Trusting that you, dear brother, dear sister, are familiar with Jesus’ parable of the sower (Mt. 13:3-23), let me ask a question. Are you good ground? You’ll remember that the ground by the wayside brought forth no fruit of the seed that was sown. Neither did the stony ground. Neither did the ground full of choking thorns. Only the good ground brought forth “fruit unto perfection”—fully developed fruit.
But some even of the good ground did not bring forth its full potential. The good ground brought forth “some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold ” (Mt. 13:8).
Why this? Why didn’t all the good ground bring forth an hundredfold? Even though it was good deep soil weed free, some brought forth only sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Why? We are not told why in so many words, but if you’ll read the parable in Matthew Chapter 13 you’ll see how consistently Jesus refers to the hearing of those who receive the seed of the Word. And in Luke’s gospel account, which mentions only the hundredfold, he records that “when He [Jesus] had said these things, He cried, he that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Lk. 8:8). Do you see Jesus in that moment, deeply impassioned and crying out? The bringing forth of a hundredfold harvest apparently depends on the state of our hearing. How good is our faculty of hearing? Are we actually hearing what the living Word is sowing into our hearts?
Let us hear His words as sown by His apostle Paul. There is a key for us here; if we are hearing, we are sure of bringing forth to our joy and the joy of the Sower the hundredfold harvest. So let’s listen in on a prayer of the apostle on behalf of the saints in Philippi.
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment [discernment]; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:9-11)
Notice this. Paul writes of their love. “This I pray, that your love…” They walked in love, their lives were characterized by love. That surely constitutes them good ground. Why then not leave it at that, Paul? But no, he prays that their love may “abound yet more and more…” In what way? “In knowledge and all discernment.” Abounding love, then, would awaken their hearts and minds to “knowledge and all discernment,” or perception; this would enable them to “approve things that are excellent.” A course of action might be good, no question. But love, abounding love, would give them the perception to see, to hear, to know what to the God of love is excellent. This would result in lives filled with fruit unto the praise and glory of God.
Abounding love, says Paul, is as it were the ear, the eye, of knowledge, greater, deeper knowledge, full knowledge, as the Greek word epignosis implies. The greater the love, the more perceptive the knowledge as to what pleases God. This reminds me of Paul’s words to the Corinthians, who were “puffed up” with their knowledge. And they had a lot of knowledge; Paul at the outset of his epistle to them testified that they had been by God’s grace “enriched by Him in all utterance and all knowledge…” (1 Cor. 1:5). But as Paul continues his epistle we are sorry to find that with all their knowledge they had a kind of blindness, numbness, deafness, about them. Something was missing in their knowledge; they were really not hearing from God as they ought to be hearing. (I am in 1 Corinthians Chapter 8.) What was missing? Love. Sure, they knew that meat offered to idols was just meat like any other; that’s pretty good discernment. But what about something more excellent? Where was the sensitivity of love that would have made them feeling toward their weak brother who was really troubled by anyone eating meat offered to idols? And so Paul told them:
If anyone thinks he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone love God, the same is known of him. (1 Cor. 8:3)
Some of our English translations capitalize the last pronoun in order to interpret this as, God knows the one who loves Him. That is certainly true. But according to Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, this can be interpreted the other way as well—the one who loves God knows God. There is a kind of knowledge that is actually love; love is a kind of knowledge, the knowledge of God, “the love of Christ that passeth (surpasseth) knowledge.” To know as we ought to know… is love; it is the one who loves God who knows God. Personally I like that interpretation, and it accords with other Scriptures in the epistles of Paul (1 Cor. 13:2,8-13; Eph. 3:18,19) as well as 1 John 4:7 (“…and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God”) along with 2 Peter 1:5-8, where Peter says that “if these things [that culminate in love] be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren [idle] nor unfruitful in the knowledge [epignosis, full knowledge] of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Back to the Philippians to enlarge a bit further on the faculty of discernment that accompanies this knowledge. “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment…” The word judgment is better translated discernment or perception. The margin of my old King James Version has “sense.” In the Greek it is aisthesis, and is from the same root as “having their senses (aistheterion) exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). Abounding love, then, as it opens the heart and mind to a deeper knowledge of the God who is love, hones the spiritual senses of discernment—hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching—resulting in a fine-tuned sensitivity that enables the decision and approval of what in God’s sight is excellent, that the saints might be “sincere and without offence till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God.” That sounds like a hundredfold crop to me.
Now to the Thessalonians. Paul commended the Thessalonians for their “work of faith and labour of love and patience of hope…” (1 Thes. 1:3). He writes that “when ye received the word of God which ye heard from us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thes. 2:13).
That too sounds like very good ground. The word of God they had received was bringing forth fruit—faith, love, hope. There can be nothing critical said about that, not a word. But sure enough, knowing Paul, there is something further that can be said.
And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love… (1 Thes. 3:12)
This, I begin to gather—the passion for abounding love—is Paul’s consuming desire for the saints here or elsewhere. Again he writes:
Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. (1 Thes. 4:1).
But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more… (1 Thes.4:9,10)
It’s very encouraging to discover that the Thessalonians took to heart Paul’s exhortation. He writes to them later on a second time:
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth… (2 Thes. 1:3).
How precious that they had hearkened! Selah!
Abounding love, then. It is Paul’s constraining passion, an insatiable all-consuming fire in him. “Abound yet more and more… increase more and more…” Are we hearing his cry? I believe it is the key to why some ground brings forth a hundredfold, others only sixty or thirty. Are we content to bring forth only thirtyfold or sixtyfold, brother, sister? Surely that is good, and warrants not a word of criticism. But… how good, how keen, is our hearing? How great is our love? Is it increasing, growing, abounding? Intent on pleasing our dearly beloved Lord Jesus, and impassioned like Paul to know with a knowledge that only love can show us, are we hearing from Him what delights the heart of God, what is excellent in His sight, enabling us to yield to Him a hundredfold the fruit He longs for?
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
Thanks Allen, great reflection. At the end of all Gods ways is unspeakable love filled with great glory.
Good Word Allan! – The faculty of hearing is the matrix of our obedience, without hearing there can be no faith without faith there can be no valid expression of obedience. Hope to get down your way to see you. I hope you are keeping well.
“But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great”
Thanks, Brian, yes, it is only the obedience of faith that is valid obedience. We are doing okay, thanks, one day at a time.
Yes, Allen, ever-increasing love reveals what is excellent in God’s sight, enabling us to yield to Him the fruit He is anticipating– fruit that is just like the Seed that was sown.
The temptation is to hate those who hate and despise us. But, as Christians, our challenge is to love.
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Anna, the King James Version of 1 Corinthians 13:5 says that “love… thinketh no evil.” That’s quite something and is certainly true. But the word “thinketh” in the Greek is “logizetai.” It is an accounting term, frequently translated elsewhere in the New Testament as “impute” or “reckon.” The American Standard Version has, “love… taketh no account of evil.” That is, love does not keep a record of evils it has suffered in the account book of debts owed.
Here are two comments by Greek scholars enlarging on the meaning of the word:
Marvin R. Vincent in Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament:
Thinketh no evil (οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν)
Lit., reckoneth not the evil. Rev., taketh not account of. The evil; namely, that which is done to love. “Love, instead of entering evil as a debt in its account-book, voluntarily passes the sponge over what it endures” (Godet).
A.T. Robertson in Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament:
Taketh not account of evil (ou logizetai to kakon). Old verb from logos, to count up, to take account of as in a ledger or notebook, “the evil” (to kakon) done to love with a view to settling the account.
Quite the challenge, Anna, as you said. The thing is that the love of God is equal to the challenge, and more than equal. It is “no contest” really, to the love of God. I am not saying that glibly; some of the evils done to us make unforgiveness or retaliation a strong temptation that takes great grace to resist and overcome. But that is the very thing– when we acknowledge our deep need in such cases, the God who is love is more than willing to grace us with His own overcoming love, which, Paul says in that same chapter, “never fails.”
EDIT to add this: My choice of the words “no contest” misses the mark, perhaps seems even unfeeling. I would not want to leave that impression. There certainly is a contest. Jesus Himself was in a great contest in a Gethsemane, Calvary was a contest. The thing about the contest of good and evil, of hatred and love– however agonizing that contest might be– is the certainty of the triumph of the love of God.
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Indeed there is a key for all of us in this writing. Just a few thoughts here to express my own witness with your writing.
God give us ears to hear. To hear what? TO HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT IS SAYING TO US.
And besides this, GIVING ALL DILIGENCE, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge,Thirty Fold?
And to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness, Sixty Fold?
And to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness CHARITY One Hundred Fold!!
For if these things be in you, AND ABOUND, they make you that ye shall neither be barren NOR UNFRUITFUL in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But he that lacketh these things is blind, and CANNOT SEE afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, GIVE DILIGENCE to make your calling and election sure: FOR IF YOU DO THESE THINGS, YE SHALL NEVER FALL: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you ABUNDANTLY INTO the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Wherefore I (Peter… and now in this writing Allan) will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, THOUGH YOU KNOW THEM, and be established in the present truth.
Hi Terry, thanks for your comment. I hadn’t seen the similarities between the words you capitalized from Peter’s epistle, and the passages from Paul’s epistles that I wrote of– Philippians and 1 Corinthians. “Ye shall never fall,” “love never faileth,” and the word “faileth” can also be translated “falleth.” Also the words “abound,” and “abundantly” in Peter certainly echo Paul’s words about abounding love.
Also, your emphasis on the words “giving all diligence” brought to mind Jesus’ cry at the end of His parable. “If any man have ears let him hear.”
The other day as I read through 1 Corinthians Ch. 13 again, I lingered on Paul’s words that if I have all knowledge, and not have love, I am nothing. And though I have all faith, even faith that could move mountains, yet not have love, I am nothing. It reminded me of Paul’s words to the Galatians that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcsion, but faith, which worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6). Faith, which worketh by love, or through love. If I understand that correctly, it is saying that faith will be ineffectual, unable to work, without love. This is why Paul’s continual exhortation is that we pursue love, abounding, ever-increasing love. This is the key to bringing forth fruit a hundredfold.
…I found it interesting the way you spliced “thirty fold” and “sixty fold” into Peter’s exhortation. Those are all good virtues, nothing critical can be said about them. But love is the fulness of them all.
Great insights, Allan! ⭐ Thank you for sharing them. 👍🏼
Thank you, Susanne.
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