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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Evening, May 20, 2007
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word” (Mark 4:13-14).

This morning I preached on the parallel passage, from the eighth chapter of Luke. But Mark’s Gospel gives us some details that are not in Luke. For instance, notice verse thirteen,

“Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?” (Mark 4:13).

If they could not understand the simple parable of the sower, how could they expect to grasp more complex parables? The parable of the sower speaks of a farmer going out to scatter seed. The seed falls on four kinds of soil. The first three kinds of soil do not bring forth fruit. The last kind does. It’s a very simple story. It pictures a very simple truth. It is a portrayal of the three types of people who do not get converted, and the one kind that does. These are very basic teachings.

Yet it’s a big mistake to think you don’t need to hear it – even if you have heard it many times before – because it is the basic parable, the one that gives a clear picture of evangelism and conversion. If the truths in it do not grip your soul, there is no use to go on to other, deeper and more complicated parables. If you don’t understand this one, you’re not going to understand the rest.

Right away, at the beginning of the parable, we learn two great truths which are fundamental, foundational, upon which vital Christianity rests. These are things that every new person in our church needs to know, and of which every old-timer needs to be reminded.

I. First, the excellency of the Word of God.

What does the sower sow? He sows the Word. Look at verse fourteen.

“The sower soweth the word” (Mark 4:14).

Matthew, Mark and Luke all three record the fact that the sower sows the word. The “word” here, as in other places, refers to the Sacred Scriptures, the Holy Bible, the Word of God. It is the words of the Bible that God uses to convert souls. It is called “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). With the Word of God the “fiery darts of the wicked” are overcome (Ephesians 6:16). The Holy Scriptures are like a sharp sword. We cannot overcome the enemy with a sword of steel. We must use the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. If the Bible, the very Word of God, does not overcome the enemies of true Christianity, then they will not be overcome. The only sword we are given is the Word of God. And it is a mighty Word indeed!

“The sower soweth the word” (Mark 4:14).

Furthermore, the Word must penetrate the heart, or conversions will not occur. One of my favorite Psalms says, “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:130). If the words, the very words, of Scripture do not enter the soul, no conversion will occur.

“The sower soweth the word” (Mark 4:14).

I think that is one of the ways evangelistic preaching went wrong over the years. The old Puritan evangelists preached the Word. They studied the Word of God. They meditated on, and prayed over, the Word of God. And then they went to their pulpits and preached the Word of God. In the First Great Awakening, men like Howell Harris, Daniel Rowland, George Whitefield and John Wesley literally ploughed the fallow ground and shook the lifeless churches to their roots. Howell Harris (1714-1773) laid the Bible in front of him and preached the Word of God at the top of his lungs – often for two or three hours at a time. His preaching shook the very foundation of the Church of England. The people shivered, sighed, screamed, and fell to the ground – not at all, not in any sense, what we see in charismatic meetings today. Oh, no! The charismatic messages are poor, pale copies of the soul-churning sermons of Howell Harris! Grown men fell to the ground under the conviction of sin and screamed all night and half the next day for God to spare them! That is the difference between the preaching of Howell Harris and the preaching of modern charismatics. One sermon by Howell Harris would blow away an entire Benny Hinn crowd! They would run home and hide under the bed! When Harris preached men fell under conviction of sin, dreading their own total depravity, and could not be comforted until a thorough work of justification and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness was accomplished in their hearts. Nothing else could silence their moans and screaming. But the difference between the preaching of Howell Harris and modern charismatics lies in the fact that Harris laid an open Bible in front of him and preached its words, and hammered in its words, and threatened, and reproved, and rebuked, and exhorted his hearers with the Word – at the top of his lungs – which, by the way, I believe to be the only Biblical way to preach to lost sinners, and I can prove it from the Bible. But that awaits another sermon. My point is that these great, world-changing preachers, like Howell Harris, Daniel Rowlands, Christmas Evans, and of course George Whitefield and John and Charles Wesley were, each of them, as Wesley put it, “a man of one book.” And that book was the Bible, and with that book they shook the very foundations of a dead church and a dying nation.

“The sower soweth the word” (Mark 4:14).

Note that these men were not Bible teachers, as we know them today. Oh, no! We are fed up to our necks with Bible teachers. WE WANT HOWELL HARRIS! And we will not stop calling for him until someone, some place, has the courage to turn a man like Harris loose in his church – and give him permission to either destroy that church or convert it! Then (and only then) can there be revival!

The Word of the living God, in the mouth of a man like Howell Harris, is a terrifying and awe-inspiring sword of the Lord! May God send such men, in the spirit of Elijah and John the Baptist, soon! Our Christian way of life in America is finished. May God send preachers who open their mouths and let the fire of God pour out, igniting the church so the rebels run for their lives; igniting the lost, so they fall under hard conviction; igniting the saved, so they fall on their faces in prayer. Oh, where is the God of Elijah? Men with no other sword than the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, men willing to wield that sword mercilessly in the cause of evangelistic revival – that is the need of this hour!

“The sower soweth the word” (Mark 4:14).

That is the first thing which is brought to our attention in the text – the excellency of the Word of God, naked, plain, hardcore Bible preaching, that will slay the enemy, circumcise the Philistine, wake the dead and turn God’s people out like an army on a Christ-denying world. The excellency of the Word of God – as it is taught in the parable of the sower.

“The sower soweth the word” (Mark 4:14).

II. Second, the effectiveness of the Word of God.

When Jesus gave this parable, He knew that not everyone would be converted. In the very words of the parable He told us explicitly, and illustrated graphically, the fact that most would not be converted by preaching the Word. Some would let Satan pluck it from their hearts. Some would only have a momentary emotional experience, without being converted. Others would appear to be converted, but “in time of temptation fall away” from a local church, and from a vital faith.

But Christ also knew that some would be deeply affected, would come under real conviction, would be shaken to their very depths by the Word, would be torn inwardly by it, would go through the agony of it in the birth pangs of conversion – and in the end, would be living, fruit-bearing Christians.

I heard a hundred sermons without being converted. But though these were loud, old-fashioned Southern Baptist sermons, they centered more on stories and illustrations than on the very words of Scripture. It was not until I heard an old-time Bible Presbyterian, who actually preached the Scriptures themselves, that I was finally converted. Today I try to follow that man’s example. Like him, and like Howell Harris, and like Whitefield, and like great Spurgeon, I tell few stories, and give few illustrations. Notice that I have not given one of what is now called an “illustration” in this sermon. Why? Because it is not the illustrations, but the very Word of God itself that converts a human soul through Bible preaching.

“The sower soweth the word” (Mark 4:14),

not stories and illustrations.

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

The Bible says that you have sinned. Your sins are recorded in God’s books. Your sins will confront you at the Last Judgment of the unsaved dead. Your sins will send you to the pit of Hell. For all time and for all eternity, you will weep and wail in the flames! You must hear the message of the Bible and obey it, or you cannot escape from the wrath of God!

It is the Bible, the Word of God, that cuts people to the heart, makes them uneasy and fearful, brings tears to their eyes and hearts, makes them want to run away from the church – but strangely and mysteriously, pulls them back again, shaking and crying, to be converted by the power of the Gospel of Christ. It is the Bible, the Word of the living God, that breaks their sin-hardened hearts, makes them see they have offended God, makes them come to Jesus’ feet for mercy, justification and cleansing by His Holy Blood. That’s why

“The sower soweth the word” (Mark 4:14).

I ask you tonight, has the preaching of God’s Word moved you like that? Has it caused you to cry out,

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

If you have felt troubled and wretched and lost under the preaching of God’s Word tonight, then I ask you – “Will you come to Jesus Christ? Will you be cleansed from your sins by His Blood?” There is no other way for your troubled heart to be quieted. There is no other way for you to experience salvation. There is no other way for your sins to be propitiated. There is no other way for you to have peace with God. You will always feel hopeless and lost and sinful until you come to Jesus and are saved by Him.

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

While Mr. Griffith sings again that song by Dr. John R. Rice, will you come to Christ? We will be waiting for you in the inquiry room to counsel you.

“The sower soweth the word” (Mark 4:14).

I have tried my best to preach the Word tonight. My sermon is finished. Now, will you trust Jesus and be saved?

If you have been moved in your heart by this simple sermon, if you want Jesus to cleanse your sin, while Mr. Griffith sings Dr. Rice’s song, go to the back of the room and the deacon will show you to the inquiry room to be counselled. But do not go unless your soul has been pierced by the Word of God. Do not go unless you feel guilty of sin. Mr. Griffith, please come and sing that song by Dr. John R. Rice.

Come ye burdened ones and weary;
   Come with all your load of care.
Sinners come with conscience troubled,
   All your sins let Jesus bear.
O heavy hearted, O weary soul,
   Bring all thy burdens and all thy woes,
O sin-sick penitent, forgiveness sweet
   Is yours for coming to Jesus’ feet.
(“O Heavy Hearted” by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).

(Click here for a complete exposition of the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13)

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 8:4-8.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“O Heavy Hearted” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word” (Mark 4:13-14).

I.   First, the excellency of the Word of God, Ephesians 6:17, 16;
Psalm 119:130.

II.  Second, the effectiveness of the Word of God, Hebrews 4:12;
Romans 7:24; 5:1.