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.”