By Bob Wilkin
“But the ones on the 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.”
The Lord often taught by parables. He did so to conceal truth from those who rejected Him and to reveal it to those who diligently sought Him.
The “Parable of the Four Soils” tells the story of four different responses to God’s Word. The first soil does not believe and is not saved. There is unanimous agreement among commentators and theologians on this point.
The fourth soil believes and is saved. Again, everyone agrees.
But what about the second soil, the rocky soil? Does it represent people who are saved or unsaved?
Most commentators say the rocky-soil believer is not saved. Here are representative statements from commentaries:
The fact that they believe for a while but… fall away means that they only accept the facts of the Word mentally and then reject it when “the going gets rough.” It does not mean they lose their salvation, for they had none to lose (John Martin, “Luke,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 225).
He [Luke] thus shows that he has little tolerance for enthusiasts or fadists who espouse a cause as long as it suits their pleasure (Joseph Fitzmyer, Luke I-IX, p. 714).
Criticism is not directed to the quality or kind of faith these hearers possess. The problem is rather that they only hold this faith “for a while”; but as the rest of this text and the full canonical message suggest, this faith is not saving faith (Robert Stein, Luke, p. 246).
The seed on the rock represents a message that falls into a person’s heart but penetrates only shallowly. There is initial response, but eventually temptation causes the person to abandon that initial response. Initial receptivity and short-lived belief are followed eventually by a falling away. The engagement the word produced at the start does not last. Both Old and New Testaments issue dire warnings about the consequences of falling away or departing from faith (Jer 3:13–14; Dan 9:9; 1 Tim 4:1; Heb 3:12). Jesus offers no comfort for the person represented here; he merely notes significantly that the seed never bears fruit (Darrell Bock, Luke, s.v., Luke 8:4-21).
I believe that there are three good reasons to conclude that the rocky-soil believers represent born-again people.
First, only this soil is said by the Lord to believe. Not even the good soil is specifically said to believe. However, the parable implies that soils two, three, and four all believe. According to Jesus’ words in Luke 8:12, whoever believes is saved.
Second, according to John 3:16 and scores of other verses in John and the rest of the NT, the moment a person believes in Christ, he is guaranteed that he will never perish and that he already has everlasting life (cf. John 5:24). The second-soil people believe. Whether for a day or a decade, once a person is saved, he will always remain saved. There is no time requirement indicating how long one must believe before he has everlasting life.
Third, the reason Satan snatches away the seed is “lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). Satan believes in eternal security. He knows that once a person believes, he will never die spiritually (John 11:26a). We should know that as well.
Why do most commentators and theologians miss the obvious in this parable? It is because they are convinced that only those who persevere in faith and good works will make it into Christ’s kingdom. Therefore, since the second-soil believer failed to persevere, he must either not be saved, or he must have lost his salvation.
The problem with that thinking is that it contradicts the Lord Jesus Christ. We should understand from John 3:16 that the sole condition of everlasting life is faith in Christ. The moment one believes, he is saved forever. Salvation is final at the moment of faith in Christ. Perseverance is commanded, but one’s eternal destiny is not forfeited by failure to endure.
Do you go to John 3:16 to determine your view of what one must do to have everlasting life? Or do you go to Col 1:21-23, Jas 2:14, or 2 Tim 2:12? If you go to sanctification verses to develop your view of justification and regeneration and then impose that understanding upon justification and regeneration verses, you have inadvertently rejected God’s Word.
All who believe in the Lord Jesus for everlasting life are saved.1 That is gospel truth. Whether you believe it or not, it is true.
Bob Wilkin is Executive Director of Grace Evangelical Society. He and Sharon live in Highland Village, TX. He has racewalked ten marathons.
1 Al Valdes writes, “The fact that these ‘fall away’ indicates previous participation in the discipleship and growth process. God guarantees a believer’s eternal salvation as a gift by faith alone, but the process of discipleship, although rooted in God’s grace, demands faith and works—effort and cooperation in obedience to Him” (“Luke” in The Grace New Testament Commentary, p. 264).