“Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:7-10
With all the seemingly complex arguments aimed at Christianity today, the basic argument for Christianity is simple – Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” John 10:11
Jesus Christ is God’s eternal Son. He came to earth in the form of a man, lived a perfect life, gave His life for His sheep, and rose from the dead so whoever believes in Him “will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”
How can such a simple message with the promise of an awesome outcome for believers be so hard to understand by so many? We have an enemy who is also God’s enemy. Satan, ‘the thief,’ is here on planet earth to ‘steal, and to kill, and to destroy.’
What that means for us is Spiritual WAR!
[Podcast version at the end of this post.]
We are currently answering seven questions about the spiritual battle Christians find themselves fighting every day and previously answered questions 1 and 2:
We began looking at question 3 in our last post – Are you really involved in fighting this spiritual battle? Where are battles fought?
We see the spiritual ‘battleground’ clearly in the Parable of the Sower. It’s found in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8. Because of how foundational this is to our understanding of the war we find ourselves in, let’s look how each of the Gospel writers recorded what Jesus said to the crowd followed by what Jesus said to His disciples.
Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13
Jesus speaking to the crowd:
“Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But 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 sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Jesus speaking to His disciples:
“Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Parable of the Sower in Mark 4
Jesus speaking to the crowd:
“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.’ And He said to them, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!'”
Jesus speaking to His disciples:
“And He said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
Parable of the Sower in Luke 8
Jesus speaking to the crowd:
“A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Jesus speaking to His disciples:
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”
The Prophets and War
Jesus told the crowd about the battle and the battleground without explaining it to them. The twelve disciples asked Jesus the meaning of the parable and He said to them:
“To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.’” Mark 4:11-12
It’s important to note here that Jesus quoted from Isaiah 6 where the prophet Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord sitting on His throne in Heaven. Isaiah heard the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Isaiah said, “Here am I! Send me.” He heard the Lord say what Jesus would later tell His disciples:
“Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ ‘Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.”
Isaiah asked the Lord, “how long?” and the Lord answered:
“Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, The houses are without a man, The land is utterly desolate, The Lord has removed men far away, And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. But yet a tenth will be in it, And will return and be for consuming, As a terebinth tree or as an oak, Whose stump remains when it is cut down. So the holy seed shall be its stump.”
Isaiah prophesied in Judah during the second half of the 8th century and the first part of the 7th century BC. He lived during the time of Assyria defeating the northern kingdom of Israel and warned multiple kings of Judah that a foreign empire would defeat them as well. Israel and Judah had a great physical enemy in both Assyria and Babylon. Though the battleground appeared to be those who would control the land, Isaiah and other prophets made clear that the real battle was a spiritual one.
Jesus prophesied in Israel during the beginning of the 1st century AD and also warned the people and their leaders about impending judgment and destruction. However, the Gospel that Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God was much more than control of a small area of land in the Middle East. After His death and resurrection, Jesus commanded His disciples to take the Gospel “to the end of the earth” and to “make disciples of all the nations.”
Players on the Field of Battle
Jesus introduced His disciples to several key players on the spiritual battleground: The Sower, Seed, Wayside, Birds, Stony Ground, Earth, Sun, Root, Thorns, Crop, Good Ground.
The Sower … Jesus does not describe the ‘sower’ in this parable, though it is usually believed to be the person who ‘sows’ the seed (e.g. Jesus, apostles, teachers, preachers, evangelists, Christians who tell people about the Gospel of Christ)
The Seed … Jesus said the seed is the ‘word of God.’ The ‘sower’ would ‘sow’ the Word of God through teaching and preaching the Gospel of Christ.
The Wayside … the Greek words used in Mark 4 are παρα την οδον, meaning ‘road, path.’ It’s where people walk along their journey, explaining why ‘seed’ that ‘fell by the wayside’ would be trampled down.
The Birds … Jesus said that the ‘birds of the air’ devoured the seed that fell by the wayside. He explained that the birds of the air represent what Satan (the devil) does when he ‘comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.’ Jesus makes clear that what He’s talking about is the ‘spiritual battleground’ of people’s souls – ‘lest they should believe and be saved.’ Jesus would later say that He had “come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
The Stony Ground, Earth and Sun … Jesus said that some of the seed (the Word of God) fell on ‘stony ground.’ The Greek word for ‘stony ground’ is πετρωδες, meaning ‘rocky ground, ground full of rocks.’ Jesus also pointed out that the stony ground ‘did not have much earth.’ The Greek word for ‘earth’ is γην, meaning ‘the physical earth, soil, land.’ The seed ‘sprang up’ because it had ‘no depth of earth.’ Jesus said that ‘when the sun was up the seed was scorched.’ Jesus said that this represents people who ‘immediately’ receive the Word of God with gladness, but endure only for a time because they have no root in themselves. “Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.” The combination of no depth (stony ground that did not have much earth) and tribulation or persecution (scorching sun) led to the death of what sprang up from the seed (people did not endure because they have no root in themselves).
The Thorns and The Crop … Jesus said that some of the seed ‘fell among thorns.’ The Greek word for ‘thorns’ is ακανθαι, meaning ‘a thorn-bush, prickly plant.’ Jesus said the thorns ‘grew up and choked it’ and it ‘yielded no crop.’ He told His disciples those were the people who heard the Word, ‘and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.’
The Good Ground … Jesus told the crowd that other seed fell on ‘good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.’ He then told the crowd, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’ Jesus explained to His disciples that these are the ‘ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.’
No Neutral Ground
C.S. Lewis said it well – “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.” (C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1967, p. 33)
There is no place on earth where the spiritual principles Jesus taught His disciples are not true. In order for Christians to be successful with Evangelistic Apologetics, we must understand the battleground in which we wage spiritual warfare. As we preach the Gospel of Christ (sow the Word), we must know how the enemy will oppose us. Satan knows what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. The devil will direct his forces of evil to do everything in their power to make sure the Word of God does not land on ‘good ground’ where people will accept it and bear fruit.
Strategy of War
What Jesus has given His Church is the ‘strategy of war.’ We need to study it until we understand it — then never forget it. In the next part of our study we will look at Satan’s battle strategy and how we can face him on the battlefield.
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.