The parable of the sower, which is found in all three synoptic gospels, presents a basic teaching regarding the Word of God when it is sown in the lives of people. The interpreter who approaches this parable using a thorough and inductive analysis is able to conclude that there are four different outcomes that are possible when the Word of God is sown among mankind.
The interpretation is further enabled as a result of Christ’s explanation of the passage. In all three accounts, the disciples question Jesus about the nature of parables in general. It seems possible that this was one of the first parables Jesus may have taught, considering the nature of the disciples’ question and the concurrent response offered by their Master. Jesus’ answer prompts him to explain the parable of the sower. As a result, the interpretation is best left to that recorded in Scripture (Matt 13:18–23; Mark 4:13–20; Luke 8:11–15).
An examination of these references above reveals that the first three groups are obviously not saved people. Likewise, the last group leaves no doubt concerning their condition. But some argue, “We don’t know the true condition of a person’s heart; that is for God to judge.” To that thesis, we pose the answer that Christ himself gave us: “You will know them by their fruit.” In contrast to the last group, notice the characteristics of the third group: they are unfruitful, full of worries, seduced by wealth, desire other things, and long for pleasure. Luke specifically says they, “produce no mature fruit” (v. 14). In contrast, those who are described as “good” produce fruit. This parable begs the question:
“Which crop is useful to the sower?” Only the last.
Paul describes two classes of people in his letter to the Galatians: those who live by the flesh (who will not inherit the Kingdom of God) and those who live by the Spirit (who will, we infer, inherit the Kingdom of God). Paul says, “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar, about which I tell you in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5: 19–21). Likewise, he states, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit (Gal 5:22–25).
The point of the parable is to reveal the results of the sown Word upon the hearts of mankind offering to us an understanding, albeit incomplete, of the mystery of God’s providence and eternal election. Some will not hear because it has not been given to them, and in the end they are held accountable for their sins—they did not persevere into the full realization of the hope of the gospel, showing they were never truly of Him. As John says, “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us” (1 John 2:19).