October 2015 • Volume XV, Issue 18
Only One Opportunity to Believe?
A reader in England asked about an interpretation of the
Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23) that he heard a
while ago: Does this parable teach that everyone only has
one opportunity to believe the gospel, namely, the first
time they hear it?
First of all, it is worth pointing out that, if this view
were correct, there would be no positive point in witnessing
to or praying for anyone whom you know has already heard the
gospel, once or more often, and not been converted. No one
will ever be saved on their second or subsequent appearances
in church and there is no hope to motivate anyone to invite
them. Likewise, godly wives have no possibility of winning
their unbelieving husbands to Christ after their first
encounter with the Word of God (I Cor. 7:16; I Pet. 3:1),
for their husbands’ first rejection of the Lord Jesus is
tantamount to the unpardonable sin. Moreover, all who claim
to be Christians but were not converted when they first
heard the gospel (like myself, many readers of the News and
various worthies in church history, such as Augustine) are
not actually believers but only hypocrites!
One wonders what someone holding this strange interpretation
of the Parable of the Sower would say about church
discipline. Should the church also only give one opportunity
for repentance to the professed believer who is erring? But
this would contradict God’s unbreakable Word (John 10:35) in
Beside drawing out the necessary implications of this novel
view, the most simple and direct way of contradicting this
teaching, that unbelief of the first presentation of the
gospel that one hears seals one’s destruction, is to look at
scriptural evidence to the contrary.
Are we to think that all the 3,000 people saved on the day
of Pentecost (Acts 2:41) had never heard the Word preached
by Christ or His twelve disciples (Luke 9) or the seventy
(Luke 10)? Likewise, is it really the case that the 5,000
men converted in Jerusalem, plus women, had not heard the
gospel in the days of Christ’s prodigious public ministry or
at Pentecost or through the apostles until the very day on
which they believed (Acts 4:4)? Acts 6:7 states, “And the
word of God increased; and the number of the disciples
multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the
priests were obedient to the faith.” Are we to conclude that
all these people and priests in Jerusalem were ignorant of
the gospel all the time before this?
Beside the mass conversions in Jerusalem in the early
chapters of Acts, we can point to individuals. Did the
penitent thief really only hear the gospel on the day of his
crucifixion (Luke 23:39-43)? Are we to assume that ungodly
Manasseh, king of Judah, was totally ignorant of the Word of
God until the day of his repentance in Babylon (II Chron.
33:11-13)? Yet the Bible expressly mentions God’s Word
coming to Manasseh and the people before this (II Chron.
33:10; cf. II Kings 21:10-15)!
Perhaps the most obvious instance of a person in Scripture
that refutes this bizarre interpretation of the Parable of
the Sower is Saul of Tarsus or Paul the apostle. He well
knew the contents of the Old Testament and he heard deacon
Stephen’s apologetic speech, for he watched over the
discarded garments of those who stoned the martyr (Acts 7).
Saul, an ardent Pharisee, would hardly have been ignorant of
the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth or that of His disciples
and, surely, he heard the gospel from the Christians he
hauled away to prison (Acts 8:3). Yet he was only converted
later on the Damascus Road (Acts 9).
Having said that various elect people in Scripture were not
converted the first time they heard the Word, it is worth
mentioning some in the Bible who believed when, it would
appear, they were first exposed to the truth of the gospel,
such as, Adam and Eve (Gen. 3), Naaman (II Kings 5), the
woman at the well and other Samaritans (John 4), Sergius
Paulus (Acts 13) and the Philippian jailor (Acts 16).
At least three lessons may be drawn from all this. The first
concerns the interpretation of Christ’s parables. Do not
press them into making points that are not their purpose.
The Parable of the Sower is designed to show, among other
things, that not all believe the preached gospel and that
those who reject it do so for different worldly and carnal
reasons. The imagery of sowing is not to be forced to the
point of one sowing, for this is not stated either in the
parable itself or its interpretation (Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23).
Second, let us admire the longsuffering of God to His elect.
Paul, who had long heard and rejected the gospel of Jesus
Christ, declared, “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy,
that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all
longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter
believe on him to life everlasting” (I Tim. 1:16). Despite
all our terrible sins, both before (cf. I Tim. 1:13, 15) and
after our conversion, the Triune God does not cast off and
reject any of His eternally chosen and blood-bought people.
Where would all of us be now, if it were not so?
Third, let us imitate God’s longsuffering, including His
patience with us in our foolishness and disobedience, in our
witness to, and intercessions for, those outside of Christ.
We must “exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (II
Tim. 4:2). “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt
find it after many days” (Ecc. 11:1)! Rev. Stewart
For a superb exposition of the Parable of the Sower and all
Christ’s parables that illustrates how they are to be
interpreted properly, read Prof. Hanko’s hardback,
Mysteries of the Kingdom (432 pp.), available from the CPRC
Bookstore for £18 (plus £1.80 for UK P&P).
The Postponement of Shimei’s Punishment
A young lady from Colorado writes, “David previously spared
Shimei’s life, though Shimei cursed him, because David knew
that Shimei’s wickedness was in God’s hands (II Sam. 16).
But, in I Kings 2:8-9, David later tells Solomon to bring
Shimei down to the grave with blood. Is this God’s judgment
on Shimei (through David) for his cursing David, for David
tells Solomon not to hold Shimei guiltless? Is this simply
David executing justice as king? Why is it that David now
appears to uphold justice? Was it an admirable thing that he
upheld justice in the end but was not defensive at first as
he confessed God’s sovereignty in II Samuel 16?”
There can be no question about it that Shimei sinned
dreadfully when he cursed David during the king’s flight
from Absalom his son. The event is recorded in II Samuel
16:5-14. Abishai, one of David’s top generals, wanted to
kill Shimei but David prevented him from doing that.
David’s belief in, and confession of, God’s absolute
sovereignty over the sins of wicked Shimei is amazing! “And
the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of
Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto
him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou
done so? And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants,
Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my
life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him
alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him. It
may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that
the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day” (II
Shimei’s cursing of David was worthy of death because Shimei
was one who believed that Saul and his sons should still
have been on the throne of the nation. He did not believe,
as God Himself had made clear, that God had deposed Saul and
his sons for disobedience, and that David was the man of
Further, Shimei cursed God’s magistrate and thus violated a
fundamental principle of God’s law, namely, that one has to
honour and be in submission to those in authority over them,
as the fifth commandment requires.
It is also quite possible that Shimei knew that David was in
the line of Christ and was king as a type of Christ. After
all, Jacob had already prophesied that Christ would come
from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10) and not from the tribe
of Benjamin, from which tribe Saul came. It may very well be
that Psalm 89 had already been written, in which psalm David
is said to be the one whose son would build the temple of
God and sit on the throne.
David humbled himself and endured Shimei’s cursing because
he received his ignominious flight from Absalom as God’s
chastening. God had told David, through Nathan the prophet,
that the sword would never depart from his house after his
sin of adultery and murder (II Sam. 12:9-10). Only God could
remove His chastening hand from David.
II Samuel 19:18-23 tells us that upon David’s restoration to
the throne, Shimei, fearful of his life, begged to be
forgiven. Again, David promised not to execute him. The
Bible does not tell us why but the reason may be that David
did not want to mar with bloodshed that happy day when he
was restored to the kingdom.
Whatever reasons David may have had, he left some matters
undone and, on his death bed, he charged Solomon, his son
and successor, to take care of them (I Kings 2:5-9). There
were men who had committed grave sins and had never been
punished for them.
Joab was executed for his murder of Abner, the general of
Saul and Ishbosheth, and Amasa, the newly appointed general
of David’s armies, and for his part in the conspiracy to put
Adonijah, David’s fourth son (II Sam. 3:4), on the throne
instead of Solomon (I Kings 2:28-34).
Adonijah, who conspired to make himself king instead of
Solomon, was executed only after he asked permission to
marry Abishag, a concubine of David (I Kings 2:13-25).
Perhaps he was only killed then because Solomon interpreted
his request as implying that Adonijah was going to mount a
second attempt to gain the throne. It seems to have been a
custom in those days that a successor to a king’s throne
also took the concubines as his own (II Sam. 3:7-8;
Abiathar also deserved to be executed, for he joined
Adonijah in his conspiracy to become king, but was spared
because, as a priest of God, he had served David well.
Nevertheless, he was deposed from his office (I Kings
Solomon initially spared Shimei from a deserved death but
told him to stay within Jerusalem. When he disobeyed, he was
executed. He showed by his disobedience that he had no more
respect for Solomon than he did for David and that he was
not truly sorry for his sin. Though he was initially spared
by both David and Solomon, he brought upon himself just
judgment when he showed he had not genuinely repented (I
When we were children, my father said that David spared Joab
because David was afraid of Joab and that, towards the end
of his life, David wrongly left the “dirty work” of meting
out justice upon those who deserved it to Solomon because he
knew Solomon was very wise and so would know how to handle
these difficult matters. Moreover, my father reckoned that
David no longer had the energy to shed more blood, something
he had done all his earlier years as king. The reader may
judge whether these comments are a fair analysis of the
situation. Prof. Hanko
For more on Shimei, listen to or watch
“Absalom and His
Rebellion (II),” 9 sermons on II Samuel 15:24-18:33),
available on the CPRC website
and in an attractive box set on CD or DVD for £10 (inc. P&P
in the UK) from the CPRC Bookstore.
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