[A response to a question I received in an email]
Regarding your question—whether the “seed of the kingdom” or “implanted word” is already in everybody and only grows when it finds fertile soil, or whether it is only given at a specific later time—let me preface by saying that, practically, I don't know that it matters a whole lot how Christians see this, as long as we understand these two things. 1) God desires everyone to be saved (and not a particular predestined few), and so makes the offer of His salvation by Christ available to everybody, and 2) Nobody is actually saved by Christ (either by an implanted seed that has always been there, or by a seed that is sown into the heart at a later time) UNLESS, by a living faith, and a humble repentance and yielding to His transforming grace, we become that good soil that allows (and doesn’t resist) His saving work and growth.
I have no desire to debate these particulars, and feel very content to let everybody be convinced in their own minds concerning the details of this question. BUT... if you ask me which one of them I think is true, I have to say that the testimony of Scripture, and (I believe) the teachings of the Spirit, have led me to believe that every human receives a gift or measure or seed of light or grace in their soul, that testifies for God, testifies against all sin, worldliness, flesh, and evil, and invites them to be reconciled to God through the power and merit of Jesus Christ. In other words, I don't believe this is something that comes to only some people from without, but rather something that (at times) testifies in all people from within, and is (like in the parables) a hidden treasure in a field, a lost pearl, or a seed sown and made available on every kind of soil, even on the hard road that doesn’t receive it.
It is for this reason, I believe, that Christ tells the Pharisees (!) that the kingdom of God is within them (Luke 17:20-21). It had obviously not been found or experienced by the Pharisees, and in fact, they were actively rejecting and persecuting its appearance in the outward person and work of Christ, but nevertheless He tells them that it is there. John makes the bold statement that Christ is the “the true Light, which enlightens every man that comes into the world.” (John 1:9) Paul tells us that “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching them...” (Tit 2:11). And in Romans he says “that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it unto them.” (Rom 1:19). In Romans chapter 2 he speaks of virtuous gentiles who “having not the law, are a law unto themselves, showing that the work of the law is written in their hearts.” Jesus compares His kingdom to things like a sower who throws seed everywhere, on all kinds of ground, or a dragnet that catches everything, and then throws out the bad fish.
But perhaps the greatest argument in favor of this is seen in the fall of man, and the gift of the “seed of the woman” that came immediately after. Man was told that he would “die” as soon as he took and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And he most certainly DID die, spiritually. The entire Bible testifies of man in his natural, fallen condition as being “darkness”, “dead in sin and transgression”, “children of wrath by nature,” having “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” etc. But then, if that is true (and who can deny it?), and if Christ said “apart from Me you can do nothing,” how then did Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, and many others “walk with God”? How did Abel, the child of fallen Adam, “obtain a testimony that he was righteous”? (Heb 11:4). Why do the two first sons of Adam have two completely different natures, faiths, and works? Why does God begin, right away, to testify about two births, two seeds, (seen in Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, etc.)? How did Job become a “perfect man, blameless and upright”? And why does Nehemiah say that God “gave Israel His good Spirit to instruct them.” (Neh 9:20) Was this only in an outward way? What about all of the testimonies throughout the Old Testament of men and women experiencing the power, prophetic sight, presence and joy of the Lord? Why does Moses tell Israel that there is a “Word near them, in their heart and in their mouth,” to which they should pay attention? (Deut. 30). Why does Peter say that “the Spirit of Christ who was IN them” (in the prophets) was testifying about the outward coming of Christ, and the glories that would follow? (1 Pet. 1:11) Why does Paul say that old covenant Israel “ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:1-3), etc.
Most Bible teachers just see the “seed of the woman” that would “bruise the head of the serpent” as a futuristic prophecy or promise concerning the outward coming of Christ. I definitely agree that this is included in those words, but if no measure or gift or seed of Christ had been given to man after his fall and spiritual death, no man in the Old Testament could ever have “walked with God,” tasted His nature, experienced His righteousness, wisdom, or power, or known anything besides the dark, dead, and perpetually evil nature of fallen man. So it has seemed undeniable to me that the Seed of Christ began to bruise the serpent in man even before He came and finished the work of man’s redemption through His incarnation, death, and resurrection.
Now there are not very many Christians who talk about these things, and I certainly don’t think it is necessary to believe this way, or even to ask these questions. I also doubt that it would be profitable for you to talk about these things with your group, unless the Lord really seems to lead you into it. And part of the reason I was a bit reluctant to enter into this subject is because it necessarily creates several other questions. Each of these secondary questions could make up a really long email in itself, and I am generally reluctant to dive into these more mysterious subjects when the basic realities of the gospel (i.e. the love and fear of God, truth in the inward parts, death to sin, living faith, fruits of the Spirit, etc.) are so often unknown and unexperienced. But let me just make a few statements to maybe prevent your mind from running off in the wrong direction.
1.) Even though I believe that some gift or measure of the Spirit or Light of Christ was given to man after the fall, under the name “the seed of the woman”, or “the bruiser of the serpent,” in order to begin, or to offer his redemption through Christ’s life and merits, this gift does NOT automatically save anybody, but rather calls them, convicts them, and invites them to receive Him, to be born of His Spirit, and saved by His life. When refused, this very light or “witness” becomes man’s condemnation; that is, it rises up to testify that such a person has “hated the light” (John 3:20) and “refused correction” (Jer. 5:3). There are people who say that the Quakers believed in universal salvation, but this is absolutely false. They believed in a universal OFFER of salvation, by the “grace of God which appears to every man” at the times of His visitation and drawing. And they believed that this grace “sets before man life and good, and death and evil” by means of a “word that is very near, in your mouth and in your heart,” (Deut 30:14-15), and not only by external testimonies of God, or by the hearing of outward words.
2.) And though I believe some measure of Christ’s Spirit was given even before the outward coming of Christ, I nevertheless believe that the outward, physical coming of Christ, and His death, burial, and resurrection, were still absolutely necessary to man’s salvation and eternal reconciliation with God. Without Christ’s outward coming, dying, and rising, man could in no way become free from the power, effect, and wages of sin, nor could Christ have truly “brought many sons to glory” in Himself. It was not until Christ rose from the dead and ascended to His Father that His body, the church, was able to rise with Him, and “be with Him where He is.” Now, those who died in true faith before the outward coming of Christ are said to “sleep” or “rest,” as the angel said to Daniel, “But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days.” (Dan. 12:13) And to show that this really happened in and through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we read in Matthew: “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Matt 27:51-53). Furthermore, Christ’s outward coming as a man, His death, and resurrection was the time and way that God ended and took away the shadows and figures of the Old Covenant, and poured out His Spirit in a new and greater way in gifts and graces and manifestations of life and power, establishing His inward, spiritual kingdom in the hearts of all who were willing to lose their life in the flesh, to gain His overcoming life in the Spirit.