GodŐs Church — His Vineyard
ŇThen began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent [him] away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated [him] shamefully, and sent [him] away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast [him] out. Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence [him] when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed [him]. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard [it], they said, God forbid. And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.Ó (Luke 20:9-19)
We have before us in these verses one of our Lords parables that is recorded in great detail by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. That fact alone is sufficient to demonstrate that this is a parable of tremendous importance.
This is clearly a historical parable. We are told in verse nineteen that the chief priests, scribes and elders of the Jews Ňperceived thatŐ the Lord Jesus Ôhad spoken the parable against them.Ó The history of the Jewish nation, from the time that the Lord brought them out of Egypt until the time of their destruction in 70 AD, is set before us in these verses. Under the emblem of a vineyard and husbandmen (vinedressers), our Master tells us the story of GodŐs dealings with that nation, both in great mercy and in great judgment.
This parable is recorded here in the Book of God to stand as a beacon to warn us, lest we who have received and experienced far greater mercies than the Jews ever did should also at last be dashed in pieces upon the rocks of GodŐs righteous retribution and judgment.
There is no question that our Lord is here speaking directly to the Scribes and Pharisees, to the nation of Israel and their religious leaders in His day. They are the husbandmen described in the parable. Their sins are set before us in plain words. They persecuted and killed GodŐs prophets, generation after generation. At last, they murdered GodŐs darling Son!
There can be no doubt that the parable was directly intended to be a word of condemnation against the Jewish nation. But it is a serious mistake for anyone to read these words and say, ŇThat applies to the Jews. It has no reference to me.Ó ŇA godly man,Ó wrote John Trapp, Ňreads the Scriptures as he doth the statute-book. He holds himself concerned in all that he reads. He finds his name written in every passage and lays it to heart, as spoken to him. The wicked, on the other side, put off all they like not, and dispose of it to others.Ó
Let us not be so foolish. The parable of the wicked husbandmen is a parable by which the Son of God speaks to us. — ŇHe that hath an ear, let him hear.Ó The Jews who heard this parable fall from the lips of the Son of God refused to heed its lessons. Therefore that nation is to this day under the curse of GodŐs holy wrath and just judgment. When they had the light, they refused to walk in the light. Therefore God has sent blindness and darkness upon them.
This is what God the Holy Spirit intends for us to learn from this parable: — ŇBe not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not theeÓ (Romans 11:20-21). With that warning in mind, I direct your attention to the very important lessons to be learned from this parable.
The churches, preachers, teachers and spiritual leaders of our land, those who profess to be GodŐs servants, those who are responsible to teach us GodŐs Word and GodŐs ways, have long since abandoned the Word and truth of God. The result of that apostasy is the abounding ungodliness of this reprobate age. Let us beware, lest we follow this religious generation to everlasting ruin.
First, we see here that GodŐs Church in this world is His vineyard (v. 9). When I refer to GodŐs Church in this world, as is the case in all the New Testament, I primarily have in mind the local Church, local Gospel churches. There certainly are applications of this parable to be made to the Church universal; but it speaks principally of the Church local, local assemblies of men and women who profess to be followers of Christ and His Gospel. Every true Gospel church is a vineyard of GodŐs planting. It belongs to the Lord. He separated a piece of ground for it. He planted it. He has hedged it about. A true Gospel Church is the greatest blessing God can bestow upon any community in this world. What a great and rare privilege and blessing it is to live in a place where God has raised up a people to worship Him, by whom the Gospel of His free, sovereign, saving grace is proclaimed!
We are also told in verse 9 that the Lord God has let out this vineyard to us, His people, as His husbandmen. There is no greater privilege than this in the world, and no greater responsibility under heaven than this.
God the Holy Spirit tells us that Ňwe have this treasure in earthen vesselsÓ (2 Corinthians 4:7). The treasure we carry through the world as GodŐs servants is the Gospel of His grace, by which He communicates to chosen sinners all the blessings of grace and salvation in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14). But we who carry this treasure are only Ňearthen vessels,Ó broken clay pots, worthless and meaningless. We are nothing but sinners saved by grace, no more; but the treasure we carry, by which God is pleased to save His elect, is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Third, at the appointed season, the Lord God looks for and rightfully expects to find fruit from the husbandmen of His vineyard (v. 10). The rent He requires of us is very reasonable. All He demands from us is that we reverence His Son (v. 13). God simply requires that we worship His Son.
Read verses 10-14 carefully. Here we see that as men and women deal with and treat Gods faithful servants, so they deal with and treat GodŐs Son.
ŇAnd at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.Ó
Religion Loved and Christ Hated
Lost religious men and women love religion, religious duties, religious activity, religious ceremonies, religious history, and religious tradition, but utterly despise God, His Son, and His Gospel, and would (if they could) cast GodŐs Son off His throne, out of His Kingdom, and kill him. — ŇThey reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be oursÓ (v. 14). That is exactly what was prophesied in Psalm 2.
The reason preachers, teachers, churches, and religious leaders despise and cast Christ and His Word out is simply this: — They want the vineyard for themselves.
Conviction Not Conversion
Learn this too: — There are many who experience conviction who are never converted (v. 19).
ŇAnd the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.Ó
It takes something more than a guilty, condemning conscience to produce repentance and faith in the heart. That is the gift of GodŐs saving goodness and grace (Romans 2:4; Ephesians 2:8-9; Zechariah 12:10). ŇThe goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.Ó
Our Lord here warns us that mercy despised will be taken away (vv. 15-16). If we despise the privileges and opportunities God has given us, He will both take away those great privileges and make those things which might have been the means of our everlasting salvation the very basis of our everlasting ruin.
Present privileges are no guarantee of future privileges. The Lord Jesus warns us that he will remove the candlestick that is despised. If the preaching of the Gospel is not a savor of life, it will be to you a savor of death.
The time came when the cup of IsraelŐs iniquity was full and God would tolerate them no more. In 70AD, just 40 years after this parable was uttered, God sent Titus and the armies of Rome into Jerusalem to destroy the holy city, the temple, and the nation. From that day to this, the Jews have been scattered over the face of the whole earth.
Nothing offends God like the neglect of His Gospel and His grace. The churches of Asia Minor, once so strong, are now gone. Africa, once the cradle of light, is now the house of darkness. England, once so full of light and life, is now a graveyard of religious relics and memories. Much, much has been given to us; and much shall be required of us.
John Trapp said, ŇThe Gospel is that inheritance we received from our forefathers. It must be our care to transmit the same to our posterity.Ó Truth is the legacy we have received from the preceding generations of GodŐs saints, and truth is the legacy we must leave to the generations that follow. And that particular body of truth which we are responsible to maintain is the Gospel of Christ. Our creed is, and ever must be, ŇJesus Christ and him crucified.Ó The truth we must preserve and declare is the great Ňmystery of godliness,Ó redemption by Jesus Christ, the incarnate God.
GodŐs Purpose Sure
Though many do despise GodŐs grace, and thus heap destruction upon themselves, when He takes the Gospel from one people, He gives it to another, and the purpose of God is not thwarted or even hindered. Christ is still exalted and His people shall be saved (vv. 17-18; Romans 11:25-26, 33-36).
Many reject and despise GodŐs salvation, refusing to build upon the foundation He has laid; but Christ is still exalted. Though many refuse to believe the Gospel and are cast off for their unbelief, God has not cast off His people. There is yet a remnant according to the election of grace; and that remnant shall be saved (Romans 11:1-5). GodŐs purpose is not hindered by manŐs unbelief (Romans 3:3-4).
The Only Way
The only way a sinner can ever be saved is to fall on that Rock of Salvation which God has laid in Zion, Christ Jesus. — ŇWhosoever shall fall on that Stone shall be brokenÓ (v. 18). If Christ falls on you in judgment, He will grind you to powder, and your everlasting ruin beneath the weight of this Stone will be inescapable and complete. ŇOn whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powderÓ (v. 18).
"Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us. Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. O LORD God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people? Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure. Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves. Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself. It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance. Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself. So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name. Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved." (Psalm 80:1-19)
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