Salvation By Grace Alone
Matthew 20:1-16 Septuagesima Sunday - February 16, 2014


Believers in Christ, this story is for your assurance, for your comfort. You don’t have to worry about what you will receive at the end of the “day”, the end of your earthly life. Because God is not stingy with what He gives. He is just like the landowner in the parable - He doesn’t hold back. He doesn’t withhold His full compassion and mercy from you, regardless of how much or how little you may have worked in His Kingdom. In fact, before you could do anything at all, before you were born, God gave you His Son, His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

That’s your comfort. That’s your assurance. At the end of the “day”, you can be confident what your “wages” will be. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Jesus tells a story. One that everyone can understand. A landowner hires laborers to work in his vineyard. But there’s a catch. It’s a big catch. Everyone gets paid the same no matter how much or how little they work.

It just doesn’t seem fair, does it? We can understand the anger of those who worked all day, because every single one of us here has had that feeling. Especially when we really worked hard, and others did not, and yet, our greater efforts didn’t get recognized or appreciated. Ouch, that hurts.

We are all born with this impeccable sense of fairness. It comes so naturally. “Mom, Dad, his bowl of ice cream is bigger than mine, it isn’t fair. Mom, Dad, his Christmas present is better than mine. It just isn’t fair.”

Yet, today Jesus is begging us to understand, today’s lesson is all about the goodness of the landowner, not really about what’s fair at all. Actually he pays those who worked hardest, not one penny less than what they agreed upon. So why were they angry? Because he was gracious to those who hardly worked at all.

But this is exactly what the Gospel is really about. We haven’t contributed the smallest bit to our salvation, no matter how much, or how little we have worked in God’s Kingdom. We contribute absolutely nothing toward our salvation. Jesus did it all. He lived the perfect life for you without sin. He was born under the law, to redeem them that were under the law. And He took all of the condemnation that our sins deserved, upon Himself. Jesus went to the cross for you. Jesus rose from the grave for you. Jesus did it all.

Those who came late in the game in the parable, represent those like the thief on the cross, or the woman who was a known sinner, those who really haven’t done much of anything at all in God’s Kingdom, in fact, they have hindered it. And yet they are elevated to a position of equality, with those who perhaps have worked their entire life in God’s Kingdom. Yet, the latecomers are saved too, because they too, are saved by Grace alone. They too, are paid the exact same wage - because salvation doesn’t depend on our efforts, but on the goodness of the landowner.

We must throw everything out the window concerning what we think is fair. In fact, it’s completely opposite of our standards. Jesus says, the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

The last who shall be first, are those who have finally given up on their own righteousness, like the thief on the cross who had no righteousness of his own. But are we really any different, with our daily sins in thought word and deed?

The first who shall be last are those who think they will be first in line, like the Scribes and Pharisees, because they think they have coming to them what is fair based upon their own efforts.

Yet, Jesus has some very serious words for those who want to be paid fairly, in His kingdom, based upon their own labors. “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.”

Notice that Jesus does not necessarily dispute their claim that they have done many wonderful works. Maybe they have. Yet, the problem is that no matter how hard we work, not a single day goes by, where we don’t in some way, put ourselves, and our own desires above everything and everyone else. That’s sin. “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” The answer is pretty obvious that no one could. But, believers in Christ, you don’t stand on the basis of your own rightousness. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us. There is forgiveness with God in Jesus Christ.

Do we really want what is fair? “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”

Yet by Grace, we are saved. By Grace, God doesn’t give us what is fair - what we deserve. He gave His Son what we deserved – “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

For Christ’s sake, He gives us mercy, overflowing Grace and forgiveness. And there’s more where that came from. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

In fact, His grace is so big, so great, there is nothing we can do to earn it, but there’s also nothing we can do to take it away. Whoever believes in His Son will not perish, but have everlasting life.

So the payment of His grace, is not made based upon our efforts, or upon what we think is fair. Good thing it isn’t, or not one person would be saved. It’s based upon the goodness of God, by the perfect righteousness of His Son. He did enough.

“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.”

You don’t have to worry about what you will receive at the end of the “day”. Your payment to come, is one based upon pure grace, and grace alone. And that is all that we need.

Jesus erases all our fears, and removes all our doubts. He promies, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.