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 MATTHEW 21:28-32

THE PARABLE OF THE TWO SONS

"But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.  He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.  And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.  Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.  For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him." 

Matthew 21:28-32

 

 

 A Preacher in his Study

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LESSON 1, VERSE 28:

In Matthew 21 Jesus preached a sermon, using a parable as His Text.

It was about a certain man who had two sons. Remember that term, "two sons."

One other time in our Lord's Ministry He spoke of another man who had two sons. This second account, in Luke 15, also was in the form of a parable.

I suggest to you that both these stories deal with sinners being saved!

Furthermore, in the Matthew 21 parable about the two sons ... Jesus asked the Chief Priests and the Elders of Israel a question.  This question was posed at the very beginning of Jesus' sermon! 

"What think ye?"

Here's the exact verse:  "But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard."  Matthew 21:28

The verb "think" ("dokeo" in Greek) means to express an opinion or to give one's account of something.

Jesus wants a response to His parable!

This man with two sons is obviously a land owner.  He spoke of his vineyard. The Bible has elsewhere compared God's people to a vineyard.  Israel certainly was so pictured in Isaiah 5:7 --- "For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant."  And the Church too in the New Testament.  "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." John 15:5

The adjective "first" is "protos" and generally speaks of the firstborn.  One meaning of protos is "prior." 

So ... I can nearly hear those vain and proud enemies of Christ "thinking."  They eventually "perceived that he spake of them."  Matthew 21:45

But Jesus is about to use His parable here as a "hammer" to crush the false religious hopes of these unsaved men!

And they got the message too!

It's one of Jesus' most direct statements, telling men face-to-face that they are lost!

"But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.  He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.  And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.  Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you."   Matthew 21:28-31

Look again at that last divinely inspired sentence!  "Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you."

Dear reader, today as you have scanned this Bible Study page, are you saved?

I did not ask you if you were religious!

These men to whom Jesus was speaking were fanatically religious, but also were NOT going to Heaven!

Are you saved?

The finally "obedient" son mentioned above is the only one who is implied to be saved.

Based on the "whole" record of Scripture, this is NOT teaching that one works for his or her salvation.

It IS teaching that if we love Him, we will do His Will!

One son said "no," but later decided "yes!"

The other said "yes" ... but meant 'no!"

That first boy pictures a lost soul, born into sin and iniquity and rejecting God from the very womb, later (under Holy Spirit conviction) changing his mind and his ways (repentance) and obeying (a sure sign of "trust") his father!

Be sure you're in the right category here!

Eternity hinges on this critical issue!

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

P. S. --- One other time Jesus asked "what think ye" also!  That question also, in Matthew 22:41, dealt with salvation!  "What think ye of Christ? whose Son is He? They say unto him, The Son of David."  We are dealing with a critically important issue here.

 

 

LESSON 2, VERSE 29:

These are dangerous words, especially when spoken to the Lord ...

"He answered and said, I will not."  Matthew 21:29a

The verb "answered" is "apokrinomai" and has at its center the word for "judgment," "krino" in Greek.

The young man in Jesus' Matthew 21 parable has been called of his father to do something.

He, having considered the command, has thoughtfully decided to say no!

That's sheer rebellion!

And rebellion is a serious sin!

So much so that 1st Samuel 15:23 says:  "rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." 

BUT Matthew 21:29 thankfully adds more information to the story!

"He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went."

Amen!

Thank God for that adverb "afterward!"  It ("husteron") means "at the last."

The Father in the parable was filled with grace.  He allowed time to transpire and the young man changed his mind!

Every ex-sinner reading my words today should praise the Lord for for the "time" he or she was allowed, time to reconsider the things of God!

But this young man not only changed his mind (the usual and sometimes accurate definition of the Bible term "repentance"), he also changed his heart and even feelings and then his very behavior!  Our verb "repent" here is "metamellomai" and means "to be concerned" or even "to care deeply" about something.

Then, having repented, this "changed" son went to the father's vineyard!

I still believe that repentance is critical.  Jesus twice said "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."  Luke 13:3,5

This young man represents a lot of people who at first told the Lord "no!" In fact, we all did!

But with the addition of God's Grace, the Holy Spirit is able to "convince" us of our wrong!  With time, another "gift" from God, and a "dose" of real repentance ... obedience is usually the result!

So it was with this boy!

This verse is, in reality, a "miniature" testimony for thousands of us!

"He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went."

There is no telling what "wrong" he did, what sins he committed against his father while living in that time of rebellion!

But ... afterward ... when repentance came ... so did forgiveness and the lad is in communion with his father, even laboring in his fields of service!

And lest someone write me and say that this "repentance" is a matter of works and voids the good grace of God ... I'll just mention one more verse:  "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."  Acts 11:18

See!  God even grants repentance to the lost!

Salvation is of God!  It is all of Grace! 

Some of us today ought to fall upon our knees and worship our dear Lord, the One Who "also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God."  Ephesians 5:2

Praise His Name!

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3, VERSE 30:

The Lord one day taught a parable about a man with two sons.

He asked his first son to go work in the vineyard.  They boy said he would not go, but later changed his mind and went.

Then the Dad asked his second son to go and help too.  That boy said he would go, but did not!

Surely these two young men represent all of humanity in their different responses to the Father.

Even most Christians today at first said NO to the Lord's call.  We were born saying no for that matter!  But, thank the Lord, after being convicted and convinced of the Holy Spirit, we changed our minds and hearts and said yes!

Here's the Scripture: "But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went."  Matthew 21:28-29

But the second son presents a different picture!  "And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not."  Matthew 21:30

That verb "came" is "proserchomai" and means "to come close" or literally "to come to the face" of someone.  He asks his son personally and directly to go work in the fields ... and the boy lied to his Father!

He lied with forethought too!  That verb "answered," as with the first son, translates "apokrinomai" and means to respond with discernment or judgment in one's heart.

Notice the italicized word "go" in our King James Text.  It has been supplied by the translators to clarify the meaning, which it does.  But in the Textus Receptus, from which the King James Bible is translated, the expression is literally "I, sir!"  Much like an old military response to a commander's voice, the lad said "Yes Sir!"

But he did not do what he promised!

No doubt this son represents many who initially had the appearance of following the Lord, but who did not follow through on their commitment!

Demas, mentioned three times in the New Testament, at first said yes to the Lord, but really meant no!  The last we hear of him Paul wrote:  "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica."  2nd Timothy 4:10

Judas the Disciple said yes ... but for some reason never really obeyed!

And through the years I personally have known dozens who also had the appearance of saying "yes" to the dear Lord ... only later denying Him by their disobedience.

Of these two boys ... which is the better?

The answer one must give to that question is determined by the "finish," by the "end of the matter" as Daniel would have said. 

As bad as it is to say "no" at first ... if that initial "no" is reconsidered and repentance follows ... the resulting "yes" is glorious!

However, to insincerely say "yes," only to later reject the Father's will and live a life of rebellion is infinitely worse!

To know a man's heart ... all we can do is observe his life.  Even Jesus said: "For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes."  Luke 6:44

It is that life which a man or a woman indeed faithfully lives ... year after year after year ... that most tellingly reflects their love for the Father!

As Jesus said in another place:  "If ye love Me, keep My commandments." John 14:15

Even John Apostle agreed:  "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments."  And "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."  Or "This is love, that we walk after his commandments."

Friend, today, to which group do you belong?

                                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 4, VERSE 31:

The Lord not only included a number of enlightening parables in His preaching, He often carefully explained them to His followers.

Such is the case with the "Parable of the Two Sons."

Listen to Jesus preach:  "But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not."  Matthew 21:28-30

Now listen to our Lord as He explains this little story.  Remember, He is talking to the chief priests and elders, some of His sharpest enemies.   "Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you."  Matthew 21:31

Now, folks, that straight preaching!

Which son, the finally obedient one or the ultimately disobedient one, followed his father's desire?

And these religionists correctly answered Jesus:  "The first," meaning the first son.

Then Jesus, amplifying their response, explained that the first boy ... the one who initially said "no" to the command of his father, but later repented and went to the fields of labor ... was a "picture" of many folks who also had the appearance of being rebellious, of saying "no," BUT later repented and lovingly did their Heavenly Father's will!

The first son is a picture of such people as Zacchaeus the tax collector or the Samaritan woman with so many husbands or multitudes of others who have repented and obeyed, surprising us all!

These people, outcasts at first, will be in Heaven because of the Love and Grace of God and the shed Blood of Jesus!

And THEY will go to heaven long before such people as the hypocritical chief priests and elders, who at that very moment were "plotting" the death of Jesus!

Yes, what Jesus said elsewhere surely applies here:  "So the last shall be first, and the first last."  Matthew 20:16

Aren't you glad the Good God of Heaven gives "time" for repentance?

Aren't you glad He didn't allow you to die and go to Hell back when you were still saying "no" to His Plan of Salvation?

Aren't you glad He loved us even when we were very unlovely?

Aren't you glad that a bunch of us old sinners, so despised by the world, got the privilege of really serving in the Lord's vineyards?

Thank God for this parable!

Someone praise Him today, the One Who saved you and changed you and is now using you to His Glory, the Lord Jesus Christ!

                                                                                  --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 5, VERSE 31:

The Lord Jesus could surely be "direct" in His preaching!

Once when He had given a brief parable, the one about a man with two sons, He applied it immediately to a group of His enemies who had questioned Him skeptically.

Here's the parable:  "A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.  And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not."  Matthew 21:28-30

Here is Jesus' application of the parable.  Remember, his is speaking to the Jewish chief priests and elders.  "Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." Ouch!

The hypocritical religious leaders of Jesus' day had, at least by their outward behavior, said "yes" to the Heavenly Father.  "Yes, I'll serve Thee in Thy vineyard."  But in reality they did not go!  They did not obey.  They instead built a largely man-made set of rules and followed them!

On the other hand poor sinners like the harlots (in Greek = "porne," women who "sold" their bodies for sexual purposes) and the publicans ("telones," having to do with "tax collecting") who first said "no" to God ... later repented and sought forgiveness at His Hand!  They ultimately obeyed, working diligently in His vineyard!

Such a comparison no doubt made Jesus' accusers very angry!  Such men, chief priests and and elders, prided themselves in their righteousness!

For them to have been categorized second to the harlots and tax collectors would have been startling ... and probably infuriating too!

Startling or infuriating, yet accurate!

Jesus is trying to "shock" these men into realizing the Truth!

Our Lord then adds:  "For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him." Matthew 21:32

By "John" Jesus means "John the Baptist."

The ruling religious crowd of Jerusalem overtly rejected John, his lifestyle and his message!  They did not believe  that Jesus was "The Lamb of God" as John had so clearly preached!

But ... the publicans and harlots believed! 

The "tense" idea of that verb "believed" ("pisteuo") is aorist.  That just means that at some point in the past, the very moment they got "saved," they trusted Jesus as their Saviour, as Messiah, as God the Son!

And of course, when these religious "bosses" saw such astounding things (low-down sinners being included among the followers of Jesus) they were repelled!

They did not repent!

They did not believe!

And, as far as we know, they died in that unbelief, going to an eternal Place of torment and pain.

And we all know this.  There are yet today quite a number of so-called "elite" spiritual leaders who have no need for Jesus!  I read the writings of one earlier this week, ever so briefly!  He even denied that Jesus was God!  And the man was writing on the subject of the Atonement at that!

Look!  The so called "outcasts" were "in!"

Saved, having repented and trusted in Jesus!

And the proud proper "religionists" were "out!"

Having rejected, and even planning to crucify, the very Lord of Life!

Friend, are you saved?

I'm not asking about your background or your pedigree.

Have you ever realized your "lostness" before God?

Have you ever been born again?

Only Jesus can meet such needs!

Here's how our Lord put it:  "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."  John 5:24

Amen!

                                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 6:

Our Lord once shared a parable about a certain man who had two sons.

This account is recorded in Matthew 21:28-32. The Father owned a vineyard.  He asked one son to go work there and, having initially said "no," the boy later changed his mind and did indeed go!

Subsequently the Father asked the other son to help too.  He said, "I will go, sir."  But he did not do so!

Jesus was illustrating the different responses to the Word of God.

Most of us, like that first son, at first rebelled against the Lord and His Ways. We were born sinners.  David wrote, describing us all:  "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me."  Psalm 51:5

But, through the Blood of Jesus and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, God saved our lost souls ... and our rebellion was transformed into sweet willing obedience!  Our "no" became a "yes" to the Father's Will!

Multitudes of others however will never admit to having said "no" to God! They inform us that they have always said "yes!"  But look at their lives!  Their mouths may have said "I go, sir," but their hearts and their feet are not in the vineyard of the Lord!  They are out in the mud puddles of the world ... cesspools might be a better term.  In Isaiah 29:13 the Lord described them this way:  "This people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart far from Me."  They are religious hypocrites!  Fakes!

But while thinking about this parable recently ... I realized there is a third category into which One may be placed!  There is a son to this Father Who never once said "no" to the Divine Will!  He could truly say:  "And He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him."  John 8:29

The Father needed this beloved Son to go work in His "vineyard!"  To die on an old rugged Cross for the sins of the world!  To save men and women from their sins!

This Son said "yes."

And He meant "yes."

And He did what He promised!

He is, according to Hebrews 3:2, a faithful Son!

He is Jesus!

That is ... Jesus the Christ!

God the Son!

"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him."

Amen.

                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 7:

Jesus, in His preaching and teaching, gave us dozens of parables.

One of them mentioned a father who had two sons.  He simply asked one son to go work in his vineyard.  The boy said "no," but later repented and went.

The father also asked the other son to do the same thing.  He at first said "yes," but then did not obey!

I began to take those two young men and compare them to others in the Bible.

For example, the young man Demas was given the opportunity to travel with Paul!  What a privilege!  Three times in Scripture he is associated with the Apostle!  But his initial "yes" somehow became a "no" and he deserted the elderly Preacher at a very critical time.   While Paul was in jail!

However Jonah the Prophet, when called of God to go to Nineveh, immediately said "no" to the Lord.  But after one choppy sea voyage and one fierce storm and one whale experience Brother Jonah was clearly saying "yes!"

But then I thought about John Mark!  He was asked to accompany Paul and Barnabas on their very first missionary journey.  He said "yes," then ... when things got dangerous ... said "no," turning back and going home to Jerusalem! But here's the good news!  A few years later in his life he was given yet another opportunity and he enthusiastically said "yes" once more!  This time he meant it!  Even Paul then called him "profitable in the ministry!"  2nd Timothy 4;11

Come to think of it, even the greatest preacher of all ... outside of the Lord Jesus of course ... said "no" to the grace of God.   He was a persecutor of the Church.  But one day, on the road to Damascus, his "no" of rebellion became a clear "yes" of submission!

There sure are a lot of "yes" and "no" responses in our Lesson today!

The terrible ones say "yes" to Jesus ... but mean "no."

But thank God some, even after first saying "no," do repent!

And once they have truly repented ... they are ready to do anything for Jesus! They are indeed "yes" men thereafter!

But lest anyone reading our lesson today has had a whole life of "no," then "yes," then "no" again ... and maybe back to another wavering "yes" ... let me say this: Quit that!

Stop that wavering back and forth!

Don't be double-minded!  James tells us:  "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."  James 1:8

Be more like Jesus, Whose very Name is FAITHFUL! "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True." Revelation 19:11

Aren't you thrilled that Jesus did not say "yes" then "no" to Calvary?

Aren't you glad He did not waver when saving your lost soul?

Aren't you grateful He has kept all His promises?

Paul reminds us:  "For all the promises of God in Him (Jesus) are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us."  2nd Corinthians 1:20

That "yea" means YES!

Since Jesus never said anything to His Father but "I go," maybe we had best do the same!

What do you think, Isaiah?

"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me."  Isaiah 6:8

And Isaiah meant it!

He never reversed His "yes" to a "no!"

How about you and me?

Will someone today repent and keep that promise?

Will YOU go work in the Father's vineyard?

                                                                            --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 8, VERSE 32:

In Acts 28:24 Luke wrote these words: "And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not."

"And some believed!"

"And some believed not!"

The "fruit" of Paul's preaching ministry at Rome is being described.

The same outcome is true wherever the Gospel is proclaimed!

In Matthew 21:32 Jesus clearly illustrated this truth.  He, speaking to the chief priests and elders of Israel, said:  "For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him."

By the name John here Jesus means John the Baptist.

John preached righteousness!

And ... some believed!

Others believed not!

The amazing thing in Jesus' observation is this:  the type of people who believed! They were publicans (tax-gatherers) and harlots (sellers, prostitutes)!

Also surprising are the ones who believed not:  the very religious priests and elders of the land! 

Jesus once said the day would come when:  "the last shall be first, and the first last."  Matthew 20:16

Former harlots in Heaven, having believed on Jesus!

Proud priests in Hell, not having repented or believed!

See it?

The "last" folks you would have ever thought to be in Heaven (publicans and harlots) will be among the "first" there!

This surprising outcome to the preaching of John the Baptist is mentioned in connection with a parable Jesus taught, the parable of the two sons.  There too the results are unexpected!

God's Grace is an amazing thing!

You just can't predict its progress!

All I know is that I sure am glad it appeared to me one day, the day I got saved!

Can someone else today say "amen" to this?

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast."  Ephesians 2:8-9

                                                                                    --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

THE BIBLE IS A LIVING BOOK!  THANK GOD FOR IT!  WE PRAY THESE LESSONS HAVE BEEN A BLESSING TO YOU.

 

 

 

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