Rev. D. A. Ross
Text: Behold, a sower went forth to sow (Matthew 13:3).
THE great work committed by Christ to His church is to preach the gospel to all nations, and to this work Mbuma Zending has contributed millions of guilders over the years. I therefore thought it appropriate to address you here today on the subject of preaching the Word of God, as that is brought before us by the Saviour in the parable of the sower.
I am sure the parable of the sower is well known to you all, even to the children here today. In the parable, Christ speaks about preaching the Word, and about the responses by different people to the Word. As enabled we will notice these two points: First, the word which is preached; secondly, the responses by various people to the Word.
First, the word which is preached. “A sower went forth to sow.” The sower is the preacher of the Word, and he is sent by God. The Old Testament prophets were called by God, and they were distinguished from the false prophets who preached but were not called by God. And in New Testament times we see the fulfilment of Matthew 24:24, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets.” But we have yet the true preachers of the Word, called by God, as distinct from those whom Peter refers to as “false teachers”. So the Saviour, in stating that “a sower went forth to sow”, speaks of all whom He has, as the King of His Church, directed to so do. They seek, by the help of God, to “preach the preaching” which He bids them.
“A sower went forth to sow.” Of course, to sow is to preach the Word. This is the great commission given to the Church. Surely the main reason for this great gathering of people today is that the gospel would be preached to the ends of the earth. In connection with the gospel on the mission field, there are various kinds of other work to be supported, but our chief concern must always be that the Word would be faithfully preached.
“A sower went forth to sow.” In our preaching in Africa, we declare all the doctrines of grace. The Saviour continually reminded His hearers of these doctrines, and we seek by grace to adhere faithfully to them. We preach, for example, the fall of man, and his total depravity and sinful inability; Gods election of a definite number of sinners to eternal life, and His choosing a saviour, His Son, to atone for their sins. We proclaim mans accountability, and that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in His body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 4:10). Those of you who know the Westminster Confession of Faith, see there that our teaching is similar to that of your own Confession, of the Heidelberg Catechism, and of the Canons of Dort.
“A sower went forth to sow.” The preacher of the gospel must proclaim to men the remedy for sin: the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Every sinner must be assured, as Paul assured his hearers at Antioch, “that through this man (Christ Jesus), is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.” Paul also testified to those sinners, that by Christ, “all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law” (Acts 13:38, 39). Like Paul, we must warn sinners about rejecting Christ, and the consequent damnation: “Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets: behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you” (Acts 13:40, 41).
We shall now notice, in the second place, the different kinds of response from people who hear the gospel. At the outset, let us note that the same teaching was preached to all. Each person heard of the same Saviour, of their need of Him, and the command to turn from their evil ways to Him alone for salvation. So we direct all to look to Christ Jesus alone for salvation. “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 46:47). All sinners under the gospel are called equally by the outward call of the gospel. Christs faithful servant Paul said to the heathen in Athens, “God commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). Christ, through the gospel, simply calls sinners as sinners, and commands them to repent of their sins and believe in His name. He promises salvation to all who believe, and pronounces damnation to all who will not believe.
“A sower went forth to sow.” Let us consider now the nature of the different responses. There are those, represented by the wayside hearer, upon whom the Word of God has not the least effect. It was as if the preacher was speaking to some irrational creature: all that is said is more or less ignored. We should take good heed that we are not like this. And if we are like the wayside hearer, we should ask God to deliver us from our hard-hearted indifference.
Others, however, did respond. The next two classes of hearers, the thorny ground hearer and the stony ground hearer, showed an interest in the Word. Indeed the stony ground hearer heard the Word with joy. Alas, however, while professing to receive salvation, they did not endure. There are many such in the Christian church today. They make a profession of faith in Christ, but they have never realised their total sinfulness and their need of the divine Saviour. They profess to trust in Christ, but in the secret of their hearts they are still trusting in something of their own, and not on a whole Christ. The result is, when persecutions arise, or their concern about worldly things increases, their professed attachment to Christ becomes a hindrance and is soon forgotten, and they eventually fall away and return to their old sinful habits. “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:22). How we should pray earnestly, each one of us, that this would never happen to us.
Finally, there is the last class of hearers, the good ground hearers. Such hear and understand the word, and eventually rest by faith on Christ alone for salvation, as He is freely offered in the gospel. Of course, they were effectually called, that is, thoroughly convinced of their sin and enabled to embrace Christ, by the Holy Spirit opening their understanding in regeneration. By the application of the Word to their souls they were brought to fully realise their need of the mercy of God, and most earnestly prayed the prayer of the publican,
“God be merciful to me the sinner.” God, faithful to his promise, saves them. And those who are so blessed show more and more the fruits of the gospel in their lives; for example, holy living and steadfastness in the doctrines of Christ. Now, this good result of preaching is what we must look for in ourselves and others. This outcome of sowing the good seed of the Word is what we have seen over the years in Zimbabwe. Also, precious fruit is promised to the preacher as he preaches the gospel. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5, 6).
We in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland most heartily thank you, our friends in Holland, for your generous contributions over the years, to help us do that greatest of all kinds of work: going forth as sowers, to sow the good seed of the kingdom. May the Lord, in His mercy, attend our work with an abundant outpouring of His Holy Spirit. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).