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Matthew 21:28

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

A certain man had two sons - Under the emblem of these two sons, one of whom was a libertine, disobedient, and insolent, but who afterwards thought on his ways, and returned to his duty; and the second, a hypocrite, who promised all, and did nothing; our Lord points out, on the one hand, the tax-gatherers and sinners of all descriptions, who, convicted by the preaching of John and that of Christ, turned away from their iniquities and embraced the Gospel; and, on the other hand, the scribes, Pharisees, and self-righteous people, who, pretending a zeal for the law, would not receive the salvation of the Gospel.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 28-32

But what think ye? - A way of speaking designed to direct them particularly to what he was saying, that they might be self-convicted.

Two sons - By those two sons our Lord intends to represent the conduct of the Jews, and that of the publicans and sinners.

In my vineyard - See the notes at Matthew 21:33. To work in the vineyard here represents the work which God requires man to do.

I will not - This had been the language of the publicans and wicked men. They refused at first, and did not “profess” to be willing to go.

Repented - Changed his mind. Afterward, at the preaching of John and Christ, the publicans - the wicked - repented and obeyed.

The second … said, I go sir; and went not - This represented the conduct of the scribes and Pharisees - “professing” to obey God, observing the external rites of religion, but opposed really to the kingdom of God, and about to put his Son to death.

Whether of them twain … - Which of the two. “They say unto him, The first.” This answer was correct; but it is strange that they did not perceive that it condemned themselves.

Go into the kingdom of God - Become Christians, or more readily follow the Saviour. See the notes at Matthew 3:2.

Before you - Rather than you. They are more likely to do it than you. You are self-righteous, self-willed, and obstinate.

John came in the way of righteousness - Many of them have believed, but you have not. That is, in the right way, or teaching the way to be righteous; to wit, by repentance. Publicans and harlots heard him and became righteous, but they did not. They saw it, but, as in one thousand other cases, it did not produce the proper effect on them, and they would not repent.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Parables which give reproof, speak plainly to the offenders, and judge them out of their own mouths. The parable of the two sons sent to work in the vineyard, is to show that those who knew not John's baptism to be of God, were shamed by those who knew it, and owned it. The whole human race are like children whom the Lord has brought up, but they have rebelled against him, only some are more plausible in their disobedience than others. And it often happens, that the daring rebel is brought to repentance and becomes the Lord's servant, while the formalist grows hardened in pride and enmity.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 184

The command to you is, “Go work today in My vineyard.” We are all God's workmen, and not one is to be idle; but I would ask, What are you doing for the Master in order that you may hear His words of approval, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things? God never makes a mistake; He will never call men good and faithful who are not good and faithful. TM 184.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, 220

“As a shepherd seeketh out his flock;
... so will I seek out My sheep,
and will deliver them out of all
places where they have been
scattered.” Ezekiel 34:12.

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 462

All are to show their fidelity to God by the wise use of His entrusted capital, not in means alone, but in any endowment that will tend to the upbuilding of His kingdom. Satan will employ every possible device to prevent the truth from reaching those who are buried in error; but the voice of warning and entreaty must come to them. And while only a few are engaged in this work, thousands ought to be as much interested as they. God never designed that the lay members of the church should be excused from labor in His cause. “Go, labor in My vineyard,” is the Master's command to each of His followers. As long as there are unconverted souls in the world, there should be the most active, earnest, zealous, determined effort for their salvation. Those who have received the light should seek to enlighten those who have it not. If the church members do not individually take hold of this work, then they show that they have no living connection with God. Their names are registered as slothful servants. Can you not discern the reason why there is no more spirituality in our churches? It is because you are not colaborers with Christ. 5T 462.1

God has given to every man his work. Let us each wait on God, and He will teach us how to work and what work we are best adapted to perform. Yet none are to start out in an independent spirit to promulgate new theories. The workers should be in harmony with the truth and with their brethren. There should be counsel and co-operation. But they are not to feel that at every step they must wait to ask some higher officer if they may do this or that. Look not to man for guidance, but to the God of Israel. 5T 463.1

The work which the church has failed to do in a time of peace and prosperity she will have to do in a terrible crisis under most discouraging, forbidding circumstances. The warnings that worldly conformity has silenced or withheld must be given under the fiercest opposition from enemies of the faith. And at that time the superficial, conservative class, whose influence has steadily retarded the progress of the work, will renounce the faith and take their stand with its avowed enemies, toward whom their sympathies have long been tending. These apostates will then manifest the most bitter enmity, doing all in their power to oppress and malign their former brethren and to excite indignation against them. This day is just before us. The members of the church will individually be tested and proved. They will be placed in circumstances where they will be forced to bear witness for the truth. Many will be called to speak before councils and in courts of justice, perhaps separately and alone. The experience which would have helped them in this emergency they have neglected to obtain, and their souls are burdened with remorse for wasted opportunities and neglected privileges. 5T 463.2

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Ellen G. White
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 362-7

The messenger turned to the congregation and said, “Do you believe the prophecies? Do you who know the truth, understand that the last message of warning is now being given to the world,—the last call of mercy is now being heard? Do you believe that Satan has come down with great power, working with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in every place? Do you believe that great Babylon has come up in remembrance before God, and that soon she will receive from God's hand double for all her sins and iniquities?” Satan is pleased to have you hold men and women in Battle Creek who should be laborers together with God in His great moral vineyard. If the enemy can keep workers out of the field on any pretext, he will do so. This advanced preparation which keeps talent out of the field gives no chance for the Lord to work with His workers. Many are led to occupy time, talent, and means selfishly in obtaining an advanced education, and at the same time the world is perishing for the knowledge which they could impart. Christ called the unlearned fishermen, and gave these men knowledge and wisdom to such a degree that their adversaries could not gainsay or resist their words. Their testimony has gone to the uttermost parts of the earth. FE 362.1

The disciples of Christ are not called upon to magnify men, but to magnify God, the source of all wisdom. Let educators give the Holy Spirit room to do its work upon human hearts. The greatest Teacher is represented in our midst by His Holy Spirit. However you may study, however you may reach higher and still higher, although you occupy every moment of your probationary time in the pursuit of knowledge, you will not become complete. When time is over, you would have to ask yourself the question, “What good have I done to those who are in midnight darkness? To whom have I communicated the knowledge of God, or even the knowledge of those things for which I have spent so much time and money?” It will soon be said in heaven, “It is done.” “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” When this fiat is spoken, every case will have been decided. Far better would it be for workers to take smaller work, and to go about it slowly and humbly, wearing the yoke of Christ and bearing His burdens, than to devote years in preparation for a large work, and then fail to bring sons and daughters to God, fail to have any trophies to lay at the feet of Jesus. Men and women are hovering altogether too long in Battle Creek. God calls them, but they do not hear His voice. Fields are neglected, and that means that minds are unenlightened. Corrupt seed is being rapidly sown in the hearts of our youth, and great practical truths must be brought in contact with the children and youth; for truth is powerful. FE 363.1

Christian teachers are called to work for God. The leaven of truth must be introduced before it can work transformation of character. It would be far better for our youth to be less accomplished in branches of study than to be lacking in humility and meekness, and to be devoid of contrite hearts. The work of some of our educators has been to unfit students to be laborers together with God. You should study to become acquainted with the manner in which Jesus worked and preached. He was self-denying and self-sacrificing. He did not shun toil; He suffered reproach, scorn, insult, mockery, and abuse; but are our students educated in such a way as will prepare them to walk in His footsteps? God is not in your procrastination. Your temptation to follow on year upon year in lines of study, is taking hold of minds, and they are gradually losing the spirit with which the Lord inspired them to go to work in His vineyard. Why cannot responsible men discern what will be the sure results of thus detaining the students, and of teaching them to put off the work of the Lord? Time is passing into eternity, and yet those who were sent to Battle Creek to be fitted up to work in the vineyard of the Lord are not encouraged to do what they could do to advance the cause of God. Many privileges are supplied to those who already know the truth, and yet are not practicing the truth. Money and strength that should be expended in the highways and hedges of the world, are expended on those who do not improve the light that they already have by communicating that light to those who are in darkness. When Philip received the light, he went and called Nathanael; but many youths who might do a special work for the Master, will not make a move until they have had multiplied opportunities. FE 364.1

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