FAX - Parable of the Sower

Question- > > In Mark 4, in the Parable of the 4 soils, are only  the seeds planted in the good soil saved? Or, are the ones in the rocky soil and/or with the thorns saved as well but not fruitful?


The passage reads:

Hearken; Behold there went out a sower to sow.

And it came to pass, as he sowed; some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

And some fell on stony ground; where it had not much earth, and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.

And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.

And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.

And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Mark 4: 3-9


I have heard this passage preached as applying to the church. While I would agree that the passage does apply to people within the church, it only applies to people who are part of the true church in the last example. The parable examples being four in number coincide to the number of the world. It seems clear that this passage should be considered as applying to all mankind. The intent of God has always been that His message in every dispensation was to all men. However, it is only in this final dispensation has it generally been recognized that God calls all men to repentance and faith toward God.

The Parable of the Sower, found in the fourth chapter of Mark, is a statement about the response of men in the world to the Gospel message. It does not matter if that Gospel message is couched in terms of the Kingdom as when the Lord Jesus Christ preached, or whether it is presented to the hearer in terms of the Gospel of the Salvation of our Lord's grace. (It is this latter Gospel that all His disciples have preached since His victory over sin and the grave.) All men are called to repentance and faith.

            In the Parable of the Sower you have four categories of hearer presented:

1.      You have the hearer on the wayside. He hears, but the fowls of the air, representing demonic influence, come out and devour the word.

2.      You have the hearer characterized as stony ground. This is a hearer that responds to the good things of the message, and may continue a way. This person does not endure when things get tough.

3.      You have the hearer that lives among the thorns, which is a type for the principles of the world. It is cares for the things of the world that keeps them from going all the way with Christ.

4.      It is the last type of earth in which the seed is sown that is characteristic of the true believer. The passage points out a great Gospel truth. The true believer yields fruit. Some may yield more than others, but every true believer will have the fruit of the Gospel evident in their life.

I think when you look at the first three of the examples in the parable, you have examples of the principles of influence found under the topics of the world; the flesh; and the devil actually presented in reverse order to the way we usually list them.


            Understanding of this parable is more readily apparent in some of its parts to those familiar with farming and gardening than to those who are not. The person who understands nature more quickly understands what our Lord is teaching as a matter of course than those who are not observant. Thomas Taylor commenting on the Parable of the Sower in 1634 said, "Earthly things must remind us of heavenly. We must translate the book of nature into the book of grace." In this way he illustrate how our Lord taught from common and everyday things divine truths. This fact is one more facet of the truth the God does indeed reveal Himself in His creation, and on a multitude of levels.           


            In the first example, the wayside, you do not have land that has been prepared for sowing. In the area of a field, a wayside is set aside for people and equipment to pass. It is not prepared for sowing, neither is it deliberately sown. When the broadcast method of scattering seed is used,[1] more seed will fall by the wayside than with other methods. But every system of seeding has the potential for occasionally losing seed by the wayside. In the parable of the sower what is clear is that you have an area where the Holy Spirit has not worked His influence to prepare the person for the hearing of the Gospel. Whether this is the case because it is not yet the right time or because the individual is so far gone into the world of demonic influence could be determined by individual circumstance.

            In the situation of the stony ground, you have the principle of the flesh at work. It is not that the land has not been cultivated but it is full of stones. Stony ground under fortuitous circumstance might have sufficient moisture to promote germination, but the stony nature keeps the root from taking hold. In my lifetime I have seen, among others, a number of movie stars and musicians make a profession of faith in Christ. Their colleagues while quite tolerant of professed faith in other religions or superficial professions of Christianity became very intolerant when the grace of Christ sought to have any influence upon either their lifestyle or their work. After a while, these people disavowed their professions and returned to their old ways of living. It is obvious that somehow they should be treated as special. Both God and man should consider them in a unique way. They were not willing to accept the fact that though salvation is free, faith in Christ puts a person in opposition to the world. They have not gone all the way in salvation because they have retained lordship over their lives and do not desire to know Him, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.

            The seed that fell among thorns and was choked, represents the cares of the world. Our Lord expressed it in particularly citing "the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in," (4:19). In the divine explanation we have an unstated distinction in people. Some people are being choked by the cares of the world because of what they put value on, yet they manage to have some fruitfulness in their lives. It is hard to get to because of the things they have of interest that is overly important to them. I can illustrate this from watching cows grazing in a pasture. Often a cow will spot grass that is appealing growing amidst thorns that have sprouted up in the field. But the cow can have little of it for the thorns that will get into its soft parts around the mouth and nose. Getting rid of a lot of the thorns you find in pastures requires that you do not simply mow them or pull them. You must dig them up. You must not simply lay them on the ground for the sun to dry out either. They are likely to re-root themselves or get caught on the animals legs making sores. The thorns representing the things of the world must be taken from the field and burned. So the believer hindered by the cares of the world must deal with their thorns. If they do not, they demonstrate they have become only religious minded and have not gone all the way unto salvation.


It is clear from the Parable of the Sower that it is possible for a person to have some response to the Gospel message without ever having gone all the way unto salvation. The often disconcerting message of Hebrews 6, which deals with falling away, is perfectly supported by our Lord's exposition of His own parable.

The final evidence of what kind of plant any kind is, whether it be tree or mere grass, is the yield it produces. The kind of yield is testimony to the plant. You know it by its fruit.



[1] Seed is scattered in a wide arc out upon the ground and the soil is pulled back over it. In a small area this might be done by taking seed in hand and swinging the arm as seed is released. We also have various types of machines to help us scatter more efficiently in this method. The homeowner might have used this method to scatter grass seed.

            Jonsquill Ministries

P. O. Box 752

Buchanan, Georgia 30113