Salvation by Grace Alone
Matthew 20:1-16 - Septuagesima Sunday - Jan 24, 2016

Dear believers in Christ, Baptized of God

First and foremost this parable teaches the overflowing Grace and love of God, and how it is meant for us all. “God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

That word whosoever means it’s for everyone. Anyone and everyone who believes in Jesus will be saved. Scripture says Jesus is the satisfaction “for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Today let us review how the parable of the laborers teaches salvation by Grace alone, and may we continue to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

Jesus begins the parable by saying, “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.”

How does a person get a job in today’s world? For example, if we wanted a job at the Norfolk Daily News, would they come out and find us? Would it be reasonable for us to wait for them to come knocking on our door, to offer us a job? The employer usually doesn’t go looking for us. We have to go looking for them.

But in the parable, we notice the opposite is true. The employer, the manager (householder) of the vineyard, goes out looking for workers. Back then, with no tractors or combines, many more hands were needed at harvest time. It wasn’t uncommon for a vineyard to go looking for more workers.

This has a spiritual meaning for us. The manager represents God. The laborers represent us. The manger comes to the men to invite them into his vineyard, just like God comes to us to invite us. He comes to invite us into His Kingdom of Grace through Baptism and the Word, the means of His grace.

And we notice that none are excluded in the hiring process. The manger is very persistent in making sure none are excluded. He keeps going out again and again (into the marketplace) to invite more and more to work in his vineyard. This represents the grace of our Heavenly Father (His universal grace), and His persistence in making known salvation to all the world. Scripture says that God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” So He keeps sending the Gospel of Christ into the world. He keeps inviting, He keeps calling, He keeps knocking on the door of many hearts through His Word. It is the will of our Good Shepherd that many more come into the fold and be saved.

And that’s how we know for certainty that we too are included in the call to His Kingdom. Since His grace is meant for us all, and Jesus came for us all, it therefore must be meant for you and me too.

This is also the grace that keeps us, through both the good and the bad, from our very first days until our very last days on earth. Through it all God keeps, supports, and sustains our faith by His grace, which comes to us in His Word and Sacraments.

One of things that really stands out in this parable, is the fairness aspect, or the lack thereof. Was the manger of the vineyard fair? How could it be fair to pay all the workers the same, when not everybody worked the same? In fact, some hardly worked at all. Some arrived at the very last hour of the day, and yet they are still paid a full day’s wage, the same as those who worked all day. How could that be fair?

But, as with all of Jesus’ parables, there is a deeper meaning than what lies on the surface. It’s really not a lesson in business or wage practices - it’s a spiritual lesson. As important as it is to work hard, we are saved by the grace of God alone. We haven’t contributed the smallest bit to our salvation, no matter how much, or how little we have worked in God’s Kingdom. “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.” Jesus accomplished everything needful for our salvation by going to the cross for us. He overcame the power of the grave by going through it for us. His resurrection shows that the Father accepted His sacrifice for our sins and it shows that we too will rise. The Father said of His Son, “My righteous servant shall justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.”

In the parable, those who hardly worked at all represent the thief on the cross, and the woman caught in the very act of adultery. They really haven’t done much in God’s Kingdom. In fact, they have hindered it. Yet, they repented and believed. God’s grace will not exclude them, it will include and welcome them into eternal life.

And so they are elevated to a position of equality with those who have devoted their entire lives to God. They receive the same salvation. The latecomers are saved too, because they too, are saved by the grace of God alone. Neither category of persons, the early or the latecomers, has earned salvation, because Jesus did it all.

When it comes to salvation, the world’s standards of fairness must be completely discarded. Jesus says “the last shall be first.” The “last” are those who have finally given up on their own righteousness and believe in Christ alone for salvation. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

So the 12-hour workers become upset at being made equal with the 1-hour workers in pay. But the 12-hour workers received not a penny less than what they had agreed upon. It was a completely fair wage that they received. Even if the manager decided to pay the 1-hour workers twenty, a hundred times more - wouldn’t the 12-hour workers still have received not a penny less than what they had agreed upon? “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?”

This is the cry of the self righteous Scibes and Pharisees of the world, those who see themselves as righteous and deserving. They think their good works earn their spot in heaven. This is why they are so angry at the latecomers being shown grace and mercy. “They haven’t done half of what I’ve done”, they think. Not realizing that only Jesus has earned eternal life, and only he that believes in Jesus will receive eternal life.

“A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.” “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

For Christ’s sake, God gives us overflowing Grace, mercy, forgiveness, and there’s more where that came from. Jesus changed water into wine and multiplied the loaves of bread without limit - but that was only the beginning of His grace for us. He spoke of a “well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Jesus spoke of forgiveness, healing, comfort for even the greatest of sinners. For “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” And so we are saved by the Grace of God alone.

God is not stingy with His grace. Just like the householder, He doesn’t hold back, He keeps calling and inviting. He is persistent, that we may know and be assured, eternal life is for us. Jesus earned it for us. He wants us to be confident, to believe in Him. For Whosoever believeth in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Let us close with the very last words of Revelation: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.