Matthew 21:23-32

Talks for Growing Christians

The Parable of the Two Sons

Matthew 21:23-32

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Lesson Number 57

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. Dealing with skeptics is essential to standing firm.
  2. Doing God’s will is evidence of saving faith.

Practical Application

  1. Always look for the third alternative.


  1. Why were the chief priests and elders questioning the Lord’s authority?
  2. How did they hope to trap Him with this question?
  3. How does 1 Peter 3:15 relate to our dealing with skeptics?
  4. Which of the two brothers did the will of his father?
  5. How did the Jewish leaders condemn themselves with their response to our Lord’s parable?


  1. Because the day before He had cleansed the temple and healed many people in the temple courts. These activities caused great commotion in Jerusalem, and the Jewish leaders did not like the popularity He was receiving.
  2. If Jesus claimed His own authority, He would be equating Himself with God, and they would accuse Him of blasphemy. If He claimed God’s authority, they could argue that they also had been given authority by God. If He claimed authority from men, the religious leaders could discredit it because He had no formal religious training.
  3. We are commanded to always be ready to defend our faith to those who ask.
  4. The brother who at first disobeyed, but later obeyed did the will of his father, rather than the brother who said he would obey, but did not.
  5. They correctly answered the questions, showing they understood the principle, but had not lived it out in their lives. The tax collectors and harlots of that time at first rejected God’s way, but in the end they repented, did God’s will, and were saved. The self-righteous leaders in Israel gave lip service to God’s law, but they did not believe the message of John the Baptist and they did not repent and do God’s will.


  1. Review how the Lord dealt with skeptics in His time. He did not run away from them or zap them with fire from heaven. He stood firm and refuted them. How can we do the same in our dealing with skeptics?
  2. God does not want your lip service, claiming devotion to Him, while you fail to do His will in your life. Refer to James 2:17. Doing God’s will is evidence of saving faith. How is your life matching up with your words?


  1. The Lord often chose a third alternative when answering questions about His teaching. Many times He would ask a question in return, or simply not get involved in the argument. Many times we will have this option when answering questions about our faith.

Key Verses

  • “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…” 1 Peter 3:15
  • “For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.” Matthew 21:32

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