So The Last Shall Be First And The First Last!
Voice of Grace (Sunday Spiritual Menu Series)
Delivered by ASE Joseph Olorunnisola, July 16, 2006
This amazing parable of our Lord Jesus Christ is taken from the synoptic Gospel of Matthew 20: 16. It is a message to the Church.
The householder of the vineyard went out at 6.00 am and hired some laborers into his vineyard for an agreed daily wage of one penny. At 9.00 am, he hired another batch and yet at 3.00 pm and 5.00 pm two more batches of laborers were respectively hired also for one penny each per day to join the earlier workers in the vineyard. At 6.00 pm, marking the end of the day’s service, each laborer was paid a penny each. This aroused an unnecessary indignation, grudge, and murmur from the laborers that were hired first. They felt hurt and unfairly treated
The householder is Christ Himself, the vineyard is the world and the laborers are the ministers/servants of the Lord assigned with the responsibility of winning Souls unto Christ’s kingdom of glory. The good master cannot be considered wicked or unfair for paying the same wages to each laborer. The master has the absolute right to distribute his wealth according to his wishes. The laborers hired at later hours were not lazy or unqualified but had to wait for their time of call – a later call that might be more glorious.
This parable of our Lord is intended to disabuse the minds and warn the servants of God of unnecessary bias, hatred, jealousy, in-fighting, and impurity of motive against one another, particularly over the various gifts of heaven, bestowed differently and in different measures. Gifts and richness of gifts will be different from one person to the other, not because of any work of righteousness of any individual but out of the share predetermined grace and mercy of the Lord Himself. Nobody should therefore arrogate to himself any glory or look down on others. It is the gift of heaven.
Many of us believe that the gift of God is determined by age, rank, worldly attainment or our work of righteousness. The righteous God says in Exodus 33:19 that “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy”.
The first king of Israel came from the last and least tribe of Israel – Benjamin, while the second king, David, was the last of the seven children of Jesse.
“And not only this: but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of work but of him that calleth;) It was said to her, the elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau have I hated..” Romans 9:10-13. The gift and calling of the Lord is a function of pre-destination and election, which is without repentance: Rom. 11: 28-29.
The first often becomes the last because:
q We often feel contented and fulfilled with past achievements and glory.
q Owing to our experience and long service award in our organization, we tend to assume the role of masters rather than servants.
q The lost urge for self-development and acquisition of updated knowledge to face the challenges of the contemporary time, tend to create serious resistance for acceptance of change. Daniel 12:4 states that at end time there would be knowledge explosion, while Paul apostle states in 2 Timothy 3:1-3 that at end time perilous times shall come resulting from climax of sins. Certainly new tools and strategies are now required to combat the challenges posed by Satan at the end time. A town crier for evangelism becomes inadequate at an age of print and sophisticated electronic media.
q Zeal is often at the lowest ebb.
q “Holier/superior-than-thou” stance that create a barrier to learning from others.
q Weakness in subduing the carnal propensities resulting in poor or corrupt leadership.
Paul, the great apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ, advanced seven good strategies to remain relevant and on top of our Commission.
q Excelling Zeal. “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the Grace of God which was with me.” 1Cor.15:9-10. Though Paul was about the last and the least apostle, his excelling zeal for the work of God, over-riding functionality, and tireless performance under all odds accorded him the highest rating rather than fables.
q Uncompromising resistance and firmness: “ But of these who seemed to be somewhat ( whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me; God accepted no man’s person );for those who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me. And when James, Cephas, and John who seemed to be pillar, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” Galatia 2:6-9. There are Nicolaitans out there, Pharisees who make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the border of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the temples; they shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for they neither go in themselves nor allow those who want to enter. These are puffed up people of unstable character and exalted class who would do everything humanly possible to discredit and frighten every progressive and godly move into submission or frustration. Unless you are violently focused and principled you would be derailed into complacency or compromise. There is no room for cowards in the kingdom of God Rev. 21:8.
q Violent Commitment: “ And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Matth. 11:12. Until your worship, faith, trust and courage in Christ assume a violent level like that of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and the apostles of old, you are not sure of finishing the race well, particularly now that Satan and his chieftains are in fierce end-time battle with the Saints of God. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed, we are perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted but not forsaken; cast down but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” 2 Cor.4:8-11 “ Are they ministers of Christ? I am more; in labors, more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.” 2Cor. 11:23. If you must sincerely preach the brutal truth of the Lord – the kingdom of God and its righteousness rather than the cheap gospel of prosperity and deception that is now prevalent everywhere, you will of necessity meet with hostility, rejection and cruel hatred. You need tenacity of purpose and unyielding focus like Paul to accomplish the mission of Salvation. The world now thirsts and asks for ministers of the people with melodramatic gimmick, preaching what the people want, rather than ministers of God, preaching the truth of God. If you are truly of the Lord you will suffer persecution, but “because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy Crown.” Rev. 3:10-11.
q Serving without discrimination. A servant by example and not a boss. “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jew; to them that are under the law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some.” 1 Cor. 9:19-22. Evidently, follower-ship is fastly thinning out in an age when everyone, male and female are clamoring for pastor-ship not because many are divinely called into the ministry but rather, making a commercial gain of the ministry of Christ. And even within each church, ranks, positions, and authorities have now become Satan’s effective device for in-fighting and strong instrument of derailment from the track of true worship to unprofitable carnal decoration. While apostle Paul, and even our Lord Jesus, regarded the entire world, even the world of the unbelievers as an effective territory for the preaching of the gospel of Salvation, a number of Christian denominations base their weekly sermons on condemnation of other Christian bodies rather than the words of God. They have continued to tear down the body of Christ instead of building it. All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. “ For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” Phil. 3:18-19.
q Mortifying the carnal propensities: 1 Cor. 9:27. “ But I keep under my body and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast away.” It is an in-excusable necessity that servants of God who are commissioned to dispense the righteous word of the Kingdom should also live in holiness and purity. They should be able to mortify their carnal desires and walk worthy of their vocation. Fornication, adultery, idolatry, stealing, covetousness, lying, filthiness, pride, anger, reckless talk and other acts of ungodliness should be a thing of history in the lives of God’s anointed ministers.
“ Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shall
thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Matth. 7:5.
Until you are able to overcome the covetousness of your flesh, your ministry
may remain only a mockery.
q Pressing forward: This is the bane of most vineyard workers. A number of Christian ministers often feel fulfilled, and contented with their past achievements and attainments. They recline on past glories and entertain followers with tales of long service, while stagnating in doctrines that are barriers to Souls winning. “But thou, O Daniel shut up the words, and seal the book even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased.” Daniel 12:4. In an age when various types of auto and aircrafts are competing, thinking of riding on an Ass, is simply turning a serious business to sight-seeing on vacation. “ If by any means, I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high Calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3: 11-14. You should forget your long service award and face the monstrous challenges ahead with renewed vigor and determination if the first must remain relevant.
q Making your election a certainty: Apostle Paul admonishes in 2 Timothy 4:5, “ But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry”. And Apostle Peter clarifies further: “ 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. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” 2 Peter 1:5-7 &10.
And finally Paul is confident in saying at the end of his ministry, “ I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them that love his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8.
May the good Lord and Savior Jesus Christ give us the spirit of wisdom, and revelation to understand the hope and purpose of His calling, and the riches of the glory in the inheritance of the saints. Amen.
ASE Joseph Olorunnisola, Voice of Grace Parish, Ewing, New Jersey
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