Q. I have some questions about the Parable of the Sower. Your comments are greatly appreciated.
A. The inquirer put a lot of thought into this parable and asked multiple questions touching on many theological issues. I will therefore answer them in several installments. Here’s part 1:
1) If the parable is about the gospel and hence salvation, it would seem to mean that real saving faith is not determined at the moment of confessing faith, since temptations (v.13), worries (v.14) and perseverance (v.15) happen later on in life.
The parable itself is in Lk 8:5-8, which narrates a typical agricultural scene about a farmer sowing his seeds. When Jesus’ disciples questioned Him what it meant (v 9), He said it is about the mysteries of the kingdom of God (v 10). So the subject is kingdom of God, which encompasses the gospel and salvation, but involves more than both. Broadly speaking, the kingdom of God is God’s reign over His entire creation. More narrowly defined, it is God’s rule over the hearts of His subjects.
You are right in observing that temptations, worries and perseverance happen later on in life. But real saving faith is a “both-and“, not an “either/or”. It starts at the moment of confessing genuine faith, and is a process that continues and “endures to the end”:
- Mt 24:13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
- Mk 13:13 You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
The fact that it starts upon confession of genuine faith is observed elsewhere, e.g.:
- Lk 19:9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.
- Lk 23:43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
The Lord did not tell Zaccheus or the thief on the cross to wait and see whether they would persevere; He told them “today”.
2) In that case when people accept the gospel verbally, why do we congratulate them with Jn 1:12; 6:47 and declare that they are now born-again babies?
For Jesus it’s not a problem because He knew men’s thoughts and what’s in their hearts:
- Mt 9:4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts …
- Lk 9:47 But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, …
- Jn 2:25 … for He Himself knew what was in man.
But while God knows and the people themselves may know:
- 1 Jn 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
we’re human and don’t really know men’s hearts:
- Jer 17:9 The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
So we’re jumping the gun a bit when we congratulate them, as we really don’t know for sure that their faith is genuine. We compensate by asking clarification and diagnostic questions, as done in Evangelism Explosion, for example. By observing all the “signs” we can have a certain degree of confidence, but never 100% sure.
(To be continued)