13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?The above question that Jesus poses to His disciples is in part a response to their own question of why He was teaching them in parables. After giving the justification that parables to some hearers are judgment so that they may not understand, while to others such as the disciples, understanding had been given to them, Jesus follows up by asking how could they understand any of the other parables if they didn’t understand this one. The implication from this statement is that this parable of the Sower concerning the preaching of the Word (sowing the seed) and the individual heart responses (soils) is foundational to all of the other Kingdom parables. This is evident by noting the pattern of the parables in context with this one occurring as the first mentioned in Mark and the first of the Kingdom parable section in Matthew 13.
Again, the basis for understanding the other Kingdom parables that Jesus teaches is this one: That there is a Sower who sows the Word; there is a range of receptivity including a hard soil where Satan steals the seed, rocky soil where no root can take hold and gets scorched by tribulation or persecution, thorny soil where the cares of the world, deceitfulness of riches, and desires choke out the seed, and finally good soil where a variety of fruitfulness is produced. As it pertains to the Kingdom, the primary principle is that in the Kingdom there is a Sower who sows the Word and multiple heart responses. As the foundational parable, it helps us to see clearly our Lord’s preaching mission in His kingdom, but also the extent of the Kingdom. It is not equated with the church, as Augustine and many paedobaptists since have concluded. The Kingdom is broader and as we have just seen includes the realm where there are both those who reject the word, appear to accept it, and actually do receive it and bear fruit. This latter group are called sons of the kingdom (Matt. 13:38). In this next parable, also about the Sower and sowing, where Augustine made his kingdom-church equation, Jesus explicitly states that the field is the world.
Can the church, in whatever definition is given to it be properly equated with the world? Of course not.
Understanding this parable as foundational to all of the other parables, as well as allowing it to provide us with insight into the Kingdom of God, helps us to see and make some of the following conclusions:
- The extent or realm of the Kingdom is where the Word is preached, effectively the ends of the world.
- The subjects in the Kingdom over whom Christ reigns include a range of those who have rejected the Word, appear to believe for a time, and those who actually believe and bear fruit.
- Those who have believed and received Christ as Savior are more than Kingdom members, but are indeed Kingdom Sons
- Believers and unbelievers exist side by side in the Kingdom until the final harvest.
- Within the Kingdom there are outposts where believers gather together to fellowship with the Triune God and each other, edify one another, and refocus on the Kingdom mission; this is commonly called church but properly called ekklesia.
- There is an already (present) reality to the Kingdom and a not yet (future) reality to the Kingdom.