The Journal of Biblical Accuracy
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"And some fell among thorns"

Moving now to the people in the third category of the parable of the sower: these are the ones who heard the Word, "but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature1". It is not that these people did not receive the Word. Those who did not receive the Word, because they did not understand it and Satan stole it, were in the first category. In contrast, those in the third category had a heart for the Word, but they had - or they acquired on the way - also a heart for the world, namely the pleasures and cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. These acted as thorns chocking the Word with the result that it did not really bear fruit. Thus we see that it is not enough to have the Word in order to bear fruit. The Word on its own does not become fruitful, if the things that act in competition to the Word – the cares of this world (i.e. caring for what the world cares for2), the deceitfulness of riches and the pleasures of this life – are not rooted out. If this rooting out does not happen, the result is a worldly, unfruitful "Christian". He may know and originally he may have received the Word but there is no fruit. The other things that were not rooted out made it unfruitful.

Indeed, as the Lord made it very clear, it is impossible to serve two masters. In the long run one of the two will have to go:

Luke 16:13
"No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."

And as He again, in Luke 21:34, warns us:
"But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap."

Also John tells us:

1 John 2:15-17
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."

And James, calling adulterers and adulteresses those who run after the world, says:

James 4:4
"Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."

An adulterer is one who is married to somebody but runs after or lusts after somebody else. Those that run after the world, after the cares of this world, the riches, the dissipation and the pleasures of this life are also called adulterers. Why? Because they abandoned Christ the bridegroom and run after the world.

Back to the parable of the sower, those of the 3rd category have followed the deception of riches or serve other masters (cares and pleasures of this world etc.) and hence they cannot serve Christ at the same time.

Now the critical question is: will this fruitless category, if it remains so and does not repent, enter the Kingdom? To phrase it differently: does it really matter concerning salvation whether somebody’s faith is a fruitful faith, or is it OK and there is no issue if somebody allows the Word of God to be choked, to be effectively killed, by his simultaneous love for the world? Is it OK if somebody who has confessed Jesus as his Lord abandons Him serving other lords? What will happen in this case? We do not need to think about the answer. The Lord Himself has answered this question, over 2000 years ago and we would do well to pay attention to His answer. By the way, His answer clearly also applies to those of the second category of the parable i.e. those that believed "for a while":

John 15:1-8
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples."

I believe that the answer of the Lord leaves no space for doubt: the only way to bear fruit is to abide in the vine, in Him. People who do not bear fruit are people who do not abide in the vine and if this does not change they will be gathered like dried branches and at the end, as the Lord said, they will be burned. What does this mean for those in the 3rd (as well as those in the 2nd) category of the parable of the sower? It means that if they do not repent, returning to the vine and thus bearing, by abiding in the vine, the fruit that marks somebody as a true disciple of Christ, they will have the end of the dry branches of the above passage i.e. they will be "gathered, thrown into the fire and be burned". I know I have perhaps offended some readers here, but did I say this? No, I did not. In contrast it is something the Lord said, speaking to the closest of His disciples and on the very night of His arrest. Now, is what He said a surprise? Is what He said something bizarre? No when we understand that a true Christian is not one who once made a confession but later practically abandoned it or never in fact practiced what he confessed. In contrast a true Christian is one who tries to live, to practice, with whatever mistakes may come with practicing, his faith. If we have confessed that Jesus is Lord, yet He is not truly our Lord, then it is obvious that our confession was either not an honest confession or it might have been honest in the past but it no longer holds true. Whether what we confessed is true or not is proved by one and only one standard: the fruit we bear, and bearing the desired fruit becomes possible only by abiding in the vine, in Christ. We saw it in the above passage of John 15 where the Lord said: "bear much fruit and so – i.e. by bearing much fruit – prove to be my disciples". Therefore, the fruit we bear is the proof of whether or not we are true disciples of Christ.

In fact, the Lord gave the same measure, the measure of the fruit, to help us discern between false and true prophets:

Matthew 7:15-20
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits."

Many are afraid to speak about fruit, because they think it lessens the grace. It does not! Can an apple tree not produce apples? Trees produce fruit, and the seed of the Word, when it is taken care of, does exactly this: it produces fruit. Faith comes first, then the fruit follows. What is really more unnatural than trees that are supposed to bear fruit and yet remain unfruitful? Would we call such trees healthy? If you had such a tree in your garden and expected fruit from it, as God expects from us, would you say that "it does not matter"? I do not think so.

Fruit is absolutely natural for a Christian and it is absolutely unnatural when it is missing. As Ephesians 2:8-10 makes clear:

Ephesians 2:8-10
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

We were not saved by works, yet we were created for good works. "Created for" means that this is our destiny, our purpose. To say it differently: cars are "created for" taking us from A to B. Trains are "created for" running on the rail tracks. The apple tree "is created for" producing apples. Equally speaking, "we are created in Christ Jesus for good works". Therefore, good works and faith go hand in hand. It makes really no sense to say that we are in the faith but it does not matter whether we will bring forth the fruit associated with those who are in the faith. It is like saying we are having a car but it does not matter whether it works or not. We all know that it does matter.

That works, being the fruit of a genuine faith, do matter, is made plain by James in his epistle:

James 2:14-17
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

"Faith without works is dead", exactly as the body without the spirit is dead. To say it differently, there is no such thing as fruitless, yet true, faith. Fruitless faith is a dead faith and such faith clearly does not get somebody into the Kingdom of God.

Staying a bit more on the crucial subject of works, Paul said several times:

Titus 2:13-14
"waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."

Titus 3:1
"Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work"

2 Timothy 2:20-21
"Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work."

And 2 Timothy 3:16-17
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."

The Scripture, the Bible, is not there to give us head knowledge. It is not there to make the man of God a theoretical theologian. It is there to make the man of God complete, fruitful, equipped for what he is destined for: for every good work.

Going back now to the parable of the sower, only the fourth category bore fruit:

"And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold…. 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."

The second and third category of people heard the Word but they did not hold it fast. But this category here, heard the Word and held it fast in a good and honest heart and gave with patience fruit. Therefore, to bear fruit we need to hold the Word fast in a good and honest heart and with patience we will bear fruit. This is the key. If, after we receive the Word we allow other things to take it over and move us away from Christ the vine, it will not bear fruit. Guarding our heart with all vigilance (exactly as Proverbs 4:23 tells us), repenting from old practices and renewing the mind to what the Word of God says is therefore very crucial to the outcome of the Word.

Closing this chapter: may we all be in that fourth category and never leave it. Also may those of us who are not in this category return, abiding in the vine and bearing forth the much fruit that brings glory to God and shows whose disciples we truly are. May we check ourselves and if we see thorns may we uproot them and throw them away, instead of essentially deceiving ourselves that we can live with them. We cannot. It is either them or the Lord. One of the two will have to go and we chose which one it will be.

 


Footnotes

1. To avoid misunderstanding the phrase "their fruit does not mature" does not mean that they were somehow fruitful. This is obvious by Matthew 13:22 which has this as "and they prove unfruitful".

2. We need to make a clarification here: going to work to provide for our family is not a care that will take us away from God. It is in fact an obligation. However being a workaholic is a care that will take us away from God. Basically "cares of this world", means to care about what the world cares, making the interests of the world our interests and way of life.

 

Author: Anastasios Kioulachoglou