God’s Kingdom Program and the Parable of the Sower
A month ago I finished listening to Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s bible study titled “The Life of Messiah from a Jewish Perspective.” It is an excellent study which I am seriously considering repeating every year.
I now have been presented with an opportunity to use some of that new knowledge of the Gospels. About a week ago I sent an e-mail to Dr. Robert Luginbill who runs the ICHTHYS web site. Dr. Luginbill also studied under R.B. Thieme, Jr. many years ago but has developed differing views on certain topics. The one that has really caught my attention is that Dr. Luginbill rejects the doctrine of eternal security (see The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security) and I was curious as to why. So I wrote him and we began trading e-mails on the subject. Early on in our conversation he brought up the Parable of the Sower and his position that it supports his belief that when faith is lost so is salvation. Here is a quote from his website:
The “rocky ground” person hears the gospel message and actually does believe in Christ, but this “faith” of his is only transitory. As a result, though his faith “plant” springs up quickly as he receives “with joy” the message of deliverance from sin, and the promise of eternal life through faith in Christ, this temporary faith is quickly scorched and withered by the burning sun. Jesus explains the sun in the parable as the persecution and trouble that inevitably befall every believer. The “rocky ground” person has not “counted the cost” of discipleship (Lk.14:28ff.), so that when his faith meets serious opposition, it dies.
In the case of the “hard ground” person, faith could not even take root. The “rocky ground” person, on the other hand, has roots, but his “roots” (or degree of commitment to his new faith) are insufficiently deep. This is because there is no “depth of soil”. Faith takes root in his heart, but before it can grow, it runs into an impenetrable barrier of rock. You cannot say “this far but no farther” to God. You cannot give Jesus Christ a partial commitment. Believers are left in the devil’s world after salvation for the express reason of being tested to demonstrate that their faith is genuine. No partial commitment, no faith that holds God at arms length can possibly survive the scorching heat of the day.
So I will now provide a summary of Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s study of the following passages which include the Parable of the Sower:
It was not that long ago that I listened to these lessons and I never got even a hint that my salvation could be lost. What better time than now to review this and see if Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s teaching is convincing.
Why use Parables?
Christ began using parables at this time because the Jews as a nation had rejected Him that very day.
10And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
This was the first time Jesus had done this and He gives three reasons for it:
- “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”
The first reason was to illustrate the truth to the disciples.
- “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.”
The second reason was to hide the truth from the masses who had just rejected Him.
- “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias [Isaiah], which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”
The third reason was to fulfill old testament prophecy from Isaiah 6:9-10.
Definition of a Parable
A parable is a figure of speech which tries to teach a moral or spiritual truth taken out of everyday life and experience. A parable is therefore based on reality. Parables are in contrast to allegory which is not based on reality.
The New Testament contains four different types of parables:
- Simile which uses the words “as” or “like.”
- Metaphor which is like a simile but without the use of the words “as” or “like.” For example, when Christ said “I am the door” this was a metaphor since He did not actually turn into a door.
- Similitude is a transference from common knowledge based on what people actually do.
- A story type parable transfers truth from a specific incident based on something that really happened.
The point of these parables is to explain the course of God’s kingdom program of which there are five facets (see below).
The terms “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven” are synonyms. Some people have tried to say that these terms are different but we can see from the three parallel passages (Matthew 13, Luke 8, Mark 4) that both phrases were used for the same thing. The reason that Matthew used the term “Kingdom of Heaven” was that his Gospel was to the Jews who had (and still do have) an aversion to using the word God.
The Five Facets of God’s Kingdom Program
- The Universal Kingdom or Eternal Kingdom describes God’s sovereign rule over His creation. I Chronicles 29:11-2, Psalm 10:16, Psalm 74:12, Psalm 29:10, Psalm 90:1-6, Psalm 83:11-15, Psalm 103:19-22, Psalm 145, Proverbs 21:11, Jeremiah 10:18, Lamentations 5:19, Daniel 4:17, 25, 32, Daniel 6:27, Acts 17:24
- The Spiritual Kingdom which deals with the rule of God in the heart of every believer. The Spiritual Kingdom is composed of all believers who have experienced the new birth at all times by virtue of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Between Pentecost and the rapture of the Church the Spiritual Kingdom and the Church are synonyms. Matthew 6:33, Matthew 19:16, 23-24, John 3:3-5, Acts 8:12, Acts 14:22, Acts 19:8, Acts 20:25, Acts 28:23, Galatians 5:21, Ephesians 5:5, Colossians 1:13, Colossians 4:11, 1 Thessalonians 2:12, 2 Thessalonians 1:15, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Corinthians 4:20
- The Theocratic Kingdom which is God’s rule over Israel and was established by Moses with the Mosaic Law being its constitution. This kingdom had two forms:a) The mediatorial form which began with Moses and lasted until Samual who was the last judge.b) The monarchical form which included Saul and the rule of the house of David. This kingdom came to an end in 586 B.C. with the fall of the southern kingdom of Judah. At this time the time of the gentiles began.
- The Messianic Kingdom or Millenial Kingdom when Christ will rule. This kingdom is based on the Davidic Covenant. The following versus are ones involving the Millenial Kingdom and the Davidic Covenant, there are more verses regarding just the Millenial Kingdom than these. Psalm 2, Psalm 72, Isaiah 6:6-7, Isaiah 11:1-16, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Jeremiah 32:14-17, Ezekiel 34:23, Ezekiel 37:24, Hosea 3:4-5, Micah 4:6-8, Micah 5:2, Malachi 3:1-4This is the kingdom proclaimed by John the Baptist and Jesus as being at hand. The offer was rejected by Israel and was rescinded. The offer of the kingdom will be made again at the end of the Tribulation at which time Israel will accept the offer.
- Because of the rejection of the Millenial Kingdom by Israel a new kingdom is introduced in this passage (Matthew 13, Luke 8, Mark 4) which is the Mystery Kingdom. The Mystery Kingdom is called a mystery because it had not been revealed in the Old Testament not because it in unfathomable.For anyone who is interested, here is a link to Strong’s for the word mystery (Greek mystērion, Strong’s G3466) which includes a list of New Testament passages which use it.
And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
The parables are describing the nature of the Mystery Kingdom.
The Parable of the Sower
The first parable is interpreted by Christ Himself. This is because all of the following parables are interpreted by this one.
And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?
- The Mystery Kingdom is characterized by the sowing of the Gospel seed.
- Within the Mystery Kingdom age there will be different preparations of the soil.
- The age will be marked by opposition from the world, the flesh, and the Devil.
- The age is marked by four different responses to the word:
a) The seed that falls by the wayside: this is the response of unbelief.
b) The rocky places response: seed that falls in the rocky places are those who actually believe. However they are never rooted in the Word and they never mature in the faith.
Dr. Fruchtenbaum didn’t go into this in detail but I would like to point out that all three passages say that the sprouts withered not died. I have seen plants that withered and died but I have also seen plants that have withered but not died. In order to clarify this I looked the word for wither up in Strong’s Concordance. The word in Koine Greek is xērainō (see Strong’s G3583) and has the following definition:
1) to make dry, dry up, wither
2) to become dry, to be dry, be withered
** a) of plants
**b) of the ripening of crops
**c) of fluids
**d) of the members of the body
3) to waste away, pine away, i.e. a withered hand
I don’t see where this word for wither is a synonym for die. If one of the authors of these Gospel passages had written that the sprouts withered and died then there would be no debate but none of them wrote that.
c) The thorny ground response: These also believe and take root so they might have excellent knowledge of scripture. Here the problem is not knowledge (as in 4 b) but applying the knowledge to everyday living.
d) The good ground response: Excellent knowledge of scripture and the ability to apply it.
A major point in all of this is what does the soil represent? We know that the seed represents the Gospel but the meaning of the soil seems to be a major issue. Dr. Fruchtenbaum interprets the soil as scripture (bible doctrine). In context of God’s Kingdom Program, as Dr. Fruchtenbaum outlined it, this is reasonable but if that is the case it is not consistent with the loss of salvation view. Can a person lose salvation because they don’t know enough scripture? This leads down the path of that person having had a “false faith” or “false assurance.” No one has ever been able to convince me that there is more than one kind of faith.
At this point Dr. Fruchtenbaum goes on to interpret the remaining parables in this passage. While it is an interesting dissertation it is really beyond what I wanted to write about today.
UPDATE: Bobby Grow posted an article today titled “Peter’s Denial and Jesus’ Love” which discusses assurance of salvation. At the beginning of his post he makes a point of God’s faithfulness to Israel in spite of their unfaithfulness and how the same logic applies to us as individuals. I have come to the same conclusion as Bobby and would recommend going over to Bobby’s blog and reading the whole thing.