By John C. Carpenter
Holy Scriptures instruct us, The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And he spake many things unto them in parables, 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 13:1-9). After giving the parable of the sower to the multitudes (Mat 13:1-9), Jesus further explained the parable to his disciples. He said, Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word [account, utterance, or message] of the kingdom, and understandeth[consider and accept] 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. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 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. 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. 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 (Mat 13:18-23). What is the meaning and primary point of this parable? In order to answer this question, there are four elements to our story that we need to understand: the sower, the seed, the soils, and the fruit.
Within the Scriptures, Jesus Christ often used examples and principles in the natural, or physical, world to teach principles in the spiritual world. He did the same thing in the parable of the sower. In the first part of our subject verses (Matthew 13: 3-9), the Lord tells His disciples a story, a story on the physical level, about a sower [farmer] who sowed seed into four types of soil with varying results. In the second half of our subject verses (Matthew 13:19-23), the Lord explains the spiritual meaning of that physical story. Two thousand years ago, farming was a common vocation in the land of Palestine. Farmer's fields were divided into areas with roads or pathways along the edges. These pathways were there for foot, animal, and cart traffic. This "wayside" soil was hard and tightly compacted. Farming areas also contained "stony" soil areas which were only a few inches deep, because just under the surface of available soil lay hard bedrock. As plagued most farmers, there were also soil areas which were infested with weeds, or "thorny" soil. Lastly, there were areas of soil which were rich and deep, excellent for farming, the "good" soil, which resulted in healthy plants that produced much fruit. When a farmer cast his seed, the seed could fall on one of these four types of soil: wayside, stony, thorny, and good. The results varied, depending upon the soil into which the seed was sown. The type of seed determined the type of plant, and the type of fruit. It was not the seed that determined the amount of fruit, but the soil, it's receptiveness to the seed and it's qualities. This example, which Christ uses, of physical sowing, is used as an analogy and a type of the sowing found in the spiritual world, a world in which God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit sow the seed of the Kingdom with the hope and expectation of the seed growing to maturity and bearing fruit.
In the parable of the sower, what is the seed. Christ gave us the answer in verse 19 when he said, when anyone heareth the word of the kingdom. The seed is the word, or message, of the kingdom. In Matthew 13:19, the word "kingdom" is translated from the Greek word "basileia," which means "royalty, rule, realm, kingdom, or reign." "Kingdom" refers, of course, to a King who rules, has a throne, and governs with authority. So, who is this King? At the birth of Christ, wise men asked Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him (Mat 2:2). Regarding Christ and His rule in heaven and on earth, Matthew tells us, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel (Mat 2:6). Referring to Himself, Christ says, When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory (Mat 25:31). The author of the book of Hebrews writes, We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens (Heb 8:1). . The prophet Isaiah prophesied of Christ, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this (Isa 9:6-7). Holy Scriptures clearly teach that it is Jesus Christ who is the King with a Kingdom, who rules with authority from His throne. Jesus told some of His disciples, All power [authority] is given unto me in heaven and in earth (Mat 28:18). In this verse, the word "power" is translated from the Greek word "exousia, " which means "authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power, right, strength." Specifically referring to the advent of the Kingdom of Christ, John the Baptist preached in the wilderness,Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he [Christ] that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight (Mat 3:1-3). The King is clearly Jesus Christ, and the Kingdom is clearly a reference to His rule, reign and authority. Luke's account of the parable of the sower verifies this when he writes, ...The seed is the word [gospel message] of God (Luke 8:11). The "word" of God in Luke's account refers to the gospel, or good news, of the possibility of eternal life available only through faith in Jesus Christ [See TCH article entitled "The Word of Truth, The Gospel" for further explanation].
In the parable of the sower, Christ mentioned four types of soils: wayside, stony, thorny, and good. Regarding the wayside soil, Christ said, When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understand[understand, receive, and accept] 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). In the physical realm, the wayside soil was essentially pathways that lay between farming fields. These pathways were used by travelers, pilgrims, and even the farmers themselves for transportation. Because they were constantly walked on, these pathways were worn and beaten down. The soil was compacted, and extremely hard. When seed was scattered by the farmer into fields, some would accidentally fall upon this "way side" soil. Because of the compaction, seeds could not penetrate the soil, and just lay upon the surface of the ground. After some time, wildlife would find the seeds and consume them for food. There was, therefore, no chance of the seed becoming a plant, and eventually bearing fruit. In the spiritual realm, wayside soil represents the individual who consciously and completely rejects the seed of the King and His Kingdom. It represents the "hardened" heart, which has been walked on, and is beaten down and tightly compacted. We know the soils represent human hearts because the Lord refers to the seed being sown in his heart. Regarding these hearts, the apostle John wrote that Satan hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them (John 12:40), while in the book of Acts, we read about individuals whose hearts were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way [Christian faith] before the multitude (Acts 19:9). In the Old Covenant, we read about Zedekiah, who stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel (2 Chr 36:13), and in the book of Proverbs we are instructed ...he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief (Prov 28:14). The prophet Ezekiel prophesied of Israel, the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted (Ezek 3:7). In our subject parable, Christ describes the "wayside" heart as the individual who heareth the word of the kingdom, and understand [accepts] it not, the individual who encounters, but rejects the gospel. Other Scriptures describe this individual as The fool [which] hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good (Psa 14:1).
Regarding the stony soil, Christ said, But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the [gospel] word[of the Kingdom], by and by he is offended (Mat 13:20-21). In the physical realm, stony places are areas of fields which have shallow soil which sits upon a hard layer of bedrock. When the seed is cast into this soil, the soil receives the seed, and the seed takes root and begins to have new life. However, because the soil is shall and the seed has not had time or opportunity to develop a deep root, the growing plant begins to wither when weather conditions, such as drought, or extreme heat, stress the plant. The outcome is that the plant dies, and therefore is never able to bear fruit. In the spiritual realm, the stony places represent the heart which hears the gospel, and with joy and anticipation, initially accepts the word of the Kingdom, but when affliction, persecution, difficulties, and pain arise because of their faith, they are offended, and eventually turn away from their newfound and shallow faith. This is the individual who comes to a saving knowledge of Christ, who finds new life in Christ, but who, because they do not have a deep faith, for various reasons turn away from Christ and follow Him no more. There are Christian pastors and teachers who teach that once an individual comes to saving faith in Christ, they can never lose that salvation, and that these individuals were not really saved from damnation to begin with. Yet, scriptures make it clear that one can lose faith, which is the foundation of salvation. The apostle John tells us about some of the disciples of Christ, individuals who developed faith in Christ and followed Him for a season. Yet when difficult circumstances arose for these disciples, scriptures reveal that many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him (John 6:66). The apostle Peter had clearly developed saving faith in Christ, but for some reason, began to lose his faith. Christ responded to Peter, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted [return to strong faith in Me, you will be able to], strengthen thy brethren [as I have strengthened you] (Luke 22:31-32). And lastly, in the parable of the prodigal (Luke 15:11-32), didn't Jesus tell us the story of a son who initially had a relationship with his father, but who left his father and wasted his substance [money, resources] with riotous living (Luke 15:13), yet returned to his father who saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him (Luke 15:20). Is this not symbolic of the individual who initially has a spiritual relationship with his Heavenly Father, loses his faith and turns away from His Father, yet is also welcomed back into a faithful relationship.
Regarding the thorny soil, Christ said, 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). In the physical realm, the thorny soil represents soil which is probably of good quality, which receives the seed, but which also contains thorns, or weedy plants. The word "choke" is translated from the Greek word "sumpnigo," which means "to strangle completely, to drown, to crowd, choke, or throng." The definition implies competition between the seed plant and the thorns, in which the thorns not only compete physically for space with the seed plant, but monopolize the nutrients to the detriment of the seed. In the spiritual realm, the thorny soil represents the heart that is impure, that is a mixture of both the spiritual word of the Kingdom, as well as thorny plants. It is a soil which hears the gospel word of the kingdom, and accepts the word of the kingdom, but the gospel word of the Kingdom is crowded and choked to death by the thorny plant. The thorns which choke the word of the Kingdom are representative of worldly concerns and distractions, as well as the deceptiveness of the pursuit of abundance, wealth, and material possessions. The thorny heart is a heart that loves God, but also loves the world. The apostle John warned, 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), whereas the apostle Paul wrote Timothy, they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Tim 6:9-10). The result is that the seed of the word of the Kingdom is unable to bear fruit.
At the end of His explanation of the parable of the sower, Christ referred to the "good" ground and its characteristics. Christ said, 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 (Mat 13:23). In the physical realm, the good ground is soil which is not hard and compacted [is soft, pliable and receptive to the seed], has depth [no rocks], and has no weeds [no thorns]. It is soil which is of good quality and highly productive, bearing three thousand, six thousand, and ten thousand percent yield. The beloved Physician, Luke, defined the good ground when he wrote,the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep [take, seize, hold fast] it, and bring forth fruit with patience [cheerful endurance] (Luke 8:15). From God the Father's viewpoint, it is the honest and good heart which is "good ground." In the spiritual realm, the good heart hears the word [message of the Kingdom], understands and accepts the word of the Kingdom, and, with cheerful endurance, bears fruit.
In the parable of the sower, the outcome is that the good ground allows the seed to beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty, meaning, not only does the seed bear fruit, but the quantity of fruit produced from the seed varies from one good ground to another. It should also be noted that the English word "fruit" is translated from the Greek word "karpophoreo," which means "to be fertile, to be, bear, or bring forth fruit, or be fruitful." In verse 23, when Christ refers to bearing fruit, He is not referring specifically to an individual fruit itself [such as an apple or walnut], but the “fertility,” the potential of the ground to allow the seed to mature into a plant which can bear fruit. Again, though, we must recognize that it is not the ground which bears fruit, but the seed. That seed is Christ.
As we mentioned in the introduction, Christ gave His disciples, in Matthew 13:3-8, the parable of the sower, a farming example [in the physical realm] in an effort to explain to His disciples a spiritual principle. After giving the parable, Holy Scriptures tell us Christ immediately said to His disciples, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear (Luke 8:8). What did Christ mean by that? Christ was telling His disciples "I am giving you a physical example in order to make a spiritual point. If you have the ability to understand the connection between this physical parable and its spiritual meaning, then understand what I am saying, because it is important." The point of the parable is this. God the Father sows the word of the King and His Kingdom into the hearts of men. According to God's statistics, when He sows the gospel into individual hearts, one in four will be the hard hearted individual who outright rejects the word of the kingdom, one in four will quickly and joyfully accept the gospel but, due to shallow faith and persecution, eventually lose their faith, and one in four will accept the gospel message, but eventually become unfruitful due to their excessive interest in the world and money. Only one in four individuals will hear the word of the Kingdom, and with a good and honest heart, allow, in time, the gospel message to bear fruit. Even though Holy Scriptures commission us to Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel [word of the Kingdom] to every creature (Mark 16:15), all believers must realize that not every creature will accept the word of the Kingdom, nor will every creature that accepts the word of the Kingdom allow the seed of the word to bear fruit. Although it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish(Mat 18:14), it is also His will that believers and unbelievers should and will coexist together until the end when He says, Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn (Mat 13:30). It is sometimes easy for the believer in Christ to become discouraged at what appears to be a lack of fruit, but we must remember that the work is that of the Father, and He is in control:Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (Rom 9:21), and has not God the Father dealt to every man the measure of faith (Rom 12:3). We are reminded in the Scriptures that it was not the efforts of the Gentiles themselves, but God the Father who granted the Gentile hearts repentance unto life (Acts 11:18), and that salvation comes from God: you [and I] hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). Jesus recognized heart salvation as a work of the Father when He plainly declared, No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44). Following a miraculous healing, when witnesses to the healing began to worship Peter and John, Peter gave God the credit: ...Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? (Acts 3:12). The apostle Paul gave God the Father the credit for his ministerial successes by declaring, by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me (1 Cor 15:10), whereas Isaiah explained the totality of salvation when he prophesied, Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear (Isa 59:1).  AMEN.
TCH Mini-
                    A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy
God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will
uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all
they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and
confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with
thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find
them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against
thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. For I the
LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not;
I will help thee
(Isaiah 41:10-13).