Saying and Doing
This chapter is based on
the following verses:
A certain man had two sons; and he came to the
first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not; but
afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he
answered and said, I go, sir; and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his
father? They say unto him, The first."
In the sermon on the mount
Christ said, "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the
kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven." Matt.
7:21. The test of sincerity is not in words, but in deeds. Christ does not say to any man,
What say ye more than others? but, "What do ye more than others?" Matt. 5:47.
Full of meaning are His words, "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do
them." John 13:17. Words are of no value unless they are accompanied with appropriate
deeds. This is the lesson taught in the parable of the two sons.
This parable was spoken at
Christ's last visit to Jerusalem
before His death. He had driven out the buyers and
sellers from the temple. His voice had spoken to their hearts with the power of God.
Amazed and terrified, they had obeyed His command without excuse or resistance.
When their terror was abated,
the priests and elders, returning to the temple, had found Christ healing the sick and the
dying. They had heard the voice of rejoicing and the song of praise. In the temple itself
the children who had been restored to health were waving palm branches and singing
hosannas to the Son of David. Baby voices were lisping the praises of the mighty Healer.
Yet with the priests and elders all this did not suffice to overcome their prejudice and
The next day, as Christ was
teaching in the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came to Him and said,
"By what authority doest Thou these things? and who gave Thee this authority?"
The priests and elders had
had unmistakable evidence of Christ's power. In His cleansing of the temple they had seen
Heaven's authority flashing from His face. They could not resist the power by which He
spoke. Again in His wonderful deeds of healing He had answered their question. He had
given evidence of His authority which could not be controverted. But it was not evidence
that was wanted. The priests and elders were anxious for Jesus to proclaim Himself the
Messiah that they might misapply His words and stir up the people against Him. They wished
to destroy His influence and to put Him to death.
Jesus knew that if they could
not recognize God in Him or see in His works the evidence of His divine character, they
would not believe His own testimony that He was the Christ. In His answer He evades the
issue they hope to bring about and turns the condemnation upon themselves.
also will ask you one thing," He said, "which if ye tell Me, I in like wise will
tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from
heaven, or of men?"
The priests and rulers were
perplexed. "They reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven, He
will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men, we fear
the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We can not
tell. And He said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things."
"We can not tell."
This answer was a falsehood. But the priests saw the position they were in, and falsified
in order to screen themselves. John the Baptist had come bearing witness of the One whose
authority they were now questioning. He had pointed Him out, saying, "Behold the Lamb
of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." John 1:29. He had baptized Him, and
after the baptism, as Christ was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God
like a dove rested upon Him, while a voice from heaven was heard saying, "This is My
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Matt. 3:17.
Remembering how John had
repeated the prophecies concerning the Messiah, remembering the scene at the baptism of
Jesus, the priests and rulers dared not say that John's baptism was from heaven. If they
acknowledged John to be a prophet, as they believed him to be, how could they deny his
testimony that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God? And they could not say that John's
baptism was of men, because of the people, who believed John to be a prophet. So they
said, "We can not tell."
Then Christ gave the parable
of the father and the two sons. When the father went to the first son, saying, "Go
work today in my vineyard," the son promptly answered, "I will not." He
refused to obey, and gave himself up to wicked ways and associations. But afterward he
repented, and obeyed the call.
The father went to the second
son with the same command, "Go work today in my vineyard." This son made reply,
"I go, sir," but he went not.
In this parable the father
represents God, the vineyard the church. By the two sons are represented two classes of
people. The son who refused to obey the command, saying, "I will not,"
represented those who were living in open transgression, who made no profession of piety,
who openly refused to come under the yoke of restraint and obedience which the law of God
imposes. But many of these afterward repented and obeyed the call of God. When the gospel
came to them in the message of John the Baptist, "Repent ye; for the kingdom of
heaven is at hand," they repented, and confessed their sins. (Matt. 3:2.)
In the son who said, "I
go, sir," and went not, the character of the Pharisees was revealed. Like this son,
the Jewish leaders were impenitent and self-sufficient. The religious life of the Jewish
nation had become a pretense. When the law was proclaimed on Mount Sinai by the voice of
God, all the people pledged themselves to obey. They said, "I go, sir," but they
went not. When Christ came in person to set before them the principles of the law, they
rejected Him. Christ had given the Jewish leaders of His day abundant evidence of His
authority and divine power, but although they were convinced, they would not accept the
evidence. Christ had shown them that they continued to disbelieve because they had not the
spirit which leads to obedience. He had declared to them, "Ye made the commandment of
God of none effect by your tradition. . . . In vain they do worship Me, teaching for
doctrines the commandments of men." Matt. 15:6, 9.
In the company before Christ
there were scribes and Pharisees, priests and rulers, and after giving the parable of the
two sons, Christ addressed to His hearers the question, "Whether of them twain did
the will of his father?" Forgetting themselves, the Pharisees answered, "The
first." This they said without realizing that they were pronouncing sentence against
themselves. Then there fell from Christ's lips the denunciation, "Verily I say unto
you, That the
publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John
came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the publicans and
the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye
might believe him."
John the Baptist came
preaching truth, and by his preaching sinners were convicted and converted. These would go
into the kingdom of heaven before the ones who in self-righteousness resisted the solemn
warning. The publicans and harlots were ignorant, but these learned men knew the way of
truth. Yet they refused to walk in the path which leads to the Paradise of God. The truth
that should have been to them a savor of life unto life became a savor of death unto
death. Open sinners who loathed themselves had received baptism at the hands of John; but
these teachers were hypocrites. Their own stubborn hearts were the obstacle to their
receiving the truth. They resisted the conviction of the Spirit of God. They refused
obedience to God's commandments.
Christ did not say to them,
Ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven; but He showed that the obstacle which prevented
them from entering was of their own creating. The door was still open to these Jewish
leaders; the invitation was
still held out. Christ longed to see them convicted and
The priests and elders of
Israel spent their lives in religious ceremonies, which they regarded as too sacred to be
connected with secular business. Therefore their lives were supposed to be wholly
religious. But they performed their ceremonies to be seen by men that they might be
thought by the world to be pious and devoted. While professing to obey they refused to
render obedience to God. They were not doers of the truth which they professed to teach.
Christ declared John the
Baptist to be one of the greatest of the prophets, and He showed His hearers that they had
had sufficient evidence that John was a messenger from God. The words of the preacher in
the wilderness were with power. He bore his message unflinchingly, rebuking the sins of
priests and rulers, and enjoining upon them the works of the kingdom of heaven. He pointed
out to them their sinful disregard of their Father's authority in refusing to do the work
appointed them. He made no compromise with sin, and many were turned from their
Had the profession of the
Jewish leaders been genuine, they would have received John's testimony and accepted Jesus
as the Messiah. But they did not show the fruits of repentance and righteousness. The very
ones whom they despised were pressing into the kingdom of God before them.
In the parable the son who
said, "I go, sir," represented himself as faithful and obedient; but time proved
that his profession was not real. He had no true love for his father. So the Pharisees
prided themselves on their holiness, but when tested, it was found wanting. When it was
for their interest to do so, they made the requirements of the law very exacting; but when
obedience was required from themselves, by cunning sophistries they reasoned away the
force of God's precepts. Of them Christ declared, "Do not ye
after their works; for
they say, and do not." Matt. 23:3. They had no true love for God or man. God called
them to be co-workers with Him in blessing the world; but while in profession they
accepted the call, in action they refused obedience. They trusted to self, and prided
themselves on their goodness; but they set the commands of God at defiance. They refused
to do the work which God had appointed them, and because of their transgression the Lord
was about to divorce Himself from the disobedient nation.
Self-righteousness is not
true righteousness, and those who cling to it will be left to take the consequences of
holding a fatal deception. Many today claim to obey the commandments of God, but they have
not the love of God in their hearts to flow forth to others. Christ calls them to unite
with Him in His work for the saving of the world, but they content themselves with saying,
"I go, sir." They do not go. They do not co-operate with those who are doing
God's service. They are idlers. Like the unfaithful son, they make false promises to God.
In taking upon themselves the solemn covenant of the church they have pledged themselves
to receive and obey the word of God, to give themselves to God's service, but they do not
do this. In profession they claim to be sons of God, but in life and character they deny
the relationship. They do not surrender the will to God. They are living a lie.
The promise of obedience they
appear to fulfill when this involves no sacrifice; but when self-denial and self-sacrifice
are required, when they see the cross to be lifted, they draw back. Thus the conviction of
duty wears away, and known transgression of God's commandments becomes habit. The ear may
hear God's word, but the spiritual perceptive powers have departed. The heart is hardened,
the conscience seared.
Do not think that because you
do not manifest decided
hostility to Christ you are doing Him service. We thus deceive our
own souls. By withholding that which God has given us to use in His service, be it time or
means or any other of His entrusted gifts, we work against Him.
Satan uses the listless,
sleepy indolence of professed Christians to strengthen his forces and win souls to his
side. Many, who think that though they are doing no actual work for Christ, they are yet
on His side, are enabling the enemy to pre-occupy ground and gain advantages. By their
failure to be diligent workers for the Master, by leaving duties undone and words
unspoken, they have allowed Satan to gain control of souls who might have been won for
We can never be saved in
indolence and inactivity. There is no such thing as a truly converted person living a
helpless, useless life. It is not possible for us to drift into heaven. No sluggard can
enter there. If we do not strive to gain an entrance into the kingdom, if we do not seek
earnestly to learn what constitutes its laws, we are not fitted for a part in it. Those
who refuse to co-operate with God on earth would not co-operate with Him in heaven. It
would not be safe to take them to heaven.
There is more hope for
publicans and sinners than for those who know the word of God but refuse to obey it. He
who sees himself a sinner with no cloak for his sin, who knows that he is corrupting soul,
body, and spirit before God, becomes alarmed lest he be eternally separated from the
kingdom of heaven. He realizes his diseased condition, and seeks healing from the great
Physician who has said, "Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out."
John 6:37. These souls the Lord can use as workers in His vineyard.
The son who for a time
refused obedience to his father's command was not condemned by Christ; and neither was he
commended. The class who act the part of the first
son in refusing obedience deserve no
credit for holding this position. Their frankness is not to be regarded as a virtue.
Sanctified by truth and holiness, it would make men bold witnesses for Christ; but used as
it is by the sinner, it is insulting and defiant, and approaches to blasphemy. The fact
that a man is not a hypocrite does not make him any the less really a sinner. When the
appeals of the Holy Spirit come to the heart, our only safety lies in responding to them
without delay. When the call comes, "Go work today in My vineyard," do not
refuse the invitation. "Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your
hearts." Heb. 4:7. It is unsafe to delay obedience. You may never hear the invitation
And let none flatter
themselves that sins cherished for a time can easily be given up by and by. This is not
so. Every sin cherished weakens the character and strengthens habit; and physical, mental,
and moral depravity is the result. You may repent of the wrong you have done, and set your
feet in right paths; but the mold of your mind and your familiarity with evil will make it
difficult for you to distinguish between right and wrong. Through the wrong habits formed,
Satan will assail you again and again.
In the command, "Go work
today in My vineyard," the test of sincerity is brought to every soul. Will there be
deeds as well as words? Will the one called put to use all the knowledge he has, working
faithfully, disinterestedly, for the Owner of the vineyard?
The apostle Peter instructs
us as to the plan on which we must work. "Grace and peace be multiplied unto
you," he says, "through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according
as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness,
through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given
unto us exceeding great and precious
promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the
divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
"And beside this, giving
all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge
temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness
brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." 2 Peter 1:2-7.
If you cultivate faithfully
the vineyard of your soul, God is making you a laborer together with Himself. And you will
have a work to do not only for yourself, but for others. In representing the church as the
vineyard, Christ does not teach that we are to restrict our sympathies and labors to our
own numbers. The Lord's vineyard is to be enlarged. In all parts of the earth He desires
it to be extended. As we receive the instruction and grace of God, we should impart to
others a knowledge of how to care for the precious plants. Thus we may extend the vineyard
of the Lord. God is watching for evidence of our faith, love, and patience. He looks to
see if we are using every spiritual advantage to become skillful workers in His vineyard
on earth, that we may enter the Paradise of God, that Eden home from which Adam and Eve
were excluded by transgression.
God stands toward His people
in the relation of a father, and He has a father's claim to our faithful service. Consider
the life of Christ. Standing at the head of humanity, serving His Father, He is an example
of what every son should and may be. The obedience that Christ rendered God requires from
human beings today. He served His Father with love, in willingness and freedom. "I
delight to do Thy will, O My God," He declared; "yea, Thy law is within My
heart." Ps. 40:8. Christ counted no sacrifice too great, no toil too hard, in order
to accomplish the work which He came to do. At the age of twelve He said, "Wist
not that I must be about My Father's business?" Luke 2:49. He had heard the call, and
had taken up the work. "My meat," He said, "is to do the will of Him that
sent Me, and to finish His work." John 4:34.
Thus we are to serve God. He
only serves who acts up to the highest standard of obedience. All who would be sons and
daughters of God must prove themselves co-workers with God and Christ and the heavenly
angels. This is the test for every soul. Of those who faithfully serve Him the Lord says,
"They shall be Mine. . . in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them,
as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." Mal. 3:17.
God's great object in the
working out of His providences is to try men, to give them opportunity to develop
character. Thus He proves whether they are obedient or disobedient to His commands. Good
works do not purchase the love of God, but they reveal that we possess that love. If we
surrender the will to God, we shall not work in order to earn God's love. His love as a
free gift will be received into the soul, and from love to Him we shall delight to obey
There are only two classes in
the world today, and only two classes will be recognized in the judgment--those who
violate God's law and those who obey it. Christ gives the test by which to prove our
loyalty or disloyalty. "If ye love Me," He says, "keep My commandments. . .
. He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me. And he that
loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to
him. . . . He that loveth Me not keepeth not My sayings; and the word which ye hear is not
Mine, but the Father's which sent Me." "If ye keep My commandments, ye shall
abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His
love." John 14:15-24; 15:10.