Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sunday's Sermon Outline

Introduction: Is a seed alive or dead? The answer depends on the dormancy period of the particular seed. If a seed does not germinate during its allotted dormancy (life) period, then it will die and will not germinate under any conditions. Some maple species have seeds that only stay alive for two weeks before they die. In contrast, some lotus species have seeds that will stay alive (yet dormant) for thousands of years. Even though a seed is dormant and appears dead, it will germinate under the right conditions. Those conditions may involve heat, light, and/or water. Inside the seed is a live plant embryo that includes a “pre-root” and a “pre-stem.” The “pre-root” emerges first during germination, and from it comes the primary root. Jesus compared the seed to the word of God in the parable of the sower and the soils. In this parable, the constants are the sower and the seed, and the variable is the soil. This parable is found in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8.

1. The Wayside (Hardened Path) – In this soil there is no germination. This person does not understand the gospel (Matthew 13:19). In context of this chapter, the understanding refers to spiritual comprehension rather than intellectual comprehension (Matthew 13:13, 15). The proper conditions for germination are absent. This non-Christian hears the gospel but is not placed under the special conviction of the Holy Spirit.

2. The Rocky Soil – In this soil the seed apparently germinates, but no primary root develops: “He has no root in himself” (Matthew 13:21, NKJV), and there is a lack of soil (Matthew 13:5) and moisture (Luke 8:6). These non-Christians “believe for a while” (Luke 8:13), but this belief is mere intellectual assent, not saving faith. An example of this type of person was Simon Magus who believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13), but was later found to be a non-Christian. Simon Peter said that Simon Magus needed to repent so that “perhaps” he might be forgiven (Acts 8:22). Simon Peter also said that Simon Magus was “bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:23), but Christians have been freed from sin’s slavery (Romans 6:18) although sin still influences them. These non-Christians are described in 1 John 2:19: “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.” These people are quickly revealed to be non-Christians when “trouble or persecution arises because of the word” (Matthew 13:21).

3. The Thorny Soil – In this soil the seed apparently germinates and grows into what seems to be a mature plant, but these people “bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14). Jesus had earlier said, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:19-20). All Christians bring good fruit to maturity. The non-Christians represented by the thorny soil slowly are revealed to be what they are as “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word” (Matthew 13:22). As is the case with the rocky soil, 1 John 2:19 can be applied to the thorny soil. The non-Christians represented by the rocky soil are revealed quickly, but the non-Christians represented by the thorny soil may not be revealed for many years. Judas Iscariot was an example of a person represented by the thorny soil. Jesus knew about him from the beginning, but Judas was chosen as an apostle to fulfill prophecy.

4. The Good Soil – In this soil the seed germinates, grows, and bears good fruit. There are different levels of fruit bearing: “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:8), but all Christians bear good fruit. These people have made an ultimate, final decision to surrender their lives to Christ in repentance and faith.

Conclusion: Matthew 13:1 tells us that on the same day Jesus gave this parable, He had earlier had a confrontational conversation with some Pharisees in which they accused Him of casting out demons by Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24). In reply, Jesus said that blasphemy against the Spirit would not be forgiven (Matthew 12:31). Their accusation was the outward manifestation of an ultimate, final rejection of Jesus, which is the unforgivable sin. The Hebrews 6:4-6 passage tells us that such an ultimate, final rejection of Jesus is unforgivable. The tasters refused to swallow (commit their lives to Jesus) after a “once for all time” (Greek hapax) enlightenment. The parallel passage in Hebrews 10:26-29 says that this willful sin involves insulting the Holy Spirit and that “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” Non-Christians who make an ultimate, final decision to reject Christ while under the special conviction of the Holy Spirit have committed the unpardonable sin. Non-Christians who make an ultimate, final decision to surrender their lives to Christ in repentance and faith while under the special conviction of the Holy Spirit have become Christians and have eternal life.