by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Matthew 20:1-16
I. When speaking of the nature of our heavenly reward, the parable of the vineyard workers is often cited to prove that each will receive a similar heavenly reward.
A. Whether a Christian has lived a long life serving the Lord, or only found the Lord late in life, all will receive the same reward from God, we are told.
B. Yet, to apply this particular parable to Judgment and the life thereafter does not match certain facts in the parable.
C. Before we begin to look at the details in this parable, I wish to point out a few things.
1. It is possible to stretch a parable too far.
2. Some people give meaning to the smallest detail in a parable, often to the point of making points that are never addressed by the overall parable.
II. First, let us consider what led to the giving of the parable.
A. In Matthew 19:16-26, a young ruler desired salvation. He wanted to go beyond merely keeping the commandments.
1. Jesus told him that his one weakness was in his possessions. He told the young man to give all that he had to the poor and invited him to follow Jesus.
2. The young ruler was unable to do so. His possessions were great and he could not let go of them.
B. Jesus commented about how hard it was for the rich to be saved.
1. Generally we see the rich having an easy life. Money opens doors and the rich often gain whatever they desire.
2. Disciples were puzzled that if the rich could not be saved, then who could obtain salvation.
C. Peter pointed out that they had left everything to follow Jesus - Matthew 19:27
1. Jesus pointed out that in the regeneration - Matthew 19:28-30
a. He would sit on throne
b. The apostles would also sit on thrones, judging Israel
c. Those who leave all would receive more in this life and will later inherit eternal life
d. The first would be last and the last first.
2. When is the regeneration?
a. It is true that when judgment comes, this world will be replaced with a new heaven and earth - Revelation 21:1
b. Yet, this isn’t the only renewal mentioned in the Bible
(1) The church is an organization to renew people to God
(2) Romans 6:4 - To walk in newness of life
(3) Baptism is called the washing of regeneration - Titus 3:5
(4) The word regeneration literally means spiritual rebirth.
c. When does Christ reign?
(1) Now - I Corinthians 15:23-26
(2) Christ reigns until death is abolished, then the kingdom is returned to the Father. In other words, the judgment is the end of the Son’s reign.
d. When do we receive blessings?
(1) The verse says in this life.
(2) Recall Ephesians 1:3 - This is something that has (past tense) been done.
e. When are the first last and the last first?
(1) This was instructions concerning the church
(2) Jesus later told the Jews that sinners would enter the kingdom before they would because of their willingness to obey God - Matthew 21:28-32
(3) The greatest among them must learn to serve - Luke 22:24-30
(a) Notice that in the kingdom, the apostles would be granted to sit at Christ’s table, sit on thrones, and to judge Israel.
(b) They would gain this through service.
(4) This is important because this same phrase both introduces and concludes the parable of the vineyard workers.
III. Taking note of the details
A. Frequently this parable is seen as
1. Jesus is the owner
2. Christians are the laborers
3. The vineyard is life in the service of God
4. And the wage is the reward at the end of life.
B. Difficulty 1: If the denarius is our heavenly reward, then we have God giving out salvation as a payment - Matthew 20:8
1. Yet, the Scriptures usually refer to the heaven as a free gift. The only earning man does is earning death by his sins - Romans 6:23
C. Difficulty 2: When the wage is offered, the workers are not pleased. They envy the ones who work less - Matthew 20:11-12
1. Yet, grumbling and envy are sins that should no longer exist in heaven - Revelation 21:3-4, 8, 27
2. James 5:9 warns us not to complain against our fellow brethren
D. Difficulty 3: The complainers are sent away - Matthew 20:14
1. Yet, at the end of life, we are to join the Lord always - I Thessalonians 4:16-17
2. It does not make sense for a reward of eternal life to be given and then those receiving it are sent away.
IV. What the parable teaches
A. The workers are the people chosen by God
1. Some were chosen early on. These are the Jews – God’s chosen people - Deuteronomy 7:6
2. Yet these people were not faithful to God - Jeremiah 4:22
3. The Lord promised to take compassion on other people and called them - Hosea 2:23
4. Jesus said he had other sheep who would answer his call - John 10:16
5. All Christians today are God’s chosen people. They are selected from among the nations - I Peter 2:9
B. It is true that the Jews had suffered much in their service to God, though much of the agony was of their own making.
1. They had a long history of being the people of God.
2. Yet, all through their history, they looked forward to the promise of salvation. They had not yet received that promise.
3. The law they lived under could not save them - Galatians 3:21-22
C. The gift then is the promise of eternal life - John 10:25-28
D. The promise is given equally
1. It goes to the Jews and the Greeks - Romans 1:16
2. There is no distinction between the Jews or the Greeks - Romans 10:12-13
3. A renewal in which there is no distinction - Colossians 3:10-13
a. There is that idea of a regeneration or a renewal once again.
b. All Christians have been chosen by God and there is no distinction among them.
E. All are offered the same hope - Ephesians 4:4
1. One cannot be “more saved” than another.
F. In essence, the denarius is entrance into the kingdom of God and the hope of salvation.
1. The Jews were jealous of the acceptance of the Gentiles - Romans 10:19
2. They were broken off to allow the Gentiles in - Romans 11:11–12, 17-23
V. Just because we are called does not imply there is no work expected of us.
A. We must labor for our master
B. A laborer is paid at the end of the day. If we quit before the end, there is no payment - Hebrews 6:10-15
C. The knowledge that salvation is there, waiting for the faithful servant should give us the endurance to remain faithful - Hebrews 6:19
D. Will you answer the call? Will you join brethren the world over in serving God?