All People Fit into One of the Four Soils of the Parable of the Sower and Seed — Which One Are You?
The Lord Jesus Christ gave parables to be understood by those that were saved, and confound those that are unsaved and reject the truth of God’s Word.
“And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.” (Lk. 8:9-11)
In this parable, there is a sower (the Lord Jesus Christ and by extension His servants through the new birth) and there is a seed (the Word of God). As the Word of God is preached (the seed) by the ambassador for Christ (the sower), it will fall unto one of four soils (souls): the wayward soil, the rocky soil, the thorny soil and the good soil. What people do with the Word of God reflects what soil their souls are. Which one are you? You cannot be good soil in combination with another soil. You are either saved (good ground) or lost (wayward, rocky and thorny ground).
The four soils represent four different individuals, not one (as frequently misinterpreted), and Jesus Christ is talking about the condition of the heart when it hears the Word of God. This parable is not describing how to be converted but the evidence of true conversion (and consequently, the evidence of false "conversion"). Does it really matter or make a difference what we believe concerning this parable? Yes indeed it does! This parable of the sower (which is the true believer going forth preaching God's Word), the seed (which is the Word of God) and the four types of soils (which represents four types of hearers and their respective responses to the Word in their heart), is the first of Jesus' parables and is actually preeminently important among all of His parables. In Marks account Jesus made this clear: “Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?” (Mk. 4:13). This definitive parable is the foundational parable to correctly understand all parables. Therefore not understanding this parable correctly, results in not understanding any of Christ' other parables correctly. Thus the very understanding of this parable is wrapped up into the very meaning of this parable: only that seed which lands on saved soil will actually understand God's Word and thus only that soil will actually understand this parable.
In the parable of the sower, the Lord Jesus Christ is contrasting temporary dead faith with permanent true faith, warning those that don’t have true faith and assuring those who do have. In fact, this was His entire purpose for speaking in parables, contrasting between true and false believers within many of the parables and also in the understanding of parables:
"Because it is given unto you [true believers, His true disciples] to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them [false pretending "believers"] it is not given. For whosoever hath [true believers], to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not [false pretending "believers"], from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them [false pretending "believers"] in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." (Matt. 13:11-13)
Those who truly seek after God and desire to know His truth will receive it abundantly (Matt. 13:12) while the falsely professing "Christians" who persist in rejecting or disobeying or distorting God’s Word will eventually lose even what they seem to have. This was in fulfillment of the prophecy of Is. 6:9-10, which originally was applied to the Jewish leaders of Isaiah’s time, but since Christ indicated it also applied to His own time its evidently a general principle applicable to all ages. It is a scathing rebuke by Christ of those falsely pretending "believers, who “have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:5). In our day when compromise is so great and true converts so few, it is wise to understand why professing believers believe and act the way they do.
I believe that the truth found within this parable on the sower and seed sheds much light on why there is so much error and heresy amongst so many professing believers, amongst so much of so-called “evangelical” and Protestant Christianity and the alike.
Consider now how temporary dead faith is reflected in the first three soils, and permanent true faith in the last soil. I will interchangeably use all three accounts the parable is found within.
1. The Wayside Soil.
"Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved." (Lk. 8:12).
This soil is fairly easy to determine an unsaved estate. They "hear the word of the kingdom," (Matt. 13:13) and the "word is sown" (planted) to some degree "in their hearts" (Mk. 4:15; Lk. 8:12) but it only remains there temporarily before it is "trodden down" (Lk. 8:5) and "Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts." (Mk. 4:15), "lest they should believe and be saved." (Lk. 8:12). The birds of the air (Matt. 13:4) who eat up the seed before it can take root, represent the minions of “the wicked one” (Matt. 13:19), whether evil spirits, or wicked and ungodly men who represent the spirit of error, who do all they can to destroy the message of God’s Word. Unfortunately, “The god of this world” (i.e. Satan) has blinded the minds of unwilling and unrepentant sinners (2 Cor. 4:3-4), like this wayside soul. That these are lost there is no question but why did they never get saved?
Why do they not truly and fully believe that seed which was sown before the devil steals it away? Because they "understandeth it not," (Matt. 13:13); that is, they do not understand "the word of the kingdom" which is the word of God. The Word of truth is the seed of regeneration (“The engrafted Word, which is able to save your soul” – Jam.1:21), the only means instituted by God to faith and conversion (Rom. 10:14-17); that is, the only means whereby man is drawn out of darkness into marvellous light. “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth” (Jam. 1:18), “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (I Pet 1:23). He who therefore neither knows or understands the truth cannot be regenerated.
At salvation the heart is purified, and it occurs by means of the truth and the Spirit of God: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit” (1 Pet 1:22); “the wisdom that is from above is first pure” (Jam. 3:17a). The same word of truth that saves us also enlightens our eyes and mind so that we understand it. Thus it is the Word of truth that saves us, and also further sanctifies us: “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). Since all true believers are sanctified through the Word of God, all true believers highly esteem that Word. Obviously the wayside soul couldn't have cared less for the Word since he had never been regenerated by the Word. And that is because he is yet a natural man:
“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.” (1 Cor. 2:14).
Understanding God's word is indeed a major evidence of conversion and it's the predominant cause why this soil has no interest in God's Word. Not because God is not willing to give understanding but because this soul is not willing to receive it. Hearing the word of God is not enough—although it is absolutely necessary before salvation can take place (Rom. 10:17; I Cor. 1:21)—but it has to be received as such in the heart (Rom. 10:9-10; Heb. 4:12) that it is actually understood and becomes true fruitful seed (Jn. 12:48). To some false pretending "believers" (Jn. 8:30-31a) Jesus said "Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." (Jn. 8:43,47). They did not understand His speech because they were unconverted and justified their false religious estate. There was no attempt at all to understand the truth and examine self. Thus they did not hear Him. Hearing is likened to understanding and without "understanding with their heart" they actually do not truly hear and thus are not "converted" and "heal[ed]" and that is because their "eyes [are] blinded" and their "heart [is] hardened" (Jn. 12:40).
As long as we have ears we can receive and all these that Christ was preaching to had ears. But those that are lost don't actually hear because they understand not since they actually reject the Word of God in their hearts and refuse to heed the reproof and conviction of the Holy Spirit (Pr. 1:22-30; Jn. 16:7-11) and to fear God (De. 8:6; Pr. 1:7; 2:3-5; 9:10; Ps. 36:1; Rom. 3:18; 2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 5:21) and then genuinely and Biblically repent (Ac. 3:19; 26:20), exemplified unfortunately by the many Jews in the Exodus (De. 31:25-30; Ps. 95:8-11) and the many Jews that put Jesus to death (Ac. 7:51), including the Jews that cast out the man born blind whose eyes had been opened and healed by Jesus (Jn. 9:26-27, 31). It is for this very reason that Jesus spoke to them in parables, something hard (and impossible) to truly understand (Matt. 13:10-15) without God the Spirit giving understanding, lest one is saved and thus truly has eyes to see and ears to hear (Matt. 13:16) and the Spirit of God is teaching him (Jn. 16:13). Indeed, "Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it:" (Pr. 16:22a).
Proverbs 2 shows the way that God gives understanding (salvation actually) to those: (a) that "receive [His] words" and hide it in their hearts (v. 1), and (b) truly apply their heart unto understanding and wisdom, and (c) cry unto God for knowledge and understanding (v. 3), and (d) and seek after such as for hidden treasures (v. 4), which is actually seeking after the Lord Jesus Christ, for there is the beginning of salvation (Is. 55:6-7; Pr. 8:35), since “In [Jesus Christ] are hid are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3; cf. I Cor. 1:31), and (e) then the lost sinner comes to "understand the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of God" (v. 5) for this is required for true conversion to occur "for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Pr. 9:10) and "...knowledge" (Pr. 1:7), "For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints." (vv. 6-8). The repentant sinner is brought to conviction and reproof by the Holy Spirit of his sin before the Thrice Holy God (Jn. 16:7-11). In Pr. 1:23 the Lord says "Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you." For "The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding. The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility." (Pr. 15:31-33). We see here that fearing the Lord results in heeding the reproof of God by repenting which results in receiving salvation /wisdom /understanding. Jesus, who is the Truth, can only be known in truth and by those who seek the truth (Jn. 14:6; 18:37; 2 Th. 2:13; De. 4:29), thus "Everyone that is of the truth heareth [Jesus'] voice." (Jn. 18:37). Therefore, all that are saved “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2). And in Pr. 8 the Lord Jesus said, "All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; . . . They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge." (vv. 7-9). Indeed for it is the Lord that gives wisdom, knowledge and understanding (v. 6). And all that have received such have that amazing supernaturally converted spiritual life that results in "understand[ing] righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:" (vv. 9-11); none of which happens in the life of this wayside soul, or any other soul that has a so-called profession of faith but eventually turns away from it. "In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: . . . [for] a man of understanding hath wisdom. The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom." (Pr. 10:13a, 23b, 21). "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold." (Pr. 3:13-14).
We see this truth of understanding also exemplified in the parable of the Good Shepherd, where we read, "This parable [vv. 1-5] spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them." (Jn. 10:6) and that is because "they" were false "believers" (Jn. 10:20-21, 24-26) and "not [His] sheep" (v. 26), for “My sheep [true believers] hear my voice" Jesus said, "and I know them, and they follow me:" (Jn. 10:27). True believers understand God's Word (I Jn. 5:20) but false pretending "believers" on the other hand are "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Tim. 3:7). Understanding truth is not only a promise for all true believers but also a guarantee (Pr. 2:1-5; 8:7-9; Jn. 14:26; 16:13-14; I Jn. 2:20-21, 27), a major evidence of conversion in fact. Jesus said, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come." (Jn. 16:13). In Pr. 22:20-21 the Lord says, "Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?" The Lord Jesus taught this same truth in the NT that He taught in the OT, that all true believers will continue in God's Word and understand the truth: "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (Jn. 8:31-32). Of course this only makes sense in light of the truth that God the Spirit is the "Spirit of truth" (Jn. 14:17) the teacher of truth to true believers (1 Jn. 2:20-21,27) and only true believers have Him indwelling their inner man (Jn. 14:17; I Cor. 6:19-20; Eph. 1:13) ever teaching them and leading them further in truth (Jn. 14:26; 16:13-14). "Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. . . . But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (Jn. 14:17, 26). Interestingly, since false pretenders do not truly "hear" God's Word even though they have ears to hear, God does not hear them either even though He has ears to hear; but this is of course for righteous reasons, not because He cannot hear but because He will not hear: "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." (Is. 59:1-2). "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth." (Jn. 9:31).
Sadly these wayside souls had "light" but did not "believe in the light" while "[they had] light," therefore didn't become "the children of light." (Jn. 12:36b). Thus they continued to "abide in darkness." (Jn. 12:46). And since they did not desire to understand the truth of God's Word, an essential component of salvation, the devil immediately comes and does what he does best and that is stealing God's word from the hearts of people, "lest they should believe and be saved." (Lk. 8:12).
2. Rocky/Stony Soil.
"They on the rock . . . which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away” (Lk. 8:13)
"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." (Matt. 13:20-21)
"And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended." (Mk. 4:16-17).
These false pretending "believers" received the Word–the gospel–temporarily with joy (an emotional response) and believed for a season; but in the time of temptation, trial or tribulation they got offended at the Word and at the Lord Jesus Christ and fall away. They were moved by the Gospel but never genuinely converted. They lacked root in themselves (thus no fruit), which is the very foundation of the Christian faith; and therefore were unable to endure in the time of trouble and thus did not continue, all critical evidences of conversion. This one felt good about it for a while, but salvation does not come through feelings. There was never a real work of grace in their hearts, no new birth, no actual regeneration. Consider in some detail the evidence of this unconverted soul.
First of all, the word of God planted on the soul of this individual is unable to grow, so it becomes unfruitful because it has no root. A plant without root and good ground of the earth will quickly grow up (like this seed did) but then quickly whither and fall away due to lack of nutrition and moisture normally supplied through the root. That is why it has no fruit. Jesus Christ is this root (Is. 11:1-2, 10—quoted in Rom. 15:12; see also Matt. 13:12; Eph. 3:17; Col. 2:7), which He says of Himself, "I am the root and the offspring of David," (Rev. 22:16), the "Root of David" (Rev. 5:5) which is likened to "the vine" which bears the life of the branches and the tree (Jn. 15:1-6), and “if the root be holy, so are the branches.” (Rom. 11:16b). The "root" gives "glorious rest" (Is. 11:10) which is salvation (Matt. 11:28-29) so the root is Christ. "And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust." (Rom. 15:12). Jesus Christ, the root and vine, is the "root in themselves" (of true believers, but absent in these stony hearted souls) indwelling all true born again believers through His Spirit (Gal. 2:20; I Cor. 6:19-20; Eph. 1:13) and produces fruit (including faith), for "the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit" (Pr. 12:12b) and "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life;" (Pr. 11:30a). Every tree is the product of its root and will carry either good fruit or corrupt fruit, but never both (Matt. 7:15-20; 12:33; Lk. 6:43); therefore all four of these soils fall under one of these two trees. The corrupted tree has either no root or a corrupted root (which is essentially the same as no root, for its not a good and true root), and respectively brings forth either no fruit or corrupted fruit. Its like the "trees" (false teachers) who Jude warned of, "whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;" (Ju. 1:12b). Corrupted fruit is synonymous with no fruit. Because the stony soil has no root (Matt. 13:20-21; Mk. 4:16-17; Lk. 8:13) their "faith" is only temporary as we see in all three gospel accounts: "and these have no root, which for a while believe" (Lk. 8:13); they "have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time" (Mk. 4:17); "Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while" (Matt. 13:21). Its “faith” was spurious, rootless, and thus fruitless. The true and good root, on the other hand, is permanent, which is why all good ground believers are fruitful (some 30, some 60, some 100; i.e. in the other words, fruitful but to differing degrees). The stony soil was not actually able to have any root whatsoever because there was “no deepness of earth” (Matt. 13:5). It was doomed from the start.
Notice that the seed was actually planted on this type of ground (not vice versa where the ground became such after), which again is illustrating the purpose of this parable: the evidence of true conversion. "Some fell upon stony places" (Matt. 13:5a), “… on stony ground" (Mk. 4:5), “…upon a rock" (Lk. 8:6). But none of this seed fell on good ground. For this reason alone (which actually applies to all the soils) we know that this parable is demonstrating that not all believers are actually true. Regardless how much moisture would be applied, this seed on the stony ground is unable to grow because it had not enough ground to work with and because it doesn’t have proper root. Obviously the Word of God did not go very deep. It "lacked moisture" (Lk. 8:6) because "it had not much earth" (Mk. 4:4). They, like the wayside soul, didn't respond to and truly "believe in the light" while they had some “light" (“they hear, receive the word” which is “light”), and thus continued to "abide in darkness" (Jn. 12:36, 46). Christ is the “root” that gives life to men and without the "root" there is no justification (Rom. 5:1), and thus they cannot live by faith, for its only "the just" that can "live by faith" (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38).
Secondly, they are offended at Christ and His Word. And that "immediately" (Mk. 4:17). This soul apparently has a problem with responding hastily, not “counting the cost” as exhorted by Christ as He was preaching salvation to the lost multitudes in Lk 14:25-33: they received the word “immediately” (Mk. 4:16) and then were offended “immediately” when “affliction or persecution ariseth for the words sake” (Mk. 4:17). They clearly didn’t “count the cost” of salvation (Lk. 14:28-32). Something that is reason for rejoicing, if they were truly saved, is not reason for offence. Who in their right spiritual mind would be offended or ashamed of Him Who sacrificed His life to save them; and having saved them and forgiven them and cleansed them of all sins that they ever have or ever will commit, and reconciled them to Him, adopted them, justified them, sanctified them, gave them eternal and everlasting life and so many other things? Who could be offended at such a Saviour Who has eternally regenerated His redeemed? If we defend our earthly children, how much the more would we defend our heavenly Father (Who gave us those children!)
Jesus is teaching in this parable, and in other places, those who are offended at Him or ashamed of Him, the same idea, are actually unregenerate. For instance, "For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels." (Lk. 9:26). Peter makes it very clear: "he that believeth on him shall not be confounded" (1 Pet. 2:6b), which means to be put to shame or silence. In this second chapter of 1 Peter, he is contrasting false believers (vv. 7b-8) with true believers (vv. 5-7a, 9-10), the former being mostly Jews (vv. 6-8), the latter mostly Gentiles (vv. 5, 9-10); and of those that pretend to be “believers" while lost, Peter said see Christ as “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence” (v. 7) rejecting faith in Him because they “stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” (v. 8). Clearly lingual describing lost people. Sounds precisely like the stony soul. Both have identical characteristics, for both are lost. The saved—“Unto you therefore which believe” (v. 7)—on the other hand see Christ “as precious” (vv. 4, 6-7) and “chosen of God” (v. 4) and “elect” (v. 6) and “the head of the corner” (v. 7) and they are not “confounded” (v. 6), that is they are not ashamed of Him like the lost are, and that is because they are truly regenerated, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (vv. 9-10).
The stony hardened souls likely become offended and confounded at the preaching of specific things in the Word, and when something doesn't jive with their philosophy and “doctrine,” they will be “afflicted" and “offended” and turn away from the truth and assembly of true believers, thus fulfilling 1 Jn. 2:19, “They 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.” The stony soil is illustrated by the false “believers” and “disciples” of Jn. 6:60-66 who were offended at the preaching of Jesus (vv. 60-61) because they “believe[d] not” the Words of Christ (v. 64); and thus like the stony soul who “fell away”, they also “From that time . . . went back, and walked no more with him.” (v. 66). They, like the stony soul, were not of the Spirit but only of the flesh (Jn. 3:3-6), but “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing:” (v. 63a). Not being ashamed of Jesus Christ after conversion is actually a fulfilling of prophecy for every true believer (and for the nation of Israel when they come to repentance and faith in the tribulation period): "For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." (Rom. 10:11, which is in the context of salvation—vv. 9-10; ref. Is. 45:17; 49:23b; 50:7; 54:4; Ps. 119:46; Joel 2:26-27). And again in Rom. 9:33, "As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." Paul spoke to this in Rom. 1:16, declaring "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ" and likewise it is with all true believers. Confessing the Lord Jesus Christ and His wonderful truth before men is a sign of true conversion (Lk. 9:26; 12:8-9; cf. Mk. 16:15; Lk. 24:44-48), hence the reason why most professing "Christians" will not preach the gospel of Christ. They are offended at Christ and His word (Matt. 13:21), thus revealing their spurious “faith" and shame for Christ. Thus they "endure" and "believe" only for a period of time and then like the foolish dog and pig, return to their old vomit and mire (Matt. 13:20:21; Mk. 4:16-17; Lk. 8:13; cf. Is. 56:10; 2 Pet. 2:17-22; Pr. 26:11). Jesus said, “And blessed [saved] is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Matt. 11:6). Those who, rather than being ashamed of their sins (Rom. 6:21; cf. Rom. 1:16; 2 Tim. 1:8, 12, 16; Jer. 31:19), are ashamed to follow Christ and His Words in this evil and adulterous world will have Christ be ashamed of them at His return and be damned—for Christ is “not ashamed to call them [true believers] brethren” (Heb. 2:11), and “God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16; Lk. 9:26). No text in Scripture indicates that God will be “ashamed” of His people—He is not ashamed of them (Heb. 11:16) or that the true believer will be ashamed OF Christ. "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." (Mk. 8:38). "Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God." (Lk. 12:8-9).
Thirdly, they do not endure trials, tribulations and troubles and permanently fall away from their profession of faith. Since these stony place professors of the kingdom had “no root" (no Christ) they were unable to endure any sort of persecution and offence and temptation, and thus permanently fell away and perished. Nowhere does the NT state that saved people depart from God. This souls response to afflictions is entirely contrary to the Biblical faith:
(a) All true believers face temptation but they endure through it because God helps them (I Cor. 10:13; Jam. 1:12; Heb 13:4-5). This truth is even taught in the Lord's prayer, which Jesus was teaching His true disciples (for God only hears the prayers of His saints, those He has redeemed for all eternity: Is. 59:1-2; Jn. 9:31; 1 Pet. 3:12), to pray that God help them: "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:13a). And indeed "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations," (2 Pet. 2:9a).
(b) All true believers face tribulations and trials because of the Word, but the Triune God helps them through it (Jam. 1:2-8). Jesus said, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (Jn. 16:33). The "God of all comfort" guarantees to "comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." (2 Cor. 1:3-4). The world (incl. false pretending "believers" like this stony soul) see tribulations and trials as terrible and shipwreck (something entirely contrary to the soft and cushy life our flesh seeks after) and it'll cause them to flee from the faith that they so-called profess. But not true believers, who are "patient in tribulation" (Rom. 12:12) and cheer and rejoice in such: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matt. 5:11-12). "Peter and the other apostles" (Ac. 5:29) demonstrated this many times, including after being "beaten" (Ac. 5:40), "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." (Ac. 5:41b). Not only will all true believers face persecution because of the worlds resistance to righteousness and holiness; they are actually promised to go through it (Jn. 15:18-20; Rom. 12:12; II Tim. 3:12; I Pet. 4:12-14): “Yea, all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (II Tim. 3:12); “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:” (I Pet. 4:12); Jesus said "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (Jn. 15:20); indeed, for we "must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." (Ac. 14:22). This is not such a terrible thing for true believers (although it can definitely be difficult), for they understand that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28). They truly know that “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). False "believers" on the other hand have "no root" of Christ dwelling in them and obviously no power through the Triune God and Christ specifically (Phil. 4:13) and have zero grounding in the solid truth of the Word, therefore cannot resist attacks (from people and Satan) on their professed "faith" and flee when it arises.
(c) All true believers always continue to endure and never fall away. Those that don’t but profess to “believe” are like this stony ground, which "endure but for a time" (Mk. 4:17), and "dureth for a while" (Matt. 13:21) and then permanently "fall away” (Lk. 8:13). To “endure” means simply to continue; to abide; to remain; to be permanent; eternal (see Ps. 30:5; 72:17; 81:15; 89:36; 104:31; Jn. 6:27; Heb. 10:34; 1 Pet. 1:25). It also means to suffer without resistance; to patiently wait; to bear with and up and continue on under hardship (Rom. 9:22; 2 Th. 1:4; 2 Tim. 2:3; 4:3, 10; 3:11; Heb. 6:15; 10:32; 11:27; 12:2; Jam. 1:12; 5:11; 1 Pet. 2:19). Endurance (continuing in God’s Word —Jn. 8:31) is an important evidence of salvation (Mk. 4:17), such as demonstrated by the "good ground" (true) believers which "bring forth fruit with patience" (Lk. 8:15) and never fall away, for it is impossible for them to fall away (I Cor. 1:8-9; Phil. 1:6; Jn. 10:27-29). The stony soul not only doesn't have these evidences of salvation (enduring temptations, tribulations, trials, persecutions), he actually fails permanently when they do arise ("falls[s] away” permanently—Lk. 8:13). Although every true believer can fall into the temptations of the world and flesh and devil, as documented above, he endures it and overcomes it. “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” (Pr. 24:16). True believers will fall but "the LORD upholdeth the righteous" (Ps. 37:17b), indeed "The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down." (Ps. 145:14). "Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.” (Ps. 37:24), "thy right hand upholdeth me." (Ps. 63:8b), "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." (Is. 41:10). God is always working in the true believers life and upholding them when they fall. Stony souled "believers" on the other hand, are not upheld for they “fall away” permanently and that is because they don't belong to God, they are not within His care and hands, and are eventually choked to death by their unrepentant and unsaved flesh, which is all they know, apparent by their rootless seed and inability to produce good fruit.
Fourthly, and Lastly, they are faithless. They only "for a while believe” (Lk. 8:13) which is spurious “faith.” They do not "live by faith" like the “just” do from the moment of their new birth, for they are not "just" (Rom. 1:16-17; Gal. 3:11; Hab. 2:4). No truly regenerated, redeemed, justified, sanctified, washed and forgiven saint, imputed with God's righteousness, adopted and reconciled to God, etc, born again believer (and these things apply to all true believers from the very moment of conversion) only believe "for a while"! Obviously they never truly believed at all in a saving sense, even though they heard God's Word (physically with the ears but not with the heart) and received it to such a degree that it was sown in their hearts. The true faith that saves,” stand[s] [not] in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (1 Cor. 2:5). The faith that saves always continues on in the true believers life, "for the just shall live by faith,” for "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" (Heb. 11:6), exemplified by the Christians at Rome, whose "faith [was] spoken of throughout the whole world" (Rom. 1:8b), or the faith of the Thessalonians (1 Th. 1:3-8) or the faith of the Colossians (Col. 1:2-4), etc. There is no evidence in either the OT or NT that some saved people stopped believing and stopped living by faith.
Can the born again believer’s faith fail him in particular trials? It may. Can he fall into spiritual declensions and periods in which his faith is weaker? Sadly, the answer is in the affirmative. However, notwithstanding all such concessions, it is nevertheless those only who are "just" who will "live" and continue to "live by faith,” and will do so because they exercised true repentance and saving faith, entrusting themselves to Jesus Christ as both Lord and Saviour, at the moment of their justification and regeneration, and so never, no never, will they ever “fall away” from that faith. It is absolutely impossible as Scripture makes abundantly clear because a true believer never ceases having the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in them, and Rom 8:14 declares that “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God,” meaning all that are truly saved are always lead by the Spirit of God and those who aren’t, such as those who do not live by faith, are not lead by the Spirit of God because they have never actually had the indwelling Spirit of God. God never stops working in His children and He doesn’t leave any of His children to themselves ever (1 Cor. 1:6-9; Phil. 1:6; 2:12-13; 1 Th. 2:13; 5:23-24; 2 Th. 2:12-17; 3:2-3; 2 Tim. 1:12; 4:18; 1 Pet. 1:5; Heb. 13:20-21; Jer. 32:37-41) and no child of God fails to love His new Master and serve the Lord in his life, so he doesn’t stop living by faith. God consistently “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13). “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Phil. 1:6).
The” faith" of the professing believers with rocky/stony souls is both spurious and temporary, though most of them continue to go through the motions of being a Christian (i.e. continue going to church, associating with people of that church, reference God or the Bible scantly, say a rote prayer, etc).
3. The Thorny Soil.
"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." (Matt. 13:22)
". . . 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." (Mk. 4:18-19)
". . . and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. (Lk. 8:14)
The seed evidently "fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit." (Mk. 4:7). Careful consideration of the words that Christ uses to explain this soil while interpreting in context, and careful comparison between the three harmonious accounts, and rightly dividing the word of truth comparing Scripture with Scripture, and once again considering the fact that its the seed falling onto the soil (onto thorny ground, which already existed) makes it clear that these are lost, falsely pretending "believers,” just as the first two soils. Consider the evidence.
Notice firstly that the thorns already existed before the seed was planted. God’s Word was “received seed among the thorns" and "sown among thorns” and "fell among thorns.” The thorns were not produced after the seed had been planted; No, the ground was already dispersed with thorns before the seed was ever planted to begin with (Matt. 13:7, 22).
This once again demonstrates what occurs when the Word of God falls upon the soul, revealing who is saved (the good ground) and who is not (the other grounds including this one). This indicates what was mentioned above, that this parable is a reflection of what the soul does when it receives the seed and then its response, revealing the actual ground it landed upon (often with time), though the recipient may feign, impose, or pretend. This parable is not teaching the actual process of salvation, though elements of soteriology are found within the parable, but rather evidence of salvation or the lack thereof. Acknowledging this difference which is clearly demonstrated not only in this soil but also in the others, is absolutely crucial in understanding this parable.
Let’s consider some Biblical facts about thorns. Nowhere in Scripture are thorns are ever likened to true believers or even to sin in a Christian’s life. Thorns of the ground were an element of the Adamic curse (Gen. 3:17-18). In Heb. 6 we read "For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. . . . But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” (vv. 7-9). This is a contrast of true believers (vv. 7, 9) and false "believers" (v. 8). There is good ground that is blessed and produces good fruit ("herbs") "for them [true believers] by whom [God] it is dressed,” and there is bad ground that "beareth thorns and briers" (thorny bushes) and is rejected and "nigh unto cursing" (its “nigh unto cursing" yet not completely cursed because as long as it has physical life there is opportunity to be saved—2 Pet. 3:9) and "whose end is to be burned.” Lest it responds genuinely and truthfully to the true gospel in repentance and faith, its end will be eternal hell fire. The Hebrews writer is persuaded better things of the beloved brethren he is referring to, that they are of the (good) ground which is evident by "things that accompany salvation,” for there are many things that accompany salvation and many evidences. Saved people do not bear thorns but herbs. That is the ground of their soil, which is good. The thorny ground however is bad ground that bears no good fruit nor has it ever; it “bring[s] no fruit to perfection” (Lk. 8:14), "it yielded no fruit" (Mk. 4:7). Good fruit such as grapes do not come from thorn bushes nor do figs from thistles (Matt. 7:15-20). When this seed is looked upon, thorns are noted upon the ground, thorns such as worldliness, not obeying God's will, not keeping His Word, unholiness, unrighteousness, shame, love of money, etc, for "the thorns sprung up, and choked them" (Matt. 13:7).
Secondly, the thorny ground only bears corrupt fruit (love for the world, riches and other lusts). Although the thorny soul "heareth the word", he is actually never saved for he only bears corrupt fruit: "the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful." (Matt. 13:22); "and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful." (Mk. 4:19), they "are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection" (Lk. 8:14). These indeed don’t carry godly good fruit. These are thorn and thistle bushes. This is where the seed was planted. Will those thorn bushes now carry grapes, or the thistle bushes figs, like Jesus asks in Matt 7:16, “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Absolutely not!
“Ye shall know them by their fruits. . . . Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” (Matt. 7:16-19)
Thorns and thistles will be cast into the fire (Matt 7:19; Jn 15:6). These fruitless trees are hewn down and thrown into the fire (Lk 3:9). These “corrupt tree[s]” are false “Christians” or teachers or prophets, which is what our Lord is warning of here: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt. 7:15). This soul has clearly never overcome the flesh (which happens at salvation — Rom. 6), not "having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:4), will all true believers do as plainly evident by this passage. Worldliness and love of money and other lusts characterize this persons life, because that is his nature: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Pr 23:7a; cf. Mk 7:15-23), “for the tree is known by his fruit.” (Matt. 12:33b). The Word of God (what little there was of it) is choked out by their flesh and unregenerate condition through a love for the world, love for deceitful riches, love for pleasure and a love for the lusts of other things entering in; all entirely contrary to true conversion and all things that always have the prominence and preeminence in the false professors life. My life was in fact characterized as such prior to conversion, true indeed for all born again believers:
"For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared…” (Ti. 3:3-4)
In this passage Paul is contrasting ones pre-conversion condition (vv. 2-3) with ones new converted condition (vv. 4-7). All true believers "also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures . . ." but they are no longer as such because "after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (vv. 3-7). We see the transformation from the unsaved dead in sin condition to the saved dead to sin condition. In the same epistle, Paul says that the same grace of God that saves us ("the grace of God that bringeth salvation") also "teach[es] us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;" for the same "great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" who shall gloriously appear at any time, "gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Ti. 2:11-14). There are a lot of evidences of salvation in these two passages in Titus, revealed to us by “the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (1 Cor. 2:12). At once we were wicked and ungodly sinners on the wide path of destruction and eternal damnation but now we are saved, washed, regenerated, renewed and indwelled by the Spirit of God, justified, heirs of eternal life, recipients of the grace that delivers us from worldly and fleshly lusts, redeemed from all iniquity, a peculiar purified people and zealous of good works, on that narrow path that is life and leads to eternal life.
Note that the very opposite of this actually happens in the thorny "believers" life. Instead of being delivered by God's grace from ungodliness, worldly lusts, iniquity, and bad works, and becoming more and more practically righteous and godly in this present world and overcoming the struggles of the flesh and becoming more purified practically unto God and more zealous of good works (all of which is becoming more and more "conformed to the image of his Son" — Rom. 8:29), they actually go the very opposite direction, becoming further and further conformed to the image of their flesh, which is characterized by ungodly and worldly lusts and the cares of this world and the riches of this world and lusts of other things, for indeed "Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom:" (Pr. 15:21a). "But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." (2 Pet. 2:22). That is definitely not how salvation and practical sanctification works, for "a man of understanding walketh uprightly." (Pr. 15:21b). It is definitely not how God's grace works in the true believers life, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10) and are in fact "confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" (Phil. 1:8). Thus, all true believers are "filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." (Phil. 1:11). The Philippian believers, like all other true believers in the Bible, had a true testimony of salvation and fruit from the moment of conversion: "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you," Paul wrote, "For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;" (Phil. 1:5, 7) and that "good work" which God had started in that day of salvation (v. 8), He will "perform it until the day of Christ" (v. 8). Likewise, the "Lord Jesus Christ . . . shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 1:8). These thorny souls (like the stony souls) do not have this testimony of salvation and God working in their lives and rather have the same testimony of professing "believers" in the "last days [of] perilous times" described by the apostle Paul in in 2 Tim. 3:1-5, who have "a form of godliness but denying the power thereof" (v. 5), being "lovers of their own selves, covetous, . . . unholy . . . Traitors . . . lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (vv. 2-4). All true believers are "sanctif[ied] [set apart, made holy] through the truth" (Jn. 17:17) and are "not conformed to this world (Rom 12:2) but not false "believers" — evident by their increasing love for and conformity to this world. Friend, we either love the world or we love God but we don't love both. You “can’t love both. This is speaking to the nature of your heart. “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.” (Matt 6:24).
“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 Jn. 2:15)
Not only does the true believer not love the world (1 Jn. 2:15; Jam. 4:4) the world doesn't love him either and rather hates him.
"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." (Jn. 15:18-19)
Jesus' prayer in John 17 further reveals the truth that these thorny souled "believers" have not been kept from the evils of the world, another poof of their lost condition. Jesus speaking to the Father concerning His true born again sheep, prayed:
"I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." (Jn. 17:14-16)
Although all true believers are in the world they are not of the world, and God keeps them from the evils of the world. These thorny so-called believers are not kept from the evils of this world including the evil of the "deceitfulness of riches,” and we know that there is no greater evil than the love of money for the "love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10). "The highway of the upright is to depart from evil:" (Pr. 16:17a) but these thorny souls do the very opposite; they continue driving on that highway. If they can't overcome this root of all evil and repent of it, replacing their love for this evil with a love for God (Lk. 10:25-28), then surely they aren't saved, or could even be saved for that matter. An excellent illustration of this is the rich young ruler (Matt. 19:16-22). He was self-righteous and self-willed and covetous, not willing to admit his own lack of goodness and sinful estate, and not willing to leave his love of riches to love and follow the Lord. He coveted eternal life like he did his own material possessions, but God seeks for “true worshipers” (Jn 4:23-24), not for selfish eternal life recipients that want to keep their love of the world and mammon in one pocket, and Jesus Christ in the other. This rich ruler, like the thorny soul, wanted to serve and appease two masters, but this is certainly impossible according to Christ: "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 [money]." (Matt. 6:24). One's heart is either with God or with mammon but not with both. The lost cannot serve God though they may try and go through the motions but instead seek to serve their flesh. The saved on the other hand are always the servants of God their Master (1 Cor. 3:6-15; Gal 1:10).
Sadly, the Word of God in the thorny souled "believer" is choked out by the "riches . . . of this life" (Lk. 8:14), the "deceitfulness of riches" which the Bible warns of so many times (1 Tim 6:10-11), and thus never brings "no fruit to perfection.” (Lk. 8:14). Note carefully that in the passage in 1 Tim. 6 Paul is not warning those that are rich but "they that will be rich" (like the thorny soul) that "fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." (1 Tim. 6:9). It is not wrong to be rich, for in the very same chapter God says so (1 Tim 6:17). But its wrong to covet after riches, to be "greedy of gain" (Pr 1:18-19) and that is exactly what Paul is warning of and Jesus is describing this thorny soul as. They seek to be rich. They do what it takes to get rich. They place their happiness in worldly wealth and "deceitful riches”; they covet it inordinately, and are eager in the pursuit of it. They are certainly not true believers, for this inordinate affection after the lusts of the things of the world, including riches, actually “drown men in destruction and perdition" which means to be destroyed firstly in this life and then destroyed ultimately in hell. To a lost man Jesus warned, "Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." (Lk. 12:15). Jesus then goes on to give an example of such, of a rich man that coveted after increasing earthly riches instead of being rich towards God and not taking care of his soul, just like this thorny souled "believer" (Lk. 12:16-20).
Tragically, thorny souled professors have exchanged their soul for the things of the world (Mk. 8:37), for the offer of riches and pleasure, but “what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk. 8:36-37). What profit is therein, in light of eternity, and in light of inevitable death, "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." (1 Tim. 6:7). Judas is a NT example of a false "believer" giving up his soul for the riches of this world, and Balaam from the OT. These men would have been wise to heed Pr. 16:16, "How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!" If we love the world and the things of the world (whose chief god is money) we prove our lost condition because we are actually an enemy of God: "know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (Jam. 4:4). Here is an example of a thorny souled people that pursue after the lusts of their flesh and the things of this world: The Incongruity of Contemporary Worship Music and Country Music (e.g. High Valley) with God's Word.
Thirdly, we see the thorny soul does not overcome but is overcome by its flesh. The Bible however teaches that true believers are always overcomers. Whosoever is born of God overcomes the world, overcomes the flesh and overcomes the devil. It's a guarantee. Overcoming characterizes the Christian. Rom. 8:28-30 promises it. It is an evidence of salvation, and actually happens at salvation, not at some point afterwards, and is henceforth demonstrated in the regenerated believers life. Everyone God justifies He has predestined to conform to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-30). This is the message of Jesus at the end of every one of His messages to the seven churches in Rev. 2 and 3.
All true believers overcome the world at conversion:
"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 Jn. 5:4-5)
All true believers overcome the devil at conversion:
"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them ["the spirit of antichrist" v. 3-Satan]: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world ["the god of this world”— 2 Cor 4:3]. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." (1 Jn. 4:4-6)
“We know that . . . he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” (1 Jn. 5:18)
All true believers overcome the flesh at conversion:
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. . . . For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. . . . But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Rom 6:6-7, 14, 17-18)
All true believers overcome the world, the flesh and the devil because they have been perfected and sanctified (set apart by God as holy and saints) from the time of salvation: “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Heb 10:14; cf. 1 Cor. 2:6a). These thorny souls have not overcome and are living in sin, whether openly or secretly. He who lives in sin is a slave and servant of sin. He who is set free from sin is set free by the truth: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). Thus these have not the truth though they feign to have it. The terrible problem we find today in professing Christiandom is that there are very many unconverted people in churches, by far the majority, because they have heard and embraced a false gospel that either did not present scriptural faith or a Biblical Jesus. They can't live an overcoming life, like we see exemplified by the thorny soul, because they are not born of God. This person has no victory because He does not have the love of God in his heart. This is a test of faith (Jam. 1:2-3).
Fourthly, they are fruitless. Never are we actually told that this seed was ever “fruitful.” Absence of good fruit is the mark of a false Christian (Matt. 7:15-20; Ju 1:12), whereas its presence is a mark of true conversion, evident by the good ground in this parable (Matt. 13:8, 23; Lk. 8:14). Thus the thorny soul like the first two soils had seed sown in his heart but it didn't became fruitful, indeed none bore any good fruit, and that is because the seed did not germinate and fulfill its true calling: to be chosen and fruitful. Jesus warned, "For many are called, but few are chosen (saved).” (Matt. 22:14). All that have seed planted in their heart—whether wayward, stony, thorny or good—are called; but only those that respond to the gospel of Christ according to God's way of salvation, are chosen (e.g. Mk. 1:14-15; Ac. 20:21). This is like the fig tree, which Christ cursed, which was indeed called to be a fig tree, but Christ did not choose it for it was fruitless, a dead and useless tree (Matt. 21:18-20). Yet it had the markings of fig tree, it claimed to be a fig tree, and had all the appearances of one, but the Master Husbandman who perfectly knows the heart of all men also knew that the fig tree should have been bearing fruit in its season, but it did not (in the spring time fig trees in Israel produce fruit before leaves, which this fig tree didn't do). Because it was unfruitful when it should have been fruitful, it was a corrupted and cursed tree (Matt. 21:18-20; cf. Mk. 13:28), which corresponds precisely to the thorny souled "believer" whom should have been fruitful, according to his profession, but was not and brought "no fruit to perfection" (Lk. 8:14) for "it yielded no fruit." (Mk. 4:7), which means it had actually never bore any good fruit whatsoever. It is not because God is not patient or chooses only certain people before the foundation of the world while the rest are chosen to eternal damnation (like Calvinism falsely teaches)— its simply because sinners will not heed the reproof and conviction of the light of God’s truth on their dark souls like Jn 3:19-21 makes perspicuously plain, for He indeed is patient and "longsuffering, not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9; cf. Rom. 2:4; 1 Pet. 3:20). Not only is He patient with trees, like the fig tree, but also—especially, notably—with people, "Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it" (Jam. 5:7), but His patience does fearfully expire (read Pr 1:20-32).
“And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." (Matt. 3:10; see also Jn. 15:1-5)
On this subject of fruitfulness, what throws some people off is the words "becometh unfruitful" as recorded in Matt. 13:22 and Mk. 4:19, which appear to say that this seed was once fruitful but then became unfruitful. But this is not the case at all. “Becometh unfruitful” (Mk 4:19) actually means it "yieldeth no fruit" (Mk. 4:7) as noted in Mark 4, and it "bringeth no fruit to perfection" (Lk. 8:14) for these phrases are both describing the same ground in the same individual and thus are synonymous. Its all describing the very same response of the seed on the thorny soil. There was never any fruit at all at any point, that is good fruit (cf. Mk. 4:7 with vv. 18-19). The "no fruit" is definitive; therefore the "becometh unfruitful" means "no fruit". It certainly has to, lest we deem God's Word as contradictory, and we know that is definitely not the case. Furthermore, understanding the makeup of seed, briefly mentioned above, we come to an explanation in what "becometh unfruitful" actually means. All earth yielding seed has in its very cellular makeup to be fruitful and how much the more the incorruptible Word of God, which is the seed the sower is planting! (1 Pet. 1:23-25; Ps. 126:6). Gen. 1:11 says "And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so." Within the very DNA of fruit seed, is the capability and calling to bear fruit. When it doesn't and it bears no fruit, it actually becomes unfruitful (even though it hadn't actually carried any fruit as of yet) for it was always destined to be fruitful. All seed regardless how minuet (like the mustard seed) has in its very genetic makeup the fruit of that seed. But certain conditions will render the seed perpetually fruitless (and useless), such as birds eating the seed, or the seed landing on stony/rocky soil with next to no dirt and moisture, or the seed landing on thorny ground where it actually can't ever start growing and is choked to death by the moisture-robbing thorns which are already well established and deeply rooted and thus seep all the life and life-giving nutrient out of the life-giving seed, and henceforth it never even has opportunity to become what it was destined to become: fruitful seed. God’s Word is destined to be fruitful. Its the makeup of its very genetic code. But when it falls upon sinful soil that doesn’t and won’t repent, it doesn’t fulfill its life-offering calling. But it does on occasion, and we know that because of God’s promise: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Is 55:11). We also know this because of the good ground.
Fruit is a primary reason why we know that all these first three soils are false and unregenerate "believers" — none ever carried true fruit which is a major evidence of salvation.
Fifthly, and lastly, these thorn-based souls are the greatest of imitators and pretenders. Although they may appear on the surface as “Christians,” they are definitely not so, for all Christians are fruitful to some degree, as the last soil, the good ground, will prove (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2-9).
Preachers today tend to give much ado to “carnal Christianity,” the thorny soil fitting into that paradigm, but this has become more of a red herring than anything. Carnality according to God's Word is the estate of a lost person (Rom 8:1-9), of the unregenerate. Thats the actual meaning of the word. It is NOT another category of man (an addition to that of saved and lost, or spiritual and natural), a third category, like many today promote though its made out of thin air through the corruption of 1 Cor 3:1-3. The Bible doesn’t give a shred of hope to those described as carnal and that is simply because those that are carnal are actually lost. Rom 8:6-9 makes that clear. Now that doesn't mean a true Christian can't sin or disobey the Bible; carnality reflects a manner of life, the nature of a person, and its not a characteristic of the saved but of the lost and the Bible does not create this third entity of man, and lest a sinning professing Christian is experiencing the chastisement of God in his life (Heb. 12:5-11) and exercises repentance (1 Jn. 1:8-10), he is actually not a Christian at all but a false pretending "believer.” And this is precisely what the parable of the sower is teaching.
For further info on the subject of “carnal Christianity” please read:
The ongoing response to the seed on the soil will reveal whether that soul is saved or not. One that professes to "believe" but has corrupt fruit and sows to the flesh is not a true believer. The Corinthians (for the most part) were "spiritual," (I Cor. 2:9-13, 15-16), that is saved, but Paul could not write unto them "as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal" (1 Cor. 3:1). The conjunction “as" is important here. They were spiritual for the most part. You see that at the end of chapter 2, but also in chapter 1 (vv. 4-9). But because of how they were acting, behaviour that was more in line with the lost than the saved, he had to write them "as" carnal because he cannot see the heart. When someone professes Christ but behaves like the lost, they should be treated as if they are lost. Matt 18:15-17 makes that clear. Unrepentant professors are to be treated as “heathen man and publican.” (Matt 18:17). Saved people can and will sin, but they don't have the same nature as unbelievers (1 Cor. 2:14). They have been washed and sanctified and justified. The Corinthian believers were said to be behaving as “carnal” or “natural” (1 Cor 2:14) and “babes in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1) but they, for the most part, were zealous Christians though some needed to repent. They were "zealous of spiritual gifts" (1 Cor. 14:12) though they were misusing them, and they were “sanctified in Christ Jesus” and “saints” (1 Cor. 1:2) to whom Paul “thank[ed] . . . God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;” (1 Cor. 1:4) and indeed they were “enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;” (1 Cor. 1:5) and had “the testimony of Christ” which “was confirmed in you” (1 Cor. 1:6) and were “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who” Paul wrote, “shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:7-9). Indeed, those are the marks of true and zealous believers but there was unrepentant sin in their midst among some of the people, but some of those people were unsaved evident by their behaviour and lack of repentance (1 Cor 5; 6:1-10; 2 Cor 12:12-13:5; etc). Paul encouraged the Corinthians that were unrepentant to "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves" (2 Cor. 13:5a) and that is because carnality is not a mark of a true believer. Though they may appear to be “Christian” they are imposters and counterfeit’s, like the tares amongst the wheat (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) and the bad fish amongst the good (Matt 13:47-50).
1 Cor. 6:9-11 teaches that if a person continues in unrighteousness it is an evidence that he has not been saved, because the truly saved born again believer is a new creature in Christ. Paul wrote,
“And such WERE some of you: but ye are washed . . . and sanctified . . . and justified . . . in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God" (1 Cor. 6:11)
This happened immediately at salvation and then continues on for all eternity. In the next epistle Paul writes:
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
When a person is saved, he is changed, from the inside out, and he will no longer live as he did before he was saved. The believer still has a sin nature and he can still sin, but he no longer loves sin and can never again be happy in sin (Rom. 7). The Spirit of God lives in him and he has an impulse toward righteousness (indeed for God has imputed and imparted to him His own righteousness) that he did not have before he was saved. But when he sins the Lord’s chastens him and his conscience compels him to repentance (1 Jn. 1:8-10). Paul warned in this passage (1 Cor. 6:9) that the Corinthians are not to be deceived about this matter, indicating someone of them indeed were, the entire context referring to a contrast between the truly saved and the unsaved (vv. 1-10) for the sinful unsaved heart is "deceitful above all things" (Jer. 17:9), and this dark world is filled with spiritual deception and error. Multitudes upon multitudes are deceived about their relationship with God and their eternal destiny, and this damnable heresy of a third category of man is leading the multitudes of false "believers" to an eternity in hell. But man does not have to be deceived. God has given us the great light of the Scriptures and has sent the Holy Spirit to lead us into this light, and “in thy light shall we see light” (Ps. 36:9). If any man will do God’s will and will continue in His Word, he shall know the truth, and that is the Lord’s promise (Jn. 7:17; 8:31-32).
“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.” (2 Tim. 2:19)
This thorny soil teaches why so many return to their former sinful and evil ways like the dog and the pig (2 Pet. 2:21-22) — because they were never saved to begin with.
Sadly, the unscriptural third category of “carnal Christian” is used as a cop out in our materialistic and pleasure-mad world, where people want the world and Jesus too (and heaven of course!). Undiscerning propagators of this heresy are not doing those unsaved people any favours. There is no category of carnal Christians, only spiritual and natural. The doctrine of the carnal Christian category was popularized in 1918 by Lewis Sperry Chafer in his book He That Is Spiritual, that was then eviscerated by B. B. Warfield in 1919. The regenerated believer has everything he needs the moment he is justified and will live out his justification as Scripture guarantees (Phil 2:12-13).
The Bible teaches only two categories of man, the saved and the lost. The two-only categories of man is taught in this very parable. Between the giving of the earthly parable and the explanation of the parable, Jesus teaches that true believers hear and understand parables but false pretenders do not (Matt. 13:9-16). In fact this passages teaches us that the very reason Jesus spoke in parables wasn’t to help His listeners understand spiritual truth, but to keep the false pretenders from understanding! "Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." (vv. 10-11). These “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” are couched in parables so that only those who have spiritual “ears” (v. 9) will comprehend. This truth is so important and crucial that Jesus says that those who don't understand this foundational parable actually don't understand any parables at all (Mk. 4:13), and that is because understanding comes from the new birth but these are both spiritually blind and dumb (Mk 4:12). True believers all hear the truth and see the truth for they have open ears and seeing eyes. “That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” (Mk 4:12). False "believers" do not hear and do not see, though they pretend so. There is no other category, such as half-hearers (one ear only) and half-seers (one eye only). One is either saved or not. Spiritual reprobates are the wayside, stony and thorny souls. One eye can't be light while the other darkness. This is the sort of teaching that produces the claim that reprobate "believers (i.e. the wayside, stony and thorny souls) are saved, just not living "right.” It results in the creation of a third category of man, the arnal "Christian" that Biblically doesn't exist. Jesus said, "The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness." (Lk. 11:34), and “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (Jn. 8:12).
Consider other examples of two-only categories in God’s Word, among many that could be given:
(a) The two-only categories of man is seen in the immediate next parable that Jesus proclaimed, which is the wheat and tares (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43), the first of the parables likened to the kingdom of God. Here we see only two categories of man: wheat ("good seed . . . children of God") and tares (the bad seed, "children of the wicked one"). Every single person in the world has either God as their Father or Satan as their father (see Jn. 8:35-44).
(b) The two-only categories of man is taught by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians: the "natural man" and the "spiritual" man (1 Cor. 2:14-15).
(c) The two-only categories of man is also seen in the two roads that all mankind is on, with its only two destinations: "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14).
(d) The two-only categories of man is also seen in the truth that there are only two types of trees: a good tree and a corrupt tree. The former carries good fruit; the latter, bad fruit. "For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. (Lk. 6:43-45). Every person in the world is either a good tree (saved) or a corrupt tree (lost) and the tree will eventually be known by its fruit. Corrupt can indeed have many varying degrees, but corrupt is still corrupt. Good fruit can also have varying degrees (30, 60 and 100), but good is still good and all true believers have good fruit. It starts at the new birth (Col 1:4-6).
(e) The two-only categories of man is seen in the truth that there are only two foundations that all men build their houses upon (Lk. 6:46-49). One’s house is either built upon a rock or upon sand but NOT upon both. Matthew's account calls the rock foundation builder a wise man and the sand foundation builder a fool. In this we see another two-fold contrast: between wisdom and foolishness, a contrast made throughout the Bible, especially in Proverbs, a contrast of the saved and the lost. We distinguish the foundation between these two builders based upon that critical factor of obedience. The saved obey God's Word because they are saved (Jn. 14:15, 21-24; 15:10, 14; I Jn. 2:3-5). The false pretender does not obey God's Word because he is not actually saved. How do we know that the unsaved fool with his sandy foundation is pretending to be a believer? Jesus says this in the very context: "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Lk. 6:46), which is the parallel account of Matt. 7:21-23. Obedience is the major mark of conversion (Jn 14:23-24; 1 Jn. 2:3-5). "The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand." (Pr. 12:7).
(f) The two-only categories of man is seen in the contrast between the faithful/fruitful servant or an unfaithful/unfruitful servant in the parable of Matt 25:14-30. The five talents and two talents servants were both "good and faithful servant[s],” fruitful profitable servants doubling their yield (vv. vv. 15-17, 20-23) representing the "good ground”; whereas the one talent was an unfaithful and unfruitful servant, a "wicked and slothful servant" (vv. 18-19, 24-30) like the unfruitful grounds of this parable (wayside, stony, thorny soils), who did nothing with what he had, so the one talent he had was taken from him (v. 28). Why? For the very same reason that Jesus stated in the parable of the sower and seed (Matt. 13:12): "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." (Matt. 25:29). The wicked and slothful and unfruitful servant of the talents parable is headed to the same place as the wayside, stony and thorny unprofitable servants: "And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 25:30). God's Word does not return to Him void (Is. 55:11).
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We are warned about those who "profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (Ti. 1:16). The thorny soul, like the stony soul and just like these false professors in Titus 1, heard and received the seed of God's word and professed to be believers, but would have been better off never knowing the way of righteousness, then to half-heartedly embrace it while refusing to repent,
"For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them." (2 Pet 2:20-21)
4. The fourth and final soil, the good ground, the only saved soul.
"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." (Matt. 13:23)
“But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Lk 18:15)
The understanding of God’s Word and the presence of good fruit is the major difference between true conversions and false "conversions.” A good tree bears fruit in its season because it is good ground rooted in Christ Jesus. Every good tree bears different number of fruit but all bear fruit. None are unfruitful. That is the major characteristic of the saved, but there is also other evidence of true conversion as we see.
This good soul has been “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (I Pet. 1:23).
First of all, this true believer "heareth the word, and understandeth it” (Matt. 13:23) which is truly hearing and understanding the truth of God's Word, and thus develops godly wisdom (Jn. 14; 16; Heb. 6:1; I1Jn. 2:20-21, 27), for understanding and wisdom are synonymous in many ways, and all who receive Jesus Christ have understanding and receive wisdom and are thus positionally wise (Col. 2:3; I Cor. 1:30; Pr. 3:14), and grow in practical wisdom: "Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding" (Pr. 14:33a). "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." (I Th2:13). “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Pet 1:23). The same word of truth that saves us also becomes enlightened in our eyes and mind and heart. And "the truth . . . which dwelleth in us . . . shall be with us for ever." (2 Jn 1:2).
“But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” (1 Jn 2:20-21)
To avoid repetition, please see the first soil on understanding; the thing that soul was lacking, this soul has.
Secondly, they have a honest and good heart. This is the only soul where God’s Word falls, that is described as “an honest and good heart” (Lk. 8:15). Bear in mind that it is God calling this heart "honest and good" thus providing us another important reason why this heart is saved, for indeed it has to be saved because there is not a good person in the world in their lost condition (Rom. 3:10-23; Ecc. 7:20). The "honest and good heart" is the heart of a "good man" (Ps. 37), and a "good man obtaineth favour of the Lord" (Pr. 12:2) for "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand." (Ps 37:23-24). The “good heart” is only the saved heart.
A good man is likened to the good tree, while the evil man is likened to the corrupted tree.
"For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh." (Lk. 6:43-45).
The good man like the good tree brings forth good fruit, and that is because he has a good heart. He has good heart because God gave him a new circumcised heart (Col 2:10-15; De 30:6).
Thirdly, they keep and continue in God’s Word for they love God's Word. Not as hypocrites but in the truth. These true believers “having heard the word, keep it,” (Lk. 8:15). Those that are truly saved, the good ground, are those that love and obey God's Word.
"Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you." (Rom. 6:16-17)
This good grounds obedience to God's Word is in stark contrast to the the first three soils. The true believer actually “keeps [God’s Word]”, which means to obey it and continue in it. They don't do this out of force but because of love for their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, since obedience to God’s Word reveals ones love for Christ:
“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.” (Jn. 14:23-24).
And they know that though they were saved by faith alone and not by works and because of God's grace alone (Eph. 2:8-9), they "are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that [they] should walk in them." (Eph. 2:10). True salvation always results in “obedien[ce] to the faith” (Ac. 6:7)!
The good ground, true born again believers, understand, believe, love, and obey the truth, such truth as Ps. 19:8-10, having experienced conversion in v. 7 ("The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”—Ps. 19:7; cf. Gal. 3:24; Rom. 3:19-25):
"The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” (Ps. 19:8-10)
They continue in God’s Word because only the "just shall live by faith" (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:16-17; Heb. 10:38). The nominal “believer” is unjust and thus does not live by faith and therefore does not keep God’s Word and will. This good seed is a true disciple of Christ indeed for he keeps God’s Word and continues in God's Word:
"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (Jn. 8:31-32)
They persevere in God’s Word because God’s Word perseveres in them:
"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. (1 Th 2:13).
The keeping of Gods commandments is not the way of salvation but the product and evidence thereof (Rom. 3:19- 24; Eph. 2:8-10; Ti. 2:11-12; 3:4-8). And its evident in every single true believer in the world regardless of age, race or gender.
Fourthly, and Lastly, and most importantly, they yield fruit—they bring forth good fruit. And that is because they have the things noted in the characterization of this ground (understanding/wisdom, an honest and good heart, and they hear, keep and continue in God's Word) and they have these things because they are truly converted and regenerated. The seed “yieldeth fruit” and brings “fourth fruit” which is good fruit since it is "good ground" like the godly and fruitful servants of five and two talents in the parable of the servants with the talents (Matt. 25:14-30). The ungodly and unfruitful servant of this parable is like the wayside, stony, and thorny soils—a false and unprofitable servant—since its not only a promise that all true believers will be fruitful (there is no zero and at least thirty) but a guarantee to be fruitful. Why? "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you WILL perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Phil. 1:6). Fruit is an absolute evidence of conversion. All true believers bring forth fruit just as all healthy fruit trees bring forth fruit. This is because Jesus Christ is the root, the vine, and all those that have life in Him will produce fruit for it glorifies Him. It is the root that produces the fruit: "the root of the righteous shall not be moved. . . . the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit." (Pr. 12:3, 12). This is referring to Jesus Christ, the root in every true believer which shall not be moved and always yieldeth fruit. Those who do not give evidence of salvation and bring forth fruit are not true believers (Jn. 15:1-6). All that He saves He ordains to bring forth fruit:
"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you." (Jn. 15:16)
They are like "The land [which] shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field [which] shall yield their fruit." (Lev. 26:4). The blessed saved are obedient (Ps. 1:2) and thus separated (Ps. 1:1) and "like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." (Ps. 1:3).
“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:5)
The believer, who will abide (present tense) or remain faithful to Christ’s Word and commandments as a pattern of his life, will bring forth much fruit; good works are the certain consequence of spiritual union with Christ (Jn. 3:19-21; 8:31; 10:27; 12:24- 26; Mk. 8:34-36; Matt. 13:23; Rom. 6:22; Gal. 5:18-24; Eph. 2:10; Col. 1:6). In contrast, the unregenerate man cannot bear any true spiritual fruit or do any good works in the eyes of God, and that is precisely what we see with the first three soils. Though they may appear to be good works, the unregenerate soils of the stony and thorny souls are not doing anteing for God. Living union with the Christ who died and rose again, a position in the vine, results in the bearing of much fruit. “Herein is my Father glorified," said Jesus "that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." (Jn 15:8). Those who are united to Him bear much fruit and are true disciples, saved people (Jn. 15:8). Not every (professing) disciple of Christ is a true Christian (e.g. Ac. 20:29-30) but every true Christian is a disciple of Christ. And every true disciple bears fruit (Jn. 15:1-6, 16). This truth that only the fruitful are saved is clearly taught in John 15:1-6. The branch that bears no fruit "abides not in [Christ]", becomes "withered", and is eventually "cast into the fire, and they are burned [hell]" (v. 6). John the Baptist spoke the same thing: "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." (Matt. 3:10). The vine and branch of John 15 is referring to the same thing as the root and tree of Matt. 3:10 and 7:15-20 and in other places. Jesus said, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (Jn. 15:5). "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13).
See here for more on abiding in Christ: Does John 15 Teach that Saved People May Not Abide in the Vine, in the Lord Jesus Christ?
When do true believers become fruitful? Not at some point during their Christian life but at the very moment of their conversion. The Bible makes this very clear. A person that is truly saved is immediately righteous and holy, both by imputation and impartation: "the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Eph. 4:24).
"We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:" (Col. 1:3-6).
All those at Colosse who knew "the grace of God in truth" since that moment they had received the "truth of the gospel" will bring "forth fruit . . . since the day [they] heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth.”
Therefore, “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit." (Matt. 12:33). In other words, expose those corrupt trees, the false believers. Make it evident. And that is a major objective of this report. Truth is evidenced by its fruit. Those who claim they know Christ but live unfruitful lives have deceived themselves (Ti. 1:15-16; 1 Jn. 2:3-5). All born again believers of the NT were fruitful from the very moment of salvation. Consider a few of many examples: the Colossians (Col. 1:3-6, quoted above), Lydia (Ac. 16:14-15, 40), the Philippian jailer (Ac. 16:29-34), the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:2-9), the Thessalonians (1 Th. 1:9-10, 6-8), the apostle Paul (Ac. 9:3-20), the demonic of the Gadarenes (Mk. 5:18-20), etc.
What exactly is meant by “fruit”? There are a number of different types of fruit mentioned in the Bible but the most important of all and the one primarily referenced here in this parable, a numerical figure, is that of winning sinners to Christ through the preaching of God’s Word, through reconciling the lost by the Word of God as faithful ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor 5:17-21; Matt. 28:18-19; Mk. 16:15-16; Lk. 24:44-48; Ac. 1:8; Pr. 11:30; Rom. 8:23, 29).
"Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." (Jam. 1:18).
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom. 8:29).
All of God’s children are “firstfruits” and the “firstborn among many brethren” because we "have the firstfruits of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:23). The “well beloved Epaenetus" is such an example, "who [was] the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ." (Rom. 16:5). This requires the preaching of the gospel and the discipling of seeking sinners to an understanding of the truth of the gospel of Christ (Mk. 16:15; Lk. 24:46-48; Matt. 28:18-19), done by true believers (Rom 10:13-17)for they are not offended or ashamed of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:16; 5:5; 9:33; 10:9-11; Mk. 8:38). This witnessing of Christ which is preaching the gospel of repentance and faith (Lk. 24:46-48) is done by ploughing the soil of the soul with the Word. In our unsaved estate, that is in our flesh prior to the new birth, we only brought "forth fruit unto death" (Rom. 7:5), but when we get saved we are "married to [Christ] . . . that we should bring forth fruit unto God" (Rom. 7:4), which means to bring glory to God through the winning of souls to Christ, since that was the entire purpose of Christ coming to earth and dying for our sins, "And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth." (Mk. 1:38), "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Lk. 19:10).
"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise." (Pr. 11:30).
The Bible makes it clear that those truly saved will bear fruit (Matt. 13:9, 23) but the false pretender will not (Matt. 13:8, 22) for he has no burden for the lost, considering he is actually lost himself. The true witness for Christ delivers souls but the false professing Christian on the other hand is a deceitful witness: "A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies." (Pr. 14:25).
It is noteworthy that the very first reference in the Bible to seed-sowing speaks of Isaac’s seed as bringing forth fruit in the very year he sowed “an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him” (Gen. 26:12). The promise of spiritual fruit from spiritual seed is found throughout the Bible (e.g. Ecc. 11:1,4-6; Is. 55:10-11; Jn. 4:37-38; 1 Cor. 3:6-8). In the very context of the contrast between good seed and bad seed (true converts and false "converts") in the parable of the sower, after Jesus taught the fruitfulness of good ground, He said that a true light shines brightly for all to see:
"No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light.” (Lk. 8:16).
As alluded to already, there is also fruit of God's glory, a very important fruit that affects everything the believer does. The true believer who serves Christ seeks God's glory, not his own selfish-glory (1 Cor. 1:17-18, 26-31). That means he will fight the fight good fight of faith, war a good warfare as a good Christian soldier for his Captain, and earnestly contend for the faith. He will appease and serve Christ, not man (Gal 1:10; 1 Cor 7:22-23). This is often an overlooked mark of a true believer, yet frequently mentioned in the NT. The true believer realizes that the work he is doing is NOT his own but God’s work and that he is merely a servant in the Master’s vineyard. Thus, the approval he seeks is not from men but from God.
“But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.” (2 Cor. 10:17-18)
“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Gal 1:10)
Although a false professor may imitate the Christian life, its nigh impossible for a false pretender to try to live consistently for God's glory for the lost are naturally man pleasers and self-seekers. The lost pretender lives in the flesh and thus serves the flesh. This mark of man-pleasing and self-pleasing is a distinguishing factor of the false teacher (Rom 16:17-18; 2 Cor 11:12-15), which we can witness on every hand today among professing Christians including majority of “pastors.” (Is 56:10-11).
Not only do true believers "bring forth [good] fruit", but they do so "with patience.” (Lk. 8:15). Bringing forth fruit with patience in well-doing is a key ingredient in fruit bearing (Lk. 8:15) and is of course only a description of the saved, for patience is the fruit of hope (Rom. 8:25; 1 Th. 1:3) and it comes from the Word of God (Rom. 15:4) and through the Lord’s strength (Col. 1:11). It is produced by faithfulness in tribulation (Rom. 5:3; Jam. 1:3-4).
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Rom. 5:3-5)
The hope of salvation (Heb. 6:17-20) for the truly saved, in whom "tribulation worketh patience" and "maketh not ashamed" (like the stony soul), comes about "because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (v. 5). Even the very definition of "patience" reveals its character abiding only in true believers. Webster defines it as:
"The suffering of afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation or other evil, with a calm, unruffled temper; endurance without murmuring or fretfulness; the act or quality of waiting long for justice or expected good without discontent; perseverance; constancy in labor or exertion; the quality of bearing offences and injuries without anger or revenge." (Webster's 1828).
In conclusion, the importance of understanding this parable cannot not be overemphasized. In Mk. 4:13 Jesus said we will not be able to understand all other parables until we first understand the parable of the sower. That means all parables have a contextual foundation in the parable of the sower, and in the sowing of the Word of God. This parable is all about the evidence of salvation, and so all truly saved people will understand it.
I call it the parable of parables and it tests us as whether we are saved and understand the truth of God's Word, just like Jesus was testing His born again hearers on that day (Matt. 13:9-17). Later He asked "them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord." (Matt. 13:51).
Jesus in this parable mentioned three classes of unsaved people — those who carelessly let the Word of God pass by without concern and understanding, and the devil snatches it out of their heart; those who receive the Word gladly and make some claim as Christians but are never truly saved, having no root in themselves and thus no endurance in the Biblical things of God; and those who love the world, riches and the lusts of the flesh, producing no good fruit and only corrupt fruit. All remained carnal, worldly, selfish, self-dependent, faithless, non-evangelistic, false-worshipping, careless, cold, unspiritual and unfruitful. All equally are hypocrites, guilty of spiritual adultery (Rom. 7:1-6). All are equally condemned (Jn. 3:18) and under the wrath of God (Jn. 3:36; 1 Th. 1:9-10; 5:9). This parable indicates that the Saviour knew multitudes would claim to be saved, who actually were not. All three of the lost souls "eat of the fruit of their own way, and [are] filled with their own devices." (Pr. 1:31); not God's way nor filled with God's counsel. They claim salvation; they shall receive damnation. None fulfill the supernatural event of conversion, where blinded eyes are opened and are turned "from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in [Jesus Christ]” (Ac. 26:18), and that is because true conversion requires them to "repent and turn to God,” which then results in “works meet for repentance [fruits of repentance]." (Ac. 26:20).
All three of the first soils had some sort of "belief" but we know that some faith does not save (Jam. 2:14-26). They all “received” the Word in a non-saving way. There are numerous examples in the Bible of occasions of faith that fell short of conversion. Consider some examples:
Balaam (Num. 24) 'talked a good talk' and even prophesied great things (Num. 24:14-19; cf. Matt. 7:22-23), but he was in the business for money (2 Pet. 2:15; Ju. 1:11)—which motivates most, if not all, lost men—and he sold Israel out to her enemies (Num. 31:16). Balaam was a man whose eyes were opened (Num. 24:3), and yet with his eyes opened he went down to utter darkness, perishing with Israel's enemies (Num. 31:8; Jos. 13:22).
Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 apostles chosen by Christ (for the very purpose of betrayal: see Jn. 6:70-71; 13:10-11,18; Ps. 109:6-8) was certainly enlightened and tasted of the good Word of God. In fact, he lived with the Word of God for nearly three years. He tasted of “the powers of the world to come” (Heb. 6:5), because he was sent out by Christ with the other apostles (Matt. 10:1-4), preaching the gospel (Matt. 10:7), and even doing great miracles himself, such as "Heal[ing] the sick, cleans[ing] the lepers, rais[ing] the dead, [and] cast[ing] out devils" (Matt. 10:8). Though Judas was never saved, the other apostles did not doubt him. Even when Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray Him, they did not suspect Judas (Matt. 26:21-22, 25; Jn. 13:18). Yet he went "to his own place" (meaning hell), thus he was never saved (Ac. 1:25). Judas was a false professing hypocrite who lived a secret life as a thief (Jn. 12:6) and many other evils described in Ps. 109:6-19 (i.e. unmerciful, persecutor of the needy and poor, slayer, lover of cursing, etc).
Simon Magnus (Ac. 8:9-24) “believed . . . was baptized [and even] continued with Philip” (v.13) but he was definitely not saved because his "faith" was insincere, motivated by selfish greed and power (vv. 9-11,19). He expressed such faith that Philip took him to be a genuine Christian and baptized him and even had him join the ministry. But he was a wicked deceiver and had never believed to the saving of his soul but for the purpose of gaining miracle-working power (vv.18-23) as he once had possessed when he "bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:" (v. 9b). He had never repented (v. 22), which is the case of all false "believers", and had a wicked and unclean heart, even attempting to buy the Holy Spirit (a blasphemous act), and was under “the bond of iniquity” thus had never been forgiven of his sin (vv. 22-23). In v. 21 Peter said, “thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter [in salvation—see v. 20]: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.” (all false pretenders hearts are nor right before God, but not true believers). He had never been saved and was yet perishing like all unrepentant unbelievers to an eternity in hell (v. 20).
The Jews in Jn. 2:23, “believed in his name,” but it is obvious that they weren't saved, because “Jesus did not commit himself unto them” (Jn. 2:24). Their "faith" was spurious. They did not believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour from sin but as a worldly Messiah who would deliver them from their earthly enemies and prosper them materially. They were fleshly minded and fleshly driven (Rom. 8:1-9), just like the first three soils of our parable.
The Jews mentioned in Jn. 6:14-15, 26, 60-66, they professed to be "believers" and "[Christ'] disciples" (vv. 60-61) but became offended at His preaching (v. 61)—specifically the truth He preached in Jn. 6:26-58, 62—to whom Jesus plainly said "there are some of you that believe not" (v. 64), for He knows the hearts of all men; who truly believes and who doesn't (v. 64). Jesus then makes it clear that because they had false motives and false faith, they were not given to Him by the Father: "Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father." (v. 65). And like the stony souls who are offended at Christ' preaching, "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." (v. 66).
Those described in Matt. 7:21-23, they call upon the Lord, prophesy, cast out devils, and do many wonderful works, all in the name of Jesus Christ; but Jesus says, “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23). He does not say that He knew them at one time but they fell away; no, He never knew them at all at any point.
There are other examples that could be given such as the Jews in Ac. 21:20, and the Jews saved out of Egypt of which many were not true believers (see Heb. 3-4; Ju. 1:5; see also notes in beginning of this response), and the many people that saw the miracles of Jesus (Jn. 12:37). These are examples of what Jesus was teaching in the parable of the sower, that "many are called, but few are chosen. (Matt. 22:14). Me thinks some of them in their minds say what king Agrippa said to the apostle Paul after he had preached the gospel to him: "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Ac 26:28), even though they were pretending to be one. In some cases time reveals their unregenerate estate (1 Jn 2:19) but in many cases it does not this side of judgement (Matt 7:21-23).
While these examples above—like the wayside, stony and thorny souls—may have a smattering of Bible knowledge, they simply are not children of God. They might have knowledge but they don't know Jesus Christ on a personal level. They have never experienced the new birth (Jn 1:12). They have never been born of God; they were never Fathered by God. Peter tells us that the true child of God is a "partaker of the divine nature." (2 Pet. 1:4). Is one a child of God when he cares not for the things of our heavenly Father? One may claim to be saved but if he is like the worldlings always seeking their own interests and desires, their actions and desires reveal their true nature. Where there is no desire to meet regularly with and love the true regenerated people of God, no interest in reading and keeping His Word, no heartfelt communication through prayer and fellowship, it is difficult to believe that God's life indeed resides there. It “contradicts what we read in 2 Cor 5:17, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” One who knows anything about the suffering and death of Christ and His resurrection for our justification, cannot be indifferent to His voice and concerns. Jesus the Great Shepherd said, "My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me." (Jn. 10:27). He knows them and they know Him (Jn. 10:1-5, 27-29; Matt. 7:21, 23; Gal. 4:9). They follow Him.
Not everyone who claims to be a Christian and claims to believe the gospel has really been born again. If you cannot identify a point when you truly repented and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are lost. You can have no genuine assurance of salvation because you are still dead in your sins. You do not have the bedrock foundation of regeneration in Christ upon which to build the house of assurance. You are not certain to go to heaven, but certain of hell. In fact, to think that you are saved, when you're not, is one of the worst things that could happen to you. It is a tremendous barrier to your true conversion. Unless you recognize that you really are still lost, you can never genuinely come to Christ. Matt 7:21-23 records the case of some who thought they belonged to God, but found out on the day of judgment, when it was too late, that they did not. Jesus warned,
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
These people thought that they belonged to God—had they not done miracles? Had they not done many good works in the name of the Lord? However, they were condemned—they never had been born again! On the day of judgment, it is too late to recognize that you never were saved, and that your false assurance had no basis. Do not make this mistake and lose your soul! Furthermore, the Christian who is truly saved will be obedient to God. If we are saved, “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom 8:16), and a disobedient child of God will “grieve” and “quench” the Spirit (Eph 4:30; 1 Th 5:19) which is followed by God's chastisement (Heb. 12:5-11; Pr 3:11-12; 1 Cor 11:29-31).
Many people have some kind of “faith,” but not the "the faith of God" (e.g. Rom. 3:3; Gal. 2:16-20; Eph. 3:12; Phil. 3:9; Jn. 14:6; Mk. 1:14-15; Matt. 16:24-26; 18:3-14; 19:14-30) which is that faith described in the Scriptures that brings true salvation (e.g. Rom. 3:10-25; 6:23; Jn. 3:3-21; Ac. 3:19; 20:21; Mk. 1:15; Eph. 2:1-9). It is true repentant faith. They represent one of those three soils that are unsaved. People have many motives to claim "salvation" and "believe" with their lips but most hate the repentance that God demands in His Word (Lk. 13:3,5; Mk. 1:15; Ac. 20:21). Most are unwilling to turn from the sin in their life that they harbour and love. They won’t turn from the sin of self, or their possessions and money (which are idols) or from their families and friends (which is also idolatry). This is what Christ demanded when He preached His gospel message of repentance: Matt 4:17; 10:32-39; 16:24-26; Mk 8:34-38; Lk 9:23-26, 57-62; 14:15–15:32; 18:9-30; 19:1-10; Jn 12:24-26; etc. This was Judas' problem and many others in the Bible. This is a temporary spurious "faith" that has typically no issue with praying a prayer and professing with their mouth that they love "Jesus" and "believe" in "Jesus,” but what Jesus. The devils also "believe" (Jam. 2:19) and the Bible warns about “Believing in vain” (1 Cor. 15:2). The devils even “tremble” (which represents fear), and that is far more than the average "Christian" does! But the devils will never repent or believe in Jesus in a saving way. This type of "faith" is non-saving dead faith. Today's churches are full of such “believers.” Though they may have some superficial marks of true faith, the evidence of temporary dead faith will eventually appear (and often soon). They tend to lack the evidences of true saving faith, which include:
Immediate and dramatic life-changing conversion. In every case in the Bible where sinners were truly converted, there was a dramatic life-changing conversion experience as God demands (Jn. 3:3; Matt. 18:3). Some Bible examples include the woman at the well, the Prodigal Son, Zacchaeus, the 3000 on Pentecost, Paul, Cornelius, Lydia, the Philippian jailor, the Ethiopian eunuch, the demonic of the Gadarenes, etc. Salvation is not praying a sinner's prayer and receiving a ‘spiritual birth certificate’ or a ‘baptism certificate.’ It is a new birth experience where a dead sinner is given brand new life! If there is no true change, like the wayside, stony and thorny souls, which eventually reveals itself, there is no salvation. Isaiah warned of this: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Is. 8:20). That “testimony [which is] . . . according to [God’s] word” has “light” for its “a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17). Jesus said, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (Jn. 8:12).
Knowing the Lord personally, and the Lord personally knowing them. Many church people, like these first three soils and like Samuel (before his conversion) who knew about the Lord (1 Sam. 3:7), do not know the Lord in a personal way (Jn. 17:3; Matt. 11:28-30; Gal. 4:6; 1 Jn. 5:20). They know how to give the right answers and to act right when it is necessary, but the reality of the kind of supernatural salvation that we see in Scripture is foreign to their daily lives. Salvation is not reformation or a new religion; it is regeneration (Ti. 3:3-7). It is to know the Lord personally, to walk and talk with Him as Lord and Saviour and Father and Friend. It is to cry, "Abba, Father" from a converted heart. Jesus warned those who profess Him as Lord but aren’t known by Him: “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:21-23) and “I know you not” (Matt. 25:12). "For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous [the justified]: but the way of the ungodly shall perish." (Ps. 1:6). Salvation rests not in the fact that we “have known God”, but “rather [that we] are known of God" (Gal. 4:9).
A love for God's Word (2 Tim. 2:15; Jn. 8:47; Ps. 119:105). The saved person will have a new desire for and understanding of the Bible. He will absolutely love God’s Word. His once blinded eyes now see truth, and he has received understanding and wisdom. Attitude toward the Bible is one of the clearest evidences of one's spiritual condition.
A love of righteousness and hatred for unrighteousness (1 Jn. 2:3-5, 28-29; 3:21-24). The saved person will have a new love of righteousness. He still has a fallen nature and is still tempted to sin, but he wants to obey God. A love of righteousness doesn’t refer to some sort of sinless perfection of the Christian life. The born again child of God has new loves and new hates and a clear new direction. True believers unfortunately do not always grow at the same rate or bear the same amount of fruit (Matt. 13:23). But all do progress in loving holiness and hating sin (Ti 2:11-14), with increased conviction of and humility concerning personal sinfulness.
Looking for the return of Christ (1 Th. 1:9-10; 2 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 9:28). Not only is this earnest looking for his return a very important doctrine of God’s Word (Ac. 1:11) and a foundational principle of the doctrine of Christ (Heb. 6:1-2), it is an evidence of genuine faith and conversion (Heb. 9:28). Consider the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25:1-10). The five wise virgins had oil for their lamps and were prepared for the bridegroom's coming. The five foolish weren't prepared and the bridegroom said to them, "I know you not" (Matt. 25:12). Consider the Parable of the Servants (Lk. 12:35-48). Of the servant that didn't watch we read, "The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.” (Lk. 12:46). The return of Christ refers to His second coming towards the end of the seven year Great Tribulation. Even the saints in the first century, had this immediate mark of conversion. The Thessalonians “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (1 Th. 1:9-10).
Divine chastisement (Heb. 12:5-11; Pr. 3:11-12; 1 Cor. 11:31-32). The saved person can and does sin (1 Jn. 1:8–2:2), but he does not do so without compunction. He has an indwelling Divine Disciplinarian who does not let him get away with it! Sin can lead unto death for those who do not repent in response to God's discipline (1 Cor. 11:29-32). This nearly occurred to king David, but avoided it by repentance (2 Sam. 12:13); likewise the Corinthian believers (2 Cor. 2:1-5; 7:10). The chastisement is first of all from within (Eph. 4:30). The saved person will have a sensitivity to sin and a conviction about sin.
Love for true spiritual brethren. This includes desiring to be in a fellowship of true blood bought believers. "But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. . . . but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;" (1 Th. 4:9-10). "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also." (1 Jn. 4:20-21). "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments." (1 Jn. 5:2).
Continuing in the things of God (Jn. 8:31-32; Col. 1:2-6, 9-11). Continuing in obedience and trusting Christ, and in devotion to Him and His service, worshipping Him in spirit and in truth, following truth and not error, and trusting in His Word alone (which should be the King James Bible in English) is a sure mark of a true believer. "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." (Pr. 4:18). He always matures spiritually. Jn. 8:31-32 teaches that only those who having received a new nature by grace, continue to follow the Lord are truly converted. It doesn't make a distinction between some sort of “spiritual” Christian versus a “carnal Christian;” rather it distinguishes between the saved and the lost. Those who do not “continue in [God’s] word”, are not “disciples indeed” and thus do not “know the truth” and have never been “free[d]” from their sin (Jn. 8:31-36). All believers know the truth, and no unbelievers truly know the truth in a deep fashion (Jn. 1:17; 14:6, 17; 17:17, 19) nor can they rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15); and this knowledge leads to a changed life as its certain result: “Every one that is of the truth heareth [Christ’] voice,” (Jn. 18:37) and consequently becomes a true worshipper of God (Jn. 4:23-24), and follows Christ (Jn. 10:27), and “doeth truth . . . that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (Jn. 3:21). Furthermore, in the immediate context of Jn. 8:31-32 (namely v. 36), and everywhere else in the NT, being made “free” is an event that takes place at the moment of regeneration (Jn. 8:32, 36; Rom. 6:18, 22; 8:2, 21; Gal. 5:1). While there can certainly be false or unsaved disciples (Jn. 8:31; 6:66) just like there can be false believers (Jn. 2:23-25; cf. 3:1-21)—both mentioned above—every true believer is a true disciple, and every true disciple is a true believer.
There are many other evidences, but for brevity sake (though I have likely exhausted that by all appearances) I will leave it at this. John's epistles reveal much evidence of conversion. You can read about that here: Evidence of Salvation in John's Epistle’s.
So if they didn’t have saving faith, what is true faith then? We saw that it was evident by the good ground and is converted in the following Biblical way (described here very briefly):
We must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 3:15-16,18,36). If we don’t we will perish (Jn. 3:15-16). Each of these passages in John says “believe on the Son [the Lord Jesus Christ].” They don’t say ‘accept Jesus as your Savior’ or ‘ask Jesus into your heart.’ The Jesus of the Bible is the Jesus we must “believe on,” not “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4). The same goes for our faith; it must be according to the faith of the Bible, not “another gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4; cf. Gal. 1:6-9). True faith is repentant faith. The only way of salvation comes through faith in Christ. We must have a Scriptural understanding of “believing in Jesus Christ,” which is described succinctly in Rom. 10:9-10, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” If Jesus is Lord, then we’re not. He rose from the dead. How? He is God. He is the Messiah. Confessing Him as Lord is confessing that we are not Lord. This is part of the gospel. True faith is repentant faith.
We must repent of our sins. Jesus “died for our sins according to the scriptures” (2 Cor. 15:3-4). If we don’t repent we will perish. Jesus said, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” (Lk 13:1-5). Repentance is the product of plowing of the soil so it can become good ground for the seed to grow and become fruitful (Is. 28:24; 1 Cor. 9:10). God the Spirit convicts us of our sin (Jn. 16:7-11). To repent means to turn from our sin, from our self, from our stuff and from our people. These are idols. Unless we turn from our own way and sin and idolatry, relinquishing or submitting our will, and stop believing in anything else but Jesus Christ, we will perish. Repentance, a product of the gospel (Lk. 24:46-47; Ac 20:21, 24), is made clear in a number of passages of Scripture. 1 Th. 1:9 says, “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” The word “repent” doesn’t occur here, but “turn” is another word for “repentance” (and also frequently used as such in other scriptures: e.g. Ac. 3:19). We can’t serve the world or ourselves and God. No man can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). We can’t put Jesus on the shelf with all our other gods. That’s not believing in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way (Jn. 14:6), so we can’t go our way; we must turn from our way. Thus, we must both believe in Christ and repent of our sins, or we perish. This is the message of something that Jesus said repeatedly in the NT.
Turning from our sin and self and everything else to God (repentance) and believing on His Son (Mk. 1:15; Ac. 20:21) requires us losing our lives and surrendering to Him as Lord and King. One place the Lord Jesus used this oft repeated truth was Matt. 16:25-26: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” The word “life” is psuche, which is found in v. 26, but translated “soul.” A believer must offer His soul to God for saving. This is the idea of these two verses: “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Ps. 23:3) and “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul.” (Ps. 19:7a). Our soul is cleansed of sin when we give it to God in repentance and faith, that is, it is restored or converted. A person cannot keep his life (his soul) for himself and get to heaven. He must relinquish his life to the Lord. This is part of what it means to repent and truly believe.
Please read here further for information on:
True faith: Saving Faith versus Non-Saving Faith
A careful study of all three accounts of this parable (Matt. 13; Mk. 4; Lk. 8), comparing Scripture with Scripture, in light of what the rest of Scripture teaches about soteriology makes it very apparent that none of these were saved but the good ground alone. I mean very clear. To interpret this parable in any other fashion where some of the other soils were saved besides the good ground, gives allegiance to false doctrine that appeases false professions (such as “backsliding Christians” or “carnal Christianity” or “lukewarm Christian”). This parable also doesn’t teach the heresy of losing salvation, since Losing Salvation is a False Gospel Propagated by False Teachers. It also violates a few cardinal rules of interpretation of Scripture, namely, that Scripture must be interpreted in context and every single passage of Scripture must be interpreted in the light of the whole, "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15), comparing Scripture with Scripture. We must be as the Berean's who Paul commended for "receiv[ing] the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." (Ac. 17:11) — which they actually did with his very teachings. Paul says a wise man judges what he said (1 Cor 10:15).
Furthermore, misinterpretation of this parable reveals a lack of understanding which reveals a lack of good ground, which incidentally reveals an absence of true conversion. Mark's account, as noted in the beginning of this article, reflects this very truth:
“Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?” (Mk. 4:13)
To understand this parable, “ye must be born again.” (Jn 3:3-7).
What ground are you?