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THE SEED ON GOOD GROUND
(SERMON NUMBER 5 ON THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, June 3, 2007
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).


The Parable of the Sower is about evangelism, about preaching the Word of God, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Parable of the Sower, the preaching of the Gospel is like seed that falls on four different kinds of soil. The four kinds of soil represent the different responses people have when they hear Gospel preaching. The seed itself is the Gospel. Some of the seed falls on the hard surface of a path beside the field. It is trodden underfoot by men, and immediately Satan and his evil angels come, like birds, and gobble up the word. Then, some of the seed falls upon a sheet of rock, with a thin layer of soil covering it. “And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away” (Matthew 13:6). This speaks of those who hear the word, “and anon [at once] with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth [endureth] for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” and falls away (Matthew 13:20-21).

The third kind of soil is pictured by the seed among thorns. “Some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them” (Matthew 13:7). Jesus explained this by saying, “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). It is not the seed of the word that becomes unfruitful. Not at all! Notice the word “he” – “he” becomes unfruitful, because the things of the world, the “cares and riches and pleasures of this life” choke the word (Luke 8:14) “and he becometh unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). The seed, which is the preaching of the Gospel, only becomes fruitful in the fourth kind of soil, which is described in our text. Please stand and read Luke 8:15 aloud.

“But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).

You may be seated. The text describes a person who is saved. The things spoken of in it are true of all those who are genuinely converted. Let us think about two qualities in those who are saved.

I. First, they are converted hearers.

“But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it…”
      (Luke 8:15).

Who are these people that have “an honest and good heart”? Where can we find them? A wrong answer to that question is, I think, where Dr. MacArthur goes wrong in his interpretation of the parable. In the last two sermons I quoted Dr. MacArthur favorably concerning his comments on the seed on the rock, and the seed among thorns. He said much that is true to the Bible about these two types of people. But when he came to the good ground people of Luke 8:15 and Matthew 13:23, he reverted to “decisionist” thoughts. He said, concerning the good ground people, “Jesus wanted them to know that there is a huge field cultivated and ready to receive the seed” (John F. MacArthur, Jr., D.D., The Gospel According to Jesus, Zondervan, 1988, p. 125). Although there are many good thoughts in his book, I question the idea that there is a “huge field…ready to receive the seed.”

I know Dr. MacArthur believes in total depravity, but he seems to waver back to a decisional view here, that there are many people just waiting to receive the seed. I don’t believe it! His comment reminds me of a statement often made by Billy Graham, “Many of you are searching for God.” But the Bible doesn’t say that anyone is searching for God! In fact, it says just the opposite:

“There is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11).

The picture of total depravity given in Romans 3:9-20 prohibits us from saying, as Dr. MacArthur did, “that there is a huge field cultivated and ready to receive the seed.” After many decades in the ministry, I have not found this “huge field.” It may exist where there is a great outpouring of grace in revival, but since we have had no major revival for over 150 years in America, there isn’t any “huge field” like that today! Dr. MacArthur and I both preach in the greater Los Angeles area. I would like to know where that “huge field” of people “ready to receive the seed” exists in Southern California. I’ve never found it! All I find is depraved sinners, “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). The only people I find here (or anywhere else I have travelled in the Western world, where there is no revival) are lost people who are enemies of God and the Gospel. As the Apostle Paul said,

“The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7).

That’s the only people I encounter in my ministry, people who are described as natural men, of whom the Apostle said,

“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14).

I cannot find that “huge field cultivated and ready to receive the seed.” All I find is a huge field filled with the enemies of God, people who cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God because of the corruption of their natures by the Fall.

I don’t have time in this brief sermon to explain all the reasons Dr. MacArthur made this mistake. But I do believe that, throughout his book The Gospel According to Jesus, he does not take the total depravity of man seriously enough, in a practical way. I think that is the basic flaw in the Lordship Salvation position. Men simply are not “good ground” in their natural state, no matter how much “cultivating” (whatever that means) has been done. In their natural depraved state they will never come to Jesus and certainly never make Him their Lord!

So, why does our text say,

“But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it…”? (Luke 8:15).

Matthew Poole, the great Puritan commentator, made it clear how a totally depraved sinner obtains “an honest and good heart.” Poole said,

The good ground, in this parable, is the good and honest heart, that is, a heart renewed and sanctified by the Spirit of God (Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Banner of Truth, 1990 reprint, volume 3, p. 63).

The heart of man is certainly not honest and good in its natural state, or even after being “cultivated” (whatever that may mean). No, the Bible gives a devastatingly negative view of the human heart. It says,

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Again, the Bible says,

“The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live” (Ecclesiastes 9:3).

And Jesus said,

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts…All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23).

The only way for any incorrigibly evil man to receive “an honest and good heart” is for his heart, as Poole said, to be “renewed…by the Spirit of God.” Only the new birth and conversion can take away the heart of stone and give a heart of flesh. God says,

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

You can’t do that. Only God can give you a new heart. That is what it means to be born again. That is what it means to be converted. That’s the first quality of those who are saved. When they are converted, their hearts are made new.

“Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (II Corinthians 5:17).

II. Second, they are fruitful hearers.

Please stand and read the text again, Luke 8:15.

“But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).

You may be seated.

The test of a true conversion is not what you say but what you are after you are saved. Children often make the mistake of thinking they are converted if they “get the words right,” if they can say the right thing. What a mistake! Many adult Baptists and new evangelicals make that same mistake.

Conversion is not saying the right words. Conversion is receiving a new heart. That’s what it means to be born again. When God renews your heart then you will “keep” the word and “bring forth fruit with patience.”

The ultimate test of whether you are converted lies in the fruit you bear in your life. Jesus said,

“Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:19-20).

“By their fruits ye shall know them.” If a new heart has not been created within you, no conversion has taken place, and no fruit will appear in your life. Again, Jesus said,

“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” (John 15:5).

In Matthew 7:20 and John 15:5 Jesus said that fruit bearing is the real test of whether or not you have been converted.

In Galatians 5:22-23 there is a list of the fruits of the Spirit. They include love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. But this fruit of the Spirit is given by God for a reason, as our text puts it, to “bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). The Bible says,

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30).

When a person is converted, he becomes “a tree of life” to the unconverted. Souls are won to Christ by his life and message. Thus, the fruit of the converted heart is the actual winning of souls. Spurgeon preached a wonderful sermon on Proverbs 11:30 (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Number 1,292). In that sermon he said, “We must first have life…and then…will spring the conversion of others.”

I remember when our deacon and soloist Mr. Griffith was saved. He was suddenly converted after hearing only one Gospel sermon. Immediately he went out evangelizing and brought a girl named Iris to church. She was converted through his efforts and later became his wife. Mr. Griffith is a perfect example of our text. His heart was converted and he brings forth fruit – “with patience.” I know how patiently he evangelizes. Year after year, decade after decade, Mr. Griffith never misses evangelism. He is always here when we go out to evangelize. He keeps at it “with patience.” He brings “forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). Others have come and gone. Doubtlessly they were seed by the wayside, seed upon rock, or seed among thorns. But I can say without question that Mr. Griffith is seed “on the good ground.”

Would you like to be a real Christian like Mr. Griffith? Then you must be born again. Your heart must be renewed by God. That will happen when you come to Christ. The moment you come to Him you are born again. Don’t think about how it “works.” That’s God’s business, not yours. Your business is to think about your sin and your need to have that sin washed clean by the Blood of Jesus. Come to Jesus and your sin is cancelled by His substitutionary death, in your place, for your sins, on the Cross. Come to Jesus, and His resurrection from the dead will give you life. Come to Jesus and you will suddenly be converted once and for all, eternally secure in Christ Jesus! 

Please stand and sing number 7 on your song sheet. Sing the first and last stanzas good and strong – and thoughtfully.


Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you washed in the blood,

In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?

Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?


Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin,

And be washed in the blood of the Lamb;

There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean,

O be washed in the blood of the Lamb!

Are you washed in the blood,

In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?

Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
    (“Are You Washed in the Blood?” by Elisha A. Hoffman, 1839-1929).


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


(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 4:13-20.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Ye Must Be Born Again” (by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE SEED ON GOOD GROUND
(SERMON NUMBER 5 ON THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).

(Matthew 13:6, 20-21, 7, 22; Luke 8:14)

I.   First, they are converted hearers, Luke 8:15a; Romans 3:11;
Ephesians 2:1; Romans 8:7; I Corinthians 2:14; Jeremiah 17:9;
Ecclesiastes 9:3; Mark 7:21-23; Ezekiel 36:26; II Corinthians 5:17.

II.  Second, they are fruitful hearers, Luke 8:15b; Matthew 7:19-20;
John 15:5; Galatians 5:22-23; Proverbs 11:30.