God’s Upside-Down Idea of Salvation

God’s Upside-Down Idea of Salvation

Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
—Matthew 20:14

There are two relevant applications to Jesus’ parable of the laborers in the vineyard.

First, the primary application of this parable has to do with salvation. Remember, Jesus was trying to silence the criticism of the Pharisees. The Pharisees, the religious adherents of the law in Jewish society, were bent out of shape over Jesus’ teaching that Gentiles would be fellow heirs in the kingdom of God. They could not accept that. They could not believe that Jesus would dare insinuate that Gentiles who embraced the Gospel could be in heaven. After all, in Jewish thinking, the Gentiles were third-class citizens, while the Jews were God’s chosen people. I mean, for two thousand years the Jews had faithfully served God, or so they thought. So how could it be that at the eleventh hour God would say, “You Gentiles, you can come and be a part of the kingdom of God, too”?

Jesus was teaching that because the Jews had rejected Jesus Christ, those Jews who had been first in the kingdom of God were now becoming last in the kingdom of God. And those Gentiles who were not among the chosen people, who were now embracing the Gospel and coming to Christ, those who were last had become first. That’s what Jesus was saying. Now let’s face it, most of us today don’t have a problem with the idea of Gentiles being saved, because most of us are Gentiles. But sometimes we do have a problem with the kind of people God chooses to save. Maybe you became a Christian at an early age and have been faithfully serving God, or at least you think you have, all of your life. And then you see people who have spent their lives involved in drugs and sexual immorality and rebellion against God, and late in life they choose to trust in Christ as their Savior. They’ve spent their whole lives rebelling against God, and now at the eleventh hour, they come to know Christ and are going to share the same heaven you are. That just doesn’t seem fair.

But when we say “that’s not fair,” we forget one important fact. God’s reason for saving you and me has nothing to do with us. It is all about God’s grace. We are not saved because of our merit. We are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:4–5 says, “God, being rich in mercy, because of . . .” what? The fact that you’re better than other people? No. Because you haven’t gotten involved in some of those horrible sins that other people do? No. Ephesians 2:4–5 says, “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

This parable reminds us that salvation is God’s to give to whomever He chooses. If God wants to save a person who has rebelled against Him their entire life, that is God’s business. Salvation is all by grace. That is what this parable is teaching. God’s system of rewards is different than ours. Grace turns upside down our idea about who should be saved.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “A Lesson in Workman’s Compensation” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.