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The Third Day
 
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. 11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 13 And the evening and the morning were the third day. Genesis 1:9-12
 
   
     

No statement has summarized the lessons of this Day of Creation better than the following:

Now, although both, the planting and watering of the preacher, and the running and willing of the hearer, would be in vain, and no conversion would follow it if the power and efficacy of the Holy Ghost were not added thereto, who enlightens and converts the hearts through the Word preached and heard, so that men believe this Word and assent thereto, still, neither preacher nor hearer is to doubt this grace and efficacy of the Holy Ghost, but should be certain that when the Word of God is preached purely and truly, according to the command and will of God, and men listen attentively and earnestly and meditate upon it, God is certainly present with His grace, and grants, as has been said, what otherwise man can neither accept nor give from his own powers. (Solid Declaration, Article II, Free Will, 55-56, Formula of Concord , Concordia Triglotta , p. 903. Tappert, p. 531f.)

 

The Herb Yielding Seed

Every seed is alive, created to seek every possible opportunity to germinate and grow. Some weed seeds can remain dormant for decades, waiting for the soil to turn over and generate the warmth needed for growth. Moisture is often the key ingredient, so children love to place seeds in moist paper towels and watch the life of the seeds erupt into pale seedlings.

Soil and plants are created for each other. Most of the nutrition for all plants, trees included, is exchanged in the top 12 inches of soil. The roots hold the soil and the soil feeds the roots. The complexity of this system alone is enough to fill several textbooks.

When Jesus spoke of the seed as the Word, He gave us a comparison so vivid that no one should forget.

And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: 5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. 8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 9 And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? 10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God : but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 They on the rock are they , which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it , and bring forth fruit with patience. Luke 8:4-15

This is one of the central texts in the Bible about the efficacy of the Word, answering why the Gospel is proclaimed and yet many do not believe in the Promises of God.

One of the problems people find in this text is the statement about teaching the Word so that people see without seeing and hear without understanding. And yet it is also clear that the parables are taught so that the lessons are easy to remember.

Faith in Christ is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Without faith the parables are nice stories that mean nothing in particular. Many examples can be found of this kind of interpretation. For instance, people write about the Bible as literature or as history. The Scriptures are historical and they are literature but without faith they have very little meaning. One liberal New Testament professor in seminary wrote and published a book on the parables of Jesus. However, he did not believe the basic articles of the Christian faith and often made fun of them. He scoffed at the resurrection accounts of the Gospels. He listened without hearing, saw without perceiving, and had no faith.

The Scriptures are nothing to people without faith. Christ appointed apostles and established the ministry so that the Gospel would be proclaimed, taught, and administered by those with proper training. Notice how quickly the apostates seek out seminary professorships. They want others to be exactly like them. Normally faith comes to people through the spoken or external Word. Luther used the term “external word” to distinguish it from the Pentecostal types who said they listened to the internal voice of God. Although a few people are converted simply by reading the Scriptures, the vast majority of people come to faith through the spoken Word. That includes Holy Baptism, where the spoken Word united with water converts the child.

So if someone has not been converted, hearing the parables is not very illuminating. Nevertheless, even the coarsest person can remember the basic details of this great parable and ask about the meaning of it. Jesus explained it to His disciples and they passed on the teaching ministry to pastors. One way the parables have their effect is to allow people to study them in detail through the teaching ministry of the pastor.

Anyone can understand the Scriptures, but it is also true that people left to themselves will invent almost anything about the Bible. The same heresies keep being repeated because people make up whatever they want and turn that into their religion. Laity and pastors fall into these errors. That is why we have conferences to discuss doctrine, to clarify and confess what we believe.

The parable of the Sower and the Seed is easy to remember because the details are so close to what we know from gardening. The seed is the Word of God. The types of soil represents where it falls when it is broadcast. (Liberals complain about figurative language in the Scriptures. Did you ever think that our term for TV and radio is really a metaphor for sowing seed? – broadcasting) There are four categories. That does not mean that each one represents 25%. We know from our own experience that in sowing seed “some” may be any number.

 
   
 
 
Hardened Footpath
Some seed falls on the hardened footpath and is snatched up by the birds and devoured. The lost seed are those who had faith but lost it and remain within the visible church. They are the apostates who rule the visible church today.
 
   
 

The first class of disciples are those who hear the Word but neither understand nor esteem it. And these are not the mean people of the world, but the greatest, wisest and the most saintly, in short they are the greatest part of mankind; for Christ does not speak here of those who persecute the Word nor of those who fail to give their ear to it, but of those who hear it and are students of it, who also wish to be called true Christian and to live in Christian fellowship with Christians and are partakers of baptism and the Lord's Supper. But they are of a carnal heart, and remain so, failing to appropriate the Word ofGod to themselves, it goes in one ear and out the other, just like the seed along the wayside did not fall into the earth, but remained lying on the ground...( Sermons of Martin Luther , II, p. 114.)

 
Rocky Ground

Some seed falls on rocky ground. It springs up quickly and then withers in the heat of the day. The withered plants are those who receive faith from the preaching of the Gospel, jump for joy, then fall away when bad things happen to them. Many ministers find they must bear the cross instead of enjoying a secure and sedate life. Their initial joy turns into sorrow and they fall away. Many celebrity conversions are like this. Someone is terribly and horribly repentant at first and then realizes it is a lot more fun to be a hellion than an angel. Pentecostals often fall away because the initial rush they felt from the tongue-speaking experience could not be maintained.

The second class of hearers are those who receive the Word with joy, but they do not persevere. These are also a large multitude whounderstand the Word correctly and lay hold of it in its purity without any spirit of sect, division or fanaticism, they rejoice also in that they know the real truth, and are able to know how they may be saved without works through faith...But when the sun shines hot it withers, because it has no soil and moisture, and only rock is there. So these do; in times of persecution they deny or keep silence about the Word and work, speak and suffer all that their persecutors mention or wish, who formerly went forth and spoke, and confessed with a fresh and joyful spirit the same, while there was peace and no heat, so that there was hope they would bear much fruit and serve the people. ( Sermons of Martin Luther , II, p. 116)

 
Among Thorns

Some seed falls among thorns. We have all seen plants like this. We notice a useful plant come up and then a weed nearby. We think, “I will get to that weed when I have a little more time.” Suddenly the weed engulfs and overshadows the good plant. These people are the ones who have a good start and then let all kinds of concerns dwarf and devour their faith. Some find that Sundays are the best time for children's sports. Others want one morning a week free (and Saturday is now frantic day for many families). Still others get wrapped up in work, hobbies, or old-fashioned hedonism.

Therefore they [fallen among thorns] do not earnestly give themselves to the Word, but become indifferent and sink in the cares, riches and pleasures of this life, so that they are of no benefit to anyone. Therefore they are like the seed that fell among the thorns...They know their duty but do it not, they teach but do not practice what they teach, and are this year as they were last. ( Sermons of Martin Luther , II, p. 117.)

 
Good Soil

Finally there is the good ground that produces fruit with patience over time. Gardeners complain about all the problems introduced by Adam and Eve, but the same growers also pass along bags of produce. Late summer always bring out the zuke passing, when people who love zucchini and even preserve zucchini find out nevertheless they cannot keep up with the vines, so they give away pounds of it. People warned us that if we planted two more lemon trees we would soon have enough for the City of Glendale .

Jesus' point in this parable is that the good ground will more than make up for the failures caused by man and Satan's temptations.

Luke 8:15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it , and bring forth fruit with patience.

There is so much in this verse that we should dwell on it and memorize it. What is an honest and good heart? A family of morticians divided themselves up among five different denominations to go to church. Some suspected that they did this to maximize their funeral business. Others have beenknown to switch from Lutheran to Presbyterian when their income got high enough for them to go high society and abandon their blue-collar group. This happened in Canada . When Lutherans got to a certain level of income, they joined the Presbyterian church across the street. One executive at Dow lost 20 pounds and joined the Presbyterian church – where the Dow family attended – in his quest for a better job.

Keeping the Word of God can be compared to guarding something precious. The word in the New Testament for keeping is also used for guarding a jail. When we have something special, we makesure nothing can take it away from us. We put jewels in a safe. We lock china in a display case. We put cigars in humidor.

Keeping the Word means guarding it in the same way we watch over material things that matter to us. However, the Word is far more important. The Word will always remain the Word, even if no one ever believes it, but it cannot be very precious to many people who either attack it or fashion it according to their self-centered ideas. Every day I see strange bumper stickers in the college parking lot proclaiming belief in the occult, same-sex marriages, and the like.

The Word brings forth fruit in time when we have patience. A valuable crop in the garden does not arrive overnight. No one expects a new fruit tree to bear right away. Asparagus is valued especially because we have to wait several years for the first crop. The slowest growing varieties of sweet corn are considered the best. Fast growing seed was available so farmers could keep their corn stands loaded during a long season, but the best white corn was the longest growing from start to finish – Silver Queen. And it was always worth the wait.

The Word brings forth fruit in our own lives and in future generations. If a couple sincerely believes in the Word and they raise their children to believe in the Gospel, they will eventually have dozens if not hundreds of believers in future generations.

This parable answers the question denominations have been asking (in vain) for decades. They have asked in vain because they wanted a material answer to a spiritual question. How can we make sure that the church will keep growing? The answer is simple, although exact predictions cannot be predicted or charted.

Imperishable Seed
 

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. 1 Peter 1:18-25

 
   
     

To have a large crop, sow more seed. That is not difficult. Sow even more seed. Sow pure seed, not weed seed. Sing orthodox Lutheran hymns. Read orthodox Lutheran authors. Study a faithful translation of the Bible. Listen to faithful pastors and avoid the apostates. Publish orthodox Lutheran books, orthodox Lutheran websites, and orthodox Lutheran booklets. Sow the imperishable seed.

The preaching of this message may be likened to a stone thrown into the water, producing ripples which circle outward from it, the waves rolling always on and on, one driving the other, till they come to the shore. Although the center becomes quiet, the waves do not rest, but move forward. So it is with the preaching of the Word. It was begun by the apostles, and it constantly goes forward, is pushed on farther and farther by the preachers, driven hither and thither into the world, yet always being made known to those who never heard it before, although it be arrested in the midst of its course and is condemned as heresy. ( Sermons of Martin Luther , III, p. 202)