 13:8) is the Greek word "ge," which means "soil, country, earth, ground, world.“ The four kinds of ground [soil, earth] are described as wayside (Mat 13:4), stony, (Mat 13:5), ground containing thorns (Mat 13:7), and good ground (Mat 13:8). These four types of ground represent four different types of hearts found in men and women (Mat 13:19).
The Lord mentioned the first type of soil or earth, saying, And when he [the sower] sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up (Mat 13:4). Two thousand years ago, Palestine was covered with agricultural fields. No fences or walls typically surrounded these fields, and each field had a walking path around its perimeter. Local citizens as well as travelers would utilize these paths at the edge of each field to walk to and from their daily activities. Eventually, due to the constant pounding of feet, these paths became very compacted, hard, and flat. As the farmer [sower] would sow his seeds, some seeds would inadvertently fall onto these hard pathways. Because the soil in these paths was hard and uncultivated, the seeds were unable to penetrate the soil and would just sit on the top of the pathway. As a result, the fowls came and devoured them [the seeds] up (Mat 13:4). The word "fowls" is symbolic of the wicked one (Mat 13:19), also known as Satan (Mark 4:15) and the devil (Luke 8:12). Spiritually speaking, the heart described as wayside ground has three characteristics: it hears the gospel, does not understand the gospel, and is not receptive to the gospel. This soil represents an individual with a hard, unresponsive heart that refuses to even consider the gospel message and the things of God. Scripture tells us When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth [consider, understand, respond piously] 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 (Mat 13:19). This heart is so hard, so "trampled down" with the goings and doings of life that God is unable to penetrate it. The seed of the gospel is sown on this heart, this "wayside" heart refuses to accept the seed, and Satan comes along and devours and destroys the gospel message.
The Lord described a second type of earth saying, Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth (Mat 13:5). Scripture instructs us that this "stony" ground had no deepness of earth. And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away (Mat 13:5-6). Stony places does not refer to soil containing stones, but probably means shallow soil one or two inches deep, with a base of hard bed rock underlying the soil. The stony soil received the seed, but had not root in himself, (Mat 13:5,20-21), meaning the soil received the seed and allowed the seed to germinate and begin to grow, but the soil was so shallow that when the sun was up, they [the seeds] were scorched (Mat 13:6,21). The sun represents tribulation or persecution (Mat 13:21) and temptation (Luke 8:13). Eventually this soil is offended (Mat 13:21) because of this tribulation. The final result is that the seed withered away [died] (Mat 13:6). Spiritually speaking, the stony soil had three characteristics: it heard the gospel, was receptive to the gospel seed, and was offended by the presence of the seed. The stony soil represents the heart that initially receives the seed of the gospel with joy and enthusiasm, and allows the seed to germinate and grow. Because this heart is shallow and superficial, the gospel message and resulting faith soon die. As scripture so aptly describes, these hearts for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away [depart, desert, revolt] (Luke 8:13). Since the apostle John said, Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father (1 John 2:24), I believe the salvation of the stony heart is questionable.
The Lord mentioned a third type of earth when He said, And some fell among [ground with] thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them (Mat 13:7). Agriculturally speaking, the ground with thorns had been cultivated, and was receptive to the seed. This soil also had plants or bushes that competed for the nutrients and water found in the soil. The more thorny bushes there were, the less nutrients and water a seed had to take root and grow. If the thorn bushes were too abundant in this soil, a seed could literally be choked to death. Spiritually speaking, the soil with thorns represents a heart preoccupied with worldly matters. This heart had three characteristics: it heard the gospel, was receptive to the seed of the gospel, and the gospel was choked by the thorns. Scripture tells us 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 becometh unfruitful (Mat 13:22). Scripture defines the thorns in this thorny soil as the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches (Mat 13:22). The parallel account by Mark reads the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in (Mark 4:19), while the account by Luke reads cares and riches and pleasures of this life (Luke 8:14). Although the accounts vary somewhat, the thorns are consistently representative of worldly cares, riches, and pleasures. Scripture also makes the outcome clear when it says the thornschoked them [the seeds] (Mat 13:7). The result is that the individual with a thorny heart becomes unfruitful (Mat 13:22). The parallel account in Luke reads brings no fruit to perfection (Luke 8:14). Interestingly, the word "perfection" here means to "be a bearer to completion or maturity." The individual who received the seed of the gospel and who had a "thorny" heart is preoccupied with worldly issues such as family, career, food, clothes, hobbies, power, money, and pleasure, to the extent that he or she is never able "to bear mature fruit." Additionally, since this individual loves the world and worldly things, I believe his or her salvation is questionable since the apostle John instructs us Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15). The Lord mentioned the fourth type of soil when He said, But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold (Mat 13:8). Spiritually speaking, this good ground had three characteristics: it heard the word, it was receptive to the seed of the word of God, and it bore fruit. Scripture tells us that this heart heareth the word (Mat 13:23), and was receptive to the gospel of the word of God, saying, But he that received seed into the good ground (Mat 13:23). Scripture also makes it clear that this good ground and heart beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Mat 13:23). This verse also instructs that good hearts will vary in the amount of fruit they bear.
After first giving the parable to the multitudes, the Lord said,Who hath ears to hear, let him hear (Mat 13:9). In the parable of the sower, Christ used physical terms and concepts to make an underlying spiritual point. When Christ refers to having ears to hear, He is saying if you have the ears, the spiritual ability and insight, to understand the spiritual point in this parable, you should understand what the parable is saying and take heed to it's message. So, what is the spiritual point, the message, of the parable of the sower? The parable of the sower was given primarily to unbelievers. The beloved physician Luke tells us And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable (Luke 8:4), while Jesus tells us And he said, Unto you [who know me and believe in me] it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others [who do not believe] in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand (Luke 8:10). It seems strange, but this verse appears to indicate that the Lord spoke to unbelievers in parables not only because they did not believe, but so unbelievers would not understand the gospel. The parable of the sower teaches that the word of the gospel [the good news that a Saviour, the Christ, has been born in the city of David] is sown by Jesus Christ in four different types of hearts, that not all hearts accept the Gospel of Christ, and that not all hearts that accept the gospel bear fruit. This principle also holds true for believers who sow seeds into the lives of others. Some will totally reject what we sow, some will accept the seeds we sow but not bear fruit, and some that accept the seeds we sow will eventually bear fruit.
There is probably nothing more important to God than man's heart. God the Father instructed Samuel that the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on [beholds, discerns, regards] the heart (1 Sam 16:7). The scriptures tell us much about the heart and God's regard for the heart, even that God Himself has a heart. God the Father told the prophet SamuelAnd I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever (1 Sam 2:35) and to Solomon regarding the Jerusalem temple For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually (2 Chr 7:16), whereas Job described God as wise in heart, and mighty in strength (Job 9:4). In the beginning of time, God was disappointed that He had created mankind because every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen 6:5), yet God described how man is restored to Him saying, The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit (Psa 34:18). The psalmist David prayed that God would continue His loving kindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to theupright in heart (Psa 36:10). Asaph declared that God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart (Psa 73:1) and God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever (Psa 73:26). Scripture teaches that blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart (Psa 119:2), and The [desired] sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken [burst, crushed, destroyed] and a contrite [collapse, crouch] heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Psa 51:17). God can even send plagues upon the heart. He told Moses to say to Pharaoh of Egypt, For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth (Exo 9:14).
God knows everything about us, including what is in the depths of our hearts. Scripture instructs us that the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts (1 Chr 28:9) and knoweth the secrets of the heart (Psa 44:21). God not only knows our hearts, but also tests our hearts. David prayed I know also, my God, that thou triest [test, prove] the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness (1 Chr 29:17) and Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing (Psa 17:3). God knows and tests our hearts, but He also changes hearts. God, through Moses, told the nation of Israel, And the LORD thy God will circumcise [cut short, curtail] thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live (Deu 30:6). When Saul left the presence of the prophet Samuel, scripture tells us And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day (1 Sam 10:9). After his sin with Bathsheba, David prayed Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me (Psa 51:10). In addition to knowing and changing hearts, God is capable of hardening, softening, and humbling hearts. In preparing to deliver Israel from Egypt, God said I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt (Exo 7:3). Job said, For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me (Job 23:16). Lastly, scriptures tell us that God has brought down [brought low, humbled] the hearts of the "redeemed" (Psa 107:12).
Holy Scriptures have much to say about the heart of man. The heart can be troubled (Psa 25:17), foolish (Psa 53:1), revealed (Judg 16:18),praise God (Psa 86:12), have imagination (Deut 29:19) and thoughts (Deut 15:9), work wickedness (Psa 58:2), be deceived (Deut 11:16), be lifted up [exalted, haughty, lofty] (Deu 8:14), and err and not know God (Psa 95:10). Man's heart searches out iniquity (Psa 64:6),can tempt God (Psa 78:18), can be distorted, false and perverse (Psa 101:4), can resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51), and can evenlead us to lie to God (Acts 5:3-4). Humans can walk with integrity of heart (1 Kings 9:4) and have a tender heart (2 Kings 22:19). According to scripture, our salvation is even determined by what is in our heart. Christ said, O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned (Mat 12:34-37). Our words do not condemn or justify us because we say them, but because our words reflect what is "abundantly in our heart." Whatever is abundantly in our heart is what determines our salvation or damnation. I believe Paul verified this concept to those in Rome. Paul said, if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; andwith the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Rom 10:9-10). Confession and believing are apparently both required for salvation. When we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus [that He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God], this confession is actually the result of what we believe in our heart. Again, the concept is that whatever comes out of our mouth reflects what is in our heart. Scriptures also tell us that out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Mat 15:19) and that God respecteth not any that are wise [subtil, cunning] of heart (Job 37:24).
Jesus Christ has sown seeds into your heart. What kind of ground did He sow those seeds into? Did your heart totally reject His seed, or was your heart shallow and made it impossible for Him to sink deep roots into you? Did you receive His seed in your heart, but the cares of this world choked the seed to death, or, were you totally and permanently receptive to Christ, and his seed and work, and allowed Him to completely have His way in your life? Luke's account of the parable of the sower provides a definition of good ground. Jesus Christ said, 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 (Luke 8:15). Scripture describes the "good ground" as "an honest and good heart." Interestingly, the English word "honest" is the Greek word "kalos," which means "beautiful, good, virtuous or valuable in appearance or use, meet, well." I believe the best contextual definition of "honest" is virtuous in use, or useful. One key characteristic of the good ground, or heart, is that it may be used by the sower for the purposes and benefit of the sower. The sower wants to produce fruit - this is the purpose of sowing seed. If the soil is not able or is unwilling to bear fruit, it is worthless in the Lord's view. The Lord verified the importance of being useful elsewhere, saying, If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned [in this case burning is symbolic of eternal destruction] (John 15:6), and Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men (Mat 5:13). Savour is symbolic of the ability to flavor, have an impact on something, bring change, or bear fruit. When salt has lost its ability to change or impact something else [bear fruit], the Lord says it is "good for nothing." Remember also when the Lord was walking with His disciples, and he cursed the fig tree saying, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever (Mark 11:14). In this case, the fig tree bore no fruit as a result of the Lord cursing it. The point remains, though, that not bearing fruit and being cursed [damned to destruction] always go together. In the parable of the sower, "honest" ground is symbolic of a heart that is willing and able to be used by God. A second characteristic of the "good ground" is that it is described as "good." The English word "good" is the Greek word "agathos," which means "good, beneficial, well." This type of "good" refers to intrinsic good, a goodness that describes it's inward nature or parts, and not referring to outward appearance or usefulness. If your heart is intrinsically good and is also willing and able to be used of God, He will describe you as being good ground "which in an honest and good heart" will have heard the word of the gospel, will have kept that word, and will bring forth fruit with patience [continuance, endurance].  AMEN.
TCH Mini-
                    A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be"
 (Romans 8:1-7).
The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give
thee peace”
(Numbers 6:24-26).
"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel"
(Isaiah 5:20-24).
"Have mercy upon
me, O LORD;
consider my trouble which I suffer of
them that hate me, thou that liftest
me up from the
gates of death: That I may shew forth
all thy praise in
the gates of the daughter of Zion: I
will rejoice in thy salvation”
(Psalms 9:13-14).