Sermon #30 Series: Song Of Solomon
Title: The Church
Our Lord’s Vineyard
Text: Song of Solomon 8:12
Readings: Office: Paul Winderl Auditorium: Bob Poncer
Subject: Christ’s Special Love For And Care Of His Church
Date: Sunday Evening - January 29, 1999
Tape # V-7a and V-10b
The Song of Solomon is really a series of responsive songs. As I have told you many times, it must be read and understood spiritually. This poetic book is a symbolical picture of Christ and his church. Wherever we see Solomon speaking, it is Christ speaking to his church. Wherever we see the Shulamite speaking to her Beloved, it is the church speaking to Christ. Throughout this “Song of Songs” we hear Christ speaking to us, his church, his Bride, his Spouse; and then the church responds to his words of love in tones of sincere affection and admiration.
The very fact that this is a responsive song, makes it at times difficult to understand, because it is not always easy to determine who is speaking in a given passage - Christ or his church. For example, the commentators are just about equally divided over this sentence: “My vineyard, which is mine, is before me.” Some say, “This is Christ speaking to his church.” Others insist, “This is the church speaking to Christ.”
Personally, I would not want to say. I cannot press the issue one way or the other. So, tonight, we will take this first sentence of our text as coming from the lips of our Lord to his church. Then we will put it into the mouth of the Bride herself. I believe that our souls will be greatly profited by both considerations, if the Lord will bless the labor of his servant.
Proposition: The church is the vineyard of our Lord Jesus Christ, always under his watchful eye and tender care.
NOTE: As we talk about the church, please understand that we are talking about the church universal, the mystical, spiritual body of Christ. The church is the whole body of God’s elect, the whole family of God. All true believers of every age are in the church. We are all one body in Christ, who is our Head (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 2:13-14).
NOTE: We have no difficulty understanding that the vineyard spoken of in this text is the church of Christ (Psa. 80:8-10, 14-15).
Other trees may be useful for lumber or firewood, though they bring forth no fruit. But a vine is only useful when it is fruitful. If a vine is fruitless it is useless. It cumbers the ground. It must be cut down and burned. The church is frequently compared to a vine, or vineyard, in the Scriptures (Isa. 5:1, 2, 7; John 15:1-10).
1. It is compared to a vine, because of its fruitfulness.
2. It is compared to a vine, because as a vine which has many branches is one, even so the church of Christ is one body in Christ, though it has many members.
1. The Words Of Christ To His Church.
2. The Language Of The Church About Her Own Responsibility.
3. The Declaration Of The Church To Her Great Lord.
I. First, I want us to look at this first sentence as coming from the lips of our Lord. These are THE WORDS OF CHRIST TO HIS CHURCH - “My vineyard, which is mine, is before me.”
With these words, our Lord Jesus Christ claims the church as his own and declares his special love and care for it.
A. The Lord here declares that the church is his own special property.
He makes the claim twice, “My vineyard, which is mine.” He is declaring his rights of ownership. He looks upon his church, his believing people, those whom he has chosen and redeemed, and says - “This is my vineyard.”
1. We know that all things belong to our Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 4:11).
a. All things are his by right of creation.
b. All things are his by the prerogative of providence.
c. All things are his by virtue of his mediatorial reign (John 17:2).
2. But our Lord here claims a special interest in and possession of his church.
It is true that our Lord is good and benevolent to all his creatures. But the special object of our Savior’s love, care, and concern is his own vineyard, his church. In providence he rules over all things and all people; but the object, goal, and purpose of his rule is the welfare of his church (John 17:2; Rom. 8:28).
a. The church belongs to Christ by divine gift from his Father (John 17:6, 9, 11, 12).
The church is the property of all the three persons of the Holy Trinity. She belongs to God the Father by eternal election. She belongs to God the Son by donation, by Suretyship agreement. And she belongs to God the Holy Spirit by his indwelling presence and special habitation (Eph. 2:20-22).
b. The church belongs to Christ by a lawful purchase (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25-27).
There are some who say that all men were purchased by Christ. But you and I do not believe in such a sham redemption, a redemption which does not redeem. We do not believe in a universal atonement which extends even to those who were in hell before Christ died. Such an atonement is no atonement at all. We believe in an effectual redemption, a particular and special atonement. We can never tolerate the doctrine of those who would tell us that Christ died in vain, and that some of those for whom he died will perish in hell.
Our Lord will never part with his church. He will never lose one of his redeemed ones. He paid too dear a price for us.
c. The church belongs to Christ as a bride belongs to her husband (Hos. 2:14-3:3).
(1.) He chose us as the object of his love.
(2.) He redeemed us with his own precious blood.
(3.) He has courted us, wooed our hearts, and won our love by his gracious Spirit.
(4.) He will not allow us to be lost.
· He will never leave us.
· He will never allow us to leave him.
B. The church is the special property of Christ. He says, “My vineyard, which is mine.” But there is more. In this sentence, our Lord also declares that his church is the constant object of his watchful eye and special care - “My vineyard, which is mine, is before me.”
Those words, as coming from the lips of Christ are full of meaning for the comfort of our hearts - “My vineyard is before me.” He is saying to us - “Fear not, my eye is upon you. I am engaged to do you good.” (See Isa. 41:10, 14).
1. The church is before Christ in the sense that he so loves us that he will never let us out of his presence.
The vineyard is so dear to him that he never leaves it. He may sometimes hide himself among the vines; but he is always present (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5). He still walks among the golden candlesticks.
2. This statement by our Lord also means that he is always caring for his church - Providence. He will do us good.
3. In this expression there is also the assurance that the Lord is knowledgeable of his church.
He knows us. He is thoroughly acquainted with us and with all that concerns us.
4. There is a sweet thought here for all who love Christ. You, as his church, and each one of you who are his people, are especially preserved by Christ - Personally and particularly.
5. Let us ever remember, the church is the Lord’s own vineyard.
He will take care of her. He will maintain her cause. He will provide her needs. He will build her walls, establish her gates, and maintain her success.
NOTE: The church does not belong to the pastor, nor to the people, but to Christ alone.
NOTE: These two things, our Lord would have us to understand.
· The church belongs to him.
· The church is under his care.
THE KEEPERS OF THE VINEYARD
Office: Gary Baker Auditorium: Merle Hart
In verse 11 several things are set before us.
1. The Church of God in this world is Christ’s vineyard.
2. The Lord Jesus has trusted the care of his vineyard to chosen men (Matt. 20:1-2, 21:33).
3. Gospel preachers are the Lord’s rent-gatherers. They collect his fruit and bring it in to him (John 15:16).
4. The fruit gathered and brought by these keepers of the Lord’s vineyard is all the same.
The fruit brought in by each one is “a thousand pieces of silver.” God’s servants all have the same commission to preach the gospel. They have different gifts and abilities. And their outward, apparent successes differ. Some have greater and some lesser success, at least in their own eyes and in the eyes of men. “Yet,” as John Gill wrote, “in the faithful and honest discharge of their work, they are all so blessed by him, as to answer the end of their ministration (ministry) designed by him; so that he reckons that every one, even the meanest (most humble and least gifted), brings in his thousand pieces, as well as the more able and successful.”
II. Now, let’s look at this sentence as though it were spoken by the church herself, as spoken by us to our Savior - “My vineyard, which is mine, is before me.” THIS IS THE LANGUAGE OF THE CHURCH ABOUT HER OWN RESPONSIBILITY.
The church is Christ’s own vineyard. It belongs to him. But he has let his vineyard out to many “keepers” (v. 11). It is our responsibility, as “keepers” of the vineyard, to be faithful stewards over that which the Lord has committed to our care.
A. Every believer is responsible for his own heart, his own life, and his own work (Song of Sol. 1:6).
If you are a believer, if your are one of those men or women who belong to Christ, you are a “keeper” of the Lord’s vineyard. He has placed into your hands, under your care, a part of that vineyard which is so dear to him that he paid for it with his own life’s blood. Now, it is your responsibility to faithfully serve him in his vineyard.
1. Keep your heart for him. - Proverbs 4:23 "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."
2. Keep your life for him.
See to it that your life upon this earth is a life lived for the honor and glory of Christ (Col. 3:1-3).
3. Faithfully keep to the work which he has given you.
Illustration: Peter (John 21:20-22)
Serve the Lord where you are. To serve him is to serve his people and to serve his cause. There is something that you can do, something that you are responsible to do, something that you must do for Christ, for the good of his church, for the furtherance of his gospel.
· You can visit the sick.
· You can bear faithful witness of Christ.
· You can bring folks to hear the gospel.
· You can minister to God’s servants.
· You can take care of the church property.
· You can assist in the many aspects of the ministry God has given us.
B. There are some who are given special talents and special responsibilities as “keepers” in the Lord’s vineyard.
With special talents come special responsibilities.
1. Some of you are teachers in the church of Christ.
2. Some of you are deacons in the church of Christ.
3. I am given the privilege and the awesome responsibility of being one of the Lord’s pastors, an under-shepherd, a keeper of the Lord’s vineyard.
4. Now, there is one thing which the Lord requires of us, in each of our respective places - Faithfulness! (1 Cor. 4:1-2).
As a steward under God, this is “My vineyard”. It is the vineyard which God has given to me. This is the sphere and place of my responsibility - It is “before me”.
I am not responsible for my brother, or for his work; but I am responsible for myself. I must always keep my own work before my eyes. I must go about my work, doing what I have to do, just as though there were no one else in the world to do anything.
If I see another man prospering more than myself, I will thank God for his blessing upon my brother and his work. But still, I must say, “My vineyard, which is mine, is before me.” I do not look for, nor do I desire another man’s place. This is the place God has for me. This is the work God has committed to my hands. This is the place where I must faithfully serve him.
What about you? Will you be faithful in the place where the Lord has put you, and faithful in the work he has set before you?
III. Now, thirdly, here is THE DECLARATION OF THE CHURCH TO HER GREAT LORD. - “Thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.”
A. The fruit of the vineyard belongs to Christ and He must have it.
I trust that each one of us feels the necessity of that word “must”. Jesus Christ must have the fruit of his vineyard. That is to say, He must receive all the honor, all the glory, and all the praise from his church.
1. We must not applaud ourselves for God’s blessings upon us.
2. We must not exalt and magnify those who labor most zealously and those who give most generously.
3. We must not give glory and praise to the preacher through whom the Lord speaks and works.
“He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.’ No flesh shall glory in his presence.
B. And the keepers of the vineyard shall receive their reward as well.
No earned rewards in heaven are promised here! But this fact must not be ignored - Those who honor God, God will honor (1 Sam. 2:30).
1. Each man and woman who faithfully serves the Lord Jesus Christ will find great reward in doing so.
· Your own soul will be profited by your faithfulness.
· Such men and women should be highly esteemed by those who profit by their labors.
2. Those who are faithful pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons in the church should be given their proper respect and esteem.
3. And those who preach the gospel of Christ are to be rewarded for their labors by those for whom they labor.
a. Every true and faithful servant of God is to be esteemed very highly for his work’s sake (1 Thess. 5:12-13).
One of the old writers made this observation – “Where Christ gets his due among a people, there and there only do ministers get their due. Where Christ is heartily received, the feet of them that bring glad tidings will be beautiful. Where Christ has his thousand, ministers will have their two hundred.”
b. Those who preach the gospel are to live by the gospel. They are to be generously supported and maintained by their congregations (1 Tim. 5:17-18; Gal. 6:6; 1 Cor. 9:9-11).
c. This two hundred, which is the reward of God’s servants, certainly includes those chosen, redeemed sinners who are converted by the Spirit of God under their influence.
d. This two hundred shall be the full possession and compensation of every servant of God in eternal glory.
Here, we may seem to come far short of it. Poverty, disrespect, and reproach are the common lot of faithful gospel preachers in this world. But there is a day coming when, “they that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).
Application: These three things I would have you to take home with you and meditate upon them.
1. The church belongs to Christ. It is his vineyard, always under his watchful eye and the object of his loving care.
2. It is our responsibility to faithfully serve the Lord Jesus Christ in the place where we are, with the capacity he has given us.
3. Those who faithfully serve Christ, all of them, are to be duly honored by us.