Many Are Called, but Few Are Chosen :: By Gene Lawley


The title of this article is the concluding statement Jesus made to summarize the teaching of His parable about a king’s wedding supper planned for his son, as told in Matthew 22:2-14. He says the kingdom of heaven is like this: “A certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, ‘See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treating them spitefully, and killed them. 

7 “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 

“Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ 10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

(It is a long quote, but I have left the verse numbers in place for easier reference as we discuss the parable.)

This parable parallels exactly with the plan of God for salvation of those who want to be saved. Look at Revelation 19:9: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” Then, turn to John 4:22b, “…for salvation is of the Jews,” and then, Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first, then the Greek (Gentile).”

But what happened, according to the parable… and the later reality? Look at John 1:11, “He came to His own [kinsmen], and His own did not receive Him.”

In the parable, at verse 7, we see the king’s response to their rejection of his invitation to the wedding, and his punishment even led to the destruction of their city, reminding us of the 70 A.D. action by the Roman army.

In verses 8-9 of the parable, the king sends out his servants to invite, essentially, “whosoever will” to the wedding feast. Verse 10 matches the historical result of those last words of Jesus before He ascended to heaven, when He told those few disciples, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

In verses 11-13 of the parable, we see the king discovering a person at the wedding feast who is not dressed appropriately—having no wedding garment. Apparently, tradition in those days was to be so-dressed at a wedding. The king did not respond with gentle loving care, either. Why not? It points out how intense is God’s protection of the way of salvation, for John 14:6 says, “I [Jesus] am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” That is, one must be clothed in Christ to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Finally, verse 14 of the parable indicates that some kind of qualification must be in place that allows those who are called to become chosen. What is it, then? We can see it plainly in Revelation 3:20, which says, “Behold, I [Jesus] stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him and he with Me.” As it was in the parable, the invitations were given, but none accepted—they did not open their life’s door, so to speak, and so, they could not come to the wedding feast.

It appears, then, that one who accepts Christ as his Savior confirms that he is chosen as one of the elect and predestined to be with the Lord for eternity.

Note how 2 Timothy 2:10 shows the Apostle Paul’s recognition that believing in Christ is what confirms that a person is chosen, the elect of God: Therefore, I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”

Thus, God decrees that one who knows the gospel must go (Romans 10:14-15) and tell the world of that good news, for “faith comes by hearing the Word of God,” (Romans 10:17) and “Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Peter writes of several character qualities that should be evident in the life of a person who claims to have been chosen as an elect of God that reminds us of that bold declaration in Matthew 7:16a, “By their fruits you shall know them.” (Good or bad.) Peter’s conclusion in 2 Peter 1:10:

“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things, you will never stumble.”

But what about those who did not accept the invitation to the wedding feast, those who were first in line, the Jews? An interesting forward look is given to us as early as in Deuteronomy 4:30-31 about their ultimate future: “When you are in distress, and all these things [days of tribulation] come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice (for the Lord your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them.”

In those latter days, Zechariah 12:10 speaks of a time when the Jews will recognize their true Messiah: “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.”

The Scriptures are clear and sure that Jesus died for the whole world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; Romans 5:18) and that salvation is the gift of God for those who accept the gift (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 1:12). His salvation is not, therefore, automatic, for Christ’s atonement is only for believers, and for that there is no argument.

Why then are many called but few are chosen? Is God choosing those He favors and casting aside those He dislikes? If so, why are they called in the first place? But God is no respecter of persons (Colossians 3:23), and the use of “whosoever” in Romans 10:13 and John 3:16 supports that attribute. This parable teaches that His choosing is based on the response of the one given the invitation to accept His gift. That is made plain in 2 Peter 3:9, “For God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Who is willing to forsake his sinfulness and turn to God?

That totally depraved descendent of Adam received by his disobedience the knowledge of good and evil, that is, right and wrong. In Romans 2:13-16, we are told that every person’s conscience is embedded with that knowledge and that mankind is held accountable and responsible for a proper answer when confronted with such a choice. Thus, depraved man has the ability to say yes or no to God. This parable teaches those truths.

The simple truth we need to know and embrace is this: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).

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