Spiritual sowing and reaping

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Galatians 6:7, 8

Another growing season is winding down in North America. In the Spring, seed was committed to the soil of countless gardens and fields. Many have been enjoying the fresh produce harvested from these gardens. And when each crop is mature, the combines and harvesters roll through the fields bringing in the wheat, soybeans, corn, and many other crops. So it goes from one year to the next. And we are well aware of rules, laws that God, according to His providence, has established to govern His creation in this regard.

A gardener or farmer is certainly aware of the hard and fast rule that the type of seed that is sown will produce the same kind of crop. That was plain in the creation from the very beginning. According to Genesis 1:11, 12 the various plants, herbs, and trees would bring forth seed or fruit after their kind. So, if a farmer desires to raise corn, in the Spring of the year he plants corn in his fields. And if you want green beans from your garden, then you will invariably plant green-bean seed. You certainly will not sow the seed of thistles, or even the seed of some other vegetable when what you want is green beans.

This is a basic rule of planting and harvesting that is sure and unchangeable. If it were not true that the kind of seed that is sown will produce the same kind of crop, it would simply be impossible either to farm or garden. The result would be chaos and confusion. Only a fool would disregard this invariable rule.

Undoubtedly all of this seems so obvious that it is senseless to belabor the point. We know this so well that we do not give it a second thought when we are ready to plant our fields or gardens. But the trouble is, that what we take for granted in the realm of the natural, we sometimes pay no attention to in the realm of the spiritual. Then man thinks that he can plant something of one kind and reap an altogether different harvest. He thinks that he may walk in a way of sin as he pleases, but still reap the blessings of salvation. He supposes that he can believe what he chooses and still go to heaven. He maintains that, regardless of what he sows, the harvest will turn out all right. What is a hard and fast rule in creation he thinks has no significance in his spiritual life.

The temptation to forget or minimize this rule of God is very great for us too. It was for the Galatians. Paul had warned them in this letter of the serious errors of the Judaizers with their return to the practices and ceremonies of ancient Jewish law, emphasizing that circumcision was necessary unto salvation. In contrast, the apostle emphasizes the blessed truth of justification by faith without the works of the law. He proclaims the cross of Christ as the sole ground of our salvation. He insists that the cross has delivered us from the bondage of the law that we might live in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free—free to walk in sanctification of life in distinction from licentiousness.

So these words come as a warning to them and to us: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked.” What we sow we shall surely reap!

The sowing

There is no doubt in our minds that we may expect to reap a crop identical with the type of seed that we sow. In this way God has ordered agriculture. We know that at no time will it ever be any different. But we must also live in the consciousness that the same holds true spiritually. We must realize that in our lives in this world we are sowing spiritually—every day, every hour, every moment. Every thought, every desire, every word, every action or deed we perform is a seed that we drop into soil. Notice that the apostle speaks of two kinds of soil, as well as two kinds of seed. We are constantly sowing seed, whether it be into the soil of the flesh or into the soil of the Spirit.

The soil of the flesh is our old nature that is corrupted by sin. We are born into this world with a nature that is corrupt in every respect, totally depraved. Our minds are filled only with evil thoughts. Our wills can only produce evil lusts and desires. And our bodies are the instruments of sin through which we carry out our evil desires and corrupt ideas. Obviously, this flesh can never produce any good seed. If this were all that could be said, then our whole life we would sow seed produced by our flesh, and sown in turn in our flesh. There would only be a repeated sowing of bad seed into bad soil. And there would only and ever be a bitter harvest of corruption leading to eternal desolation in hell. So it is for the ungodly, “because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7).

But, the apostle also speaks of a soil of the Spirit. This soil of the Spirit is not found in everyone, but only in those whom God has chosen from all eternity. Christ has purchased His people with the price of His own precious blood and has shed abroad His Spirit into our hearts. The Spirit of Christ creates within us a new heart, so that we are renewed within the depths of our life and so that we now have a soil of the Spirit! That does not mean that we no longer sin, for we still must live in the body of this death. So, the result is that the true child of God, living in this world, produces in his life two kinds of seed. There is the good seed of good works, which are the fruit of the Spirit by faith. And there is also the seed of our own sinful flesh.

We go forth, from the moment we are born to the moment we die, sowing seed. In every thought, word, and deed we are sowing seed in either of these two soils. Sad to say, much of the time we sow to the flesh. Each wicked thought, word, or deed is another seed dropped into the soil of the flesh. That is true of all of our sin— our lying, our cheating, our jealousy and envy, our gossip and evil speaking, our lusts and uncleanness. In the previous chapter the apostle has warned concerning the works of the flesh. To follow after sin and the carnal desires of the flesh is to drop seeds into the soil of the flesh. To deny the truth and create discord in the church is sowing corrupt seed. To rebel against God and despise all that is holy and good is to take seeds germinated in our flesh and sow them again into the same soil. What a horrible sowing!

The reaping

Make no mistake, the harvest surely comes! What we sow we shall reap. The type of seed that we sow will also reappear in the harvest. One who plants a seed must expect the harvest. The day comes when he must reap the fruit of what he has sown. As true as that is in creation, so true it is in our lives from a spiritual viewpoint.

The seeds of sin and wickedness and the lie sown in our confession and walk will produce a harvest of corruption. You simply cannot expect to sow one kind of seed and reap another kind! That is the way it is. It is a rule of God that we can never change. To say that you can walk in ways of sin and reap a good harvest is sheer folly! It will never happen. Once you have committed yourself to a way of sin, if you do not turn from that way in sincere repentance, the harvest will grow in your life. Once you have committed yourself to compromising the truth of God’s Word, if you do not return from that way, the bitter harvest will grow in your life. You will reap in the days to come all the grievous fruit of the seeds you have sown.

But thanks be to God, for one who sows in the Spirit, the opposite is true. He takes the seeds of the fruit of the Spirit which have grown in his life, and he sows them again. The fruit that the Spirit produces is love for the truth. And in our lives the Spirit works so that we take the truth and grow in it—we love it, cherish it, are willing to fight for it and defend it. And we reap the blessings of more good seed produced by the Spirit; we sow it in the same soil from which it came forth.

The same holds true from a practical point of view as we see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:22, 23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance….” As we sow in the Spirit, we grow in sanctification. We see our sins; we confess our sins; we flee from them; we forsake them. Yes, we reap the harvest: we grow daily in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. And in so doing we sow seeds into the soil of the Spirit ever and again. And the harvest continues through life. We reap the fruit of comfort, joy, strength, peace, patience, and hope even in the midst of all the trials of life. We come to enjoy in all our life the glorious harvest of the seeds that we, by grace, have sown.

The seriousness

Do we see, then, how serious this matter of sowing and reaping is? We may not think that our sins will have no effect upon us. We may not think that we can sin with impunity, that there are no consequences. Do not forget we are sowing!

And let us not think that this does not apply to the youth for, after all, we speak of youth as being a time “for sowing wild oats.” How shockingly ironic is this expression in light of this Word of God! How easy it is to consider our youth, the teenage years, as a carefree, fun-filled period of life when we may do as we please. After all, we can get serious and straighten up when we are older.

The apostle declares, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked!” We cannot sow wild oats when we are young and suppose that we will not have to face up to the harvest! Seeking our fellowship with unbelievers, walking in the lusts of the flesh, being entertained by the movies and music of the world—the list goes on— remember we are sowing! We are sowing seeds of sin in the soil of the flesh, and the harvest will be bitter! There will be sorrow and trouble and misery. And only by God’s grace can we pray, “Lord, remember not the sins of my youth.” But still we reap from those evil seeds. We can make mistakes, fall into sins that affect us the rest of our lives. Think of sins of fornication, drunkenness, drug abuse, and other criminal acts. We shall surely reap later on all the fruits of the seeds that we have sown. And, apart from the grace of God, the harvest is reaped forever in the desolation of hell.

Let us remember too that this harvest is not only reaped in our lives, but also in the lives of our children. The harvest continues to bear fruit in the generations that follow us. Our lifestyle, our faithfulness or negligence regarding spiritual things, in all of this we are sowing seeds. We will not only reap the harvest, but our children will also. Seeds of sin and wickedness will bring forth a bitter harvest also in the generations to come. If this were not the case, God would be mocked.

If we could sow corruption and reap blessings, God’s justice would be a plaything. People could then afford to sneer at God and mock His holiness. But this is never the case! God is the sovereign One. And man can never change that in any respect. God is holy, just, and good. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked!”

Let us be encouraged in the fact that also the opposite is true. To sow good seed in the soil of the Spirit is to reap a blessed harvest, not only for ourselves, but also for our children. Our covenant God will save His children from our children. The seeds planted by grace in the soil of the Spirit will bear their fruit! That unfailing promise of God is an incentive to spur us on to faithfulness. What are you sowing? If you are walking in sin, repent and confess and forsake every evil way lest the fruit appear in the harvest of corruption! Take refuge in the cross of Jesus Christ! Seek grace to walk in righteousness and truth, and the harvest for us and for our children is life everlasting!

May we think on these things, as we behold the creation round about us in every season. Oh, the wisdom of God who has created the earthly to be a picture of the heavenly, spiritual realities! As we see the beauty of God’s creation now in this season of harvest, let us take heed unto our spiritual sowing and reaping.

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