Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Part 1 - The Parable of the Sower : Three Hearts Believed Though All Did Not Reach Maturity, So Says our Lord

At dispute here is the Calvinist doctrine of “Perseverance”. Calvinism teaches that perseverance is the necessity that if one is saved they will persist in fruit bearing during their life as a believer. In other words, they reject the view that one can be saved and either not bear fruit or bear fruit in some fashion that is too limited for evidence of their salvation.

So this brings us to the parable in Luke 8:4-15:

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
“‘though seeing, they may not see;
    though hearing, they may not understand.’[a]
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

The most critical observation is understanding that two categories of response to the gospel are presented in the parable. Verse 5 has one category where the seed did not spring up and verses 6-8 have another category in the parable of three that did spring up. All three in the second category are treated as coming to life through springing up (which is exactly what springing up is, coming to life). Their processes of growth after they have come to life is what distinguishes between the three as opposed to distinguishing the three that came to life from the one that never came to life but was devoured.

Let's take a careful look at the passage to see what I am talking about:

1. Did not come to life.
5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.
11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
12 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 (pisteuo) and be saved.

2. Came to life, "SPRUNG UP" but did not progress beyond infancy.
6 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up (phuo), it withered away, because it lacked moisture.
13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe (pisteuo), and in time of temptation fall away.

3. Came to life, "SPRANG UP" came to life but did not grow beyond adolescence and bore no mature fruit (fruit to perfection).
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up (sumphuo) up with it, and choked it.
14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.

4. Came to life, "SPRANG UP". Mature believer.
8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up (phuo), and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
15 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.

The word believe used in case #1 is pisteuo and is clearly talking about faith in the gospel which results in salvation. But that never happens in case #1. We know this because in vs 12 our Lord says that the devil took the word from their heart lest they believe and be saved.

But as we look further at the parable we then see (#2) the one that withered, (#3) the one that was choked, (#4) and the one that bore fruit are treated as springing up (that is coming to life). Case #1, the one that had the seed removed, is the only one that is treated as having never come to life (lest they believe and be saved).

So if the 2nd one "SPRUNG UP" and the 3rd and 4th ones "SPRANG UP", you have a problem claiming any one of these did not come to life (which is of course only possible by means of believing the gospel or receiving the seed as the analogy presents which is what brings life) when they are all three treated identically regarding their coming to life and only the 1st is treated otherwise.

1. Never came to life-Did not believe and be saved.
2. SPRUNG UP (phuo)-Came to life but did not progress beyond spiritual infancy.
3. SPRANG UP (sumphuo)-Compound word means the same as the root word phuo but to come up together with something else (as the text noted it came up with the thorns). Came to life but did not progress beyond spiritual adolescence (immature fruit).
4. SPRANG UP (phuo)-Came to life and bore mature fruit. 

Let's Consider

Now, let me ask those of you who might be squirming in your seats because you have been taught otherwise and are convinced that it is impossible for the 2nd and 3rd persons in our Lord's parable to have been saved. Do you really believe that our Lord would go to the lengths he did to specifically point out that the 1st person did not believe and therefore was not saved and yet neglect to inform you of the true spiritual condition of the next two? Is this what you really believe?

Because this is what is implied with the assertion that the 2nd and 3rd persons were not really saved. Our Lord made it clear to us that the first person was not saved because he did not receive the seed (that is believe and as a result be saved) but somehow neglected to tell us that the other two were not saved (though just like the last they received the seed and came to life, that is believed and were saved) after being quite specific with the first? Really?

As well, one must believe that as Christ treats persons 2-4 identically as receiving the word (the seed) and coming to life (being born again/regenerated) we are now to find encoded in this language an antithetical intent by our Lord that the 2nd and 3rd persons were not really saved after all. Is this genuinely the position you want to find yourself in as you attempt to explain this passage as only the last person being saved?

What About "Believe for a while but in time of temptation fall away"?

While for some this phrase in the English conjures up appeals to perseverance what we must ask is not to what thought or doctrine in some system can we connect it and thereby interpret it via eisegesis (reading a meaning into a text) but what it really means in context. So let's look.

The word for believe is a present tense verb which means to keep on believing. It represents the continued exercise of one's faith not simply towards the gospel but toward all of God's Word.  In other words it refers to the post-salvational way of life for the Christian which is to continue past their reception of the gospel and move toward learning and applying sound doctrine. 

This person is said to, in fact, do this. So for a while (albeit not a very long while) they continue in their walk of faith. But at some point the pressure of the world, in their mind, becomes too much and in this season of pressure they wither, draw back or fall away. The unnecessary confusion comes mostly with this expression, fall away. Many import the idea that this must refer to falling away from their salvation or potential salvation. No! This simply refers to their falling away from continued growth or continued reception of sound doctrine which is the context of the statement. One cannot grow spiritually in any capacity if they are not alive spiritually and to claim that this person both came to life and grew even a little bit it but was not really alive at all is simply an outrageous claim against the context.

*Now the condition of the hearts of all four of these people in the parable is very relevant and must also be addressed.  This particular issue, which is possibly most significant once one gets passed the erring interpretations and understands the context, will be covered in Part 2.


It is clear that some believers do not grow beyond spiritual infancy or adolescence. One cannot spring up and be characterized as coming to life and then somehow not have really come to life. These contradictions aren’t only unreasonable but defy truthfulness.

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