All Of Us Are Eleventh-Hour Laborers

Article: We Are All Eleventh-Hour Laborers by Dr. Jerry Bridges who was the author of more than a dozen books, a popular speaker, and a staff member of The Navigators in Colorado Springs, Co. Dr. Bridges went to be with the Lord in March 2016. This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine. (source)

Chapter divisions in the Bible are usually helpful as they allow us to find our way around the Scriptures. Occasionally, however, they can hinder our understanding of a passage if they cause us to look at it apart from its context. This often is the case with the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1–16). Because of the chapter division at the end of Matthew 19, we fail to understand the parable in its context of Jesus’ teaching in 19:16–30.

Because that section of Matthew has already been treated in another article, we will not look at it now, except to observe that the occasion of the parable is Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27: “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Like many of us today, Peter thought he related to God on the basis of merit, and he was already adding up his merit points.

The parable is part of Jesus’ reply to Peter, which begins in chapter 19, verse 28. The message of the parable can be summarized in this statement: The operative principle in the kingdom of heaven is not merit but grace. We readily understand this principle in the context of our salvation. We know Paul’s words: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. …not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9), but many believers assume that we earn God’s blessings by our works — apart from God’s grace.

The parable of the laborers in the vineyard, however, teaches us that not only our salvation, but also our entire Christian lives are to be lived on the basis of God’s grace. Then the parable also teaches us about two amazing qualities of grace: the abundant generosity of His grace, and His sovereignty in dispensing it.

Consider first the abundant generosity of His grace. The master hired laborers for his vineyard first at 6 a.m., then periodically throughout the day. Finally, he hired some at 5 p.m. to work only one hour. This man, who obviously represents God, was both fair and generous. To the first group of laborers he was fair, as he readily agreed to pay a denarius, the ordinary wage for a day’s labor. Then he was progressively more generous to each group of laborers hired throughout the day. The master could have paid them what they earned, but he chose to pay them according to their need, not according to their work. He paid according to grace, not debt.

The parable focuses particularly on those workers who were hired at the eleventh hour. They were treated extremely generously, each receiving twelve times what he had earned on an hourly basis. Why did the landowner hire these laborers at the eleventh hour? Was it because an extra push was needed to complete the work? More likely, since Jesus was not teaching about Jewish agriculture, but about the kingdom of heaven, those eleventh hour workers were hired because they needed to receive a day’s wages. Laborers of that day lived a day-to-day existence. That is why the Law required land owners to pay hired men at the end of each day (Deut. 24:15).

This is the way God treats us. Over and over again, the Bible portrays God as gracious and generous, blessing us not according to what we have “earned” but according to our needs — and often beyond our needs. He has already blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3), and He promises to supply every temporal need, again in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).

The truth is, we cannot “earn” anything from God apart from His grace. As Jesus said elsewhere, when we have done all that we are commanded, we should say, “We have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10). We have not obligated God or earned His blessings. Rather, all blessings come to us “in Christ,” that is, by His grace.

God, however, is not only generous with His grace; He is sovereign in dispensing it. We often speak of “sovereign grace.” In one sense that is a redundant expression. Grace, by definition, must be sovereign. The master of the vineyard expressed it this way, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with my belongings?”

Many are troubled by the apparent unfairness of the landowner. After all, it does seem unfair to pay one-hour workers the same as was paid to those who worked a full twelve hours, who had “borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But the one-hour laborers did not think the master was unfair; rather, they considered him very generous. If we are troubled by the apparent unfairness, it is because we tend to identify with the twelve-hour workers. And the more committed we are to serious discipleship, the more apt we are to fall into the trap of envying those who enjoy the blessings of God more than we.

The truth is, we are all eleventh-hour laborers. None of us have even come close to loving God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. None of us have come close to loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:37–39). So let us learn to be thankful for all God gives to us and not begrudge blessings He gives to others.

Seven Metaphors for God’s Word

Dr. Steve Lawson:

“O Friends, if I did not believe in the infallibility of Scripture—the absolute infallibility of it from cover to cover—I would never enter this pulpit again.

Then, Steve Lawson declared, “Because the Word of God is inerrant, it is, therefore, by necessity, invincible. And because it is absolutely pure, it is absolutely powerful.”

He also added, “The Bible is like a beautiful diamond that has many different cuts, and, when you hold it up to the light, each beauty is refracting the light of each different side and no one symbol of the Bible can communicate the whole. So, it requires many different metaphors, many different analogies, to even begin to try to put its arm around the totality of the invincible power of the inerrant Word.”

All in all, this sermon was very quotable, so I’d like to share with you his outline, as well as some of my favorite quotes, that I hope will give you a gist of what he said. Of course, it would be best to listen to the sermon itself as it would be encouraging to any heart that treasures the Word of God.

Here are Steve Lawson’s seven metaphors that the Bible uses to describe Itself.

1) A Sword that Pierces

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Hebrews 4:12-13

It’s not a Q-tip that tickles. The Word is Divine. It has come down from above. It has not originated from us but from God Himself. It is a Book that is alive. Lawson goes on to note that as the writer of Hebrews quotes the Psalms, he says that the psalmist “says…” therefore, although written many years prior, it is continually speaking.

Martin Luther said, “The Word of God is alive, it speaks to me. It has feet, it runs after me. It has hands, it lays hold of me!”
It has been said that the Bible is more up to date than tomorrow’s newspaper. We may get tired and need to sleep, but the Bible never needs to sleep. The Bible doesn’t rest but continues working while we are in bed, or even long after we are dead. There is not a dull side in the Bible. There is not a blunt verse. Every verse in the entire Bible is razor sharp and can cut deep. Continue reading

Ephesians 1; Romans 9; John 6

Romans 9:10-24, and 2 Timothy 1:8-10 all teach this truth. But I shall focus first upon the classicus locus, Ephesians 1:3-11, for my initial exegetical defense of this divine truth. As space permits, I will then briefly address Romans 9 and John 6. I invite the interested reader to follow along. I shall use as my base text the Nestle-Aland 27th edition of the Greek New Testament. English translations are my own.

Ephesians 1

Paul begins this tremendous introduction to his letter1 with a word of blessing addressed to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:3). All of salvation comes from the Father, its source, and its end. It is the Father who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Immediately we encounter three vital truths: 1) God is the one who has blessed us (we did not bless ourselves); this is seen in recognizing that ho eulogasa refers to the Father specifically; 2) that Paul is not speaking of all mankind here, but specifically of the redeemed, for he uses the personal pronoun hama (us) when speaking of the scope of the blessing of the Father; we will see this is continued throughout the text; and 3) the phrase en Christo (in Christ) or its equivalent in Him, is central to Paul’s thought. All of salvation takes place only “in Christ.”

Verse 4 is central to our subject: “just as He chose us in Him before the creation of the world so that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”2 Again the Father is in view, for He is the one who chose us (hama, accusative, indicating direct object of “to choose”). This choice is exercised only in Christ (there is no salvation outside of the Son). It is vital to recognize the personal aspect of this choice on the part of God the Father. The passage says that we were chosen by God the Father, not that a mere “plan” was chosen, or a “process” put in place. The choice is personal both in its context (in the Son) and in its object (the elect). Next, the time of this choice by the Father is likewise important: before the creation of the world. This is a choice that is timeless. It was made before we were created, and therefore cannot possibly be based upon anything that we ourselves do or “choose.”3 This is sovereignty-free and unlimited.

God does nothing without a purpose. Both the means, and end, are in view. God chooses the elect to the end that they should be “holy and blameless before Him.” God is redeeming for Himself a people, and no power in heaven or earth can stop Him from accomplishing His intention. Continue reading

Acts 13:46-48 – God’s Dealings with His Chosen Ones

Dr. John Piper:

v. 46-48 – Unconditional election means that God chose his people without them first meeting any conditions. In this lab, faith, or worth.

Acts 13:48 // Unconditional Election from Desiring God on Vimeo.

v. 48 – In this lab, John Piper reminds us that if God has chosen you, no scheme of Satan can keep you from choosing him.

Acts 13:48 // The Chosen Choose God from Desiring God on Vimeo.

John 6 for Roman Catholics

A live walk through the 6th chapter of John based upon the original language text. Roman Catholicism teaches that Jesus taught transubstantiation in this chapter, but a fair reading of the text reveals otherwise.

Dr. James White writes, “while one cannot help but deal with the central issues of the gospel in 6:35-45, we continue on to make application and demonstrate that Jesus’ words concerning eating His flesh and drinking His blood, contextually, has nothing to do with Aristotelian philosophy and categories of being. Was Jesus really teaching transubstantiation a thousand years before the term came into usage? And did the disciples walk away because of that teaching? Or was it something else, something made plain in the text, if one is but willing to listen?”

This is a program we hope will be shared with many Roman Catholics.

Salvation: A Sovereign Work of God

In this excerpt from a message at the Ligonier 2010 National Conference, John MacArthur considered Romans 9, the sovereignty of God in salvation, and man’s responsibility to have faith. (Original source here.)


God has always been selective. The blessing came through Isaac. Then the blessing came through Jacob. “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated.” (Rom. 9:13) You say, “Wow, you mean God is that discriminating?” Verse 14 then says (and this is what the responder would say) “What shall we say then? Is this unjust? There is no injustice with God is there?” M? genoito—the strongest negative in the Greek language—no, no, no, no. This isn’t out of character for God to be selective. God never intended every Jew to be in the kingdom. For He says to Moses, God says, “I’ll have mercy on whom I’ll have mercy. I’ll have compassion on whom I’ll have compassion.” And it doesn’t depend on “the man who wills or the man who runs but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:15-16).

And then He goes to Pharaoh, “‘For this very purpose I raised you up to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.’ So then He has mercy on whom He desires and He hardens whom He desires.” Wow. “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault?’” How can God then find fault with us if He’s the one who makes the decision? For who can resist His will? And the next verse says, shut … up. That’s what it says in the vernacular. “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?” Pots don’t talk back. The potter has the right over the clay. “What if God willing to demonstrate His wrath and make His power known endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” (v. 22).

Do you understand that God has a right to put His wrath and His judgment and His justice and His fury on display to His own glory as much as He has a right to put His mercy and His grace on display to His own glory? Do you understand that God gets as much glory out of His wrath as He gets out of His grace? Paul understands that. That this is a sovereign work, and that God is not unjust. Psalm 119 says, “Your righteousness is an ever-lasting righteousness.” Psalm 7:9, “You are the righteous one.” God will do what God will do. Paul understands that this work of salvation is a sovereign work done by God. But then come to verse 30. “What shall we say then? Gentiles, who didn’t pursue righteousness, attained righteousness.”

Isn’t that something? He’s talking about the church, the gentile church. They were not even pursuing it, but they received it. Even the righteousness which is by what?—faith. “But Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness,” that is righteousness by law, “did not arrive at that law.” Why? Because they didn’t pursue it by faith. They didn’t pursue it by faith because the one in whom you must place your faith was to them a stumbling stone and a rock of offense.

So he says it’s all the sovereignty of God. He hardens whom He hardens, He has mercy on whom He decides to have mercy. He loves who He loves, He hates who He hates. But Israel didn’t receive the imputed righteousness of God because they sought it by law and not by faith in Christ. They’re fully responsible for pursuing righteousness in a false way, and denying righteousness in the only way that it can ever come to the sinner, through faith in Christ.

The Significance of Genesis 3:15

no verse in the Bible is more crucial and definitive than Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal.” As Alec Motyer writes, “The whole of Scripture is not packed into every scripture, but we may allowably expect every scripture to prepare and make room for the whole. This is what happens in Genesis 3:15” (Look to the Rock, IVP, p. 34). Several important issues emerge all at once:

First, it establishes a principle that runs throughout the Old Testament, creating an expectation of a Redeemer who would be a descendent (a “seed”) of Adam and Eve. Prematurely and horribly wrong, Eve thus thought her firstborn son, Cain, was its fulfillment (Gen. 4:1). Equally, in a deliberate echo of this line of thought God’s covenant with the patriarch Abraham sounds the note of a “seed” that rings like a tolling church bell (Gen. 12:7; 13:15–16; 15:3, 13, 18; 17:7–10, 12, 19; 21:12; 22:17–18; and so on). No one reading the Bible can miss the connecting threads: God is doing something in the history of Israel that has its genesis in a promise given in Eden. When Mary discovers that she is expecting a baby, Gabriel announces to her concerning her future son: “He will be great” (Luke 1:32), clearly picking up a phrase already made to both Abraham and David (Gen. 12:2; 2 Sam. 7:9). The “He” is Jesus, of course. The Latin Vulgate rendered it “she” implying that it was Mary, but this was exegesis in the interests of dogma. It is not the woman who conquers but her seed.

Second, it establishes the parameters by which God will redeem His people from their sin. From the earliest times, Genesis 3:15 has been called the proto-evangelium because it is the first note of God’s redemptive intention following the fall in the garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve failed to obey the terms of the covenant of works (Gen. 3:6), God did not destroy them (which would have served justice), but instead revealed His covenant of grace to them by promising a Savior (Gen. 3:15), one who would restore the kingdom that had latterly been destroyed. God’s method of grace is costly: the heel of the Savior will be bruised. Clearly, this is a metaphor that in the context is to be contrasted with the blow the serpent receives (the crushing of his head), but it is immediately apparent what this involves—the shedding of substitutionary blood. That seems to be what lies behind the provision of animal skins as a covering for Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:21. Blood needs to be shed for sin to be forgiven, something that accounts for why it is that Abel’s offering (the firstborn of his flock) is accepted but Cain’s (the fruits of the soil) is not (Gen. 4:3–5). The way is now clear: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22).

Third, this verse establishes a cosmic explanation for the disorder of the world: Satan is at work. True, there is no mention of Satan here, only a serpent. Adam and Eve are responsible for their actions and are punished accordingly, but their actions are inextricably entwined with the serpent’s malevolence. There is more by way of explanation for sin than “free will.” The serpent is a part of that which “the Lord God had made” (Gen. 3:1), but he is no longer in the condition the Lord had made. Genesis draws a veil over the origins and nature of this rebellion (sin existed before the fall in Eden), and is only partially unveiled elsewhere (1 Chron. 21:1; Job 1–2; Zech. 3:1–2; and especially 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). Eve’s sin was more than something internal; it came from outside, Genesis 3:1 seems to say. Did the serpent actually speak? Why not? But look at how he grows in the Bible to be the great red dragon of Revelation 12! The serpent is a murderer and a liar (John 8:44), as well as a deceiver (2 Cor. 11:14; Eph. 6:11).

Fourth, the principle of the victory of the kingdom of God over the kingdom of darkness is established from the beginning. It is echoed by Jesus at Caesarea Philippi: the “gates of hell” are resolutely set against the church of Jesus Christ, but Jesus assures His disciples that the church will be victorious (Matt. 16:18). The work of redemption unfolds in enemy occupied territory of deadly and tireless opposition by Satan and his minions. The enmity is one of unimaginable meanness and cruelty, which we ignore at our peril. The story of redemption is not in one sense a cliff-hanger to the very end, a tale the outcome of which is uncertain until the last page is turned. The precise nature of the serpent’s destiny as the lake of fire is not disclosed until the end (Rev. 20:10), but from the outset his doom is sealed. Christian discipleship is to be worked out within the context of the assurance of victory rather than the prospect of defeat. We are to be equipped and ready for battle, but with the certainty that the decisive battle with the enemy has already taken place and has been won!

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.