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In the parable of the sower, four types of soil are mentioned. It seems to be pretty commonly accepted that the first two types of soils represent unbelievers or "make believers". The fourth type of soil is held to be true believers that are living fruitful lives.

The debate appears to come in when considering what the third type of soil is--the seed that fell among the thorns. What exegetical reasons are there to accept that this type of soil does refer to genuine believers who are living apart from the abiding life to which we are called rather than a third type of unbeliever?

Mark 4: 1-8 ESV

1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.

2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:

3 "Listen! A sower went out to sow.

4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.

5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil.

6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. **

7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain**.

8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."

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From Mark 4 there is: the path, the rocks, the thorns, and the good soil. Is this question referring to the seed that is choked with thorns? –  Richard Nov 9 '11 at 18:38
    
@richard I updated this with the Scripture –  Narnian Nov 9 '11 at 19:02
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Is this "pretty commonly accepted?" I've heard various different interpretations of this parable, some of which count all 4 groups as believers, at least initially... –  Mason Wheeler Nov 9 '11 at 19:15
    
@MasonWheeler It's "a" commonly held interpretation, but not the only one. It is only in this context that this particular question makes any sense. –  Narnian Nov 9 '11 at 19:17
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4 Answers

Certainly, God objectively knows whether or not a specific "Christian" to whom this applies is saved. From a human point of view, though, I think it is impossible for this "Christian" to know for sure that he/she is actually saved. The Bible does not teach that we are saved by our works (Eph 2:8), but it definitely teaches that our salvation will result in works (James 2:14-26).

Exegetically, I think you could make the case that the seed's growth into a plant represents a new life, and the yield represents the good works, disciple-making, etc. that result. From this interpretation, the first 2 seeds/plants do not last, but the 3rd and 4th do, therefore both the 3rd and the 4th are truly saved & given new life.

BUT... I don't know how strong this interpretation is. After all, the 2nd seed grew into a plant too and then died, and James 2:14-26 explicitly says that faith without works (or a plant without produce) is dead.

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In the parable of the sower, what exegetical reasons are there to interpret the third type of soil to be genuine Christians? Luke describes the Seed as the word of God (Luke 8:11) Matt describes this word as a "message about the kingdom" (Matt 13:19).

In (Matt 13:22), (Mark 4:18-19) and (Luke 8:11) All agree that it is someone who hears about the kingdom. The soil represents the nature of that person. Now the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) follows with "Those who belong to Christ Jesus" (Galatians 5:24) They "have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:24). Now if "the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful." (Mark 4:19). We can clearly see that third soil type has not "crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:24) If they have not bee crucified with him, how can they expect to rise? (Romans 6:5). So No people of the third soil type are not genuine Christians.

In the parable of the sower, four types of soil are mentioned. It seems to be pretty commonly accepted that the first two types of soils represent unbelievers or "make believers". The fourth type of soil is held to be true believers that are living fruitful lives. Yes, for the Wayside, the word does not get to the heart. The Hardened Heart rejoices but does not follow through with the teachings.

The debate appears to come in when considering what the third type of soil is--the seed that fell among the thorns. What exegetical reasons are there to accept that this type of soil does refer to genuine believers who are living apart from the abiding life to which we are called rather than a third type of unbeliever? Answered, the bible proves that they are a third type of unbeliever.

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How does this compare with 1 Corinthians, which is written to the saints, but which condemns them for all sorts of sins. It seems like it is at least possible that they could be considered third soil saints, at least before Paul wrote the letter. –  Narnian Jan 13 at 12:52
    
They where quarreling (1 Cor 1:11). What fruit is that? (Matthew 7:15-20) If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). The Thorns are thrown in the fire (Hebrews 6:7-8). –  Only he is good. Jan 13 at 17:42
    
So, his works don't count, but he himself is saved. That sounds like he just doesn't get any rewards, but does go to heaven. –  Narnian Jan 13 at 17:44
    
So you are correct in your thinking that some of the Corinthians at this time where considered third soil, otherwise the quarreling would not have occurred. Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity, of being made or becoming holy. "I gave you milk, not solid food.. (1 Corinthians 3:2)" When you understand the fire compares to anger (John 15:6). And faith and forgiveness compare to the stages of grief (Romans 11:11-24). That is is through forgiveness that acceptance occurs, and our spirit produces fruit. That is how we cast away the anger (Col 3:8). By faith and not denial. –  Only he is good. Jan 13 at 18:00
    
"It is as you say" (Mark 15:2). Notice that Jesus allows the words to come from the calm collected person, and the angry religious leader he simply ignores. Now see that God is patient for our repentance (Romans 2:4). It's the rewards that build together that brings us to eternal life (John 4:14). I recommend you Study about Heaven all the way from the Old Testament to the New =). Then you can clearly see the difference between the Kingdom of Heaven, and Heaven ^^. –  Only he is good. Jan 13 at 18:07
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I think the problem is the initial understanding of what the soil and seeds are.

The Gospel

Mark 4:14 (NIV)
The farmer sows the word

This verse implies that the seeds are the gospel. However, if we look at the next sentence, there appears to be a contradiction:

Mark 4:15a (NIV)
Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown.

However, that contradiction is clarified in the next sentence:

Mark 4:15b (NIV)
As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

Clearly, Satan can't come and take away the people; he's taking away the word that was sown.

Because of this, it appears clear that the gospel are the seeds. This makes it seem clear that the soil is the people.

The People

However, can we really accept the soil as people?

Mark 4:16-17 (NIV)
Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

This is showing that the people are like the seeds that are attempting to grow roots.

The Heart

I don't think that "the soil" can be equated to people any more than the seed can be directly equated to the gospel (due to verses 16-17). This is an analogy and Jesus isn't trying to make a perfect analogy here, but simply trying to illustrate a point.

If the soil could be equated with anything, however, I believe that it would be equated with the heart, not with the person who owns it.

Proverbs 12:25a (NIV)
Anxiety weighs down the heart

Luke 12:34 (NIV)
Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with ... the anxieties of life

True Believers?

So, the question is: Is the third type of soil a true believer? My answer: No.

Galations 5:22 (NIV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is ... peace ...

True believers have the Holy Spirit living within them. One of the results of having the Holy Spirit is peace--not anxiety.

We can also see this here:

Philippians 4:7 (NIV)
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

These verses show a very direct contrast to the "third soil":

Mark 4:18-19 (NIV)
Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Summary

This third type of people that we see in the parable of the sower are people who are so burdened with the cares of this world, that they don't nourish their spirit. These people allow the world and the cares of this world to choke out their faith.

They are not true believers.

One last item that you might find interesting.

Matthew 7:2 (NIV)
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

What is the will of God when it comes to worrying?

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

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Mark 4:10-20 explains in a little more detail what 4:1-8 recorded. Jesus is explaining to the disciples the purpose of parables as a whole, and we see that he uses the Parable of the Sower again to describe the people that the disciples will encounter.

18And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Initially, the person is hearing the Word (v 18), but desires of the flesh and worldly things make their way in, causing that person to not produce fruit (v 19).

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+1 - Nice using the next few verses. So it may not apply to Christians, but just to people that have heard, but had other priorities. –  James Black Nov 9 '11 at 21:46
    
I'm under the impression that it is referring to people that heard the Word - not necessarily accepting it as truth, but they do know what they are hearing and go on their way living in the world. –  motoxer4533 Nov 10 '11 at 14:36
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