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Equally dangerous and disastrous is that interpretation which has made the parable of the laborers in the vineyard teach salvation by works

Arthur PinkEqually dangerous and disastrous is that interpretation which has made the parable of the laborers in the vineyard teach salvation by works. Since the parable affords a notable example of the importance of heeding the setting, we will offer a few remarks thereon. After the rich young ruler’s refusal to leave all and follow Christ, and His seeking to impress upon His disciples the solemn warning of that sad spectacle, Peter said,

“Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?” (Matthew 19:22-27).

The Lord returned a twofold answer: the first part, as the question was legitimate, declaring that both here and hereafter there should be abundant reward to those who followed Him (vv. 28, 29). In the second part our Lord searched Peter’s heart, intimating that behind his inquiry was a wrong spirit—a carnal ambition which He had so often to rebuke in the apostles: shown in their disputes as to which of them should be greatest in the kingdom and which should have the chief seats therein. There was a mercenary spirit at work in them which considered they had claim to higher wages than others: since they were the first to leave all and follow Christ, thereby magnifying their own importance and laying Him under obligations. Hence the parable of Matthew 20:1-15, is preceded by the words. “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first,” and followed by similar words.

Since there be no room to doubt that the parable of the laborers in the vineyard was designed to illustrate the words in Matthew 19:30, and 20:16, it is clear that it was never intended to teach the way of salvation— to interpret it so is entirely to miss its scope. The Lord’s object was manifestly to impress upon His disciples that, unless they mortified the same, the evils of the heart were of such a character as to rob the earliest and most prolonged external devotion of all value, and that the latest and briefest service unto Him would, by reason of the absence of self-assertion, be deemed worthy in His sight of receiving reward equal to the former. Moreover, He would have them know that He would do what He would with His own—they must not dictate the terms of service. It has been justly observed by Trench in his notes on this parable that an “agreement was made by the first hired laborers (20:2) before they entered upon their labor—exactly the agreement which Peter wished to make: “what shall we have?”—while those subsequently engaged went in a simpler spirit, trusting that whatever was right and equitable the householder would give them.”

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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It is important to obtain a right understanding of the parabolical representation itself, since it supplies the basis of the spiritual instruction

Arthur Pink Fourth, it is important to obtain a right understanding of the parabolical representation itself, since it supplies the basis of the spiritual instruction. Unless we understand the natural allusion, we cannot give a satisfactory exposition of the language in which it is set forth. Care has also to be taken that we do not extend the representation beyond the bounds in which it was intended to move. That representation becomes obvious when we concentrate upon the leading idea of the parable and allow its details to make that more distinct. A parable must not be broken into parts but looked at as a whole, though let it not be forgotten that every detail contributes to its central truth, there being no mere verbiage. Usually the context makes clear what is its purpose and purport. Thus the parable of the king taking account of his servants (Matthew 18:23) was in reply to Peter’s inquiry in verse 21; that of the rich fool in Luke 12 was occasioned by a spirit of covetousness on the part of one who desired to obtain a part of his brother’s inheritance. Those in Luke 15 grew out of what is related in its opening verses. Parables bear upon the more fundamental aspects of duty and deportment rather than on the minute details of either.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

 

We must seek to determine Christ’s principal aim of the chief moral lesson which He intended to enforce in each parable

Arthur PinkThird, it is equally apparent that we must seek to determine Christ’s principal aim of the chief moral lesson which He intended to enforce in each one: yet that obvious duty is much neglected. Only too often parables are treated as though their design was left open to conjecture and their lessons to uncertain inference. Such an impious idea and loose way of handling them is clearly refuted by those which Christ Himself explained to His disciples. Thus we are not left entirely to our own resources, for those interpreted by the Lord are to be regarded as specimens—each setting forth some distinct truth, every detail possessing a significance.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

The parable as an illustrative picture

December 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Arthur PinkFirst, the parable, as an illustrative picture, can only present its subject partially. No picture can give every aspect or exhibit every side of its object, any more than an architect’s “ground plan” of a building shows its second and third stories, far less depict it as when completed—though it might suggest something of them. So a parable sketches for us only certain aspects of the subject. Hence we find them in groups: all in a group representing the same subject, but each one setting forth a distinct feature of the same—as in those of Matthew 13, dealing with the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” Hence, too, those of Luke 15 show us not only grace receiving sinners; but seeking, finding, clothing, feasting them.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Parables are virtually word pictures

December 13, 2016 Leave a comment

Arthur PinkThe children’s definition that “a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning” expresses the general idea. It is a form of teaching whereby spiritual things are represented under sensible images. Parables are virtually word pictures, bearing somewhat the same relation to the instruction of those to whom they are addressed as do the pictorial illustrations used in books to elucidate for the reader the printed page. From the relation to the truth presented or lesson enforced can be gathered certain important but simple and obvious principles, which need to be borne in mind in the study of our Lord’s parables.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

The expositor needs to be on the alert to detect ironical language

November 22, 2016 Leave a comment

Arthur PinkAgain, the expositor needs to be on the alert to detect ironical language, for it usually signifies the very opposite to what is expressed, being a form of satire for the purpose of exposing an absurdity and to hold up to ridicule. Such language was employed by God when He said,

“Behold, the man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil” (Genesis 3:22),

and when He bade Israel,

“Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation” (Judges 10:14);

by Elijah, when he mocked the prophets of Baal:

“Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is… in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27);

by Micaiah when he answered Jehoshaphat,

“Go, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king” (1 Kings 22:15);

by Job,

“No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you” (12:2);

in Ecclesiastes 11:9:

“Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth… walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes”;

by Christ, when He said,

“A goodly price that I was prised at of them” (Zechariah 11:13);

and by Paul,

“now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us” (1 Corinthians 4:8).

Nor are we to take literally the language of hyperbole or exaggeration, when more is said than is actually meant, as when the ten spies said of Canaan,

“the cities are great and walled up to heaven” (Deuteronomy 1:28),

and when we are told that their armies were

“even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude” (Joshua 11:4).

So too the description given of those that came up against Gideon:

“like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels without number” (Judges 7:12),

and

“there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee” (1 Kings 18:10).

Further examples are found in:

“They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths” (Psalm 107:26);

“Rivers of water run down mine eyes” (Psalm 119:136);

“A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time” (Isaiah 60:22);

“Their widows are increased to Me above the sand of the seas” (Jeremiah 15:8),

which should be borne in mind when reading Revelation 7:9;

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written (John 21:25).

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

There is a Divinely designed analogy between the natural and the spiritual worlds

Arthur PinkOthers before us have pointed out that there is a Divinely designed analogy between the natural and the spiritual worlds. God so framed the visible realms as to shadow forth the invisible, the temporal to symbolize the eternal. Hence the similitudes so often employed by Christ, drawn by Him from the natural kingdom, were not arbitrary illustrations, but pre-ordained figures of the supernatural. There is a most intimate connection between the spheres of creation and of grace, so that we are taught thereby to look from one to the other.

“By means of His inimitable parables, Christ showed that when nature was consulted aright it spoke one language with the Spirit of God; and that the more thoroughly it understood, the more complete and varied will be found the harmony which subsists between the principles of its constitution and those of His spiritual kingdom” (P. Fairbairn).

Who can fail to perceive both the aptness and the sublimity of the parallel between that allusion from the natural realm and its antitypical realization:

“Until the day break, and the shadows flee away” (Song of Solomon 2:17), where the reference is to both the first (John 8:56) and second appearing of God’s Son in the flesh (Philippians 1:6, 10)?

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures