Matthew 13:23 – As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Mark 4:20 – But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
Luke 8:15 – As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
To the best of our knowledge Jesus only told the Parable of the Sower once. All three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) record the telling of this parable as well as its explanation. The fascinating thing about this is the differences we find between the accounts. Why are these differences present if each account is true and each one is telling about the same event? The answer is not a difficult one. None of the writers includes everything that Jesus said and each writer emphasized a different aspect of what He did say that fits in with what he wanted us to know about Jesus’ life and ministry. Now let’s consider the differences that we see in the closing remarks of this parable.
1) Matthew says that the seed on the good soil is the person who hears, understands, and bears fruit.
2) Mark says that the seed on the good soil is the person who hears, accepts, and bears fruit.
3) Luke says that the seed on the good soil is the person who hears, holds fast in an honest and good heart, and bears fruit.
The consistent thing among them is that the person hears and bears fruit. What is different is their response to the Word. Did they hear and understand (Matthew),hear and accept(Mark), or hear and hold fast to (Luke)? Answer? “Yes”. The person who understands the Gospel but does not accept it is lost. The person who accepts what he hears but does not really understand it is not accepting the real thing. And those who accept it and understand it but do not hold on to it have not really come to faith at all. Those who hear the Gospel need to understand what they hear and accept it as it is and embrace it and persevere in it. If any one of these elements is missing there is no true conversion to Christ.
This tells us something very important regarding how we give the Gospel. We need to explain it understandably. Do the people we explain the Gospel to have any questions about what we said? Do they understand the essential elements of the Gospel? This means that we better know the Gospel ourselves. It also means that some people will need time to absorb and consider the claims of the Gospel. We shouldn’t rush people. We cannot force a commitment to Jesus Christ.
When Jesus says in Mark that people “accept”, He is not talking about the concept of “accepting Jesus into our hearts”that we so often talk about. The seed is the Word and what the person accepts is the word’s testimony about him, his sin, Jesus and His need for Him. He accepts its claims upon his life. He agrees with everything that the Gospel tells him. When we give the Gospel let us make sure that people not only understand the facts of the Gospel but also agree that it is true and right and is talking about them and their need and Christ’s ability and willingness to save them.
And let us not neglect to tell them that those who truly receive Christ will never give up. He who endures to the end, and no one else, will be saved.
Note that in each account of the Sower, each of the Gospel authors says that the seed on the good soil “bears fruit”. There simply is no such thing as a heaven bound believer in Jesus Christ who does not bear fruit for God. Jesus is very loving in this. He points out that some will bear less than others. But He is firm in stating that fruit will be borne. He does not say what the fruit is, just that it will be there. This takes our minds to John 15:1-11 and Galatians 5:22-23. But we can’t go there now.
We finish with this – Know the Gospel, accept the claims of the Gospel and persevere in the Gospel. There is no real faith in Christ without those basics.