Parable of the Vineyard Workers

Matt. 20:1-16

Christ taught God’s Election of grace (Romans 11:5), irrespective of anything worthy in man, including foreseen faith and/or obedience.

This writer has stressed repeatedly the fact that grace precludes anything meritorious in man.

Election resulting from merit, be it foreseen faith or obedience, is an election from justice, not grace.

Election which is earned is not of grace, and those who teach otherwise are teaching error.

Unconditional election was but one of the many doctrines hated by the religious Jews which gave them further motivation to kill Jesus.

Today those who preach these same doctrines are often vilified relentlessly.

The Parable of the Vineyard Workers is an excellent example of Christ’s teaching the doctrine of Unconditional Election.

This writer must admit, by way of introduction, this Parable is almost always misunderstood.

It is often thought to be a teaching referencing God’s future acceptance of the Gentiles, causing jealousy among the Jews, His first chosen.

Or it is thought to be a teaching referencing Christians working in God’s vineyard, the church. Some may attain greater success quicker than those who have been laboring for decades longer.

However, Christ’s teaching is far more controversial and profound.

It speaks to God’s saving merciful grace and His right to give it or withhold it.

This is but one example of Christ’s teaching which verifies Paul’s teaching of Election in Romans 9.

Two significant issues are highlighted in this Parable which deserve our focus:

Work and Wages

Christ introduces this parable as one which teaches a spiritual truth relating to the kingdom of heaven on Earth, the professing Christian Church.

He relates how a vineyard owner seeks workers for his vineyard. He finds many idle men over the next several hours, guaranteeing them a penny a day.

They have no problem with the work or the wage, and promptly begin their labor.

Finally, just before the sun sets, the owner hires some other idle workers, guaranteeing them a just wage.

At day’s end, the lord of the vineyard calls his steward to give every man his pay, with the admonition that he begin by first paying the last worker hired. The first hired worker would be paid last.

When those hired first saw that those hired last received one penny each, they were certain their reward would be greater than their promised one penny because they worked many more hours in the heat than those who were hired at the last minute.

But when they received exactly the wage promised – one penny – they felt an injustice was done them.

In their minds, according to their sense of fairness and justice, they should have received greater wages than that which was promised.

But the lord of the vineyard responded:

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.

Here we have the Election of grace taught by parable.

All men deserve death. It is the wages which we have earned by sinning.

Death is God’s just payment owed sinners.

Grace is what no sinner deserves. It is given by the gracious merciful will of God to those undeserving men of His choosing.

As was the case with the vineyard workers hired, it is the sovereign prerogative and right of our Lord God to dispense grace or justice to mankind as He alone deems fitting.

To the non-elect, He pays that which He has promised and for which they have rightly earned: death for their sins.

In them justice is served.

To the elect, He pays them that which they have not earned, eternal life, because He is gracious.

And saving merciful grace is God’s to give or withhold as He pleases.

No man is owed grace.

But all men are owed justice.

God’s justice was satisfied by Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on behalf of the Elect.

So here is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:1).

One last point.

The natural reaction to men hearing God gives saving grace to some and not all is one of horror and disdain.

But when the truth is preached that our God decided to give saving grace to some and not to others before they were born, who were no better or worse, cries of outrage and accusations of heresy are heard.

Like the workers who grumbled at the lord of the vineyard, accusing him of evil intentions, our Lord God is vilified by many today.

For just as all the vineyard workers were idle, having nothing noteworthy about them, our God views all men the same in Adam.

There is nothing noteworthy about those chosen for salvation, recipients of saving grace.

The decision was and is the Lord’s to make.

And why do those who despise this truth accuse the Lord for being unjust when, in truth, He is doing nothing evil by being gracious to the undeserving?

There are many called by the Gospel, but few chosen for salvation by His grace.




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