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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Evening, May 27, 2007
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them” (Matthew 13:7).

Two twentieth century commentators that I admire misinterpreted “the seed among thorns” in the Parable of the Sower. Out of respect for the otherwise good work of these men, I am not giving their names. But I will quote them to show how the interpretation of this part of the parable went wrong in the twentieth century. The first one said, “The seed that fell among thorns represents those who hear the word and receive it. Such people are evidently saved, but their lives do not bring forth good fruit for the Master.” The other commentator said, “Time absorbing interests…in anything other than the kingdom of God will prevent the believer from bringing any fruit to perfection.” Both of these good men are wrong when they call those represented by the “seed among thorns” “saved” and “believers.” The truth is that the seed which falls among thorns represents unbelievers who are not saved!

The old commentators like Matthew Poole; Matthew Henry; John Gill; John Trapp; John Peter Lange; and Jamieson, Fausset and Brown said that the thorny ground represents people who were never truly converted. For instance, John Trapp said, “Their hearts [remained] fastened to earthly [things], they proved also unfruitful…[they] fell short of heaven” (John Trapp, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Tanski Publications, 1997 reprint, volume V, pp. 176-177).

The old commentators said that the thorny ground hearers were not saved. Dr. McGee followed these old commentators when he said, “These three types of soil do not represent three types of believers – they are not believers at all! They have heard the word, and only professed to receive it” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 73).

The old commentators, which Dr. McGee followed, were not influenced in their interpretation of this part of the parable by “decisionism.” The rise of decisionism, starting with C. G. Finney (1792-1875) brought a flood of unconverted people into the churches. The new commentators twisted this parable to make it include as “saved” thousands of unconverted people, brought in by the methods of the decisionists. I believe that is the reason the false view of thorny ground people as “Christians” came into these modern commentaries. It was a result of decisionism’s shallow and superficial view of conversion.

Now, let us look at the thorny ground people in the parable.

“And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them” (Matthew 13:7).

We notice two things.

I. First, the meaning of this part of the parable.

The words are very simple. Some of the Gospel seed fell among thorny weeds. The thorny weeds are explained in verse twenty-two.

“He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful”
      (Matthew 13:22).

The thorny weeds are the care of this world, the worries of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches, which choke the word of the Gospel, making it unfruitful.

The person described here is not a superficial hearer. The word remains in his mind. He even goes through some initial hardships for the sake of the Gospel. It seems to me that the first two, the seed by the wayside and the seed on stony places, represent people who fall away rather quickly. But the thorny ground people stay in the local church for some time, so it appears that they are converted. Yet they do not pass the test of time. When the worries and cares of life come along, as they do to every Christian, the faith of these “thorny ground” people is choked.

The word “choke” is very interesting. In Matthew 13:7 and 22, and in Luke 8:7 and 14, the Greek word means to be “suffocated by drowning or overgrowth” (Strong). In Mark 4:7, the Greek word is different. It means to be “completely suffocated by crowding.” W. E. Vine says the word in Mark “gives the idea of choking together with crowding.”

So, the worries and problems of life “choke the word,” suffocate the word, as by giant weeds suffocating the tender seed of the Gospel, until the word is “completely suffocated by crowding.” In other words, the things of the world crowd out the Gospel, so, at last, there is no room for church or prayer or Bible reading. The things of the Spirit are “crowded out,” suffocated, strangled, choked, by the things of the world.

II. Second, the reason the Gospel is choked.

Matthew gives us two reasons in verse twenty-two.

“He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).

There you have two of the thorny weeds,

1.  The care of the world, the worries of this life.

2.  The deceitfulness of riches.

Mark adds, “and the lust of other things” (Mark 4:19). So,

3.  The lust of other things, desires for other things.

Luke adds, “and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). So,

4.  The pleasures of this life.

There you have them, plain and clear. The worries of this life suffocate the Word. The deceitfulness of wealth suffocates the Word. A desire for other things suffocates the Word. The pleasures of this life suffocate the Word. As Luke puts it,

“And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life…” (Luke 8:14).

Again, as I said in the last sermon, Dr. John MacArthur’s comments on these types of hearers is helpful. What he says concerning the thorny ground people is mostly correct, though I do not agree with his conclusion – Lordship salvation, or his view of the Blood of Christ. Yet his description of the thorny ground is well done. He says,

Weedy soil represents a heart occupied with worldly matters. This [Matthew 13:22] is a perfect description of a worldly man – one who lives for the things of this world. He is consumed with the cares of this age. His chief pursuit is a career, a house, a car, a hobby, a wardrobe. To him [these things] are everything. Have you ever known people like that? For a while, they look just like the rest of the field. They come to church, identify with the people of God…But they…are uncommitted and always preoccupied with the world’s pleasures, money, career, fame, fortune, or the lusts of the flesh…overwhelmed by the thorns of worldliness, and eventually the weedy heart will show no evidence that good seed was ever sown. What happens when the seed that once looked so promising is choked out? Has such a person lost his salvation? No, he never had it…The person with the weedy heart was never saved. Weedy hearts [will not let go] of the world (John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Gospel According to Jesus, Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, p. 124).

That’s the reason why 88% of the young people raised in evangelical churches in America eventually fall away, as pollster George Barna said, “never to return.” Young people like that grow up in the church without being converted. They come to church as long as their Christian parents are supporting them financially, but when they start earning their own money, they fall away. I hate to say it, but it seems that they were only coming to church because they were paid to come! When they stopped being paid, they fell away.

“[They] go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection”
      (Luke 8:14).

Others come into the church from the world, but later they go back to the world. They, too, have been choked with “cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring forth no fruit to perfection” (Luke 8:14). We see that many times. They come in looking good, but after a few years they get married and have children, and the cares and problems and temptations of life choke them, and they “bring no fruit to perfection.”

That’s the purpose of real conversion – to bring forth fruit. Please turn in your Bible to John 15. Here is Christ’s own comment on fruit bearing. Look at verse two.

“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he [God] taketh away” (John 15:2).

Now drop down to verse five.

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:5-6).

Every person who is truly converted brings forth fruit in his life. Every person who does not bear fruit, God the Father, “taketh away” (John 15:2). They are cast “into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6). Dr. Gill said this speaks of “their being cast into the everlasting burnings of hell-fire by angels at the last day, as will be the case of every unfruitful tree, of the chaff and tares” (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume 8, p. 67).

That is the reason we urge you so strongly to experience a real conversion now, while there is still time. Christ said,

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24).

Strive to enter in to Christ. Turn away from the world, and come to Christ. Be washed clean from sin by His Blood. Be born again by His resurrection from the dead. Come to Christ while there is still time! As that old song Mr. Griffith sang a moment ago put it,

There’s a line that is drawn by rejecting the Lord,
   Where the call of His Spirit is lost,
And you hurry along with the pleasure-mad throng,
   Have you counted, have you counted the cost?
Have you counted the cost, if your soul should be lost,
   Though you gain the whole world for your own?
Even now it may be that the line you have crossed,
   Have you counted, have you counted the cost?
(“Have You Counted the Cost?” by A. J. Hodge, 1923).

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

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 8:10-14.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Have You Counted the Cost?” (by A. J. Hodge, 1923).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them” (Matthew 13:7).

I.   First, the meaning of this part of the parable, Matthew 13:22.

II.  Second, the reason the Gospel is choked, Matthew 13:22;
Mark 4:19; Luke 8:14; John 15:2, 5-6; Luke 13:24.