The study guide links stories in Mathew 21 and 22 as the focus of our study this week. Please read two more passages that relate to these stories.
Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and showed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.
These stories show in a few words how a loving God chose and prepared people to give the gospel to a lost and dying world. God’s call to Abraham bequeathed to him everything contained in the everlasting covenant. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob built altars and dug wells where ever they went spreading the good news.
Israel was chosen, delivered from Egypt, and offered Abraham’s everlasting covenant. God did not leave them even when they chose the “old covenant route.” He even forgave them for crucifying His Son, but there was nothing else He could do for them when they rejected the witness of the Holy Spirit.
The early New Testament Church took up the gospel call, but all too soon apostatized. Through the following centuries a few still carried “the banner.” The reformers gave the call for a time. In Revelation 10 we are told that another group “must prophesy again.” This group accepts the call. These become the “repairers of the breach.” When it was almost time for the “marriage of the Lamb,” God sent a most precious message to His people. It was to be the finishing touch, to lighten the whole world and prepare His “Bride” for the wedding. In this case it was the servants themselves who resisted the message. For this reason we are still here in this world.
This “history” of God’s love in action is of great importance, yet there may be a more important question to consider. Where do we stand individually with regard to these stories? There are many aspects of these stories that apply to our day. What part are we playing? What part should we play?
That “precious message” was a message of Christ and His righteousness. The wedding garment represents this righteousness. That wedding garment is as free as the invitation to the wedding! The question we must ask ourselves is “what are we doing with the wedding garment?” Are we trying to modify it? Are trying to make our own? As noted in Wednesday’s section of the lesson quarterly: “it is a matter of life and death.”
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints (Revelation 19:7, 8).
These verses seem to indicate that there is a corporate aspect of this wedding garment. The whole group of saints make up the bride of Christ and they as a group have made themselves ready for this marriage.
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 (Revelation 22:11, 12).
Verse 11 makes it clear that the names of those who will be saved are known before Jesus returns. Verse 12 tells us that Jesus brings the rewards when He returns. We need to make a clear distinction between salvation and reward(s). Salvation is a gift of grace received by faith (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Rewards are based on the works produced by genuine faith that works by love (Galatians 5:6).
Studying these stories can be overwhelming unless one has an assurance of salvation and an appreciation for what our Great High Priest is doing for us in the Heavenly Sanctuary. The gospel is good news for our salvation. It is also the power to keep our “robe” unspotted till that great day of our Lord’s return.
I pray that each one of us will look carefully at the importance of these stories and keep in mind just where we are in earth’s history.