The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

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"Those who fell on the rock"

For the second category we read:

"And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away."

Did the people in this category believe? The answer of the Lord is yes they did. They "believe for a while", He said. So we immediately see that faith has a time dimension. In other words, the fact that somebody believes does not necessarily mean that he will believe for the rest of his life. It may be that he believes but only "for a while". Once this "a while" is over then he is no longer in the faith, like it happened to the people of this category here. They started well, but after the start, after "a while", in time of temptation or persecution on account of the Word (Mark 4:7) they fell away. Several examples of this category come to mind: people who heard the Word, accepted it and then shared it with their relatives and friends only to be rejected by them. Instead of holding on accepting the stigma they gave up and departed from the faith. Others had also the same bright beginning. Then a temptation arose (it can be anything) and they gave in, perhaps got offended with God and His people and they also departed. These people had once believed, but they did not believe any more. In fact the word translated as "fall away" is the Greek word "aphistemi", which means "to withdraw from; hence, to fall away, to apostatize" (Vine’s dictionary). So, yes, it is possible for people who believed, under tribulation and temptation for the Word, to depart, to apostatize. This is exactly what happened with those in the second category of the parable of the sower. God was once their choice but they departed from Him, abandoning the faith.

Now the critical question is: if these people do not return and repent, will they be saved? If we are to believe the doctrine according to which it is enough that somebody believes even for a while and he will be saved, regardless of what will happen to his faith afterwards, then yes these will be saved for they had believed. However, the problem with this view is that it ignores the fact that faith is not something static, something that, because one had it sometime, somewhere, is also guaranteed that he will never abandon it. On the contrary, faith has a time dimension. And when people give up the faith, believing only for a while, they also leave back what was promised to them due to their faith, namely salvation, eternal life. Because really salvation is not just through grace, but "by grace through faith". Grace is God’s part and faith is our part. Both conditions have to be held and God always keeps His. But whoever departs from the faith leaves also whatever he got through faith, i.e. the promise of salvation. The New Testament has plenty of passages that make this very clear and the purpose of this book is to bring them out.

To find a way to explain the above passage some support that the people of the second category of the parable of the sower were never true believers, for had they been true believers - they say - they would have never fallen away. But obviously this view contradicts what the Lord Himself said when He explained this part of the parable. According to Him: "And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away". These people received the Word just like you and me: with joy. And they believed it. The Lord did not say that they pretended to believe it, nor did He say that they pretended to have accepted it with joy. In contrast their faith was originally genuine and real. However, it did not last. It endured, but only for a while. Therefore, it is the duration of the faith that was the problem with these people and not whether the faith existed at all in the beginning, for as we read they really believed, but only "for a while".

Perhaps this can explain the agony of Paul to learn about the status of the faith of the persecuted Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:4). As he said to them:

1 Thessalonians 3:1-8
"Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you — for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord."

Two times in just a few lines Paul speaks about his agony. He knew that the believers were under persecution and he was eager to learn about the status of their faith. Were they standing fast in the Lord or not? What were the news concerning their faith? Bad or good? This was the question and Paul was urgently waiting to hear its answer from Timothy. Therefore faith is not something unmovable; something that, once you have it, is guaranteed that you will keep forever. If it was like this, Paul would not worry. In that case, since they were once in the faith, they would always be in the faith despite the persecutions and temptations. But it is not like this. The purpose of the tempter, the devil, is to overthrow our faith, to make us take offense with God and His people and depart from the faith. In short, his purpose is to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). The fact that we were standing fast before the tribulation does not mean that we will necessarily also do so after the tribulation or the temptation. We have to make up our mind. God will support us and hold us but we have to hold on too; we have to decide that we will stay with Him, no matter what. Some do this but some do not. Those who do not, abandon the faith. They may not say it publicly, but in reality they do not mind much anymore. I believe that whoever is in the faith for some time knows perhaps some related examples. But let’s now pass to the third category of the parable of the sower.


Author: Anastasios Kioulachoglou