Jesus gives us four categories:
#1 Seeds sown on the path with no soil — never started growing
#2 Seeds sown on the rocky ground with little soil — “sprang up” then died without moisture
#3 Seeds sown on soil with thorns — “thorns grew with it, and choked it”
#4 Seeds sown on the good soil — produced much fruit
Of the four groups, those in the second and third categories were seeds that were growing, were born-again but then fell away from where they once were, losing their salvation.
Jesus specifically said: “Those on the rock… believe for a while, then fall away“ (Luke 8:13).
And those that “grew with” thorns were “choked” by them and “became unfruitful” (Mt. 13:22), of whom Jesus emphatically states will be cut off, thrown into the fire and burned:
Matthew 7: 16 By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree produces good fruit, but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t grow good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
John 15: 4 Remain in me, and I in you. As the branch can’t bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you, unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If a man doesn’t remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
Example #2 – Rocky Ground
The second group “endured for awhile,” so they had to have been truly born-again. Jesus then said “he stumbles,” because he fell from where he once was. “Oppression or persecution arose because of the word” — persecuted because of their real relationship with God — what Jesus said would happen to those who follow Him. The world persecutes real Christians.
20 What was sown on the rocky places, this is he who hears the word and immediately with joy receives it; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for awhile. When oppression or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.
Compare to the same story in Luke 8:13
Those on the rock are they who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; but these have no root, who believe for a while, then fall away in time of temptation.
Example #3 – Thorny Ground
The third group “became unfruitful” after “the thorns GREW UP and choked them” (v. 7). The seeds were growing until the “thorns grew up and choked them.”
Mt. 13:22 What was sown among the thorns [example 3], this is he who hears the word, but the cares of this age and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
“The cares of this age and the deceitfulness of riches” are all the sinful temptations that we must overcome: the love of money, lust, pride, the desire to go along to get along, etc. — what Paul calls walking according to the flesh instead of according to the Spirit.
Luke 8:14 adds the pleasures of life: “choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life,” which is happening to so many today.
Groups #2 and #3 Were Born-Again
Both of these groups were actually born-again, and then lost their salvation.
“with joy receives it… endures for awhile” – Mt. 13:20, 21
“receive the word with joy… believe for awhile, then fall away” – Luke 8:13
“it sprang up” – Mark 4:5
“receive it with joy… are short-lived” – Mark 4:16, 17
“becomes unfruitful” – Mark 4:19 — started out fruitful
“thorns grew with it” – Luke 8:7
Only the First Group was Not Born-again
“Those along the road are those who hear, then the devil comes, and takes away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved.” – Luke 8:12