Compare Luke 11:24-26
One of the things that this passage says to me, sadly, is that the condition of someone who’s once been converted but then abandons his or her covenants and relapses into “worldly” ways is very likely to be worse than it was before that first conversion.
I regret to say that I’ve seen precisely such a phenomenon in more than a few cases.
It’s very depressing, but it no longer surprises me.
Compare Luke 8:19-21; John 15:14
The disbelief of Jesus’ immediate family makes the apparently post-resurrection conversion of his half-brother James (to whom, according to 1 Corinthians 15, the risen Lord made a separate, special, and personal appearance) all the more impressive.
Plainly, something happened that turned James into the pillar of the church at Jerusalem — and the eventual martyr — that he rapidly became.
I suspect that Easter morning had a great deal to do with his transformation. And his transformation is evidence for the fact that something decisive happened on that morning, nearly two thousand years ago.
Compare Luke 5:1-3
These passages will ring immediately true to anybody who’s spent time in the Holy Land. My question, though, is, Where would somebody in Palestine find soil that isn’t stony ground? (That’s a bit of an overstatement. But not much.)
Anybody who’s attempted to teach the Gospel as a missionary will also recognize the different responses listed here: There are those in whom the Gospel takes no root at all. And those who receive the Gospel enthusiastically but soon lose their initial excitement and fall away. And those who aren’t fruitful in the Gospel because worldly influences overcome them. And, of course, finally, there are those who accept it, love it, and live it.
I’m intrigued by the fact, which may or may not actually be significant, that, according to these passages, even among the righteous who receive the Gospel and remain faithful to it, there are differing levels of “fruitfulness.” Three, to be precise.
Here’s an article on the topic that you might find profitable, by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, who serves as one of the board of trustees of the Interpreter Foundation:
Compare Matthew 25:29; Mark 4:25; 8:17-18; Luke 8:18; 10:23-24; 19:26; John 9:39; 12:37-40
To me, loss of spiritual understanding among those who lose the Spirit — which seems to be one of the things discussed in these passages — is an empirically proven fact. I’ve seen it distressingly often.
It’s very sad. But there you have it.