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Matthew 20:1-16

Sovereign Grace

"1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. 2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? 7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. 8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. 9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. 11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, 12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. 13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.


As so often was the case, Jesus used His own answer to Peter's question, "But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.", to launch this rather lengthy parable about the kingdom of heaven. In it, He portrays the magnificent grace that God bestows on those who are unworthy of it and who have been rejected by society.

The parable describes how the master of a vineyard goes to the market place to hire laborers. The market place is where men, who were seeking employment, would go. Those who arrived early in the morning , around dawn, were first chosen and given a promise of a denarius for their days wages.

Around the third hour, 9:00 AM, he returned and hired others, who had probably arrived late and who were "standing idle." This time, however, instead of a denarius, they are only promised to be paid that which was right. He repeated this at 12:00 noon and at 3:00 PM.

Finally, at 5:00 PM, the master came into the market place and found men hanging idly around the area. When he asked them why they had wasted the day doing nothing, they responded by saying that no one had hired them. These were the workers that no one wanted to hire. They were lazy and late arriving at the marketplace. They represent the rejects of our society. The prostitutes, tax collectors, thieves, drug addicts, alcoholics, homeless and others.

It was still the practice in those days to pay the laborers at the end of the day in accordance with the law in Leviticus 19:13 and Deuteronomy 24:15. Now, when the master's steward called them together for their pay at the end of the day he called those that were chosen last, the least deserving, to be paid first. Each was given a denarius, a full day's wages, regardless of how long he had worked.

God's grace is administered in the same way. No one is more deserving than another. We are all sinners. All of the men were standing idle in the marketplace before they were chosen and put to work. Some simply arrived earlier than others. The ones whom no one else would hire were called first. God loves the humble, the down trodden, and the poor. Those who seem unworthy receive a full measure of His grace.

This was Jesus' way of teaching Peter and the others the inappropriateness of their question, "What shall we get for our sacrifices?" No single individual is more deserving than another. "You shall all get a full measure of God's grace."

Like the laborers who worked a full day, there are many who claim that God's sovereign administration of His grace is unfair. Many are called to receive Him, but because sin enslaves them, only those who are chosen by His grace do. Mercy and grace belong to God. The only thing that is rightfully ours is eternal damnation.

"For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." (Romans 9:15) Grace given as a gift to one sinner is not an offense against another. Each of us has chosen to sin and determined our own destiny. God noes not owe us His mercy. It is an undeserved gift. All those who receive it receive it in equal measure.

Before The Throne:

Today, let us be thankful to our God for His grace. Spend time in prayer confessing your sins, humbling yourself before His presence, and acknowledging how marvelous the salvation of Jesus Christ is. Thank Him for choosing you early, so that you have the time to work with Him in the great harvest that is taking place.

For Further Study:

(v.1)
** the kingdom. Matt 3:2; Matt 13:24, 31, 33, 44-45, 47; Matt 22:2; Matt 25:1, 14; ** a man.
Matt 9:37-38; Matt 21:33-43; Song 8:11-12; Isa 5:1-2; John 15:1; ** early. Matt 23:37; Song 8:11-12; Jer 25:3-4; ** labourers. Mark 13:34; 1Cor 15:58; Heb 13:21; 2Pet 1:5-10;

(v.2) ** he had. Exod 19:5-6; Deut 5:27-30; ** a penny. Matt 18:28; Matt 22:19; Luke 10:35; Rev 6:6; ** he sent. 1Sam 2:18, 26; 1Sam 3:1, 21; 1Sam 16:11-12; 1Kgs 3:6-11; 1Kgs 18:12; 2Chr 34:3; Eccl 12:1; Luke 1:15; 2Tim 3:15;

(v.3) ** the third. Mark 15:25; Acts 2:15; ** standing. Matt 11:16-17; Prov 19:15; Ezek 16:49; Acts 17:17-21; 1Tim 5:13; Heb 6:12;

(v.4) ** Go. Matt 9:9; Matt 21:23-31; Luke 19:7-10; Rom 6:16-22; 1Cor 6:11; 1Tim 1:12-13; Titus 3:8; 1Pet 1:13; 1Pet 4:2-3; ** and whatsoever. Col 4:1;

(v.5) sixth. Matt 27:45; Mark 15:33-34; Luke 23:44-46; John 1:39; John 4:6; John 11:9; Acts 3:1; Acts 10:3, 9; ** and did. Gen 12:1-4; Josh 24:2-3; 2Chr 33:12-19; Heb 11:24-26;

(v.6) ** the eleventh. Eccl 9:10; Luke 23:40-43; John 9:4; ** Why. Prov 19:15; Ezek 16:49; Acts 17:21; Heb 6:12;

(v.7) ** Because. Acts 4:16; Acts 17:30-31; Rom 10:14-17; Rom 16:25; Eph 2:11-12; Eph 3:5-6; Col 1:26; ** Go. Matt 22:9-10; Eccl 9:10; Luke 14:21-23; John 9:4; ** and. Eph 6:8, 10;

(v.8 ) ** when. Matt 13:39-40; Matt 25:19, 31; Rom 2:6-10; 2Cor 5:10; Heb 9:28; Rev 20:11-12; ** unto. Gen 15:2; Gen 39:4-6; Gen 43:19; Luke 10:7; Luke 12:42; Luke 16:1-2; 1Cor 4:1-2; Titus 1:7; 1Pe 4:10;

(v.9) ** they received. Luke 23:40-43; Rom 4:3-6; Rom 5:20-21; Eph 1:6-8; Eph 2:8-10; 1Ti 1:14-16;

(v.11) ** they murmured. Luke 5:30; Luke 15:2, 28-30; Luke 19:7; Acts 11:2-3; Acts 13:45; Acts 22:21-22; 1Thess 2:16; Jude 1:16;

(v.12) ** equal. Luke 14:10-11; Rom 3:22-24, 30; Eph 3:6; ** borne. Isa 58:2-3; Zech 7:3-5; Mal 1:13; Mal 3:14; Luke 15:29-30; Luke 18:11-12; Rom 3:27; Rom 9:30-32; Rom 10:1-3; Rom 11:5-6; 1Cor 4:11; 2Cor 11:23-28;

(v.13) ** Friend. Matt 22:12; Matt 26:50; ** I do. Gen 18:25; Job 34:8-12, 17-18; Job 35:2; Job 40:8; Rom 9:14-15, 20;

(v.14) ** thine. Matt 6:2, 6, 16; 2Kgs 10:16, 30-31; Ezek 29:18-20; Luke 15:31; Luke 16:25; Rom 3:4, 19; ** I will. Joh 17:2;

(v.15) ** it. Matt 11:25; Exod 33:19; Deut 7:6-8; 1Chr 28:4-5; Jer 27:5-7; John 17:2; Rom 9:15-24; Rom 11:5-6; 1Cor 4:7; Eph 1:11; Eph 2:1, 5; Jas 1:18; ** Is thine. Matt 6:23; Deut 15:9; Deut 28:54; Prov 23:6; Prov 28:22; Mark 7:22; Jas 5:9; ** because. Jonah 4:1-4; Acts 13:45;

(v.16) ** the last. Matt 8:11-12; Matt 19:30; Matt 21:31; Mark 10:31; Luke 7:47; Luke 13:28-30; Luke 15:7; Luke 17:17-18; John 12:19-22; Rom 5:20; Rom 9:30; ** for. Matt 7:13; Matt 22:14; Luke 14:24; Rom 8:30; 1Thess 2:13; 2Thess 2:13-14; Jas 1:23-25;

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