Other posts in this series:
- Part 1: three verbs that describe someone who has encountered Jesus Christ
- Part 2: comparing Hebrews 6 with Luke 8
In last week’s post, we discussed the first two types of soil in Luke 8. Today, we will discuss the third.
Who is the “third soil”?
The third soil is also quite interesting, and there is a legitimate divergence of opinion as to just who this third soil represents; it is either:
- true, born again believers who never really grow to the maturity in Christ God desires and that they have been enabled to by His indwelling Holy Spirit
- people who, like the second soil, had a superficial commitment and were never really saved to begin with.
I’ve studied the Word over my lifetime. I’ve also learned from pastoring and teaching for over forty years and having lived with real, live people, who are not ‘statistics’, nor are they formulaic, theological equations, but they are human beings with flesh and blood struggles, failures, flaws, imperfections, victories, defeats, tragedies—most important of all, they are recipients of God’s transforming power through the person of Jesus Christ by His indwelling Holy Spirit. Thus, I see this third soil as true, born again believers who, although saved and redeemed by the blood of Christ, never reach the spiritual maturity that is available to them because of their ongoing attempt to walk with one foot in the world, while at the same time attempting to continue their genuine walk with the Lord.
However, those who attempt this bilateral relationship will never grow to the spiritual, mental, and emotional maturity in Jesus that is available to them:
“And other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it, and choked it out. . . . And the seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.”
(Luke 8:7 &14)
An ongoing and continuous choking
The word “choked” in the Greek is συμπνίγονταί (sumpnigontai), and it means “to check or stunt the growth of something by pressure.” In this instance, the verb is in the present tense and passive voice, which indicates an ongoing and continuous action of choking out the free flow of God’s truth into these people’s lives by means of the “worries and riches and pleasures of this life.” The result is that they “bring no fruit to maturity”—that is, the plant does not die, and the people who “have heard” are indeed genuinely born again, but just as the plant never reaches its full maturity in bearing its inherent fruit, so these believers do not grow into spiritual, mental, and emotional maturity as believers in Jesus because of the “weeds of the world” choking out the priority of God’s Word in their lives.
The three plum trees
I grew up in Jackson, MS, and in our back yard we had three plum trees. Two of them bore luscious, sweet, juicy plums every year, but the third one, although it bore plums, the plums were never the juicy and luscious quality of the other two trees. They were always a bit hard and tart to the taste. Do you know why? It is because an elm tree grew next to this third plum tree! The roots of that elm tree drew away the full nourishment that third plum tree needed to produce plums as sweet, luscious, and juicy as the other two plum trees.
I had a roommate at Mississippi State who would come home with me on the weekends during the Spring, either just before or just after Football Spring Training, and he would constantly go for the plums on that third tree because he liked the tart taste and crunchy consistency of those plums. I would always ask him, “Bobby, why are you eating those, versus these other ripe and juicy plums,” and he would always say, “I prefer the tart taste and chewier consistency of these.” Thus, from both an agronomical and biblical and theological perspective, I view this third soil as indeed a true, born again believer who has not grown into the level of spiritual maturity they should be, and God will definitely deal with them through His living discipline as His children. I also feel this is a testimony of God’s grace and mercy. After all, just as my roommate preferred the tart and crunchy taste of the unripe plums, God can and will minister to and through believers who are attempting to walk a bilateral walk with the Lord and with the world, but that ministry to and through them is dwarfed by what He could do to and through them if they were indeed consistently walking in Luke 9:23-24.
God works in spite of us
The truth is, however, that God ministers to and through all of us, not because of who we are, but rather in spite of who we are. However, as stated above, those children of God who are of the third soil will experience God’s loving “discipline” in God’s own way, time, and method, and they will come to a point where they will either submit to His “discipline” and “share His holiness.” Only then will they experience the “peaceful fruit of His righteousness,” they will grow and bear “fruit to maturity,” or they will continue in their bilateral walk with the Lord and the world, producing “immature fruit” that will not only adversely affect them, but also their families, friends, working associates, et al. These believers, therefore, unfortunately tend to continuously vacillate between being in a position of ‘spiritual, mental, and emotional immaturity’, comparable to physical ‘babies, toddlers, and teenagers’, versus growing consistently into ‘spiritually, mentally, and emotionally mature adults’ in Jesus’. They may very well be looked upon as those described in two portions of Scripture:
(1) in I Corinthians 3:1-7, 11-15, we see Paul addressing believers who he says are “babes in Christ” because of their focus on men, versus on Jesus, and he goes on to describe those and other believers who have a true foundation and eternal relationship with Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but their superstructure is made of “wood, hay, and straw,” which would represent a life not completely yielded to Jesus’ Lordship over their lives on a consistent basis, and such a lifestyle will be manifest at the Judgment Seat of Christ for believers (II Corinthians 5:10), at which time their works will be “burned up,” and they “shall suffer loss,” but they will “be saved, yet so as through fire,” versus the “gold, silver, and precious stones” of a life that is committed to following Jesus, versus men, and being submitted to His Lordship on a daily basis;
(2) and in Hebrews 5:11-14, where those believers are also described as “babes,” and thus, “have need again for someone to teach you (ya’ll – plural, my note) the elementary principles of the oracles of God” because they have not matured in their walk with the Lord:
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? 5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. . . . 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.
(I Corinthians 3:1-7, 11-15)
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Therefore, in both of these two passages quoted above, we see Paul, and whoever wrote Hebrews, stating that there are believers who are considered “babes” in Christ because of their lack of ‘spiritual, mental, and emotional’ growth in Christ, and I in turn see these who are mentioned in the above two passages as a picture of who Jesus is describing as the third soil in Luke 8:7 & 14. Interestingly, there are two words used in the Greek New Testament for “babes” and “children”:
- νήπιος (nepios), which is primarily used for a “baby” that is still being nourished from his or her mother’s breast milk;
- παιδίον (paidion), which primarily refers to a child up to puberty.
Thus, in these two instances in I Corinthians 3:1 and Hebrews 5:13, Paul is saying that these true and genuine believers have not grown beyond the metaphorical “breast milk” of spiritual truth in their lives, and therefore, in line with those believers of the third soil in Luke 8:7 & 14, they have brought “no fruit to maturity” ((even though they may have been Christians for some time and have a knowledge of Scripture). It is not a matter, therefore, of how much they may know of the Scripture, but rather how deeply what they know has penetrated into their lives, resulting in brokenness, and is continually conforming them into the “image of Christ,” demonstrating that their lives are not about them, but rather about Jesus.
—to be continued—
Are you enjoying this series? Finding it helpful? We hope so!
Stay tuned for next week, when Justin walks us through the fourth (last) soil type.