God’s impartial justice and His unmerited grace

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

“But many who are first will be last, and the last first. For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they murmured against the landlord, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen” (Matthew 19:30–20:16).

IDEA: Many people who say they believe in God’s grace do not believe that God is gracious.

PURPOSE: To help listeners realize how much their vision of God controls what they see God doing.

Do you think it’s possible for Christians who say they believe in God’s grace to doubt that God is gracious? Why?

Who has the greater problem with this: those who are virtuous or those who are sinners?

Martin Luther wanted to be right with God, but he was wrong with God. He gave this testimony many years later in his lectures on Galatians:

“When I was a monk, I made a great effort to live according to the requirements of the monastic rule. I made a practice of confessing and reciting all my sins, but always with prior contrition; I went to confession frequently, and I performed the assigned penances faithfully. Nevertheless, my conscience could never achieve certainty but was always in doubt and said, ‘You have not done this correctly. You were not contrite enough. You have omitted this in your confession.”‘

Elsewhere Luther wrote, “No matter how much we declared with our mouths that Christ had redeemed us from the tyranny and slavery of the law, actually we felt in our hearts that He was a lawgiver, a tyrant, and a judge more fearful than Moses himself.”

I. How does Jesus change our vision of God in the parable of the vineyard keeper as we read it in Matthew 20:1-16?

What would have been a “fair and equitable way” for God to reward those who are His followers?

Is God always “just”? What does that mean in this parable?

Is God’s justice the major characteristic of God that Jesus underlines in the parable?

Why don’t all the people in the parable see God’s generosity?

II. What difference might it make to believe that God is a generous and gracious God?

On what basis did the owner deal with the men who came to the harvest late in the day? Was that basis in them or in the owner?

Sinners are attractive because they are loved. They are not loved because they are attractive. Do you believe that most of us accept that as true?