Sowing and Reaping
February 20th, 1966 @ 7:30 PM
SOWING AND REAPING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-20-66 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Sowing and Reaping. In the Bible, in the New Testament, in the Book of Matthew, let us turn to chapter 13 – chapter 13. And if your neighbor forgot to bring his Bible, share yours with him. And let us all read out loud together, Matthew chapter 13. Now we are going to read two places in it. We shall begin with the first eight verses, Matthew 13:1-8. Now let us all read it out loud together, the first eight verses:
The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
And great multitudes were gathered together unto Him, so that He went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
And He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up;
Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
Now we begin at verse 18 and read through verse 23, 18 through 23:
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
When anyone heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. That is he which received seed by the wayside.
But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
He also that received seed among the thorns is he that hearth the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word and he becometh unfruitful.
But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
Not so much by volitional arrangement, but in a providence that sort of has swept us along, the services in the church have fallen in these last few years into a very definite pattern. Sunday morning we wade around, sometimes over our heads, in the deep things of God. The last several months these series of messages at the morning hour have concerned the Holy Spirit, the baptism by the Spirit, the infilling of the Spirit. For example this coming Lord’s Day the message will concern, "Is there a second blessing? Is there a second work of grace?" After I am finished with this series on the Holy Spirit, Mr. Zondervan of the Zondervan Publishing Company in Grand Rapids Michigan has asked me to begin preaching on the Book of Daniel. And he has sent me a whole armload of books on the prophet Daniel. And he said, "If you will enter that study and preach this series of sermons, we’ll publish every one of them; if they are few, if they are many, if there’s one book of them or a dozen books, but we would like to ask you to do that."
Well, I replied to the gracious friend, and a man who does as much to scatter abroad the seed of the Word of God as any man upon the earth. I said, "Isn’t this a strange providence? It’s been in my heart and in my head of wanting to study the Book of Daniel ever since I finished preaching through the Bible two or three years ago." So after this series on the Holy Spirit at the morning hour, we shall begin preaching through the Book of Daniel.
Now in the providence of God, sort of a thing that God has directed in without any particular forethought, for years and years, for about seventeen years, Sunday morning where I left off preaching the Bible I began preaching Sunday night. And then where I left off Sunday night, I began the following Sunday morning. And the services Sunday morning and Sunday night were pretty much the same. But these last two years, they’ve been a little different. I have always felt, and especially so in those long years I was preaching through the Bible, I’ve always felt that there ought to be a special and particular time when we preach about Jesus Himself, the life of our Lord; not Isaiah’s prophetic presentation of Him, nor of the apocalyptic description of His glorious and coming triumph, but the life of Jesus in the flesh, down here among men, preaching in the Gospel of Matthew, and Mark, and Luke, and John. So I began doing that, longer than you realize; preaching through the life of Christ. And every Sunday night the message delivered is something about Jesus that blesses my heart. And I tell you this so you might be aware of the kind of a message that you’ll hear when you yourself come or when you bring somebody with you. Sunday morning, almost always the sermon will concern some study, sometimes deeper than I’m able to enter into, but it will concern some kind of study of the Word of God; the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, or some of the great prophetic passages in the Bible. But Sunday night the message will be something about Jesus, in the life of our Lord.
Now, following the story of the ministry of Christ, we have come to one of the most significantly meaningful of all the chapters in the Bible. This will be about the third or fourth sermon that we’ve preached on these parables, the mysteries of the kingdom. And this one is so pertinently simply and typical of the teaching method, the pedagogical approach of our Lord. He lived in this kind of a world.
One time when I was in Palestine, I took my camera, and I took a picture of those fields; some that Jesus had looked upon many times, and those four distinct soils. Palestine is very rugged, very rocky in the slope where the soil has washed down into the valley, rich and verdant here, rocky and sterile there. There are no fences, and the little plots of ground are divided by those hard footpaths that a sower would walk on when he leaves the little village in which he would live and go to the field.
Now when you read the parable, which has to do with soulwinning; sowing the seed of the Word of God, hoping for a harvest, that somebody will be saved – when you read the parable, you can say, "How very discouraging, just one out of four productive, responsive; three failures and one triumph. How very discouraging."
No, no, it’s like that doctrine of election. Spurgeon so preached the elective purposes of God and the sovereign will of the Almighty in our lives and in this world. And a critic one time said to him, "Mr. Spurgeon, if I believed that doctrine I think I’d quit. How discouraging!"
And Mr. Spurgeon said, "Ah, nay, no, just the opposite." Mr. Spurgeon said, "The doctrine of the elective purposes of God in human life is the most encouraging thing that I know in my ministry." For the great preacher avowed, "When I preach I know that there are some who will refuse, some who will say no. But every time I preach, I know that God will give me some who will say yes." And so it is with this parable of the sower. There are many who say no.
One of our dear members today said, "It was a hard thing for me, for I had people slam the door in my face and refuse even to greet me cordially."
But I said, "Was that all?"
"No, no, for there were some who greeted me as though I were an angel of light."
God will give us some. God will give us some in numbers. God will give us some in time. There will always be some who are saved.
An infidel book, a book on atheism was placed in my hand one day, and I read it. And it began like this: read the Bible, this infidel author would say, and you would have the impression that the preaching of the gospel of Christ had a tremendous reception in the Roman Empire. And then he followed after with statistics avowing and demonstrating that practically all the citizenry of the ancient Roman Empire refused the message of Christ. I don’t gainsay that, nor do I deny it. Most of the citizenry of the Roman Empire refused the gospel of the Son of God. That’s correct, the infidel is right. But I would submit it to the judgment of the centuries of history: when Paul stood on Mars Hill before the court of the Areopagus and preached the gospel of Christ, there were some of them who refused the message, but there were some of them who accepted it! [Acts 17:32-34]. And in the judgment of history who was correct? The idolaters of Athens, the Epicureans and the Stoics, who scoffed and laughed; or the few who listened to Paul, the preacher of Jesus, and turned and were saved? God always will give us some in numbers, and that some is the salt of the earth and the light of the world. And God will always give us some in time; sowing and reaping, praying and waiting, looking to God for an increase.
When I was a youth, I had a friend who was holding a revival meeting in a little town through which I passed going to my little churches. And I’d go by in the days when he was holding a revival, and I’d ask about the services, and always the same discouraging report: nobody saved, no one turned, nobody moved. And that went on for two weeks! But the last night of that two-week revival meeting, God opened the windows of heaven, and they had a Pentecostal outpouring – in God’s time, a harvest.
So the Lord speaks here of the sower who went forth to sow. And as he broadcast the seed of the word, some fell by the way side, and the birds came and devoured them up [Matthew 13:4]. There are those who hear; they listen appreciatively, courteously, kindly, graciously; but the Word makes no impression of lasting enduring on their hearts. As the seed is sown, the sparrows from the housetops, and the chickens from the barnyard rush in and take it away. Some twittering, trivial, passing interest, some small excitement destroys the germ of the truth of the small impression made by the Word of God. Some of them hear, but they don’t hear. Like some people could listen to a symphony orchestra play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and to them it would just be a jumble of words.
One of the wonderful people in this church, praying for her husband, finally encouraged him and persuaded him to come to church here on a Sunday night. The couple sat up there in the balcony to my right. And when I saw them, oh, I just prayed to God: Lord, this hour, and this service, and this message; Lord, baptize the word with the Holy Spirit and use it, Lord – do it!
He sat up there, and behind the row of people in front of him, where I suppose he thought I couldn’t see, or didn’t care if I did see; he took out a newspaper. And while I was pouring out my soul here in the pulpit, he was seated up there reading a newspaper. I never had such mixed emotions in my life! Do you feel like stopping and saying, "You idiot! Put that down, don’t you know you’re listening to the Word of God!" Or do you pause and say, "Let us pray for the heathen and the pagan." Hearing, but they don’t hear – just a jumble of words. And there are those who hear and are anxious immediately to get away, to forget it all. You know people amaze me in that.
One time I was standing by the side of the Niagara River and watching one of the most spectacular demonstrations of what God can do in the whole universe. Looking at that marvelous Niagara, and I heard a noise and a-going on, and I turned and right back of me of me and just beyond was a cheap, tawdry carnival. And I turned all the way around to look at it. And to my amazement and to my surprise that carnival was jammed with people – and just a few of us standing there looking at one of God’s resplendent wonders.
I don’t understand the soul and the makeup of human personality. Why, you could look at that Niagara the rest of your life and marvel at the wonder of God, but rather be in some cheap carnival than to open your soul to what God is able to do in His glory and in His power. Some hear and immediately, "Let’s go, forget it. Let’s drown it." These are they, the Lord said, that fell by the wayside. And the word is taken away [Matthew 13:4].
Then he says, "There are some, some of the seed fell on stony places, and having not much earth, they sprang up immediately, but because they had no deepness of soil, they soon withered away" [Matthew 13:5]. Shallowness, cheap, empty, O Lord, anything but that! Some people have more on the front shelf and less on the back shelf than you could imagine; show and display, but nothing of character.
When we speak of the Lord and giving our lives to the blessed Savior, it means all the turning of life, and the changing of life, and the dedication of life, and the commitment of life. It means everything, from horizon to horizon, from now until the grave, from the grave into the eternity. And the vicissitudes and fortunes of life are as nothing comparable to the glorious presence of God in our souls!
But so many, as the Lord defines here, but so many; when God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind [Job 38:1, 40:6], when the sun is blotted out from the face of the sky, when nothing is seen on the horizon but a dreary cross, it’s too much, and they forsake the Lord and go back into an easier climb and a willing world.
And He says, "And some fell among thorns, and the thorns choked it" [Matthew 13:22]. Then He described it, these are they who received the word, but the cares of the world, and the blandishments, and the allurements, and the enticements of the world make the word unfruitful and unrewarding in their lives.
Isn’t that a parable in our souls? In the ground there was moisture and nutriment for thorns or for the wheat, but not enough for both; it was one or another. And our lives are like that. There is room in our souls and in our lives for either the thorns and the briers or for the Word of God, but not for both. It is one or the other.
That was the trouble with the rich young ruler. He wanted to enter into the kingdom of God with the world in his heart. And Jesus said, "But the way is not that wide, and the gate is not that broad. You have to lay that burden down. You must deny the world; give it up, give it up if you are to go through this narrow gate and follow down this strait way" [Mark 10:21, Matthew 7:14].
You see that’s so pointedly in the life of Lot. When Lot and Abraham stood on the mountain and looked down on the well-watered valley, Lot saw the city of Sodom, its splendor, its allurements, its enticements, all of the glitter and splendor of that ancient city. And Lot bid goodbye to his uncle, and he bid goodbye to the service of God [Genesis 13:5-13]. And it mattered not to Lot that the men in Sodom were sinners exceedingly! And he became a prince among the princes of the kingdom. And he sat in the gate, and he was great [Genesis 19:1], until God judged the civilization, and God judged the city, and God judged the souls of men. And Lot was saved by the mercy of God as if by fire! [Genesis 19:15-29].
I don’t deny the allurements and the blandishments and the reward of the world. I’m just avowing on the authority of the Word of the Lord that they are temporary, that they are cheap! That they soon pass away. These are they that receive the word, but the thorns, and the thickets, and the briers choke it to death. [Matthew 13:7]
But there is yet another, and some of the seed fell on good ground. "Oh preacher, you’re like an angel of light to my house, to my home, to my heart, to my life, to my soul. " Good ground, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness" [Matthew 5:6]. Some of the seed fell on good ground, and brought forth an harvest unto God [Matthew 13:8, 23]. Some of them gifted unusually – a hundredfold. Some of them gifted usually – sixtyfold. Some of them, the best they could offer to God – a thirtyfold, but no less in the mercy and remembrance of our heavenly Lord. How blessed and how precious! Not all but some; God will ever give us some.
Before we go off the air, I point out one other thing that the Lord says in these parables. The seed is sowing the Word of the Lord, the blessed testimony of the Lord Jesus. But He changes it, and before He is done in His parable speaking, He says, "the good seed are the children of the kingdom" [Matthew 13:38]. We, who become Christian, we are God’s Word incarnate. This is the message of God walking. This is the message of God talking. This is the message of God working; doing. "The good seed are the children of the kingdom." God’s Word, God’s life, and God’s message incarnate, and that is ever God’s way of changing the world; by setting in it God’s people. Change a home, how? Set in it one of God’s children. Change a business? Set in it one of God’s children. Change the society? Set in it God’s children. Change an order? Set in it God’s children. Change a destiny; change the life of the man. He becomes God’s messenger in the earth; God’s Word incarnate. "For the good seed are the children of the kingdom."
And while we sing our hymn of appeal, and while our people wait before the Lord in prayer, these that God hath given us tonight, come, come, come. Somebody you, "Here I am, pastor, I make it tonight. I have decided for Jesus, and here I come. I give you my hand; I give my heart to God." A couple of you, a family you, or a one somebody you, on the first note of this first stanza, when we stand up in a moment, stand up coming. "Preacher, I don’t have all the answers, but God does, and I’ll trust Him for it. I don’t have all the ableness to win the war that I fight in my life, but I’ll trust God for a victory." Do it and let God see you through. "I open my heart and invite Jesus into my soul, and if He will have me, from this moment and henceforth, I shall be God’s servant. And here I am, here I come." Do it, make it now, make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.
PARABLE OF THE SOWER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23
I. Parable concerns soul-winning
A. One out of four seems discouraging
B. Spurgeon – "God will give me some." (Acts 17:32-34)
1. In numbers
2. In time
II. Some fell by the wayside(Matthew 13:4)
A. Want of spiritual perception
B. Hear, but don’t hear
III. Some fell on a stony place(Matthew 13:5)
A. Thin layer of earth upon a bed of rock
B. Start gloriously – spring up, then disappear
C. People of shallow character
IV. Some fell among thorns(Matthew 13:22)
A. Not enough nutrients for both wheat and thorns
1. So our lives
a. Rich, young ruler (Mark 10:17-26)
b. Abraham vs. Lot (Genesis 19:15-29)
V. Some fell on good ground(Matthew 13:8, 23)
A. The mystery of a response (Matthew 5:6)
B. Good seed are the children of the kingdom (Matthew 13:38)