THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER*
Edited from writings by
ARLEN L. CHITWOOD
[* Note. (1) The author is using the K.J.V. (1611) translation and the American Standard Version. (2) These writings are taken from the author’s book, Mysteries of the Kingdom; and are edited. (3) The reader is advised to compare what is written here with the author’s original writing.]
The importance of Matthew, chapter thirteen has been recognized by students of Scripture over the years:-
"... from the standpoint of prophecy, the most important chapter of all the New Testament" - Arthur W. Pink.
"If this one chapter could be rightly understood by the professing Church, the consequences would be the most far-reaching" -Arno C. Gaebelein.
"If one has a conversant knowledge of Matthew, chapter thirteen, he will be fairly conversant with the remainder of Scripture. This chapter is fundamental and primary because it is a chronological development of Christendom from the time of our Lord’s first advent until His return" - A. Edwin Wilson.
The word "parable" is a transliteration of the compound Greek word parabole, which means to "cast alongside." Used in this sense, a parable is one truth cast alongside a previous truth to help explain the previous truth. For those who had rejected the previous truth, the parable would hold little meaning. But for those who had accepted the previous truth, the parable would cast additional light upon truth already given. Note the question of the disciples in verse 10 and the statement of Jesus in verses 11-17.
"When anyone heareth the word [or 'the message,' N.I.V.] of the kingdom ..." (Matt. 13: 19a).
Matthew, chapter thirteen has to do with the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens. It is not the word of salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus which is in view, but, rather, the word of the kingdom. Fruitbearing (verses 22, 23) is associated with the message of the kingdom, not the message of salvation by grace through faith.
There is one gospel but several facets of this gospel. The word "gospel" means "good news," and within the good news message, there is (1) good news concerning the eternal salvation which we presently possess; and (2) the good news message concerning the outcome of our faith – “the salvation of the soul” (1 Pet. 1: 9): a future salvation yet to be revealed. Various descriptions of the one gospel are differentiated in Scripture through the use of four titles: "the gospel of grace," "the gospel of glory," "the gospel of the kingdom," and "the everlasting gospel."
1. The Gospel of Grace.
Key verses for this gospel are Rom. 1: 16 and Eph. 2: 8, 9. This is the good news that "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Cor. 15: 3, 4). This is a message for the unsaved alone. This ‘gospel’ was once described as ‘just the simple gospel’
Romans 1: 16 reveals that this gospel is
"the power of God unto salvation to everyone that
believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." God
requires shed blood to atone for sin. God’s Son paid the price on
Man can add nothing to what God’s Son has already paid in full. This is the reason we read in Eph. 2: 8, 9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
eternal salvation is free for fallen man only because Someone
paid the price - a price which God required, and a price which fallen man
could not pay. Your eternal salvation and my eternal salvation cost
plenty. This salvation cost the
death of God "as Son" on
A present tragedy in Christian circles is the light regard many hold for the eternal salvation which we possess merely because it didn’t cost us anything. The tragedy for those in the world is the fact that God "as Son" has already paid the full price for their salvation, and this salvation is being spurned.
2. The Gospel of Glory.
Key verses for this gospel are 2 Cor. 4: 3, 4 and 1 Tim. 1: 11. This is the good news concerning the coming glory of Christ which will be revealed in the age to come. This good news message is for those only, who have received eternal salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The Words "glorious gospel" in 2 Cor. 4: 4; 1 Tim. 1: 11 (A.V.) is misleading, and should be translated "gospel of glory." (R.V.).
gospel does one find the heirship,
and the unsearchable riches of
Christ. The salvation which we presently possess [eternal salvation] is not an inherited salvation. Nor
does the gospel of grace involve the unsearchable riches of Christ, but,
rather, the shame, suffering, and humiliation of
God has visited the "Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name" (Acts 15: 14), and the mystery concerns the fact that God has accorded to these Gentiles (now Christians) the same privilege He accorded to believing Jews - to participate in the Son’s inheritance as joint-heirs with the Son in the coming kingdom when His glory is revealed for the entire universe to behold.
During this time – during this evil age - the Holy Spirit is calling out* a bride to rule the earth with the Son. As the first Adam had a bride (taken from part of his body) to rule as consort queen with him, so will the Last Adam take those “accounted worthy” to rule with Him in the “age” to come, (Luke 20: 35).
[i.e., out of the ‘body’ the ‘Church’.]
The "word [or ‘message’] of the kingdom" centres around Christian’s qualifying to occupy positions as joint-heirs with Christ in the future kingdom of the heavens. Why are you here? What is the purpose of your initial salvation? What lies out ahead? The "word of the kingdom" answers these questions.
Kingdom and Church.
We’re living in a day when the teachings of men are rapidly supplanting the Word of God. Nowhere is it more evident than in the realm of Biblical prophecy. The Church has been associated with the kingdom to such an extent than many times one is thought of as a synonym for the other. Through this one error alone confusion reigns supreme in the minds of many Christians, and, consequently, the entire future program of God as set forth in His Word remains sealed to those same Christians. Christ said, "I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16: 18), but He has gone away to receive the kingdom. Christians are spoken of as heirs of the kingdom (1 Cor. 6: 9, 10; Gal. 5: 21; James 2: 5), but never as heirs of the Church. Christ is the Head of the Church, but King of the kingdom (Col. 1: 18; Matt. 2: 2; 27: 37; Rev. 19: 16).
And he spake many things to them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower [Lit. the Sower] went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some ... (Matt. 13: 3, 4a).
Matthew, chapter thirteen is a chronological development of Christendom from the time of our Lord’s first advent until the time of His return. There is nothing in this chapter which occurs following His second advent.
The 2,000-year history of the Church is set forth in Matt. 13 (note also Rev. chs.2. & 3). One age is in view - (vv. 39, 40, 49; the word "world" should be translated "age" in each verse). The sowing commences at the beginning of the age (first and second parables) and continues throughout this evil age. Parables three through six describe events and conditions which persist throughout this age, and the seventh parable (parable of the dragnet) describes events at the end of this age. Once the good seed are placed in the field, once the tares are placed in the field, once the birds of the air lodge in the branches of the great tree, once the woman inserts leaven into the meal, these conditions persist from that point until the end of this age. Thus, the good seed and the tares continue in the field together during the time other revealed events in the chapter occur. Changes will be wrought only through the personal intervention of the Lord Himself at the end of this evil age.
In the Greek text there is a definite article before the word "Sower" (verse 3). This is a particular Sower, and He is defined in verse 37 as "the Son of Man," the Lord Jesus Christ. Although verse 37 is a part of the Lord’s explanation of the second parable - the parable of the tares of the field - the first parable must be understood in the light of this explanation, for all seven parables constitute one connected discourse. The One sowing the good seed in the second parable and the Sower in the first parable are the same person. Also, that which is sown by the Sower is the same in both parables. One parable will cast light upon and help explain the other.
In the first parable, unlike the second, the words "seeds" are in italics, indicating that it is not in the Greek text. Deleting this word will provide the correct translation: "And when he sowed, some fell by the wayside." The translation in verses 5, 7, 8 are correct: "Some fell"; "other fell." A corrected translation of portions of the explanation in verses 18-23 will reveal what is being sown. Verse 19 explains verse 4; verses 20, 21 explain verses 5, 6; verse 22 explains verse 7; verse 23 explains verse 8. In each of these explanations the words "he that received seed" should be translated "he that was sown" (ref. ASV). In each instance it is individuals who are sown, and they are identified in verses 24 and 38 as "sons of the kingdom" (the word "children" in verse 38 should be translated "sons").
The parable of the Sower has to do with the Lord Jesus Christ sowing sons with a view to their bringing forth fruit for the kingdom. The individuals placed out in the world are already saved, and, thus, eternal salvation is not the issue in this parable. The parable of the Sower concerns itself with either barrenness or fruitbearing on the part of saved individuals which the Lord Jesus Christ places in the world during the present evil age. There are four categories among those sown (vv. 4-8), and every regenerate believer will fit into one of these four.
1. ONES SOWN BY THE WAYSIDE.
“And when he sowed, some fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up” (verse 4).
“When anyone heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the evil one, and snatcheth away that which hath been sown in his heart. This is he that was sown by the wayside” (verse 19, ASV).
We are rapidly moving toward an era in which the Lord Jesus Christ will establish a kingdom and rule from the heavens over and upon this earth. Christians are presently in a school, as it were, preparing for that coming kingdom. One of the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens is that God has chosen to extend to regenerate believers an opportunity qualify for entrance, and a place of sovereignty in His millennial kingdom.
The time in which we presently live, anticipating the coming era, is an age in which Satan is still on the throne. And he is busy today blinding the minds of Christians relative to "the gospel of the glory of Christ" - "the word [or ‘message’] of the kingdom" (2 Cor. 4: 3, 4, ASV. See Gk. text). Exactly how well he is succeeding is evident on every hand.* One need only look around and observe his fellow- Christians’ interest in or knowledge of "the word of the kingdom."
[* This can be seen by the virtual silence amongst Christians regarding Christ’s millennial reign - the time when His glory will be manifested on this earth, (Psa. 85: 9, 10) "Wait for the Lord, and keep his way, And he shall exalt thee TO INHERIT THE LAND: When the wicket are cut off, thou shalt see it," (Psa. 37: 34, R,V,). Keep in mind: Satan’s mouthpieces are often found to be amongst the regenerate.]
The ones sown by the wayside in the parable of the Sower possibly depict the largest group of Christians in the world today. Their attitude toward the word is either one of rejection, disinterest, or little or no understanding. Some hear, but their interest lies elsewhere; others hear, but do not perceive. Satan catches away the word of the kingdom which was sown in their hearts. They, thus, bear no fruit for the kingdom. They are of no particular value to the kingdom, and miss the very purpose of their calling. Satan ultimately has the victory in their lives.
2. ONES SOWN UPON STONY PLACES
“Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprang up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away” (vv. 5, 6).
“And he that was sown upon the rocky places, this is he that heareth the word, and straightway with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while; and when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, sataightway he stumbleth” (vv. 20, 21, ASV).
The person sown upon the rocky places depicts individuals not grounded in the Word of God ("hath he not root"). This failure to be properly grounded in the Word results in tragic consequences. God has placed pastor-teachers in the Church to lead Christians into a mature knowledge of the Word of God (Eph. 4: 11-14). We are presently engaged in a warfare (Eph. 6: 11- 17); we are presently enrolled in a race (1 Cor. 9: 24-27). The task of the pastor-teacher is to provide instructions from the Word of God to those placed under his care in order that they might be able to properly clothe themselves for the warfare and properly equip themselves for the race. There is no such thing as a spiritually blinded Christian being successful in either the warfare or the race.
Paul’s great desire on behalf of those whom he ministered is given in Col. 1: 25-29. Paul warned every man in all wisdom in order that he might present every man "perfect" (mature) in Christ Jesus (verse 28). Paul did not want to appear in the presence of Christ with even one spiritually immature Christian among those who had been entrusted to his care.
in verse 26 that Paul’s teaching ministry
centered around "the
mystery." This was the revelation given to Paul by the Lord
Jesus Christ on the
Paul’s teaching ministry centered around the coming inheritance of the saints. He taught every man and warned* every man concerning what lay out ahead. He didn’t want one single regenerate individual under his ministry to appear in the presence of Christ ignorant of these things.
[* Gal. 5: 21; Eph. 5: 5.]
This is in sharp contrast to most of the preaching today. Most of the present preaching centres around the Church, and the reason for this is easy to explain. The Church out in the world today, by large, has degenerated to the point where it is built around men with their goals, aims, plans, ambitions, methods, schemes, etc. When men talk about the Church today, they are talking about themselves; they are talking about what they have done, are doing, and are going to do. Men, with their fallen, depraved natures, would much rather talk about what they have done, are doing, and are going to do than talk about what the Lord has done, is doing, and is going to do.
The Church is neither the goal nor the end toward which God is moving. The Church is merely a means to this end. The goal toward which all things have been moving since the time preceding the creation of Adam is the kingdom. The Church was called into existence for a definite and specific purpose pertaining to the kingdom, and the Church will ultimately fulfill this purpose. Any true preaching concerning the Church will always have this end in view and will magnify the kingdom and the Lord (future), not the Church and man (present).
Over the years the teaching ministry in the majority of churches today are filled with spiritually immature Christians - babes in Christ. Christians in these churches have simply not been taught the Word of God and the end result: a generation of Biblically illiterate Christians.
A spokesman for the largest protestant denomination in existence today recently called attention to this very thing. But efforts to ratify the situation today have gone in the opposite direction. Churches, in increasing numbers, continue to pour hundreds of thousands of pounds into gigantic recreation centres for their members - especially the young people. True, they are providing a ministry, but it is the same ministry which the world provides. They have gone "in the way of Cain" (Jude 11); they have gone in the direction of ministering to the man of flesh rather than the man of Spirit. This will serve only to foster a further degeneracy in spirituality.
Crowns will be given to those ministers of the Word who heed the clear command: "Feed the flock of God which is among you" (1 Peter 5: 1-4). No crowns are provided for all those other activities engaged in by Christians who have supplanted this command.
Note what the text in Matt. 13 reveals happens to Christians sown in stony places who hear the word of the kingdom. Unlike the Christians sown by the wayside, they take an interest in the word of the kingdom and "with joy receive it" (verse 20). But, when tribulation or persecution arises, "because of the word" (the word [or, ‘message,’ as in the NIV] of the kingdom), they are "offended" (verse 21). They have not been sufficiently grounded in the Word to ignore what men have to say when they ridicule or belittle this message.
Such tribulation or persecution invariable comes from other Christians, from those who have little or no appreciation for the word of the kingdom, not from those in the world who know nothing about the Word of God. What usually happens is that some program man or denominational leader comes along and begins belittling a Christian’s belief in the word of the kingdom through various means - "You shouldn’t talk about those things." "Let’s concern ourselves with the program, the Church,” “It’s dangerous to use that word ‘millennial.’” “Why don’t you go and talk to the unconverted? etc." - and a Christian not sufficiently grounded in the Word may simple quit. Such a Christian consequently bears no fruit for the kingdom and is of no particular value to the kingdom - simply because he was not taught the Word of God.
3. ONES SOWN AMONG THORNS
“And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up, and choked them” (verse 7).
“And he that was sown among the thorns, this is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world [Gk., aion, ‘age’] and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful”
(verse 22, ASV).
The Care of This Age
One’s care concerning the present age, the day of man, as opposed to one’s care concerning the coming age, the day of the Lord, will invariably determine that individual’s attitude toward and care for the return of our Lord with all kindred events. The present age is an age of darkness. Corruption, disease, and death permeate the things associated with this age. The coming age is an age of light. Incorruption, healing, and life permeate the things associated with that age.
The word of God commands us, "Be not conformed to this world [Gk., aion, ‘age’]: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom. 12: 2). In this verse there is a negative command followed by a positive command: "Be not conformed to this age: but be ye transformed ..."
Be Not Conformed
The Greek word "conformed" is sunchematizo. This is a compound word with the preposition sun (with) prefixed to the verb form of the word schema (outline, diagram). The English word "scheme" is a transliterated form of the Greek word schema. The word has to do with a schematic outline. The thought inherent in this compound Greek word is not to outline or diagram your life in accordance with the present age.
It is not becoming any Christian to involve himself with the affairs of this present age. During the present day and time the Christian is to occupy the same place which Christ presently occupies relative to this world. Christ has been rejected by the world, and is in a place removed from the world. The Christian is to share this rejection by and separation from the world with Christ. It is not possible for a Christian to involve himself with the affairs of this present age and at the same time share Christ’s rejection by and separation from the world.
Be Ye Transformed
Following the command, "Be not conformed to this age," the Christian is commanded to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind." The Greek word translated "transformed" is metamorphoo. This is the word from which the English word "metamorphosis" is derived. This word refers to an inward change brought about completely apart from the power of the individual himself. The individual Christian is powerless to bring about this metamorphosis.
In 2 Cor. 11: 14 Satan is said to be "transformed into an angel of light." In the Greek text the word "transformed" is not the same in Rom. 12: 2 (referring to the Christian) as it is in 2 Cor. 11: 14 (referring to Satan). The Greek word used in 2 Cor. 11: 14 is metaschematizo. This word refers to an outward change brought about through one’s own power. Satan, thus, seeks to counterfeit the work of the Spirit by substituting an outward change in place of the inward change. And the nature and source of this pseudo change often goes unrecognized.
Christians who seek to bring about the change of Rom. 12: 2 themselves will always effect a metaschema (outward change) rather than a metamorphosis (inward change). At the time of the birth from above (John 3: 3) the Spirit of God began a work IN the Christian which He will continue "until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1: 6). No effect on the part of Christians can help the Spirit of God effect this change.
Man’s way finds man actively involved through either quitting certain things or doing certain things, subsequently producing a metaschema. But God’s way finds man passive, and God performs a work in the individual, ultimately producing the metamorphosis. The endless list of do’s, do not’s, and taboo’s formed by Christian groups have to do with a metaschema, not a metamorphosis. Any effect on the part of Christians to help the Spirit of God bring about the transformation of Rom. 12: 2 will always result in pseudo-spirituality. God’s way is an inward change wrought through the power of the Spirit, not an outward change wrought through the power of the individual.
The Renewing of Your Mind
Note according to the text how this inward change takes place: "be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." The renewing of the mind is the manner in which the metamorphosis takes place. The word "renewing" is a translation of the Greek word anakainosis, and the action of the preceding verb ("transformed") directs attention to a renewing process which is to keep on taking place. In 2 Cor. 4: 16 we are told that "the inward man is renewed [lit. ‘is being renewed’] day by day". This renewing process is to keep on taking place day in and day out for the entire duration of the Christian’s life here on earth.
In Col. 3: 10 we are told how the renewing of the mind is accomplished: "And have put on the new man, which is renewed [lit. ‘is being renewed’] in knowledge after the image of him that created him." Note the word "knowledge" in this verse. The regular word for knowledge in the Greek text is gnosis. The word used in Col. 3: 10 is epignosis. This is the word gnosis (knowledge) with the prefix epi (upon). Epignosis, thus, means "knowledge upon knowledge," i.e., "mature knowledge." The word translated "renewed" is a past particle of anakainoo (the same word used in Rom. 12: 2 and 2 Cor. 4: 16) and could be better translated "being renewed." The only place a Christian can acquire this mature knowledge, which allows the Spirit of God to work the metamorphosis in his life, is in the Word of God. The Spirit of God will not act apart from the Word of God.
A Christian conforming his life to the pattern of the present age, rather than allowing the Spirit of God to work the metamorphosis in his life, cannot bear fruit for the kingdom. The Word of God states unequivocally that the care of this age will choke the word of the kingdom and cause the Christian to become unfruitful. One of Satan’s great aims is to integrate and amalgamate the Church with the world to such an extent during the present age that Christians cannot bear fruit.
The Deceitfulness of Riches
The other thing in our text which will choke the word of the kingdom is the "deceitfulness of riches." There’s nothing wrong with monetary gain or material wealth. The problem lies in where these things often lead. Scripture states that the "love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Tim. 6: 10, ASV). Note that it is the "love of money," not money itself.
The love of material wealth is what stood in the path of the rich, young ruler’s bringing forth fruit for the kingdom. This man approached Jesus wanting to know what he must do to have life in the coming age, which is equivalent to asking what he must do to occupy a position of power and authority with Christ in the [millennial] kingdom. Jesus told this man exactly what he must do - "Go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me" (Matt. 19: 21). ut the rich, young ruler "went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions" (verse. This man allowed his material wealth to stand in the way of his bringing forth fruit for the kingdom. “How hard it is or those who are rich,” said Jesus, “to enter the Kingdom”.
Under the preaching of the gospel of grace, Christians are not commanded to go and sell all that they have and give to the poor. But Christians are exhorted to do good with their riches. They are to be ready and willing to distribute and to communicate to those who have need. They are to do this in order that "they may lay hold on eternal life [lit. ‘life for the age’]" (1 Tim. 6: 17-19). The acquisition of material wealth and not knowing how to handle it has stood, is standing, and will stand in the path of many Christians’ bringing forth fruit for the kingdom. This subject is not open to question. The Word of God states unequivocally that the deceitfulness of riches will choke the word of the kingdom and cause the individual to become unfruitful.
4. ONES SOWN INTO GOOD GROUND
“But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirty” (verse 8).
“And he that was sown into the good ground, this is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; who verily beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundred, some sixty, some thirty”
(verse 23. ASV).
Only one of the four classes of the sons of the kingdom placed out in the world bore fruit. Numerous things, listed in the text, prevent Christians from bearing fruit. And among those who do bear fruit, there are varying degrees of fruitfulness. This is in keeping with the other parables of our Lord, such as the parable of the talents (Matt. 25: 14-30), and the parable of the pounds (Luke 19: 11-27).
There will be numerous positions of power and authority with our Lord in the kingdom. Fruit-bearing during the present age and positions which Christians will occupy during the coming age are directly related, one to the other. An unfruitful Christian will occupy no position; a Christian bringing forth little fruit will occupy a low position; a Christian bringing forth much fruit will occupy a high position.
A Christian brings glory to the Father by bearing much fruit. A Christian is to abide in Christ, and the Words of Christ are to abide in him in order that he might be fruitful. A Christian who abides in Christ and bears fruit is likened to a branch abiding in the vine, which Christ continues to purge (Gk. kathairo, cleanse). That is, an obedient Christian who abides in Christ and the Words of Christ abide in him will bring forth fruit, and Christ continuously cuts away the dross (cleanses) in order that the Christian might produce more fruit (John 15: 1-8).
Some Christians allow Christ to cut away the dross - things in our lives which hinder fruitbearing - and, consequently, they bear much fruit. Other Christians refuse to allow Christ to cut away the dross, the fruit-bearing process is subsequently choked by the dross, and the individuals become unfruitful.
The parable of the Sower is a parable of fruit-bearing on the part of Christians which ultimately rebounds to the glory of God the Father.
"Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower..."