Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 22: Saying and Doing
Based on Mat. 21:23-32
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"A certain man had two sons; and he came to the
first, and said, Son, go work today 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."
|"Go Work in My Vineyard."—Davis Collection.|
In the sermon on the mount Christ said, "Not every
one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the
kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father
which is in heaven." Matt. 7:21. The test of sincerity is
not in words, but in deeds. Christ does not say to any man,
What say ye more than others? but, "What do ye more than
others?" Matt. 5:47. Full of meaning are His words, "If
ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." John
13:17. Words are of no value unless they are accompanied
with appropriate deeds. This is the lesson taught in the
parable of the two sons.
This parable was spoken at Christ's last visit to Jerusalem [p. 273] before His death. He had driven out the buyers and
sellers from the temple. His voice had spoken to their
hearts with the power of God. Amazed and terrified, they
had obeyed His command without excuse or resistance.
When their terror was abated, the priests and elders,
returning to the temple, had found Christ healing the sick
and the dying. They had heard the voice of rejoicing and
the song of praise. In the temple itself the children who
had been restored to health were waving palm branches
and singing hosannas to the Son of David. Baby voices
were lisping the praises of the mighty Healer. Yet with the
priests and elders all this did not suffice to overcome their
prejudice and jealousy.
The next day, as Christ was teaching in the temple, the
chief priests and elders of the people came to Him and said,
"By what authority doest Thou these things? and who gave
Thee this authority?"
The priests and elders had had unmistakable evidence of
Christ's power. In His cleansing of the temple they had
seen Heaven's authority flashing from His face. They
could not resist the power by which He spoke. Again in
His wonderful deeds of healing He had answered their
question. He had given evidence of His authority which
could not be controverted. But it was not evidence that was
wanted. The priests and elders were anxious for Jesus to
proclaim Himself the Messiah that they might misapply
His words and stir up the people against Him. They wished
to destroy His influence and to put Him to death.
Jesus knew that if they could not recognize God in
Him or see in His works the evidence of His divine
character, they would not believe His own testimony that He
was the Christ. In His answer He evades the issue they
hope to bring about and turns the condemnation upon
themselves. [p. 274] "I also will ask you one thing," He said, "which if ye
tell Me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I
do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it?
from heaven, or of men?"
The priests and rulers were perplexed. "They reasoned
with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven, He
will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But
if we shall say, Of men, we fear the people; for all hold
John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We
can not tell. And He said unto them, Neither tell I you
by what authority I do these things."
"We can not tell." This answer was a falsehood. But
the priests saw the position they were in, and falsified in
order to screen themselves. John the Baptist had come
bearing witness of the One whose authority they were now
questioning. He had pointed Him out, saying, "Behold
the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."
John 1:29. He had baptized Him, and after the baptism,
as Christ was praying, the heavens were opened, and the
Spirit of God like a dove rested upon Him, while a voice
from heaven was heard saying, "This is My beloved Son, in
whom I am well pleased." Matt. 3:17.
Remembering how John had repeated the prophecies
concerning the Messiah, remembering the scene at the
baptism of Jesus, the priests and rulers dared not say that
John's baptism was from heaven. If they acknowledged
John to be a prophet, as they believed him to be, how could
they deny his testimony that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son
of God? And they could not say that John's baptism was of
men, because of the people, who believed John to be a
prophet. So they said, "We can not tell."
Then Christ gave the parable of the father and the two
sons. When the father went to the first son, saying, "Go [p. 275] work today in my vineyard," the son promptly answered,
"I will not." He refused to obey, and gave himself up to
wicked ways and associations. But afterward he repented,
and obeyed the call.
The father went to the second son with the same
command, "Go work today in my vineyard." This son
made reply, "I go, sir," but he went not.
In this parable the father represents God, the vineyard
the church. By the two sons are represented two classes of [p. 276] people. The son who refused to obey the command, saying,
"I will not," represented those who were living in open
transgression, who made no profession of piety, who openly
refused to come under the yoke of restraint and obedience
which the law of God imposes. But many of these afterward
repented and obeyed the call of God. When the gospel
came to them in the message of John the Baptist, "Repent
ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," they repented,
and confessed their sins. (Matt. 3:2.)
In the son who said, "I go, sir," and went not, the
character of the Pharisees was revealed. Like this son, the
Jewish leaders were impenitent and self-sufficient. The
religious life of the Jewish nation had become a pretense.
When the law was proclaimed on Mount Sinai by the voice
of God, all the people pledged themselves to obey. They
said, "I go, sir," but they went not. When Christ came in
person to set before them the principles of the law, they
rejected Him. Christ had given the Jewish leaders of His
day abundant evidence of His authority and divine power,
but although they were convinced, they would not accept the
evidence. Christ had shown them that they continued
to disbelieve because they had not the spirit which leads
to obedience. He had declared to them, "Ye made the
commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. . . .
In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the
commandments of men." Matt. 15:6, 9.
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