By William C. Sexton
A parable of the Lord which is peculiar to Mark’s gospel is that of the seed! We would do well, if we would look carefully at this parable relative to the growth of God’s kingdom. Let us think on two levels! how the individual is gained for the rule of Christ and how the ruled people work to build up a group who will submit to His Rule!
So is the kingdom of God, as if a man cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come (Mk. 4:26-29).
There are a number of significant points made in this parable, which we should be conscious of as we operate under the authority of Christ. We should observe these principles as we seek to grow, as well as observe them as we seek to help others to enter and develop in the kingdom of God.
1. Seed is essential to provide kingdom-citizens! This fact is stated clearly in many places and it is illustrated here, as parables illustrate principles established elsewhere.
Man may sow seed, but the germ of life resides within the seed, producing after its kind. One will never sow one kind of seed and reap fruit of another kind; the plant is determined by the seed. The seed of the kingdom is the word of God (Lk. 8:11). Therefore, the seed is indispensable, if kingdom-citizens are to be made.
Many people fail to accept this principle, thinking that God operates independently of His revealed word. However, just as surely as night follows day, one will not find a Christian where the seed, the word of God, has not been planted ‘ Let us be aware of this fact and see the implications of it. (1) If we wish to grow, as citizens in the kingdom, we must have planted in our mind the word of God. (2) If we wish to gain others and bring them into the kingdom, we must be careful and sure to present to them the pure seed, unmixed with our ideology, etc.
2. Mystery in the Seed. None of us can explain why a seed placed in the ground, provided proper moisture, conditions, etc. will in time sprout, spring forth in a plant. However’ we have all observed that such is the case. God, the Creator’ has placed the life in the seed. Such is the way things are! We have no plants which are not so produced.
The principles that are operative in the plant and animal kingdom are also operating here. We need to see that such is true, and conclude “no planting, no harvest.” The kind of seed planted will determine the kind of fruit that can be expected, if indeed fruit is produced. The Word of God produces faith (Rom. 10: 17; Jn. 20:30-31). Faith produces movement to obey the words, the requirements set forth therein (Rom. 6:16-18; Heb. 5:8-9). Repentance is a demand of “all” men everywhere (Acts 17:30-31). Confession is produced by the person whose faith leads him to repent, because Jesus points to the necessity of such (Matt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10). Baptism is the last of these steps in one’s movement toward salvation in Christ, which bring about the establishment of the relationship (Rom. 6:3-4).
Why such things are required, man does not know, except as we observe what happened in the New Testament (Acts 2:22-41; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). We see that these are acts produced by the word working in the heart of persons. Christ promises that sin is forgiven at this point. Faith moves one to so act. What about you, friend? Have you allowed the seed to enter the ground (your heart)? Has it produced the plant (baptized person by faith)? Are you growing?
3. The progress is orderly! First the blade, then the ear, and finally the grain is produced. One will not become a citizen of the Kingdom, except in an orderly fashion: Seed planted, time to germinate, plant springing up – one coming in faith, obeying, because he understands that such is required of God.
Likewise, growth doesn’t just happen! People begin to put off the old man and put on the new man. Daily, one has to consciously watch his language (Eph. 4:29), do that which is good (Eph. 4:28), and put away all unclean behavior. He has to allow Christ to be the “ample (1 Pet. 2:21-25).
One will not find himself automatically doing all that should be done or automatically leaving undone the inappropriate. Instead, one will find that he is missing the mark. Immediately, confession, repentance and prayer to God is in order (Acts 8:22; 1 Jn. 1:9). Moving on, growing by study and practice (Heb. 5:11-6:1ff) is essential for the kingdom-citizen.
4. Congregational Development. Just as the growth of kingdom-citizens is orderly and gradual, so is the growth of a congregation of those ciiizens in a community. The citizen must meet regularly, with the God-ordained practices of worship, teaching the pure word of God, and encouraging godly living. Such must take advantage of the many methods of evangelism available to them. Individually and collectivly a demonstration must be made of the power in the gospel message to change peoples’ lives.
The faithful must be consistently patient, ever standing for the right and opposed to the wrong! Honesty must characterize them – individually and collectively. Spirituality must be “first” in the order of business in the life of the individual and the group in all that they do. Fruit isn’t reaped the next day after the planting takes place. Cultivation, watering, and waiting are all necessary to produce the fruit (1 Cor. 3:6-10).
Each group, that is under the head-ship of Christ, will take care of its own inter-group functioning, according to God’s instruction. Then they will reach out with the gospel message to others. Many groups go astray today because they reach out with something other than the seed. When the fruits are ready for picking, the taste has changed, because another seed was sown. Beloved, a congregation of God’s people has to get its life from Christ. His blood flows only to those who are connected by way of having been born into that family and then continued by correcting the faults in which one finds himself involved (Acts 8:22; 1 Jn. 1:9). A congregation which offers fellowship on any basis other than that approved by Christ through His word, is sowing seed other than that of the kingdom of God.
Beloved all growth is not healthy, desirable, and Godapproved. Are we mindful of,these principles of growth set forth by the Master in this parable? Let us be careful observers, faithful practitioners, optimistic activitists involved in the growth of the kingdom of God on both the personal, as well as the group, level. The results will be eternal in duration and spiritual in nature.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 7, pp. 209-210
April 5, 1984