At the end of the Parable of the Four Soils in Mark 4, the disciples asked the Lord to explain the parable to them. He does so, but before explaining the parable, He asks them a couple of questions. “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” (Mark 4:13). Clearly the Lord sees the Parable of the Four Soils as teaching the basics of His instruction about the kingdom of God. He is surprised that the disciples do not grasp these things.
What are these basics? The Parable of the Four Soils teaches us two basic facts. One is that when a person believes in Jesus for eternal life, he or she receives that life. This is pictured in the last three soils. Each of them has faith and each of them has life, as seen in the fact that each is a seed that sprouts. A seed can only sprout if there is life!
The only soil that does not have life is the one that does not believe. This is what the first soil pictures.
The second basic truth is that those who faithfully endure in following Christ will produce a great spiritual harvest. A believer might give up because of persecution or the allure of the world. To do so will result in no spiritual maturity and no abundant harvest when the kingdom comes. Such a believer will not rule in the coming kingdom.
All Free Grace folks recognize these basics. Faith in Christ brings eternal life. Faithful obedience brings an eternal harvest or rewards in the kingdom. We must always keep these two things separate. Works and obedience have nothing to do with receiving eternal life.
The basics of a subject are the most important things to know if we are going to understand the subject. That is why Jesus begins and ends the Parable of the Four Soils with a call to “hear.” He says, “Listen!” at the beginning of the parable and concludes it with, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (vv 3, 9). The point is that we really need to listen and study this parable. But why?
Of course, we could say it is because the Lord is speaking! But another reason is what Jesus says here. We need to understand this parable because if we don’t, we won’t understand the rest of the parables.
In the remainder of Mark 4, Jesus gives us other parables. He points out that if we don’t understand the Parable of the Four Soils, we won’t be able to understand any of the others. Why? If we don’t understand the basics, we will not be able to make sense of Christ’s other parables and teachings. In fact, the rest of the parables in Mark 4 expand on the teaching of being faithful to the Lord and producing fruit.
But it is sobering that the majority of people in Christendom do not understand this parable. They don’t know the basics. If we pick up a commentary or hear a sermon on the four soils, we almost always see a mixture of faith and works. We are told that the second and third soils are pictures of unbelievers. We are told that if we don’t have a big harvest, then we do not have eternal life because all true believers are faithful to Christ until the end.
We see here, once again, how the words of the Lord turn out to be true. Is it any wonder that those who misinterpret the Parable of the Four Soils misinterpret the rest of His teaching? We are subject to writings and teachings all around us that deny salvation by grace through faith alone and have no concept of rewards in the kingdom. I am so grateful for teachers of grace who have understood the basics and faithfully teach the truth. Free Grace Theology is very important. Without it, we would not understand any of the teachings of the Lord.
What about you? Do you have the basics down?