"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .


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Saturday, September 17, 2016


By James Fire

We sometimes forget that the Bible was originally written without chapter breaks or even verses for that matter. Those came about much later around the 15th century. The divisions of chapters in the Bible are man-made and not at all inspired by God. They were added to make referencing passages easier for us.
We also have to remember that keeping things in context many times means ignoring (especially) the chapter breaks – and if we do this, we sometimes gain insights that we might not otherwise have, if we thought that the end of a chapter meant that a new subject would be addressed in the next chapter (as is the case with textbooks, or even fiction).
Where we ended in Chapter 19 of MATTHEW, the LORD Jesus spoke on the spiritual truth that “many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first”

Let us proceed then onto Chapter 20 and see if that thought is maintained and, or gives us any insights into His next declarations and teachings . . .

MATTHEW 20:1-2
For 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. 2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

Here we have a parable spoken by the LORD regarding a householder, the “goodman of the house”, who went out early in the morning to seek out and hire some workers to tend his vineyards.

The LORD not only seeks to save sinners, but as transformed saints, He sends them out to work in the fields or vineyards. This is not light duty, and many are reluctant to so labor in the kingdom of heaven. This is why the LORD admonishes His disciples to pray that He will call those into the ministry of this spiritual work (See MATT 9:35-38; also EZEK 34:1-5).
There are those who are called early in life (“[in] the morning”) and labor since the days of their youth; others are called later in life (in the “third” - “sixth” - “ninth”- and even the “eleventh” hours) – but all are to be engaged in this blessed labor – and it’s because of the LORD’s salvation of our souls, and indwelling Spirit that we are even able, and accounted worthy to be of service to the LORD in this way. Saints, this is a demonstration of the LORD’s grace and mercy!

We labor for the LORD, but also with the LORD! He never sends us out to work alone; His abiding Spirit is ever with us, providing us His Word: The Holy Scriptures, His wisdom and guidance, the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit – all with which we may be effective in this work of the Kingdom of heaven! As we serve the LORD, we learn of Him (See MATT 11:29) – His meekness and lowliness of heart – and paradoxically, it’s not until we enter into such labors that we truly “find rest for our souls”!

MATTHEW 20:3-7
3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? 7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

So now we see a variation distinguished between those who have labored long – and those that have labored for a short while, and workers who have labored for various amounts of time in between. And those that were hired first all agreed to work for a penny’s worth – a denarius: typically, a full day’s wages for a Roman soldier, which in this case, for field workers – is quite a generous offer from this goodman! Note that all the workers hired afterwards were simply promised to receive fair wages, but no specific amount mentioned – just “whatever is right”.

MATTHEW 20:8-12
8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. 9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. 11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, 12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

When evening comes, the time for labor is over; no one can work when it is night (that is, until electricity was used to illumine light bulbs!). There is coming a time of spiritual darkness, when such laboring in the Kingdom will be greatly impeded and withstood by the agencies of Satan and his own kingdom of darkness.

Yet we still have the Light to work by, as our LORD is ever with us, accompanying, directing and enabling us in this work (JOHN 9:4-5; MATT 28:19-20). There is also that night of “sleep” for the saint (1 COR 15:6,20), who after a lifelong endeavor of service to the LORD, has come to the end of their days, received by the LORD of Glory once they depart this world, enter through heaven’s portals and into the everlasting arms of our LORD Jesus Christ! Their labors (at least the ones here on Earth) are then ended.

We see here that that which was promised to the early morning workers – a penny – was granted to those who have worked a total of one hour; and no doubt the workers first employed by the goodman saw this – and expected more than the initial proposition (see vs. 10).

Yet when it came time for them to receive their wages, they also were granted a penny’s worth of income!
One might ask, What is all this about payment in the kingdom of heaven? Doesn’t the Bible indicate that we are saved by grace and not by works (EPH 2:8-9)? Let us remember that the earning given far exceeded the amount of work done, even by the early morning workers! So this represented compassion, mercy, generosity as well as grace on behalf of those who entered into the fields to work, and this amount was promised before they even entered into the fields!

While there are many applications for this parable, I believe a primary one is a demonstration of the grace of God, symbolized by this “penny” – and it is by the grace of God alone – based upon the righteousness of Christ and His shed blood which earned for us eternal life that we sinners receive and are granted the privilege of being called sons and daughters of God (JOHN 1:12-13; HEB 9:12,14,21-24).

This penny, this wage granted, based upon Christ (“the goodman” in this parable) and His payment for our sin, enables us to enter into the field – the Kingdom of God via the new birth in Christ, without which we cannot possibly enter (JOHN 3:3,5) and represents eternal life – which is the gift of God (ROM 6:23).

The fact that there are some of these workers who have labored long, and resent those who only had to work an hour – and they all received the same – shows a pride and a self-righteousness that is uncomely for the saint. Any who might think that they “deserve more – or better – from God than brother or sister so-and-so must remember that in ourselves we are ALL deserving of judgment and damnation, and that apart from Christ, we are utterly hopeless to receive any approval from the Holy God of all creation!

Certainly the Pharisees considered themselves as being far more worthy of God and His kingdom than the common folk – and even the common folk believed that too! Yet the LORD boldly declared that unless the people’s righteousness exceeded that of the Pharisees, they would never enter into the kingdom of heaven (MATT 5:20); because of their self-righteous hearts, the religious leaders (generally speaking, with a few notable exceptions) showed their true colors, exhibiting a pride not unlike that of Satan’s own! Listen to what John the Baptist had to say about these supposedly ‘holy men of God’!
MATTHEW 3:5-10
Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire
. (And further, what the LORD Jesus Himself had to say about them in MATTHEW 23)!!
Now let’s hear what the goodman of the house has to say to these grumblers:

MATTHEW 20:13-15
13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good

Equity in Christ and the quality of salvation, via the earnest of the Spirit (2 COR 1:22; 5:5; EPH 1:13; 4:30) is such that there is no Jew, nor Gentile, free or bond, male or female – we are all one in Christ (NOTE: in the three contrasts here, there is a supposed position of superiority in the first – Jew, free and male in contrast to the supposed position of inferiority – Gentile, bond, and female; 1 COR 12:13; GAL 3:28), members of His body, completely without hierarchy or ranking. We are all brethren, and the LORD Himself alone is exalted to that place of preeminence (MATT 23:8). 

May I say, that I for one will be intensely grateful to the LORD for bringing in those lost loved ones, friends and all else who we are praying for, who have not yet received salvation through Jesus Christ our LORD – but before the LORD’s return, their hearts will be touched and just prior to the coming Judgment, they shall be spared and become fellow citizens of the Kingdom of God. It is indeed the LORD’s mercies that any of us are spared, and counted worthy of eternal life because we are received that which He graciously offers to us (LAM 3:22)!
For more about this parable, check out what GOT QUESTIONS has to say in this article.

16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

Certainly a most profound and vital spiritual principle in the Kingdom of God; a truth taught throughout Scripture – from Lucifer (ISA 14:13-14) and Eve (GEN 3:6), who sought to exalt themselves above the station that they were granted to them by God, to King Nebuchadnezzar who likewise sought to exalt self (DAN 4:29-30) – and each of these was abased and humbled – or promised to one day to be so abased – by the just hand of God.

There are none who are immune to the temptation of pride and even in the subtlest of ways, seeking the exalting of self. The LORD Jesus Christ stands apart and Who alone walked the way of humility and meekness – not weakness! – all the days of His life.
Let us be mindful, in the midst of the LORD’s tremendous blessings, when He is using us greatly for His purposes, when we are experiencing all kinds of spiritual victories – to be aware of the tremendous peril that is at our feet, in which the enemy would prod us to exalt self and attribute self-worth as the reason for such things – and thereby ensure our downfall down that perilous precipice!

It is when a saint assumes the lowly position of a bended, prayerful and humble knee that the LORD reveals such glorious perspectives of grace and truth as could never be viewed from the loftiest of locations to be had by man’s own wisdom, counsels and philosophies!
See MATT 5:5; JAMES 4:6-10; 1 PET 5:6-8 – NOTE: In these passages in JAMES and 1 PETER, humbleness of heart is key in defeating the devil and successfully resisting him!

MATTHEW 20:17-19
17 And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, 18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, 19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again

In the midst of glorious ministry and revelation of the Word Incarnate, the disciples of the LORD Jesus Christ had profound joy and confidence of the soon exaltation of the Kingdom (LUKE 10:9,11) and they anticipated seeing the LORD Jesus raised up as the King – the Messiah of Israel (MATT 21:9), and themselves with authority over the twelve tribes of Israel as promised (MATT 19:28)!

Yet the LORD spoke these words: “… the Son of man shall be betrayed…” and even more shocking: “… and shall deliver…to crucify Him…”
What bewildering astonishment they must have felt at hearing those words (MATT 16:22)! How their dearest dreams must have felt threatened – surely the LORD was speaking in parables again?
Even after repeated expressions of this sort from the lips of our LORD (MATT 16:21-24; 26:1,12,20-21), the disciples still seemed oblivious of the obvious. I believe it wasn’t until the Last Supper and subsequently at the Garden of Gethsemane that they finally understood – which led them to despair, and then their forsaking the LORD.

Here is a most valuable lesson for us saints:
It was in the plan of God the Father (as well as all the members of the Trinity; ACTS 2:23) that the LORD Jesus Christ should suffer the sins of the world on the cross. And while the event on Golgotha appeared to be the greatest tragedy ever to occur in the universe, it was in all actuality, the greatest victory  (JOHN 19:30), the greatest blessing, the greatest demonstration of God’s love that He had ever revealed to mankind.

In our own lives, as saints of the living God – we have our own destiny mapped out by the LORD God (ROM 8:29-30; EPH 1:5,11); a plan and purpose of His own Eternal Mind (EPH 3:10-12). Many events contained therein may seem like tragedy and cause us despair and to become disillusioned and discouraged.

Yet in the plan of God, while there is a Cross, there is also a Crown! Where they may be temporary despair and seeming defeat, there is also eternal victory (GAL 2:20)! While we may experience tragedy, the LORD promises us triumph (2 COR 2:14)! NEVER, EVER allow the enemy to persuade you with his pernicious lies (JOHN 8:44) – that the LORD has forsaken us, abandoned us, given up on us: He has promised to ever be with us (HEB 13:5); He has promised that “ALL things” work together for His glory and our good (ROM 8:28-39; EPH 1:5-7), He has promised us the grace to bear up under any weight of trial that life may confront us with (2 COR 12:9; 1 PET 1:7)!

MATTHEW 20:20-24
20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedees children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. 21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. 22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. 24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.

The ambition to glorify God is the most holy ambition one can possibly desire; it was the sole motivating factor of our LORD Jesus, Himself. He always did that which was pleasing to the Father (JOHN 8:29). However, any ambition to glorify, exalt, promote self is in a sense like committing ‘spiritual suicide’ – it can only lead to abasement at best (MATT 23:12), or ruin at worst (ISA 14:15-16,19).

Here we have the mother of James and John asking about the two greatest places of honor any saint could possibly possess – that in the Kingdom to come, that they would be granted to sit at our LORD’s right and left hand.

Which begs the question in my mind, ‘Who will be granted that honor?’ We shall indeed find out; but it may be safely assumed that those two reservations will be for those saints who most mirror the likeness of Christ in their lives! Those who have been/will be “baptized with the baptism” our LORD Himself endured.

When asked whether or not these two sons of Zebedee were able to be so baptized, they ignorantly responded with a “we are!” response. It makes me smile, because how often in my early years as a Christian I have believed or conducted myself in such a way that demonstrated my naivety and even pride, thinking that I was “able” to do such and such for ‘the glory of God’! When in reality, it was to show myself as a strong and bold Christian – I cringe when I think of those early days and in those moments when I sought for honor among people, to be thought highly of by them.

Often I have to examine my heart for such motives. May our only ambition be to see Christ Jesus our LORD exalted above all names, for He is utterly worthy of such!!
When the other disciples heard about what was asked, they were “moved with indignation” – they were VERY upset with the Zebedee brothers! I wonder why they were angry – perhaps because they hadn’t thought to ask such a thing themselves?
They often disputed as to who of them should be the greatest in the Kingdom:
MARK 9:33-35
33 And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? 34 But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. 35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all
(See also LUKE 9:46; 22:24).
It almost makes me chuckle, when the Omniscient Christ asks His followers what they were arguing about, and they all suddenly become mute – caught with their hand in the cookie jar as it were. They knew that such ambitions were wrong; otherwise one of them would have surely said something like, “Well, LORD, now that You mention it, You can finally clear something up for us . . . “

Who can boast about one’s own greatness while in the presence of the Greatest in the Kingdom of God, Christ Himself? In His presence there can be no show of the flesh, no boasting about our self-worth, no extolling of self and our imagined virtues.

And rather than receiving a sound rebuking from the LORD, He patiently explains that the way up in the Kingdom of God is the way down; the way of humility and abasement, taking the lower seat, being a servant, looking out for others more than for self – where number 1 in our lives is not ourselves (as the world would have us believe with all of its dogma regarding self-esteem), but the LORD Himself. As it has been said before, “The LORD doesn’t want to be number 1 on a list of 10; rather He wants to be number 1 in our lives on a list of 1!” In other words, there is NOTHING to compete in our lives with Christ Jesus our LORD!

And here He explains the principle governing of the Kingdom of God:

MATTHEW 20:25-28
25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many

Dominion by coercion is the modus operandi of the enemy, Satan. He desires to exalt self over others (angels and humans alike) as a demonstration of his ‘superiority’. This is mirrored in the governments of corrupt mankind at its worst. We remember the expression “power corrupts” but in all actuality, it’s the corruption of the human heart that is manifest when given the opportunity to wield power.

Only those men and women in history who had some semblance of integrity and humility who became leaders, did not desire power; another old expression, “Great men do not seek power. Great men have power thrust upon them.”

Domination is the domain of the devil, who desires that others remain enslaved to his cause (2 COR 4:4; EPH 4:18; ACTS 26:18; 1 PET 5:8), even at the cost of their lives – for the furtherance of his anti-Christ agenda.

Deliverance is the domain of Deity (LUKE 1:74; COL 1:13-14), Who desires that others become liberated by His cross (ROM 5:16-17; 8:1-3), even at the cost of His own life (JOHN 10:18; 3:36) – for the furtherance of His Kingdom agenda.

The way of atonement, of grace, of compassion, of truth and justice, of nurturing, healing is the Way that is JESUS (JOHN 14:6) and the Way that He leads His followers (1 JOHN 3:16-17).

While I cannot wholly endorse his ministry of late, I can heartily recommend his book The JESUS STYLE by Gayle Erwin, where he elaborates on the biblical truth of Jesus and servanthood.
For a brief sampling of this presentation, have a look at this video (9 min 27 sec).


For more on servanthood and following after the LORD’s example, have a look at this article FROM the MIND of FIRE, GOD Has THROWN In The TOWEL  

MATTHEW 20:29-34
29 And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him. 30 And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. 
31 And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. 32 And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? 33 They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. 34 So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.

At this point the LORD had made it known that He would be betrayed into the hands of the authorities, suffer, and die on the cross (and rise again the third day!). He was ‘on mission’ and nothing, NOTHING would deter Him in this precious atonement which He provides for sinful mankind – except, temporarily, the cries of a hurting, needy soul.

This is just another thing that I love and admire about our LORD – NEVER was there a more important assignment in all the world. . . we sometimes want to excuse ourselves in serving the needs of the individual because we have ‘a more pressing duty’ to serve God.  . .  and yet here is our LORD in His determined stride towards the Holy City now “…[standing] still…” and He calls to these blind men, who themselves were crying out to the LORD, despite the crowd’s rebuking them: they themselves were determined in their prayer and “cried the more” – a valuable lesson for us saints regarding our petitions before the LORD: it would seem these blind men could see better than most regardless of their darkened eyes!

JESUS is never so busy in maintaining the universe, the state of Israel, the church, and ushering in lost souls via the Gospel on the global scale, that He can’t make time for the sole soul and the cries of our hearts! HE IS AWESOME!

And here, He asks these men what they would want – seems a bit obvious as to their need, so why did He bother to ask (as if He didn’t know). It’s the same question people (myself included) as to the actual spiritual mechanics of prayer: the LORD knows our needs, so why do we need to pray?

Firstly, to acknowledge our need, our inability to truly meet them ourselves and to look to the LORD in prayer – so that when the answer comes, we offer praise and thanksgiving to Him.
Secondly, for fellowship; the LORD loves us and desires to spend time with us in these intimate moments when we direct our hearts to heaven and interact with the LORD of glory and grace and goodness; power and praiseworthiness and peace.

They declare their need and the answer is forthcoming immediately: He touches them out of His infinite compassion and restores their sight, Once granted, they take the next wisest course of action: they follow Him – as He proceeds onward to Jerusalem, to the Upper Room and the Last Supper, to the Garden of Gethsemane and then later to a series of unlawful trials, beatings, humiliations and then to the lonely hill of Calvary, on a wooden cross, where His blood was shed in testament to the glorious Gospel provision by the LAMB of GOD!

Next time – MATTHEW Ch. 21!

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