Three Greek Verbs Define “Good Soil” Evangelism and Discipleship

Three Verbs

The “parable of the sower” might be better called “the parable of the soils.” After all, the different qualities of the soils are the focus of the parable.

A wide variety of opinions are held regarding the four types of soil in the parable. For example: Do they all represent true believers? Or, do some of the soils represent true believers and others represent unbelievers? Nothing in the texts or the contexts answers those questions definitively. But one point of interpretation is beyond dispute—the “good soil” certainly represents a true fruit-bearing believer in and follower of Jesus Christ.

But, how do we do evangelism and discipleship in a way that produces “Good Soil believers”?

The parable of the soils appears in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. As we read these different accounts of the parable, we need to realize that Jesus probably told this parable multiple times in various settings to different audiences, perhaps with slightly different emphases in each situation. And we also need to realize that Jesus was most likely speaking in the Aramaic language, or perhaps Hebrew. So it should not surprise us that when Matthew, Mark, and Luke record their accounts of the parable – as they are writing in the Greek language – use three entirely different Greek words to give three distinct, but interrelated, nuances of the full meaning of what Jesus meant by “good soil.”

Matthew 13:23 – “…good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it.”

The underlying Greek word for “understands” is suniémi, which means to “send or bring together” and has the idea of mentally putting things together so as to comprehend or make sense. It’s like when the pieces of a puzzle come together and we respond, “Oh, I see! I get it! I understand! Now it makes sense to me!

So, a “good soil” recipient of the gospel is a person who clearly understands the message.

Mark 4:20 – “…good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it….”

Mark used a completely different Greek verb to define good soil. The Greek word translated “accept” is paradechomai.

The most common and most casual Greek word for accepting or receiving something is the word lambano. A stronger kind of reception is indicated by the word dechomai. But the word Mark used was para-dechomai, meaning to “receive to one’s side, to receive with a warm reception, to embrace.”

So, a “good soil” recipient of the gospel is a person who clearly understands the message and sincerely embraces it; he or she warmly welcomes the truths of the gospel and adopts them into his own belief system.

Luke 8:15 “…good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast….”

Luke uses a third Good Soil-defining Greek verb – katecho, which conveys the idea of holding securely to something so as to not allow it to be taken away.

So, a “good soil” recipient of the gospel is a person who clearly understands the message, sincerely embraces the message, and holds on to it so that it will not be snatched away.

Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship equips and resources Christ-followers to present the gospel in ways that people can clearly understand it and sincerely embrace it. And if they clearly understand and sincerely embrace the gospel, we believe they will hold fast to it and not allow it to be taken away.

Next articles in this series:

Assessing Unbeliever’s Gospel Understanding

Gospel Receptivity - From Closed to Open

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