Mt 20:1-8 “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that was a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a shilling a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing in the marketplace idle; and to them he said, Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing; and he saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard. And when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the laborers, and pay them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.” (ASV)
Mt 21:28 “But what think ye? A man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to-day in the vineyard.” (ASV)
Throughout the New Testament the nature and work of the Church is depicted as a vineyard. Of course, this isn’t the only picture painted for us about the Church. The Church is also referred to as the bride of Christ or “God’s husbandry.”
1 Corinthians 3:9 “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”
This is the only instance in the New Testament where the term “husbandry” is found, but the scriptures have many references to it. From the creation God has been a husbandman. God has had three vineyards. The first was in the Garden of Eden where God supplied all the needs of man, but was betrayed by man’s disobedience. The second vineyard was planted with Israel. God took them out of Egypt, drove the Canaanites from the land of Promise and planted His people in a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, of olive trees and honey. He protected this vineyard with the Law of Moses, but according to Isaiah, this vineyard (Israel) brought forth wild grapes.
Isaiah 5:2-7 “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.”
The third and final vineyard of God is the Church. Like Israel of old, the Church is protected by the Lord. The future of the Church in our generation depends on our ability to provide the Lord with something other than wild grapes.
The traditional meaning of the word “husbandry” is “field, orchard.” In the New Testament Thayer refers to it as a “cultivated field.”
The prophet Isaiah give us a beautiful description.
Isaiah 5:1, 2 “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.”
Level ground was used for oats and other grains, but the hills were used for vineyards. Isaiah depicts careful preparation of the ground. Rocks were removed and a hedge was built for protection from the foxes that would destroy the vineyard. Wild pigs and thieves were also threats to the vineyards. God planted the choicest vines. No mediocre vines are planted by God. Verse 3 of Isaiah 5 says He built a tower in the midst of it. These towers were built of stone and provided a place where guardians could be on watch for any threats to the vineyard. The winepress was hewn out of a rock in the vineyard. The winepress was usually composed of two depressions, one deeper than the other. People’s feet would tread out the juice in one depression and the juice would flow into the deeper depression. According to Jeremiah this process would normally be accompanied by shouts of joy. The harvest was the result of great labor.
Solomon made this statement.
Proverbs 24:30, 31 “I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.”
These verses show us the real need to maintain the wall around the vineyard and to keep the vineyard free of thorns. The work of growing a successful vineyard demanded skill, which required preparation and constant vigilance.
The care of the vineyard also required pruning off every useless branch. This allowed the sap to flow to the healthy branches that would bear fruit. Christ emphasized this process in John 15:1, 2:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”
Sometimes the land owner would care for his own vineyard and other times, he’d hire it done. We read about the story of Matthew 20 where laborers were hired.
Matthew 20:1 “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.”
God chose to give us a number of descriptive titles to His Church. Each one is significant and meaningful. Two of these are “husbandry” and “vineyard.” God owns the vineyard and that fact is very relevant to our study. It’s God’s land that we till. The church at Corinth was the husbandry where God had worked to produce fruit. God shows pleasure in looking at the church as His own people. The seed belongs to God. The Truth and wisdom belong to God. The purpose also belongs to God. “Ye are God’s husbandry.” Even the workers belong to God.
God is uniquely qualified to be the husbandman. According to the Genesis record He created us in His own image. He knows our spiritual needs. He knows what we can accomplish.
Secondly, He has all the tools necessary to enable His vineyard to bear the fruits of the Spirit. The environment where men live is ideal to bearing fruit. The seed of the kingdom, the Word of God, helps every Christian become “perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). In addition, the love of God and the love of Christ serve as sufficient motivation to enable Christians to be “more than conquerors.”
Romans 8:33-39 “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Thirdly, God commands all of the other elements that enable the vineyard to yield good fruit. The Church belongs to God. The Church exists for God’s glory and it wears His name according to Romans 16, Acts 4 and Acts 20.
Let’s go back to Paul’s reference to God’s husbandry in 1 Cor. 3:9. It’s necessary for us to understand a little background first. The tendency among the Greeks toward factions threatened to fracture the congregation at Corinth. Each party had their favorite leader. They were bragging and arguing, not behavior suited for Christians. In verse 4 of 1 Cor. 3 Paul made mention of this. “For when one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not men?” Well, they certainly weren’t acting like men. They were acting like kids who can’t get along. Paul characterized them as being carnal, still babes in Christ. He was afraid to feed them meat for fear they’d choke. They were being guided by human passions and emotions.
To remedy this problem, Paul insisted on unity. God is what matters. The work of men, while important, pales in comparison to God’s work. None of us follow men, except as those men follow God.
Christians labor in the vineyard. We have work to accomplish in the Church. That work is done at the local congregation. God has never left us without work to get done. Even in Eden, Adam and Eve were commanded to “dress and to keep” the garden (Gen. 2:15). Every Christian lives to promote the welfare of the kingdom of God and to work in the vineyard, to bear fruit. Our work is vital. Without work we can’t be deemed worthy of hire.
Each person’s work is varied. Some plant. Some water. The work is so varied that all our talents can be put to good use. And every sphere of work is important. No task is safe to remain undone. And no work is more honorable than our work in God’s vineyard.
The fact is the place of work is the vineyard. God’s husbandry teaches that one must be in Christ’s church to be saved. The householder hired “laborers into his vineyard” in Matt. 20. Salvation is found in the Church according to 2 Thess. 2:14.
“Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Christ is the Savior of the body according to Eph. 5:23.
“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.”
The saved are added to the Church according to Acts 2:47.
“Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
And we’re to glorify God in the Church according to Eph. 3:21.
“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
God won’t reward anybody who labors in some other vineyard! That’s why we continue to encourage people to enter the vineyard of the Lord. We encourage and train our children to obey the gospel at an early age. We encourage people of all ages to obey and join in the work. The parable of Matthew 20 teaches that the reward to the early hire is the same as the reward of the late hire. The point is to be hired and enter the work so we can receive the reward of heaven.
In the husbandry of God there are various duties. 1 Corinthians 3:8, 9 “Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”
Paul and Apollos were fellow-laborers in God’s employ. They each contributed in their own way to the success of the vineyard. Today, we’re fellow workers with other Christians after we obey the Truth of God’s Word.
3rd John 8 “We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.”
The apostles went forth and preached everywhere, but the Lord was working with them according to Mark 16:20:
“And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.”
Our roles are not the same. Women and men have different God-given roles. Public teachers have a role that is not to be taken lightly according to James 3. Song leaders have a role to play. Young and old alike bear responsibilities of work, but the work varies. Elders bear the responsibility of leadership while deacons and others bear the responsibility to follow that leadership.
In all, unity, good will and peace are to prevail. Corinth serves as a pattern of what NOT to be as a congregation.
In building Solomon’s temple, seventy thousand men hauled material; eighty thousand men hewed stones and wood in the remote mountains and a few men worked in gold, brass, silver and linen. Some areas of service might have been more enviable than others, but each area was indispensable. The temple was completed because each person contributed what they could.
We are also God’s fellow-workers. We’re in a divine partnership with God because it’s His Church, His husbandry. This is a unique relationship that we have with the creator of the universe. We can’t be like Corinth. We have to be properly joined to God with reverence for who He is and the work He has commanded. God permits us to work with Him, but He still owns us and the vineyard.
There is no room for false pride or vanity. Moses tried to take matters into his own hands when he killed the Egyptian and fled to Midian. It would take God another 40 years to teach Moses and the people of Israel that they needed God. God was able to use Gideon because Gideon realized his dependence on God. He was least in his father’s house and his family was among the poorest in Manasseh, but God needed him. God could use Isaiah because he was devout to follow God. All these, and many others, were worthy to work with God because they had faith to live for Him.
Today, God works through Christians. His word brings our lives into compliance with what He wants. By our work and conduct God is able to save the world. We take the Word of God to others. God transforms our weaknesses into strength.
No worker can please the Master if he doesn’t do what the Master commands. But we must do more than work. We must be willing to suffer. 1 Peter 4:16 “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”
The true gardener is willing to endure sweat and pain. The true worker is willing to submit to God’s will by obeying the doctrine of the New Testament. We don’t tamper with God’s Word. Paul nor Apollos had the authority to alter it and neither do we. Faithful servants speak as the oracles of God according to 1 Peter 4:11:
“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
True servants in the vineyard don’t add to or take away from the Word of God.
Revelation 22:18, 19 “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
We don’t water down the Truth in an attempt to make it more palatable. The Master dictates the doctrine. The Master dictates the work. God has always worked and He’s still working today. God created heaven and earth. He created man. When man sinned, God promised salvation through Christ. Born of a virgin, sinless throughout His life, crucified on the cross, buried and resurrected, then ascended to the right hand of God, Christ became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. His shed blood purchased the Church. The Holy Spirit revealed the Word, which is the sword of the Spirit. The Word is the power to save the souls of men. Through the Word God gives man peace, hope, wisdom, salvation and all other spiritual blessings.
We do the work of God because one day the harvest will be gathered.
John 15:8 “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”
God’s people, Christians, are assured of victory and success! We’re working with and for God. He’s going to win in the end. Nothing can prevail against Him or His Church. Matthew 16:18 “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
God’s word will endure. 1 Peter 1:24, 25 “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
Our effort and determination to do God’s work are very important. Some may spend more time in the vineyard than others. Some are hired (through their obedience) early in their life. Others arrive late. The important thing is that hire in to work in the Lord’s vineyard and that we give it our all.
Study of the vineyard is important because it’s where our work happens. Our place in the vineyard determines our salvation. Every person’s work in the vineyard is varied, but all the work matters. We can engage in no greater work than the Lord’s work. Our work matters only if we’re working in the Lord’s vineyard. According to Hebrews 3 we ought to enter the vineyard of the Lord as soon as possible. We ought to do it TODAY. God gives the increase. We have nothing in which to glory, except the cross of Christ. We’re God’s instruments in carrying forth the gospel. The gospel is the powerful instrument whereby men can be saved. Our character, methods and doctrine have to be what God wants. He owns the vineyard. He sets the rules that govern the vineyard.
2 Peter 3:16 “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”
1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
We enter the Lord’s vineyard by hearing the word of God.
Romans 10:17 “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
We believe according to Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
We repent of our sins. Luke 13:3 “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
We confess the name of Jesus Christ in front of men. Romans 10:10 “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
We’re baptized for the remission of our sins into Christ. Galatians 3:26, 27 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
The future of the vineyard depends on YOU and me and the work we accomplish within the local congregation.