Fruits of Faith
These are the readings for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)
God’s Word for This Week
Whose responsibility is it to care for the Lord’s vineyard, the Church? Rightly answered, it’s all of us who love the Lord and produce abundant fruits of faith in his service. Conversely, there are those who reject their Savior and live for self. In the case of such individuals, invariably, the judgment of God is not far behind.
First Lesson – Isaiah 5:1-7
In this song from Isaiah, what do the vineyard, vines, and grapes represent?
The vineyard represents God’s chosen people, the house of Israel—his Church. The vines are the men and women of Judah, dearly loved by God. The grapes are the fruits of faith—in this case, the rotten fruit of injustice and unrighteousness.
As the annals of history record, what resulted because the Lord’s chosen nation bitterly disappointed him?
God sent his punishment in full measure upon his chosen people, not only through the Babylonian captivity but also in the ultimate overthrow of the Jewish nation in the year 70 A.D. Let us take heed, for the Lord likewise searches the hearts of his people today for fruits of righteousness.
Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 21:1-15
Find all the ways that Manasseh sinned against God. Which acts do you think are the most heinous? Why?
Manasseh rebuilt high places destroyed by Hezekiah. He erected altars to foreign gods and did so in the temple. He practiced sorcery. He even killed his own son as a sacrifice. All of these sins were heinous.
What great event in biblical history does the author of 2 Kings lay at Manasseh’s feet?
The destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of Israel.
Manasseh shows how bad the kings of God’s people had become. But he is also an extremely important example of how patient, gracious, and forgiving our God is. When we consider the second account of Manasseh’s life given in 2 Chronicles 33, we see the rest of the story. Manasseh lived as a pagan, right until the time when he was captured, and his enemies put a hook through his nose and took him captive to Babylon. Suddenly, he saw the error of his ways. He repented of his sins, turned back to God, and our Savior God forgave him. Then Manasseh produced fruits in keeping with his repentance.
Second Lesson – Philippians 3:12-21
Explain in verse 13 the comparison of the Christian life to that of a runner in a race.
Near the end of a race, a runner forgets what is behind him, leans forward toward the finish line, exerting himself to the utmost, straining every fiber in his body to win the prize. Just so, the Christian forgets all the disappointments and bad experiences of the past and instead valiantly strives on, with eyes fixed firmly on the finish line, the victory circle, the consummation of all his hopes and dreams; the heavenly prize—which goes beyond all human understanding.
What are the distinguishing characteristics of those who live as “enemies of the cross”?
They deny the power and efficacy of the cross. They live to gratify their human appetites and desires. The things they glory in and are proud of are in reality carnal and shameful. For such people, any show of sanctity is really nothing but hypocrisy.
Upon Christ’s return, what will our bodies be like in heaven someday?
Our lowly, frail, vile, earthly bodies will be transformed into the likeness of Christ’s glorious body—holy, perfect, and beautiful in every way. Our new bodies will forever be incapable of experiencing any more sin, sorrow, stress, or sickness.
Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Paul writes words of encouragement and exhortation: produce fruits for our gracious and patient God. As a tenant in the vineyard, Paul points to the grace of God as the motivation for us to produce fruits, such as carrying our cross and suffering for the sake of God and his Word.
How did Paul’s fruits commend him to the people of Corinth?
The false teachers in Corinth were self-serving. Paul’s fruits of faith showed his genuine concern for the Corinthians and his faithful commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. He was willing to bear any cross for the sake of Jesus and those whom he would call.
Gospel – Matthew 21:33-43
How do you see the graciousness and patience of God in this parable?
God kept sending his servants, the prophets, to the people of Israel—even when they were ignored or abused.
What was the tenants’ ultimate display of wickedness? Of which important event in history does this remind you?
Not only did the tenants fail to respect the landlord’s son in their devilish hatred, but they also killed him. This, of course, played itself out on Good Friday when the chief priests, elders, scribes, and Pharisees hardened their hearts against Jesus, put him to death, and brought damnation down upon their own heads.
Verse 41 indicates that the vineyard was rented to “other tenants.” Who were they?
The vineyard with its fruit, that is, the kingdom of God with all its riches of mercy and love was taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles, who have since enjoyed its blessings and produced abundant fruit.