The parable of the Sower – Looking at saving faith.
Often the emphasis of this parable is put on the wrong place. It is not really the parable of the sower but the parable of the soils. We will be looking at the only kind of faith that leads to salvation. Therefore, there is a kind of faith that doesn’t lead to salvation. The end of Matthew chapter 12 and into the beginning of Matthew chapter 13 gives us the background to this parable. Until this point, Christ has been preaching the Kingdom of God is here. He has been preaching about the good news that God has determined to put right the damage sin has caused. As a man, Christ is walking around seeing destruction all around Him. Sin and selfishness has destroyed us. We can’t hide it. It’s ever before us. Christ came into the world and said His Father had sent Him to restore us. How is this restoration to happen? Christ says the way He will do this is to make a new creation. The old creation is destroyed by sin, God will regenerate a new humanity. Through God working salvation and redemption in our lives, one day this world will be folded up and a new heaven and earth will be.
How proud we are by nature. We are glad to see young people in our church but young people are not our hope. If there is genuine restoring in our land of the gospel, we will not be able to say man has done this, only God. The ways God will do this is to redeem us. Matthew, as a writer, does something interesting. The Kingdom Christ has been going around telling people about, He brings to bear. Matthew records a series of miracles, for example the blind man being healed. The man became blind because sin is in this world. Christ has been going around teaching about the power of this kingdom. Christ demonstrates this power in healing, He brings power to bear upon their lives. This power can do far more than physical healing, it can heal the soul. Christ, by entering into this living experience, restores what sin has done. Christ has a series of calls He makes to different people. He brings the power of the Kingdom to bear on people’s lives. He calls them to follow Him. In the midst of doing this, some entrusted their lives to follow Him but others rejected Him and others remained neutral. The question arises, if you saw the things He did, why isn’t the entire world following Him? Christ has to explain to His followers why there are different responses.
‘That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea’ (Matthew 13:1). This begs the question, ‘What day was that?’ Why does Matthew record that day? It’s because of what he records in Matthew 12:46, ‘While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Here Jesus was in a house speaking to people. Even those closest to Him were obstacles to what He wanted to do. Jesus says all who follow Him are His closest kin. That same day He went out of the house. He will not be stopped from doing what He wants to do, even obstacles from His closest family. He went out and sat by the sea, then speaks this parable. He is teaching His disciples and followers why different responses are happening. He is preparing them for different responses they will have when He returns to heaven. Just like their Master, they will have different experiences and need to be prepared.
The Parable of the Soils is a very simple parable. Jesus compares different people and their different responses to the proclamation of the gospel, to different types of soil. All of mankind falls under one of these categories.
- The rock hard soil.“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them” (Matthew 13:3-4). The path is rock hard, people have walked on it and it is compacted. The birds devour the seeds. This is explained in verse 19, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.”
- The second soil is shallow soil. The seeds sprang up but because there was no depth to the soil, they had no roots and withered away. “Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.”
- There is a thorn-infested soil, “Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.” (Matthew 13:6-7).
- Finally, there is good soil, “Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:8).
75% of people who hear the message are not very promising, 25% are. This is what we’re taught to expect. There’s no room for despair. There’s nothing glamorous about us, we represent such a small part of the population. Yet we’re used by God! We’re insignificant but we are to do significant work. All glory to God. There is good soil which produces grain.
We see the kind of faith that leads to salvation. Do we have the kind of faith that leads to salvation? There is a great picture of this in John’s gospel, chapter 2. John says many heard what Jesus said and believed but there is a kind of faith that is not saving. They were interested in what they could get out of Jesus. Have you come to Him?
What is the kind of faith that saves?
- It is faith that receives the word of God, it takes it in, it is receptive to God’s voice, not just His word. The voice is the power of the Holy Spirit speaking through the Word. Saving faith does not allow the enemy to come to carry it away. There will be a carefulness in how you treat the Word, a desire for the Word and practical application. So much Christianity today allows things just to remain on the surface. Saving faith takes what God says seriously. God is serious, serious joyfulness. Are we receptive to God’s Word, no matter what it says to us? What about when the Word of God comes to you and it goes against the grain? Will you disregard it, and so your faith remains on the surface only? Sarah laughed when she was told she would have a baby beyond child-bearing age. Yet God brought life out of the death of a dead womb. He did the same with Elizabeth. Saving faith receives the Word of God.
- Saving faith endures. Other seeds fell on rocky ground and didn’t have roots. Unlike the seeds that landed on the hard path, this seed lands on soft soil but it is shallow. Are you a shallow Christian – very promising at first but when heat is applied you are unable to stand the heat? Saving faith is rooted, it endures, it keeps on going. The heart that is able to be penetrated by its seed so it grows. When God’s Word comes it alters everything. There is a constant awareness that what God says is the only thing that matters. It can withstand the heat. Plenty of Christians who respond immediately to the gospel are thrown into the baptismal pool without looking to see if roots have been laid down, or if it is just shallow soil. Saving faith proves itself in time.
- Saving faith is unobstructed. That is not to say we don’t have challenges. The soil of verse 7 has obstacles and no-one takes time to get rid of them. Are there other things in our life that clutter us? Saving faith isn’t overcrowded by things of this world. Is Jesus the number one, the only one, in an undivided heart? Saving faith is pure. Christ governs and dictates everything in your life. You need pure soil if you’re to have growth. You need to make the soil receptive. You need to plough. Jeremiah is commanded to put the plough to the soil. There needs to be a work that happens if the soil is to be receptive. It’s the kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance. Is Christ your delight or do other things crowd Him out?
- Saving faith is fruitful (verse 8). It multiplies. There is a fruitfulness. Saving faith will produce saving benefits for others. Saving faith is alive, it’s active, it brings about other graces. When is the last time anyone has been affected by your witness to Christ? Saving faith is to be fruitful no matter how great or small that fruit is to be. Saving faith doesn’t mind if it produces even the smallest fruit. Saving faith is alive and has an impact. It’s fruitful. Do we have a fruitful faith?