The Parable of the Soils

Preaching the Parables  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The Reception of the Word indicates the condition of the Heart


The Role of the Sower is to proclaim the Word of God (Matt. 13:3b)

We are Heralds who have been given the Message from the King. We do not have the authority to change it; we simply present the Gospel
1 Corinthians 2:1–2 ESV
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

The Reception of the Word varies among the hearers according to the condition of the heart of the hearer. (Matt 13:4-9)

The different soils represent the human heart (Matt. 13:19b) “that which was sown in his heart”
Jesus gives four basic responses to the Gospel proclamation
1. This person is unmoved and untouched by the Gospel
2. This person initially accepts the Word with joy but then falls away
3. This person is more controlled by the things of the world than by spiritual matters
4. This person receives the Word and becomes a productive follower of Jesus
Let’s examine these four types of receptivity in order of clarity. We will start with 1, then 4, then 2, and end with 3.

The hard-packed soil (fell by the wayside)

The farmers of the day used the broadcast method of sowing seed in the field. The seed was in a sack and the farmer reached in the sack and grabbed a handful of seeds. He then cast them into the field as he walked on the path beside the plowed ground. The pathway he walked on became as hardened as pavement over the years and noting grew on it at all. This is the condition of the seed in the first type of heart.
The seed has no purchase at all and simply lays on top of the ground and the birds of the air come and eat it. This seed never penetrates and it never grows. This first heart is the heart of the unbeliever. He or she physically hears the message of the Gospel, but the message does not penetrate due to the condition of the heart
1 Corinthians 2:14 KJV 1900
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The Productive Soil (the good ground)

The final soil in the parable is an example of the lost person who receives the Gospel in a genuine manner. He or she, as a result of regeneration, then begins to produce fruit. This is a picture of a Christ-follower who seeks to please the One who called and delivered him from the cesspool of sin.
Let’s note some things about the heart that is receptive to the Gospel
This person understands the message. Christianity is a proposition of truth that must first be understood before a person can respond. One becomes a believer when he or she is convicted by the Holy Spirit of the need for a Saviour (cf John 16:8-11) and understands the basics of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
The saved person produces fruit. Regeneration actually changes a person from the inside out (2 Corinthians 5:17). Though this parable does not define what is meant by fruit, there is a clear understanding that some type of fruit will be produced. Jesus gives this same understanding in John 15 when He declared, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (John 15:5)
The rate of production between believers differs. In the parable Jesus relates different yields, but all three are productive. And, all three yields are the result of supernatural activity as the crop yields are 30%, 60%, and 100%. The point is not to look at another believer and compare results; the point is to produce for the glory of God!

The stony soil (joyfully receives . . . then falls away)

This is a picture of a nominal believer. This soil represents the person with the emotional experience and responds to the message of the Gospel without comprehending the call to die to self. This person may be baptized and join the church, but when the call to carry the cross arises, he or she fades away like the morning mist when the sun comes out.
This is a picture of a person who is not a genuine believer. These persons may profess to be Christian (I was baptized when I was 10; I am a member of FBC Goose Creek; I was saved when I was a kid, etc.) but the reality is that they “have no root in themselves” (Mark 4:17) and becomes “offended,” meaning that he no longer associates with the things of Christ due to some hardship with the demands of Christ.
This soil can be a bit difficult for Baptists. This type of soil is the one for which we often bring out the much-abused slogan for Eternal Security: once saved, always saved! While the statement is an absolute truth in that the genuine believer does indeed possess Assurance of Salvation (Romans 8:1, 39; John 10:27-30), this statement does not apply to those who never received Christ.
A better understanding for this type of soil is found in the letter of 1 John in which the Apostle states, “The went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1 John 2:19)

The Thorny soil (he becometh unfruitful)

This final soil is, in my opinion, the hardest to define in terms of believers / believers. The writers of commentaries place this soil in both categories, depending upon their individual perspectives. The majority of the commentaries I have consulted place this soil in the “lost” category. The general idea is that only the 4th soil represents genuine believers because it is the only soil that is explicitly stated to produce fruit. The word given about the thorny soil is that “it becometh unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22; Mark 4:19) and also “bring no fruit to perfection” (Luke 8:14)
This soil describes the heart of a person who is consumed in worldly interests. Jesus said this person “heareth the word,” but He doesn’t add the person’s response to the word. He continues by describing the person’s ungodly focus on the things of this world take over or “choke out” any spiritual concerns. We can know that a focus such as this is ungodly because James tells us that “friendship of the world in enmity with God.” (James 4:4)

Take away principles

Believers are to share the Gospel with those we encounter and leave the results to God.
Lost people have a personal responsibility to respond to the Gospel. In each case the seed was the same - the heart condition was different
We can have confidence in sharing the Gospel because some of the listeners have receptive hearts (prepared soil) and will become saved and grow in their faith
It is possible for soil types to change. Hearts can be softened to the Gospel. Paul was hard soil when he was persecuting Christians but he was good soil when Christ appeared to him on the Damascus Road.
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