Home > Theology > “Spiritual abortion”? Another look at the Parable of the Sower and the Seed

“Spiritual abortion”? Another look at the Parable of the Sower and the Seed

I always have a number of topics floating around for my next post, but I felt like I had to address this further. This is an extension of my recent “Are very few ‘Christians’ actually saved?” post.

It amazes me that so many of us can fail to see plain spiritual truth, even when we’ve read certain passages countless times before. I’ve probably read this particular parable 10+ times before, but only recently did it become clear (spiritual blindness is a crazy thing). Jesus can give us such an important parable, and even take the time to explain it himself, and yet we never think to learn what it means. God must be facepalming up there in heaven, wondering how much he has to beat us over the head before we’ll finally listen! “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 13:9). Indeed!


Let’s take another look at the parable. I’m taking this one from Matthew, though you can find it in two of the other gospels as well.

Matthew 13:3–8: 3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 And others fell on the good soil and *yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

Then Jesus thought it was important enough to explain it himself. Here’s his explanation (emphasis added by me), this time from Luke:

Luke 8:11–15: “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God12 Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved13 Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away14 The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity15 But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”

Let’s break it down one by one, each type of person (“soil”):

1) “Beside the road” (hard): This first type of person is clearly referring to nonbelievers, and they are not saved. They may have heard something about the word of God, but they didn’t believe it and never professed faith. They immediately rejected it.

This includes atheists and people of other religions.

2) “Rocky places” (shallow): This type of person is someone who immediately received the word with joy, and they even believed for a while, but then they fell away. Many people believe this refers to a false conversion, perhaps fueled by emotions or some hasty, shallow acceptance of the gospel. These former believers did not consider the price to be paid, such as repentance (perhaps the “root”) and giving up one’s supreme position in life. People say salvation is “free,” but it’s kind of a yes-and-no situation. It’s supposed to cost us something, and these people in rocky soil did not position themselves to bear the fruit of salvation. The end result is the same as the person who immediately rejected the word…there is no longer any seed, and no fruit or life can sprout from it.

This probably includes former believers or people who no longer live out their faith at all. These people may or may not specify themselves as “Christian” on surveys and such.

3) “Among the thorns” (impure): These people are similar to the “rocky” ones above, though these people most likely consider themselves to currently be believers. The thorns represent the world’s influence. The Bible mentions on multiple occasions that you cannot serve both the world and God, that you cannot have two masters. The thorns in this situation are the world’s way of choking out faith, whether it’s through sexual temptation or other vices. The clearest example of these “thorns”—as mentioned here and in other parts (like the parable of the rich man in Luke 16:19–31)—is greed. Money in itself is not a bad thing, but it’s the love of money and wealth that supersedes God’s rightful place in our hearts. Unfortunately, the people who fall to the allure of this world will “bring no fruit to maturity.” The end result is the same as the nonbeliever and the “rocky” person.

This includes nominal Christians, churchgoers who display little difference from the world, and people who treat Christianity as a kind of accessory in their lives, but mainly live for the world.

4) “Good soil” (fertile): This is the true believer, a fertile soil for the seeds to take root and bear much fruit. This type of person represents the only scenario where the word of God is not wiped away.

This includes Christians who genuinely strive to please God and grow increasingly sensitive to sin.

Now, scenarios #1 and 4 seem extremely clear and obvious. But what about #2 and 3? Are these people really lost, or could they be saved but simply backsliding and not bearing fruit? To answer this question, let’s refer to other verses that clear up the issue.

Matthew 7:15–20: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire20So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

It’s clear from these verses that a lack of good fruit is a serious issue. It’s not a minor point. In fact, verse 19 couldn’t make it any clearer. If a person is not bearing good fruit, like the “among the thorns” people above, then I find it hard to believe they are saved.

Another place that shines light on this issue is Hebrews 6:7, 8:

7 For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

No good fruit means a person is a bad tree (or ground). If a person is a bad tree, they are cut down and thrown into the fire for destruction. It’s simple logic.

What about the “rocky places” person? Well, contrary to the fertile soil that persevered, this type of person has fallen away. And Hebrews 6 teaches us that the true test of a Christian is not how one starts the journey, but how he/she finishes it.

Furthermore, John 15:6 says: “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

Simply put, if a person falls away from the faith, that person was never on the “good soil” to begin with.

I’ll let gotquestions summarize for me:

To summarize the point of the Parable of the Sower: “A man’s reception of God’s Word is determined by the condition of his heart.” A secondary lesson would be “Salvation is more than a superficial, albeit joyful, hearing of the gospel. Someone who is truly saved will go on to prove it.” May our faith and our lives exemplify the “good soil” in the Parable of the Sower.

Keep in mind…

Matthew 7:13, 14: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

For further reading on this topic, these two places are a good start:

“Spiritual abortion”: http://www.preachitteachit.org/articles-blogs/ask-roger/post/archive/2011/february/article/spiritual-abortion/


Also, check out this video sermon by Lon Solomon: (2010) http://mcleanbible.org/media_player.asp?type=large&messageID=56902


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