Matthew 21:28-32

A. Someone once asked me, “What is of most value to our spiritual life: the doctrinal aspects or its practice?”

B. For many people, religion is simply a creed of faith or a list of liturgical rituals without a corresponding practice to accompany it.

C. One of Christ’s methods to teach religion was through parables (Ps. 78:2; Matt. 13:34, 35).


A. The parable of the two sons (Matt. 21:28- 32). Ellen G. White wrote: “This parable was spoken at Christ’s last visit to Jerusalem. . . . In this parable the father represents God; the vineyard, the church. By the two sons are represented two classes of people.”1

B. During this visit, He made an appeal for the Jewish nation to repent (read Matt. 23:37-39).

C. In the parable, Christ did not mention the reasons why the first son did not fulfill his promise or why the second son changed his mind; however, in the story, He introduced an element that makes all the difference: repentance.

1. The word “repentance” is related to the Hebrew term Naham. It indicates disposition or change of heart, mind, purpose, and/or personal conduct. Sometimes it refers to God (see Gen. 6:6; Ex. 32:14), but it also has human connotations.

2. The New Testament uses the Greek term Metanoeo, which, in turn, indicates a change of mind and purpose as a result of deep reflection.2

D. In this parable, the first son, who promised with much enthusiasm to work in his father’s vineyard as soon as he was ordered to do so but ultimately never did, is equivalent to those who profess to be religious but whose own justice prevents them from responding well to any call to repentance. The second son, who refused to go but then changed his mind and went, corresponds to the publicans and sinners who, although initially were far from being fair, repented as a result of John the Baptist’s preaching.3

1. John the Baptist began his ministry by emphasizing the need for repentance (see Matt. 3:2).

2. Ellen G. White asserts: “John was to go forth as Jehovah’s messenger, to bring to men the light of God. He must give a new direction to their thoughts. . . . John proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, and called the people to repentance. As a symbol of cleansing from sin, he baptized them in the waters of the Jordan.”4

E. Through this parable, reported in Matthew 21:28-32, Christ sought to rescue and value the practical aspect of religion.


A. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel said: “We will do everything the Lord has said” (Ex. 19:8).

B. History shows the opposite. The religion of Israel became extremely ritualistic without a practical imprint (see Is. 1:10-15; 58:2-5; Matt. 23).

C. As a church, we are inserted into a society that needs to see the gospel in practice (see Matt. 25:31-40; James 1:26, 27).

1. Ellen G. White affirms: “Those whom Christ commends in the judgment may have known little of theology, but they have cherished His principles. Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them. Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives. Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God.”5

2. We disappoint others when we don’t practice what we believe. A young couple got married and went out on their honeymoon. They were driving on a dark road at night when the car swerved off the road and crashed in a ditch. The groom awoke from the accident to find his beloved bride bleeding and unconscious. In desperation, he gathered her into his arms and began looking around frantically for help. Suddenly, the young man looked up and saw a light shining from the porch of a house on the hill. Knowing that his bride wouldn’t live long in her condition, he carried her there. As he came close to the house, he got very excited because there was a sign hanging on the porch that said, “John Smith, M.D.” The young groom began knocking excitedly. An elderly gentleman came to the door, looked out into the darkness, and asked, “May I help you?” The groom answered: “Sir, my bride has been hurt in an accident and is dying! Please save her!” But the old man drew back and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. I stopped practicing medicine 20 years ago.” Stunned, the desperate groom looked at the old man and said, “Sir, your sign says you’re a doctor. Either help my bride right now or take down that sign!”6

D. As Seventh-day Adventists, we are called by God to live our faith in a practical way. This is what God expects from His church; otherwise, it’s better for the church to take down the sign.


A. “Words are of no value unless they are accompanied with appropriate deeds. This is the lesson taught in the parable of the two sons.”7

B. Doing God’s will is what counts in the Christian life (read Ps. 40:8; 1 John 2:17). “It is not a conclusive evidence that a man is a Christian because he manifests spiritual ecstasy under extraordinary circumstances. Holiness is not rapture: it is an entire surrender of the will to God; it is living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God; it is doing the will of our heavenly Father; it is trusting God in trial, in darkness as well as in the light; it is walking by faith and not by sight; it is relying on God with unquestioning confidence, and resting in His love.”8

1 Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, 273, 275, 276.

2 See Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, 45, 415.

3 See R.V.G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, 161, 162.

4 White, The Desire of Ages, 100, 104.

5 Ibid., 638.

6 Extracted from God’s Glorious Church, by Tony Evans.

7 White, Christ’s Object Lessons, 272.

8 _____, The Acts of the Apostles, 51.

Nerivan Silva is an editor at the Brazil Publishing House headquartered in Tatui, Sao Paulo, Brazil.