Friday, November 30, 2012

The Parable of the Sower and the Danger of Temporary Faith

Without denying the truth of the perseverance of the saints (i.e., that the elect will persevere in faith and definitely be saved), it is important for Christians to know that it is possible for faith to be temporary. This is a truth that Jesus taught in the parable of the sower in Matt 13:1–9, 18–23 (see also Mark 4:1–9, 13–20; Luke 8:4–8, 11–15).

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Satan can snatch the word of God from people’s hearts before it has time to take root (Matt 13:4, 19).

Some seed fell on rocky places, where there was not much soil. The seed sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. The seed sown among the rocky soil symbolizes those who hear God’s word and who receive it joyfully, but when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away, because the word of God has not been received deeply into their hearts (Matt 13:5–6, 20–21).

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. The seed sown among thorns symbolizes those who hear God’s word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth end up strangling the life out of them, making them unfruitful (Matt 13:7, 22).

But some seed fell on good soil, and it grew up to produce a crop, a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown (Matt 13:8).

Out of these four different types of soil, it was only the good soil that allowed the seed to produce a positive harvest. This represents the person who hears and understands the word of God (Matt 13:23).

In three out of the four soils mentioned by Jesus there was some kind of growth, some kind of response to God’s word. In three out of the four soils the seed germinated and was alive for a certain period of time. But only in one of these three situations was there enduring life and growth to maturity that resulted in the positive outcome of fruitfulness.

Because faith can be temporary, encouraging his disciples to persevere in the faith was an important part of Jesus’ ministry.

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