“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 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.”
In a message entitled, “Superficial and Genuine Believers” at Bible.org (see here), Pastor Steve Cole says:
The four soils can be grouped into two categories: the unfruitful and the fruitful. All four soils hear the Word. The first soil is the only one not to accept it at all. The second soil accepts the seed briefly and shows initial promise, but it soon dies out. The third soil seems to make even further progress, but eventually the thorns choke it out. Only the fourth soil eventually bears fruit.
Some would argue that since the last three soils accepted the seed, and since it is stated about the seed on the rocky soil that “they believe for a while” (8:13), these all are saved; only the first category is lost. But, clearly Jesus gives no encouragement or comfort to any except those in the fourth category. Darrell Bock explains (Luke [IVP], pp. 148-149),
Faith saves; the absence of faith does not. So to believe for a time is not to believe in a commendable way, since the end result is not faith. One cannot end up unbelieving and have a faith that saves, for then salvation comes in unbelief. Another way to say this is that genuine faith is permanent….Our theological problems may emerge here because we tend to view faith as a response of the moment. The New Testament stresses that faith in Jesus is permanent, being established by a rebirth. Its permanence is suggested by its nature as the product of the regenerating work of God….
Until the second sentence in his second paragraph, Cole is headed toward the conclusion that the second soil represents born-again people. However, he then diverts off the path and ends up embracing a very common interpretation which happens to be illogical. While I agree that “to believe for a time is not to believe in a commendable way,” that in no way suggests that “the end result is not faith.” That view is saying that when the Lord said that those in the rocky soil “believed for a while,” He did not mean what He said.
Let’s try to rewrite what the Lord said so that it fits the interpretation that believing for a time is not believing. How about, “they believed for a while, but they did not believe during that time”? No. That is a contradiction. How about, “they believed for a time, but since they did not continue believing, their initial belief was shown to be bogus.” That too is a contradiction. If a person believes for a while, no matter how short or long that time is, then during that time he believes.
If a person believes the saving message for a month, then he believes the saving message during that month. If he believes for a year, then he believes during that year. If he believes for a decade, then he believes during that decade. That is why the devil snatches the word out of their hearts: “lest they should believe and be saved.” The devil believes in eternal security. He knows that the moment a person believes in Jesus for everlasting life, then that person is saved once and for all.
Now it would not be illogical to say that the man was saved during the time when he believed the saving message and that he lost his salvation when he stopped believing. Logical, but incorrect since the Lord taught eternal security as even the devil knows. The Lord Jesus said that the one who believes in Him shall never perish, shall not come into judgment, shall never hunger, shall never thirst, and shall never die (John 3:16; 5:24; 11:26). For those who formally believe in eternal security, and yet who believe that one must persevere in faith in order to have everlasting life, they must resort to an impossible interpretation of many texts, including the Parable of the Four Soils.
When your theology says that believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is not enough to have everlasting life which can never be lost, it is time to change your theology. When your theology drives you to adopt impossible interpretations, it is time to allow the Word of God to change your thinking.
There is no time requirement regarding believing in Jesus for everlasting life. Let’s say that Sally is driving on the freeway and hears J. Vernon McGee preaching the message of John 3:16 on the radio. She believes in Jesus and is born again right there in her car. Then a minute later a drunk driver crosses the median, hits her head on, and she dies.
Where would she go? Heaven, right? All would agree. But she only believed for a minute! So? There is no time requirement.
But what if Sally survived the car accident and went through many surgeries and got hooked on pain medication? What if a year later Sally stopped believing in Jesus as a result of her trying circumstances? Now where would she go when she died? Many would say she would go to hell because she stopped believing. In this odd view it was unfortunate that she didn’t die in that accident. Then she would have gone to heaven. Guaranteed. In this strange theology the best thing that could happen to a person is to die at the moment of faith. That way the time requirement does not kick in.
The Lord Jesus promised that the moment a person believes in Him he has ever-lasting life which can never be lost. No matter what! As one of my seminary professors, Dr. Charles Ryrie, liked to say, “If everlasting life could be lost, it has the wrong name.”