Matthew 13:3 – And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Mark 4:2-9 – And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, 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. 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. 8 And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. 9 And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Luke 8:4-8 – And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: 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. 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.
I. The purpose of giving this parable as the understanding of all the other parables is:
A. Mark 4:13 - And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?
1. Proper understanding of this parable is the key to understanding all the parables.
a. It is not that the meaning of all parables relate to the interpretation of this parable, but that the principles used in interpreting this parable apply to all parables.
b. If we do not know the interpretation of a parable or any other verse of scripture, we should earnestly pray and ask God to give us understanding.
2. Notice, when the disciples were alone with Christ, they asked him to give them the interpretation of the parables.
a. Only Jesus can give the proper interpretation.
b. It is good to come to church services and listen to preaching, but if you are not involved in personal study, all the preaching in the world will not help as it should.
c. If you ask help from anybody except Jesus Christ, you might find the proper interpretation.
d. Therefore, before you go to any commentary for help, ask Christ to reveal his truth through his Word.
B. Luke 8:8 - Jesus cried, …He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
1. This passage reflects the urgency of Christ for people to hear and understand what he is saying to them.
2. It is not the will of God that his saints remain ignorant of the blessings he has given, is giving, and will give.
C. There are many things we do not understand perfectly about the parables.
1. Do not be unduly upset concerning this.
2. There were many things the sower did not understand about how the seed sprouted, and came up, and brought forth fruit.
3. The sower understood the process of sowing (the how), without understanding why it worked!
4. When seed is sown, there is a trust in God that he will send rain, sunshine, and proper growing conditions.
5. This is trust in things we cannot control.
6. This is trust in God, who provides all things, especially things we cannot provide.
D. Our job is to do the very best possible in this life.
1. Let us not look to the right or left.
2. Let us look only to eternity and trust God to make us successful.
3. Our job is to sow the seed in the entire world, not pick and chose where we will work.
E. Do not be disturbed if family members do not readily accept the gospel.
1. We should continue to care for them and pray for them, but we do want to be in the center of God’s will.
2. It would be wrong to be more interested in seeing our family members saved than strangers.
3. It would also be wrong to be more interested in seeing our family members serve God acceptably than strangers.
4. Somewhere along the line, we must come to a balance between what God wants and what we want.
5. We ought to be more interested in God’s will than anything else.
6. You are not a failure if the people you speak to are not saved. You are a failure only if you do not talk to them.
F. Do not be concerned about wasting the gospel seed.
1. Matthew 7:6 – Be concerned about casting your pearls before the swine.
a. Do not continue to preach to those that do not want to hear it.
b. The dog will bite the hand that feeds it, and be ungrateful for whatever it receives, whether it is good food or bad.
c. The swine will trample the truth underfoot, just as it tramples food underfoot.
2. God has plenty of seed.
3. He will produce more and more seed.
4. God’s Word will not return void.
II. Matthew 13:18-23 – There are four different kinds of hearers.
A. Verse 19 – Sponge - suck up both good and bad, but it all runs out immediately; or a rock on dry ground – nothing penetrates.
1. They receive seed by the wayside.
a. They received seed as ground by the wayside receives seed.
b. The seed lays on top of the ground where the birds of the air come and eat it.
2. The seed is sown in the heart.
a. When the gospel message is given to any person, the seed goes into the heart.
b. If the heart is hard, like the ground by the wayside, the seed will not embed itself in the heart, and cannot produce roots.
c. The seed does not germinate.
3. The seed sown in the stony heart does not return void.
a. The seed is a witness against Satan who eats it, keeping it from the lost person.
b. The seed is a witness against the lost person, because he has not softened his heart to receive the word of God.
4. Did Pharaoh harden his heart, or did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?
a. The first five times this is mentioned, it is said that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
1) Exodus 4:21 – And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
2) Exodus 7:3 – And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.
3) Exodus 7:13 – And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
4) Exodus 7:14 – And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.
5) Exodus 7:22 – And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said.
b. Exodus 8:15 then mentions that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
5. Matthew 13:19 refers to lost people.
B. Verse 20-21 – Rocks on the seashore - Enjoys the water falling against it, but has nothing to cause the water to remain on the rock.
1. Stony places – There is no soil, therefore no place for the germinating plant to receive nourishment.
a. There is nothing wrong with the seed, there is something wrong with the place where the seed is sown.
b. There must be a place for the root in the heart, but this ground has no root in itself.
2. They have nothing on the inside, everything is on the outside.
a. The seed germinates, but soon dies because there is no nourishment to the roots.
b. Therefore this unbeliever seems to accept the gospel, but soon falls away because the gospel has no root in the heart.
c. Tribulation and persecution refer to times of hardship when an attachment to Christ gives strength to endure and prosper.
1) Tribulation and persecution is not necessarily speaking of some world wide trouble.
2) It could be speaking about personal trouble or persecution, or when a person must stand alone.
d. Psalms 1:3 speaks of the righteous person who is like a tree planted by the rivers of water.
1) Hidden roots go to hidden rivers of water, thus providing life to the plant.
2) If the roots are exposed they will soon wither and die, and the plant will also die.
3. Matthew 13:20-21 refer to lost people.
C. Verse 22 – Strainer, colander or coffee filter - Takes everything in, but allows the good to flow through, retaining only the evil.
1. Verse 22 refer to believers, but these believers bear no fruit to perfection or completion.
a. 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.
b. 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.
2. The root is able to find nourishment in the soft soil of the heart and brings that nourishment to the plant causing the plant to grow and begin to mature.
a. It is evident that the plant matures enough to begin growing fruit.
b. It is at that point that the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word and the fruit does not ripen.
3. It is not necessarily tribulation and persecution that hinders the production of fruit.
a. The plant has survived tribulation and persecution, but it does not survive the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches.
b. It is possible for a believer to know they are saved, and that God is in them, but they are not faithful because of the cares of this life.
c. Matthew 6:19 – Many believers seeks the temporary treasures of this life instead of laying up treasure in heaven.
4. Many believers try to have the best of both worlds.
a. They try to have “one foot in heaven and one foot on the earth”.
b. There is a lot of psychology that is passed off as Bible preaching that causes many believers to lose their fruit.
c. Matthew 6:24 states, No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
D. Verse 23 – Sieve, or combine - Takes everything in, but blows off the chaff, allowing only the good grain to remain.
1. These are saved.
a. The seed germinates and the root finds nourishment so the plant can grow and mature.
b. The root is not exposed to the elements, therefore the root remains strong.
c. The root is able to find soft soil in a soft heart, and brings nourishment to the plant.
2. This seed goes through the same processes the other seeds go through.
a. The seed is sown and received.
b. The seed germinates in every case except as described in verse 19, where it is eaten by the fowls of the air.
c. The root seeks nourishment and finds it, except in verse 19 and verse 20.
d. Verse 23 records the plant grows and begins to produce fruit.
1) The “desire of the plant” is to produce fruit, the natural product of a healthy plant, just as producing fruit is the natural product of a spiritually healthy believer.
2) In the spiritually healthy believer, the plant is able to withstand tribulation and persecution because the root continually brings nourishment to the plant.
3) In the spiritually healthy believer, the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches is withstood because the believer receives proper nourishment and overcomes these worldly desires.
3. These understand the word.
a. This is not said about any of the other recipients of seed.
b. Acts 8:30 – Philip asked the Ethiopian Eunuch, …Understandest thou what thou readest?
c. Luke 24:45 – Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.
1) True disciples will understand the scriptures, not just because it is given to them to understand, but they actively seek to understand.
2) Luke 24:31 – There is a difference between having the eyes opened to know Jesus, and having the understanding opened to understand the scriptures.
3) The believers represented by Matthew 13:22 have open eyes to see Jesus, but they do not have understanding of the scriptures.
4) If they had understanding of the scriptures, they would understand they cannot serve God and mammon.
4. They bring forth fruit of various degrees.
a. Understanding the scriptures has a direct bearing on bearing fruit to completion.
b. John 12:24 – Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
c. When a believer has true, God-given understanding of the scriptures, they will die to self, and will bring forth much fruit.
5. What is fruit?
a. Fruit is that which is produced for food for the present generation, and seed for the next generation.
b. Spiritual fruit.
1) It is often taught that fruit is winning souls to the Lord.
2) Winning souls is a part of fruit bearing, but fruit bearing also involves personal spiritual growth and understanding.
3) Galatians 5:22,23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
4) Ephesians 5:9 – For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;
5) James 3:17-18 – But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
6. There is an equality in those that produce fruit.
a. Matthew 25:15 – In the parable of the talents, God gives to every person varying talents according to their individual ability.
b. Luke 19:13 – In the parable of the pounds, God gives to every person the same number of pounds.
1) In both cases, rewards are given according to the results of fruit bearing.
2) In both cases, the reward is the same.
a) Compare Matthew 25:21 and 25:23 – His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
b) Compare Luke 19:17 and 19:19 – And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten (or five) cities.
3) The equality of the reward is not in being ruler over five or ten cities, but in faithfulness to whatever authority God gives us.
III. The Sower – All believers should be obedient. Do not wait on other believers before you start. All believers are expected to be faithful.
A. The sower has a purpose - to declare the gospel, not necessarily to fulfill the great commission.
1. The church is to fulfill the Great Commission, which is to go into all the world, to preach the gospel to every creature, to baptize believers, then teach scripturally baptized believers to observe all things.
2. Anybody can preach the gospel, even unbelievers, but only the church can fulfill the great commission.
B. There is no age or “position” requirement to be a sower of the seed.
1. There are requirements for the church positions of pastor and deacon, but there are no requirements for those that declare the gospel.
2. Everybody should declare the gospel.
C. The sower fulfilled his God called task for life.
D. The preparation of the ground is not our responsibility, the declaration of the gospel is our responsibility.
1. I Corinthians 3:6 - Paul planted, Apollos watered, and God gave the increase.
2. Many times believers attempt to prepare people to receive the gospel message, but that is God’s responsibility.
3. Our responsibility is to sow the gospel seed.
IV. Went forth.
A. A necessary action.
B. Shows preparation - forethought.
C. Had already decided what he was going to sow: the gospel seed.
D. Was ready when he got to the field, which is the world.
V. To Sow:
A. Not to reap!
1. Ecclesiastes 3:2 states, There is …a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.
2. Many believers make the mistake of trying to reap when they sow, forgetting that seed needs time to develop.
3. It is very wrong to pray “the sinners prayer” with a person, convincing that person that praying a prayer will save them.
4. It is never wrong to encourage the lost person to pray, but praying will not save a person – Jesus saves!
B. With a purpose, had a result in mind.
1. God will take care of results, if believers take care of sowing.
2. If believers do not sow, there will not be a crop to reap.
3. Believers always reap what is sown – the seed does not change from what it is to what we want it to be.
C. Things about sowing.
1. Ecclesiastes 11:4-6 states, He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. 5 As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. 6 In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
a. The farmer who watches the weather will not plant his crop until he considers conditions “right”, and he will fail at farming.
b. The farmer should not watch the weather but sow his seed, trusting God for the crop.
c. There are many things men do not understand and in all those things, there is great peace and contentment in trusting God for the results.
2. Hebrews 12:2 declares we should look …unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
a. Jesus looked beyond the cross to eternal glory, therefore he had victory.
b. Believers must look beyond this present world into eternity if we are to have victory.
3. Paul stated in Philippians 3:13,14, Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
a. Believers sow the gospel seed on the ground ahead of them, and either side of them, never behind them.
b. Believers must forget the good and bad of yesterday and do today what they can for God.
c. Believers must use today’s opportunities, and not grieve over yesterday’s errors.
4. Matthew 13:4-8 - Cover the ground with seed (sow in all places and in all times).
a. Don’t worry about wasting God’s seed, because he has plenty of seed.
b. This parable explains that God knows some of the seed will be “wasted”, or not used by the person receiving it.
c. This is why he says His Word will not return void, but will accomplish that which he has determined.
D. Comments about sowing.
1. There will always be a time when results will not be seen.
a. Ecclesiastes 7:8 states, Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
1) God does not want his children to be discouraged when results are not seen immediately.
2) Hidden from sight, the gospel seed is slowly germinating, the Holy Spirit generating eternal life.
b. Believers must be joyful in the responsibility of faithfully sowing the gospel seed.
2. There are always times when more “seems” to be needed.
a. In Luke 17:5-10, the disciples did not understand faith, therefore asked, …Lord, increase our faith.
1) Christ explained they did not need more faith, they needed to understand the operation of faith.
2) The disciples erroneously expected feelings accompanied faithfulness.
b. Jesus expects believers to be consistent.
3. Do not allow bad experiences to spoil our faithfulness.
a. A missionary spoke of going to a meeting and reported that 2 or 3 were saved. The evangelist to that same meeting, reported there were 30 or so saved. Of course, the evangelist reported the missionary did not witness to anybody, but sat in his house all day.
b. On another occasion, an evangelist reported 10 or so saved during special services, but the actual long-term results reveal none were saved.
c. Some missionaries and evangelists are encouraged to report many conversions because “successful reports” increases financial support. People and churches want results. If missionaries and evangelist fail to report conversions, they might not receive financial assistance because it will be said they aren’t working hard enough.
d. What God does with the seed is his business. Sowing the seed is our business. The results are God’s responsibility. Observe the finished product before deciding whether a thing is from God. Missionary and evangelists reports of many being converted to Christ should result in the betterment of any society. If society is not better, is there real conversion to Christ? A society that worsens in the face of reports of many turning to Christ, are sowing the wrong seed. Something is terribly wrong!
4. A time of great cost.
a. Farmers spend a lot of money in the spring when the ground is prepared and the seed is planted or sown.
1) Farmers make their money during harvest, not during planting.
2) Farmers spend their days sowing the seed, not in other things, so we as believers should spend our days in sowing the seed, not in laying up treasure on this earth, or being lazy.
b. II Corinthians 9:6 states, But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
c. Galatians 6:7-9 affirms, Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
E. Why did God use “seed.”
1. Because seed has a life of its own. There is life inside the seed, just as there is life in the living Word of God.
2. I Peter 1:23 states that believers are born again of incorruptible seed. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
3. Hebrews 4:12 affirms that the word of God is active, living, and able to divide between what is good and what is bad. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
F. Final thoughts to remember about sowing the gospel seed.
1. The ground is different, the seed is the same – Some ground is more receptive to the gospel than other ground because God had made it that way.
2. All the ground got the exact same kind of seed – all the seed is exactly the same.
3. God knew some of the ground would produce fruit and some would not - God made both the seed and the ground.
4. The failure to produce is not the fault of the sower, the seed, or the ground - it is the eternal purpose of God.
5. The sower was just as faithful to sow the seed on “non-productive” ground as on “productive” ground.