What did Jesus mean in this parable? Was He saying that a man could lose his salvation? Was He perhaps teaching that a man couldn’t possibly lose his salvation?
Making an opinion on the Lord’s teaching here I believe could only be done right if a thorough examination of the parable is made. Reading verse 13, we see the Lord rebuking the disciples for not understanding this parable. He tells them that if they couldn’t understand this parable, they would not be able to understand other ones either. Beginning in verse 14, He explains to them the meaning of the parable He shared in verses 3-8.
Therefore, allow us to look at verses 14 and 15 along side with 3 and 4, the farmer sows the seed, the seed here falls along the path and becomes bird food. Looking at verses 14 and 15, we see the seed is the Word and Satan comes and takes the Word. Who then is the farmer? The farmer I believe represents the Christian minister who plants the Word through evangelistic outreach. Here we see the negligence of the farmer in planting the seed, he failed to cultivate the land and birds devour his seed. The farmer here I believe is analogous of the Christian minister who fails to break up the fallow ground of the sinners heart in his planting of the Word. Rather than showing him how he has offended the Lord and is guilty of sin and deserves death, he only aims at getting him to repeat a “sinners prayer” and filling out a decision card. When temptation arises, he has no strength to withstand the assault and falls back to his sin. The question arises, has he backslidden and lost his salvation? It is my conviction that such a person had never known salvation in the first place and therefore couldn’t lose what he never had.
Let us now look to verses 16 and 17 along with verses 5 and 6; the farmer seems to have done a little more to prepare the ground, yet he has failed to remove the rocks. He aspires to receive a crop from the seed planted, however, in his laxity, he falls short in preparation and therefore his crop has no root and withers away. This corresponds to the minister who may do a little more to awaken the sinner to his need of a savior, yet he fails to tell him of the persecution that may follow. Rather, he may have presented the Gospel as an easy fix for his problems. He gladly accepts the Gospel, thinking it will be a smooth ride, he endures for a while, then persecution arises and he falls away. Did he therefore lose his salvation? If he only accepted the Lord for what he could get from Him, had he truly put his trust in Him as savior? In my opinion, I do not think such a person has found salvation in the first place.
The Lord gives us another analogy in verse 7 along with 18 and 19, here the farmer seems to have failed to pull the weeds and they grow and choke the seed, preventing it from yielding a crop. Comparing this to the minister, maybe he fails to tell the new convert that following Jesus he must forsake all else to follow Him. Lu 14:33. This one may endure for a while, however, the affairs of the world begin to take preeminence to his time with the Lord. Again the question arises, has he lost his salvation? Let us compare him to the rich young ruler we read about in Mt 19:16-22, in verse 20 Jesus says, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” I imagine that if such a person were presented the Gospel like this young man, he likewise would have chosen not to follow Jesus and therefore was never a recipient of the salvation the Lord offers.
Finally, Jesus speaks of the seed sewn in the good soil. Here the farmer has done the necessary work to prepare the ground and the seed produces a good crop. In like manner, the minister who is not just trying to get a decision card filled out, but whose aim is to build up the Kingdom of God, presents the Gospel in such a way as to break up the fallow ground of the person’s heart and make a true convert for Jesus. The Word planted is not devoured but grows and produces fruit. Persecution may arise, yet he endures to the end. He knows there is a hell to shun and heaven to gain yet his motivation is pure love for his savior. Though he may not possess the riches of the world his course he will not alter. Once more we shall ask can this true convert lose his salvation? Like any other question regarding Biblical doctrines, this could only be answered by the Bible, God’s Word, not mine. Hebrews 5:9 says, “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him”, and Mt 24:13 says, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved”, and 2Tim 4:3-4 says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” According to what the Scriptures say here, eternal salvation is available upon condition of our obedience and endurance to sound doctrine. Therefore, it is my opinion that we could only lose our salvation by failing to obey and following after fables and false doctrines. The Lord has given us all his Word and the ability to discern the difference between truth and the twisting of His Word.