One of the most important teachings in the New Testament is the Parable of the Sower, (Matthew 13:1-23 and Luke 8:4-15.) A farmer went forth to sow seeds. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell by the wayside and was eaten by birds, other seed fell among stones and were burned up in the sun because they had insufficient roots, a third class of seed fell among thorns and were choked out, and finally some fell on good soil and yielded an abundant crop.
In this parable, Jesus introduces the first prerequisite to God’s plan of salvation, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mt. 13:9, Lk. 8:8.) In both accounts, the senses of hearing and seeing are used to illustrate the spiritual receptivity in the free will of people’s hearts to receive and respond in obedience to the good news of the word of God, also called the “word of the kingdom,” (Mt. 13:19.) As we study the parable, it seems that 75% of the seed did not sprout because of the unfavorable conditions of the soil. Jesus quotes Isaiah’s prophecy to identify the cause of the problem, “the hearts of this people have grown dull.” The word “dull” means heavy or hardened. The Greek word there is sclero-kardia, which most will recognize as the name of a serious condition of heart disease. But this case is worse because it is a spiritual heart disease. And more sadly, the Isaiah prophecy ascribes this condition to a willful rejection of the things of God on the part of a disobedient people.
The words in verse 15, “Lest they should see…” “Lest they should understand…” indicates that there was a free will choice in the hearts of the hearers which they may or may not do. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” is the cry of God who has given man a free will to choose or refuse. “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live,” said the Lord in Deuteronomy 30:19. God can do all things, but what he will not do is “hear,” or “choose,” or “believe” on our behalf.
Jesus explained the parable, (Luke 8:11) “the seed is the word of God.” When we “hear the word,” whether it is preached or read in the form of scripture, a seed is planted into the soil of our heart. Just as in nature, in the botanical or biological world, a conception takes place. A fertilized zygote is produced. In the spiritual world, what is conceived is faith. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17.) Paul rebuked the Galatians Christians for trying to live under the law, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:2.) Faith is the zygote which is conceived in the heart, but the zygote is no good without a sprout, nor is the conception of a baby joyful without a delivery. It is the same in the spiritual world. “Ye must be born again,” (John 3:3.) Peter speaks of the new birth in 1 Peter 1:23-25 when he commends the Christians for obeying the truth of the Holy Spirit, who: “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever… Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”
One of the most beautiful teachings in the scripture concerning hearing is Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Where does it say hearing in this verse? The word translated “obey” is HUPO KUO in the Greek. KUO is the word for “hearing,” where we get the word “acoustics.” HUPO means “hyper” or “super.” Paul is saying, “Children, super-hear your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” According to the Parable of the Sower, to hear with one’s heart is tantamount to obedience. The New Testament often equates obedience and faith, “obedience to the faith,” (Rom. 1:5, 16:26.)
If faith is the conception which takes place at the hearing (receiving and submitting) of the word of God in our heart, then where and when does the delivery of the new birth take place? In Acts 18:8, Luke described the process of conversion of those in Corinth. “Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.” Baptism is our delivery because it is our raising EGEIRO, which means to arouse or awaken; (Rom. 6:4) because in it, we are raised to walk in newness of life! Baptism is our sprouting, because if we have been planted, or united, with Christ, in it, “we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection!” Baptism is our spiritual birth, (Gal. 3:27-29) because, in it, we “put on” or “are clothed in Christ,” and in fact, this is where we actually become the seed or spiritual offspring of Abraham. Baptism is where we are “born again,” because Jesus qualified being “born again” as being “born of water and spirit,” (John 3:3, 5.) Many people try to deny the “water” of John 3:5 as referring to baptism, but John 3:23, the water of baptism, defines for us the water of the new birth in John 3:5.
We also can clearly see that the Apostle John is using Jesus’ nightly conversation with Nicodemas in John chapter 3 as a “Kick-off” for introducing baptism as a means of receiving the remission of sins, first under the temporary auspices of John the Immerser, (Mark 1:4) which would be superceded after, on the day of Pentecost with baptism in the name (authority) of Jesus Christ, (Acts 2:38, 18: 24-26, 19:1-5.) Luke wrote in Acts 18:8 that the Corinthians, “hearing, believed and were baptized.” This is a remarkable fulfillment of what Jesus said, “he that believes and is baptized shall be saved,” Mark 16:16.
One of he idea of Original Sin, which seems to have originated among pagan peoples but entered the mainstream beginning with certain Jewish sects during the Apocryphal time period, brought into Christendom by the Roman monk Augustine, and modified by the Protestant John Calvin, into the concept of full blown Total Depravity. Total Depravity is a complex theological system which includes much more than just asserting, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) It embraces the proposition that all humans have become sinners, hereditarily, by birth, inheriting the sin of Adam which was transmitted to all mankind throughout every generation. Furthermore, it purports that man, who is dead in his fallen and unregenerate state, is not able to participate, nor respond to God in a process of salvation, for in their philosophic system, this would take away from the sovereignty of God.