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Parable of the Soils

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“Whatever God says, I’ll believe; whatever He commands, I’ll do!”- Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23

Introduction:  During a spring trip a man’s family was driving from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa, Florida. As far as the eye could see, orange trees were loaded with fruit. When they stopped for breakfast, the father ordered orange juice with his eggs.  “I'm sorry,” the waitress said. “I can't bring you orange juice. Our machine is broken.”

At first the man was dumbfounded. They were surrounded by millions of oranges, and he knew they had oranges in the kitchen--orange slices garnished the plates. What was the problem?  No juice?  Hardly. They were surrounded by thousands of gallons of juice. The problem was the restaurant employees had become dependent upon a machine to get it.

Christians are sometimes like that. We may be surrounded by Bibles in our homes, but if something should happen to the Sunday morning preaching service, we’d have to admit that we might not have nourishment for our souls. The problem is not a lack of spiritual food (we’ve just had a week of evangelistic meetings)-- the problem is that many Christians haven't grown enough to know how to get it for themselves or even properly respond to what they do hear in church.

Adapted from Leroy Eims in The Lost Art of Disciple Making. Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 3.

The ideal for all believers here this morning is total responsiveness to the Word of God.  “Whatever God says, I’ll believe; whatever He commands, I’ll do!”  Response is not automatic or passive.  Response is not the responsibility of pastors or parents or anyone else.  Response is up to you!  Simply put, Matthew 13 teaches by way of contrasting outcomes in the Parable of the Soils.  There are four RESPONSES here which stress the importance of TRULY HEARING AND DOING the Word of God.  “Whatever God says, I’ll believe; whatever He commands, I’ll do!” 


Scripture:  “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.” (Matthew 13:19, NKJV)

Explanation:  Matthew 13.4 states that “some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.”  The wayside is a path that becomes so hard because of constant foot traffic between fields.  It’s more or less a walk way and is never broken up or tilled.  Seed just cannot penetrate soil such as this.  The seed which remains on the surface of this type of soil is basically bird food. 

Of course, the wayside soil represents people who hear the Word of God but don’t understand it.  The devil or ‘wicked one’ comes as a bird to snatch it away.  Interestingly, the devil is called by a different name in the Synoptics:

1.       Matthew 13.19 - the wicked one; stressing the evil character of the enemy

2.       Mark 14.15 - Satan; significant because it means adversary or oppose; stressing the devil’s role as the rebel against God and His children

3.       Luke 8.12 - the devil; emphasizing his role as slanderer

Satan opposes the delivery of God’s Word at every turn.  He does not want man to understand the true character of God and the Gospel.  He wants them to reject the truth. 

Note how the Bible is termed in Matthew 13.19:  It is the Word of the Kingdom.  God desires that all humanity repent and enter His kingdom through the preaching of His Word.  The devil knows this so he “snatches” the Word away when it is not understood.  This verb ‘snatch’ is the same word used for the catching away of believers in 1 Thessalonians 4.  The Word is snatched from the wayside hearts of men. 


·         If we live ungodly lives, people will fail to see the benefit of knowing God through the work and person of Jesus Christ.

·         We must do our part in order to prevent this snatching away of God’s Word from the hearts of men. 

·         We must do our part in making sure that we understand clearly and communicate clearly the Word of God.

·          “Whatever God says, I’ll believe; whatever He commands, I’ll do!”

Transition:  The wayside soil is indicative of the heart that fails to understand God’s Word.  Now note a second response in verses 20-21 of Matthew 13…


Scripture:  “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” (Matthew 13:20-21)

Explanation:  Palestine has a problem that we can fully understand.  Beneath the topsoil of our property here, there is clay material that is very difficult to work with.  The soil in Israel has places where limestone resides just a few inches below the surface.  Shallow soil prevents plants from rooting deeply and drawing up the water needed to thrive.  The sun comes along and dries up moisture in the shallow soil and the plant withers and dies. 

This soil represents a person who hears the Word of God and immediately receives it with joy, but he does not allow it to sink deep within his thoughts.  True repentance and faith are lacking in this person’s life.  What makes it difficult is the apparent sincerity of this person’s profession - remember the words ‘with joy’.  However, when the profession is tested with tribulation or persecution, the person stumbles.  He won’t hold to the truths of God’s Word; he won’t continue to fellowship with other believers. 

The tribulation and persecution arises because of the word and the person stumbles or falls away.  It doesn’t seem to be a person who knows Jesus at all.  People who stop fellowshipping with other believers are not believers.  John put it this way:  “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” (1 John 2:19)


·         Consider decisions you’ve made for the Lord in your life very carefully - especially when it comes to salvation. 

·         When we make quick professions because of peer pressure, familial pressure, or emotionally charged presentations, we are in danger of not really thinking through matters - staying shallow. 

·         Make up your minds to stay with your profession for the Lord.  If you fall away because of ridicule or the waning of the initial excitement when you made your profession for Christ, you have no ground for your assurance.

·         “Whatever God says, I’ll believe; whatever He commands, I’ll do!”

Transition:  Failing to understand and internalize God’s Word is represented by wayside and shallow soil - dangerous ground indeed.  Now note the third response in Matthew 13.22…


Scripture:  “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22)

Explanation:  What makes the person under discussion in this verse unfruitful?  It is the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.  The cares of this life become an impediment to a fruitful Christian walk.  Worry and anxiety are in view when we read cares in verse 22.  The deceitfulness of riches becomes an impediment to a fruitful Christian walk.  Materialism truly is a killer in America.  Media constantly beckons us to buy the latest clothing, won the best car, or have plenty of cash to squander it away on the ‘good’ life. 

This person hears the Word of God and knows what it teaches.  He receives it!  Often, we come to church and hear the Bible taught.  We must be ever vigilant about the thorny impediments of anxiety and materialism.  Our response to God’s Word may be halted because of them!  God also has a way of eliminating them when we don’t!


·         One thing we must do is stay away from the powerful influence of others’ opinions.  Often their patterns, habits, clothing, and success/failure at pursing the American dream deeply affects us.  Our preoccupation must be with our relationship to Christ and then we will have right relationships with others.

·         We have strong desires.  We build careers, develop skills, and know well the achievements of others.  We need to spend time desiring the Word of God and living for Christ!  This ought to be the most powerful pull in our lives.

·         We need to build a grid of priority in our lives.  Fun, recreation, and work are not among the important factors of building right priorities.  Learning about the Lord and reaching spiritual goals bring eternal rewards!

·         “Whatever God says, I’ll believe; whatever He commands, I’ll do!”

Transition:  This message on response has been one of failure up to this point:  Failure to (1) understand (2) internalize and (3) fruitfully receive God’s Word.  Finally, this morning, we should look at a positive response in Matthew 13.23…


Scripture:  “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:23)

Explanation:  Through temptation, pressure, sickness, and persecution, the Christian with a good heart believes and obeys the Word of God.  He is a work in progress.  His character is being transformed into the likeness of our Savior.  People under his influence are changed.  Some Christians with good ground in the inner man are productive (thirtyfold), others are very productive (sixtyfold), and still others are extremely productive (hundredfold). 

What will determine the degree of your productivity for Christ?  It will depend upon your response to God’s Word.  Will you endure?  Will you do what God wants you to do no matter the cost?  God affords grace that is new every day.  Without it, we simply will not succeed.  The prospect of hundredfold Christianity ought to serve as a powerful motive to depend upon the Lord daily for the quiet strength and determination that we need.  This is the secret to a useful and productive life.


·         We all have the same opportunity before us today.  How will we respond to God’s Word?

·         “Whatever God says, I’ll believe; whatever He commands, I’ll do!”

Conclusion:  D. L. Moody once said, “I prayed for Faith, and thought that some day Faith would come down and strike me like lightening. But Faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, ‘Now Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.’ I had closed my Bible, and prayed for Faith. I now opened my Bible, and began to study, and Faith has been growing ever since.”

Dwight L. Moody, Leadership, Vol. 10, no. 4.

This morning, let us determine to live by the motto taught in this parable:  “Whatever God says, I’ll believe; whatever He commands, I’ll do!”

Hymn - 178 The Bible Stands

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