He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)I will not.—The bold defiance of the answer answers to the rough recklessness of the classes (publicans and harlots) who were represented by the “first” of the two sons. Their whole life, up to the time of their conversion, had been an open refusal to keep God’s laws, and so to work in His vineyard.
He repented.—The Greek word is not the same as that of Matthew 3:2, and expresses rather the regretful change of purpose than entire transformation of character. It is the first stage of repentance, and may, as in this instance, pass on into the higher, or, as in the case of Judas (Matthew 27:3, where the same word is used), end only in remorse and despair.
Two sons - By those two sons our Lord intends to represent the conduct of the Jews, and that of the publicans and sinners.
In my vineyard - See the notes at Matthew 21:33. To work in the vineyard here represents the work which God requires man to do.
I will not - This had been the language of the publicans and wicked men. They refused at first, and did not "profess" to be willing to go.
Repented - Changed his mind. Afterward, at the preaching of John and Christ, the publicans - the wicked - repented and obeyed.
The second ...said, I go sir; and went not - This represented the conduct of the scribes and Pharisees - "professing" to obey God, observing the external rites of religion, but opposed really to the kingdom of God, and about to put his Son to death.
Whether of them twain ... - Which of the two. "They say unto him, The first." This answer was correct; but it is strange that they did not perceive that it condemned themselves.
Go into the kingdom of God - Become Christians, or more readily follow the Saviour. See the notes at Matthew 3:2.
Before you - Rather than you. They are more likely to do it than you. You are self-righteous, self-willed, and obstinate.
John came in the way of righteousness - Many of them have believed, but you have not. That is, in the right way, or teaching the way to be righteous; to wit, by repentance. Publicans and harlots heard him and became righteous, but they did not. They saw it, but, as in one thousand other cases, it did not produce the proper effect on them, and they would not repent.See Poole on "Matthew 21:32".
But afterward he repented, and went: a change of mind was wrought in him, and this produced a change of life and conversation: so, many of the publicans and sinners repented of their sins of disobedience, and rebellion against God, under the ministry of John the Baptist, Christ, and his apostles; not of themselves, men do not naturally see their sin, or need of repentance; their hearts are hard and obdurate; nor have they any spiritual sense and feeling: nothing will bring them to repentance, not the most powerful ministry, the severest judgments, or the kindest mercies, without the grace of God: but it was of God, and owing to his powerful and efficacious grace, that they repented: it was his will they should come to repentance: he called them to it, and gave it to them, as a free grace gift of his: and they repented not in a mere legal way, with a legal repentance, which lies in a mere conviction of the outward acts of sin; in an external sorrow for it, in horror and terror of mind about it, and in shedding tears for it, accompanied with a cessation from the grosser acts of sin, and an outward reformation of life and manners: but they repented in an evangelical manner, as such do, who are really converted, and spiritually instructed; who are true believers in Christ, have views, and, at least, hopes of pardoning grace and mercy; and have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Spirit: the repentance of such lies in a spiritual sight and sense of sin, of the evil nature of indwelling sin, and the exceeding sinfulness of it, as well as of the outward actions of life; in a hearty, godly sorrow for it, because committed against a God of purity, grace, and goodness; in a loathing it, and themselves for it; in a holy shame, and blushing, on account of it; and is attended with an ingenuous confession of it, and forsaking it: the consequence of which is, that such go readily and cheerfully into the Lord's vineyard; hear the word with all diligence, receive it with gladness; walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord; and are taught, by the grace that has appeared to them, to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this world.He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 21:29. ἐγώ: laconic and emphatic as if eager to obey—κύριε, with all due politeness, and most filial recognition of paternal authority, the two words = our “Yes, sir”.29. repented] Rather “changed his mind,” felt regret but not repentance or Metanoia, a deeper and more lasting feeling: see ch. Matthew 3:2.
According to a well-supported reading the cases of the two sons are reversed. The first agrees but goes not, the second refuses but afterwards works in the vineyard. The variation is interesting, because it points to an interpretation by which the two sons represent Jew and Gentile.Verse 29. - I will not. The answer is rude, curt, and disrespectful, such a one as would naturally issue from the lips of a person who was selfishly wrapped in his own pleasures, and cared nothing for the Law of God, the claims of relationship, the decencies of society. Repented, and went; i.e. into the vineyard to work. The worst sinners, when converted, often make great saints. There is more hope of their repentance than of the self-righteous or hypocrites, who profess the form of religion without the reality, and in their own view need no repentance.
This is a different word from that in Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; μετανοεῖτε, Repent ye. Though it is fairly claimed that the word here implies all that is implied in the other word, the New Testament writers evidently recognize a distinction, since the noun which corresponds to the verb in this passage (μεταμέλεια) is not used at all in the New Testament, and the verb itself only five times; and, in every case except the two in this passage (see Matthew 21:32), with a meaning quite foreign to repentance in the ordinary gospel sense. Thus it is used of Judas, when he brought back the thirty pieces (Matthew 27:3); of Paul's not regretting his letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 7:8); and of God (Hebrews 7:21). On the other hand, μετανοέω, repent, used by John and Jesus in their summons to repentance (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17), occurs thirty-four times, and the noun μετάνοια, repentance (Matthew 3:8, Matthew 3:11), twenty-four times, and in every case with reference to that change of heart and life wrought by the Spirit of God, to which remission of sins and salvation are promised. It is not impossible, therefore, that the word in this passage may have been intended to carry a different shade of meaning, now lost to us. Μεταμέλομαι, as its etymology indicates (μετά, after, and μέλω, to be an object of care), implies an after-care, as contrasted with the change of mind denoted by μετάνοια. Not sorrow for moral obliquity and sin against God, but annoyance at the consequences of an act or course of acts, and chagrin at not having known better. "It may be simply what our fathers were wont to call hadiwist (had-I-wist, or known better, I should have acted otherwise)" (Trench). Μεταμέλεια refers chiefly to single acts; μετάνοια denotes the repentance which affects the whole life. Hence the latter is often found in the imperative: Repent ye (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19); the former never. Paul's recognition of the distinction (2 Corinthians 7:10) is noteworthy. "Godly sorrow worketh repentance (μετάνοιαν) unto salvation," a salvation or repentance "which bringeth no regret on thinking of it afterwards" (ἀμεταμέλητον). There is no occasion for one ever to think better of either his repentance or the salvation in which it issued.
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