11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 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. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
What does the above text say to us about who is and who is not saved? Does the above text say anything about the potential loss of salvation? I do not think so.
When preaching through John’s gospel, I worked through John 2 23-25. In that passage, Jesus indicates that there is a kind of belief in him that is not saving faith. I would argue that this is the kind of false faith in view at the mention of the rocky and thorny ground. However, I would also argue that this is not the emphasis of the parable.
No, the emphasis of this parable is one of enduring faith. The one who has genuine, saving faith, the kind of faith we want to have, is the one who grows. The one who has genuine faith is not destroyed by greed or worldliness. The one who has genuine faith, the kind of faith that saves, will stand even through hardship. True faith endures. True faith perseveres.
One of the difficult things here is that we cannot judge whether a person’s faith is genuine by the initial signs they give. Just because somebody makes a profession of faith and is teary-eyed at a church meeting should not convince you that they are true believers. Now, I’m not telling you to be skeptical, to wait to welcome someone into the family of God, or to sit in judgment over somebody. What I am saying is that the only way to really know if someone’s claim to conversion is real is to see if it stands the test of time.
What should we take from this passage? Far from arguing over the thorny or rocky ground, we should realize that a true believer in Christ will stand. He or she may falter from time to time—this is a near certainty, but the true believer stands. The true believer does not sell out his or her faith for worldly gain or because the world does not accept the Christian worldview. The true believer does not point back to an event years ago as the only evidence of his or her salvation. No, a true believer will stand and grow. Sure, it will be hard. Sure, the believer will fail and have to repent of sin. Sure, there may be seasons in which the believer does not look much like a believer. But, overall, when all is said and done, the believer will return to turning from sin and following and standing for Christ.