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Matthew 21:30

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

I go, sir - This is all respect, complaisance, and professed, obedience; but he went not: he promised well, but did not perform. What a multitude of such are in the world, professing to know God, but denying him in their works! Alas! what will such professions avail, when God comes to take away the soul?

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
This Day With God, 244.5

We have evidence that there are many deceivers in the world, men who say, “I go, sir,” but go not. They may speak smooth words, and make fair speeches; but they deceive; they reveal in their lives that their words are not wrought in God. The practical life is a genuine index of the character. By our words and works we reveal to the world, to angels, and to men whether we believe in Christ as a personal Saviour. TDG 244.5

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Ellen G. White
Our High Calling, 101.5

Christ has a claim upon every soul; but many choose a life of sin. Some will not come unto Jesus that He may give them life. Some say, “I go, sir,” to His invitation; but they do not go; they do not make an entire surrender to abide in Jesus alone, which is life and peace and joy unspeakable, and full of glory.... Will you not rise to be wise and to make diligent work for eternity? Seek the grace of Christ with the whole heart, might, mind, and strength.... OHC 101.5

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (EGW), 1097

When the Lord is with the people who have knowledge and advantages in spiritual enlightenment, and when they impart that which they have received from God, they are fruit-bearing branches. They receive God's rich blessing, and are producers of fruit. As a sure result, in the hand of God and under the influence of the Holy Spirit they are mighty men. Constantly they represent before the world the great goodness of God, not only in spiritual lines, but in temporal lines as well. They shall prevail; for of a truth God is with them (Manuscript 65, 1912). 5BC 1097.1

28-31. Nothing to Commend—Christ did not condemn the first son for refusing the command. At the same time He did not commend him. The class who act the part of the son who said, “I will not,” deserve no credit for holding the position they do. This open frankness is not to be commended as a virtue. This openness of character, sanctified by truth and holiness will make bold witnesses for Christ; but used as it is by the sinner it is insulting and defiant, and approaches to blasphemy. Because a man is not a hypocrite he is none the less a sinner. When the appeals of the Holy Spirit come to the heart our only safety lies in responding to them without delay (Manuscript 127, 1899). 5BC 1097.2

More Than a Promise Is Needed—The history of Israel as presented in this parable should be studied by all who would practice the teachings of Christ. The vineyard represents the church. The two sons are the two classes of men and women in the world. The Lord calls every member of His church to work in His vineyard. We are to understand our relation to Christ. Christ must abide in our hearts that we may keep before us pure principles, high incentives to moral rectitude. Our work is not merely to promise, but to do. Honesty and integrity must bind us up with God to fulfill His word to the letter. Let those who hear the message God sends today beware, lest they follow the example of the self-exalted Jews. God does not propose to remove from our path everything that creates question or doubt in regard to the working of His servants. He gives ground for faith sufficient to convince the candid, sincere mind; but more evidence than this will never change the inward determination to resist light (Manuscript 127, 1899). 5BC 1097.3

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Ellen G. White
The Ministry of Healing, 164

We need more of Christlike sympathy; not merely sympathy for those who appear to us to be faultless, but sympathy for poor, suffering, struggling souls, who are often overtaken in fault, sinning and repenting, tempted and discouraged. We are to go to our fellow men, touched, like our merciful High Priest, with the feeling of their infirmities. MH 164.1

It was the outcast, the publican and sinner, the despised of the nations, that Christ called and by His loving-kindness compelled to come unto Him. The one class that He would never countenance was those who stood apart in their self-esteem and looked down upon others. MH 164.2

“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in,” Christ bids us, “that My house may be filled.” In obedience to this word we must go to the heathen who are near us, and to those who are afar off. The “publicans and harlots” must hear the Saviour's invitation. Through the kindness and long-suffering of His messengers the invitation becomes a compelling power to uplift those who are sunken in the lowest depths of sin. MH 164.3

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