Sow What?

© 2001, Steve Bydeley

What makes a heart to be good soil? I am not sure we really understand the parable of the sower and the soil of Matthew 13:

Lo, the sower went forth to sow, and in his sowing, some indeed fell by the way, and the fowls did come and devour them, and others fell upon the rocky places, where they had not much earth, and immediately they sprang forth, through not having depth of earth, and the sun having risen they were scorched, and through not having root, they withered, and others fell upon the thorns, and the thorns did come up and choke them, and others fell upon the good ground, and were giving fruit, some indeed a hundredfold, and some sixty, and some thirty. (Matt 13:3-8 Young's Literal Translation)1

Here is Jesus' explanation of that parable:

"Ye, therefore, hear ye the simile of the sower: Every one hearing the word of the reign, and not understanding -- the evil one doth come, and doth catch that which hath been sown in his heart; this is that sown by the way. And that sown on the rocky places, this is he who is hearing the word, and immediately with joy is receiving it, and he hath not root in himself, but is temporary, and persecution or tribulation having happened because of the word, immediately he is stumbled. And that sown toward the thorns, this is he who is hearing the word, and the anxiety of this age, and the deceitfulness of the riches, do choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And that sown on the good ground: this is he who is hearing the word, and is understanding, who indeed doth bear fruit, and doth make, some indeed a hundredfold, and some sixty, and some thirty." (Matt 13:19-23 Young's Literal Translation)1

We have chosen to use Young's Literal Translation because of its accuracy in this parable. In his explanation Jesus describes "that which hath been sown" as the "word of the reign", or "word of the kingdom" in other translations. The word "seed" is not used in the original Greek text at all.

Matthew 13 contains seven parables about the kingdom of heaven. The next parable tells of the wheat and the tares, and does mention "seed" (sperma) as being the sons of the kingdom (the good seed - wheat) and the sons of the evil one (bad seed - tares). There are birds (the evil ones) nesting in the branches. There are good fish (the righteous) and bad fish (the wicked).

Luke and Mark use a different word sporos translated "seed" in their parable of the sower and the soil which means "a sowing". It is important that the symbols and their meanings not be confused.

In this first parable, Jesus is presenting a simile, a comparison, between sowing and the kingdom of heaven. The various soil conditions he illustrates exist in this field (the world, v 38). Some of the soil (the heart, v19) is prepared to hear the word of the kingdom, understand it, and from it bear fruit; some is not. When referring to the "word" of the kingdom Jesus uses logos, one of the Greek expressions for "word". The other common Greek expression for word is rhema. They carry some interesting differences. The following are definitions taken from the Liddell-Scott Lexicon for these words:

logos: the word or that by which the inward thought is expressed, and, (B) the inward thought itself2

rhema: that which is said or spoken, a word2

Logos is a word rich with meaning. The apostle John uses logos to describe Jesus in the opening verses of his gospel:

In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God And the Word [logos] became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1,14)

Logos is not just a spoken word [rhema], it is the expression of thought, the inward thought itself. Logos is also used in describing some of the gifts of the Spirit:

For to one is given the word [logos] of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word [logos] of knowledge according to the same Spirit (1 Cor 12:8 Greek added)

In this verse logos is used for "word", both times, as an expression of a special endowment given to one baptized into the Holy Spirit. It is as though that person is given a thought from the mind of God when necessary.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia has this to say about logos:

Logos signifies in classical Greek both "reason" and "word". Though in Biblical Greek the term is mostly employed in the sense of "word", we cannot properly dissociate the two significations. Every word implies a thought. It is impossible to imagine a time when God was without thought. Hence, thought must be eternal as the Deity. The translation "thought" is probably the best equivalent for the Greek term, since it denotes, on the one hand, the faculty of reason, or the thought inwardly conceived in the mind; and, on the other hand, the thought outwardly expressed through the vehicle of language. The two ideas, thought and speech, are indubitably blended in the term logos; and in every employment of the word, in philosophy and Scripture, both notions of thought and its outward expression are intimately connected.3

Are we too quick to say this parable describes what happens when we preach the gospel to unsaved people in various stages of preparation? Can this parable mean more than that? When we preach, does our message touch the mind, or the heart? The meaning of this parable hinges on the meaning of the logos of heaven and the location of the soil. In this parable Jesus does not identify the sower; however, in the next parable (the wheat and tares) the sower is identified as the Son of Man - Jesus. All the people, the soil types, receive the word of the kingdom in their heart from the Son of Man. One soil, the roadside, does not understand the word and the birds come to pick it out of their heart. The good soil - the prepared soil - understands the logos, t takes root, and is able to produce fruit.

That good soil was prepared to receive that which was sown. Can we understand the "logos of the Kingdom" to be the thoughts of the Son of Man expressed to our hearts also through dreams? Or does is it limited to the spiritual gifts - a logos of knowledge and wisdom? If this is a possibility, then we have a responsibility to do all we can to ensure that our soil, our hearts, are prepared to receive the logos - the expressed thoughts - of the Kingdom enabling us to bear fruit. There is also a responsibility to train and equip the body of Christ in the understanding of dreams. To do otherwise would be to choke what is sown and prevent growth.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)

"Approved" means: assayed, examined, tested, properly of metals.4

The parable of the sower and the soil teaches us the importance of soil prepared to receive that which was sown. That soil, our hearts, needs to be ready to receive by being soft and open, thus ensuring that when we receive the "logos of the Kingdom" we will know how to rightly respond and so bear much fruit.


1 YLT - The English Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible 1862/1887/1898 (YLT) by J. N. Young, ASCII version. Copyright (c) 1988-1997 by the Online Bible Foundation and Woodside Fellowship of Ontario, Canada. Licensed from the Institute for Creation Research. Used by permission
2 The Abridged Liddell-Scott Greek-English Lexicon. In the public domain
3 James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1939 (in the public domain)
4 The Abridged Liddell-Scott Greek-English Lexicon. In the public domain

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