Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen

by Mike Ratliff

13 These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast.14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful. (Revelation 17:13,14 ESV)

In this post we will look our Lord’s parable of the Wedding Feast from Matthew 22:1-14. I was told by some one today who disagreed with my post Who Is Responsible For A Believer’s Salvation?, that those of us who held a “Calvinist” viewpoint” did so because we misinterpreted this parable. His contention was that we were taking v14 out of context. Let us look at the entire context.

This parable is part of Matthew’s discourse on the Kingdom of God, which has many parts. Chapters 18:1-23:39 makes up The King’s Administration part of the Kingdom of God, therefore, the parable of the Wedding Feast would definitely be within that. Jesus tells this parable as part of a set of Kingly parables after his Triumphal Entry, the cleansing of the Temple, and the cursing of the Fig Tree in Matthew 21. Matthew describes our Lord’s Triumphal Entry in Matthew 21:1-11. He describes His cleansing of the Temple in vv12-17.  In vv18-22 He curses the Fig Tree. Following that His authority is challenged by the Jewish leaders in vv23-28. In response to that, He tells them several parables. The first is the Parable of the Two Sons in vv28-32. Then He tells the Parable of the Tenants in vv33-45. I pray you see the pattern.

The preceding parables were directed towards who? The first parable of the two sons demonstrated the religious leaders’ failure to respond rightly to John the Baptist’s prophetic ministry. They may have agreed with Jesus in the conclusion of the parable, but their actions proved their hypocrisy. This is the point. It is one’s obedience to God’s message not one’s assent to it that matters. The second parable of the Tenants was given by our Lord to show that God was taking the kingdom away from Israel.

Now we come to the parable of the Wedding Feast. Please keep in mind that this is spoken in the immediate context of the first two parables. Here is the entire passage from the ESV.

1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1-14 ESV)

The King is God. The Son is Christ. What was the result of the invitation by the King to wedding feast for the Son? Those invited would not come. Some ignored the invitation. Others seized and mistreated the servants while others were actually killed. What was the King’s response? He was angry. He sent His troops, destroyed the murderers, and burned their city. Then he had his servants invite others to the feast from all over the world until the banquet hall was filled. This illustrates the offer of the gospel freely to everyone indiscriminately (cf. Revelation 22:17).

However, in v11 there is a strange thing. The king finds a man who had no wedding garment. What is this? Remember, all are invited from everywhere so this man did not come in uninvited so what is going on here? The people were given the wedding garments by the king himself as they were brought into the feast since they were rounded up from all over the place. So, what could this mean that this man had no proper wedding garment?

It wasn’t until recently as I have seen the massive growth in apostasy throughout the visible church that  I saw what this was all about. This man’s lack of a proper garment indicates that he has purposely rejected the king’s own gracious provision. He professes to be Christian, but spurns the garment of righteousness Christ offers (cf. Isaiah 61:10) by seeking to establish a righteousness of his own (cf. Romans 10:3; Philippians 3:8, 9). Right now, in this life, many professing Christ followers are exulting in their mysticism and their new form of Christianity, their new Jesus Manifesto, but these things are not based in the righteousness Christ offers. They have rejected “in Christ alone by grace alone, through faith alone.” They see salvation in the kingdom of God which is made up of all people in the entire world. They are not here to preach the gospel, but to make the world a better place by being Christlike. That garment is not the proper wedding garment at the wedding feast because this is works righteousness or pietism.

In v13 we see the result of that and in v14 the reason. The call spoken of in v14 is sometimes referred to as the “general call” (or the “external call”), a summons to repentance and faith that is inherent in the gospel message. This call extends to all who hear the gospel. “Many” hear it; “few” respond. Those who respond are the “chosen.” The elect. In the Pauline writings, the word call usually refers to God’s irresistible calling extended to the elect alone (Romans 8:30), known a the “effectual call” (or the “internal call”). The effectual call is the supernatural drawing of God which Jesus speaks of in John 6:44. Here, a general call is in view, and this call is the great “whosoever will” of the gospel. Here, then, is the proper balance between human responsibility and divine sovereignty: the “called” who reject the invitation do so willingly, and therefore their exclusion from the kingdom is perfectly just. The “chosen” enter the kingdom only because of the grace of God in choosing and drawing them. – Adapted from section 22:14 many are called, but few are chosen section p1166 of MacArthur Bible Commentary

The context of this parable is Jesus telling these things prior to His crucifixion to the Jewish leaders. He was prophesying exactly what was going to happen to the nation of Israel for their rejection of Him as their Messiah. Yes, individual Jews would believe and be saved, but the nation of Israel would be no more as it was. Much of this was fulfilled in 70AD. Also, God is sovereign in election and salvation, but we must never forget the balance as John MacArthur showed us in his commentary

Soli Deo Gloria!

24 thoughts on “Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen

  1. The two great pillars of the church…..Divine Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility. What is so hard about this??? IT IS ALL OF CHRIST AND NONE OF MAN, no-one will get into heaven unless they are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. This has been going on since the fall of Adam and Eve….fig-leaf “christianity”. We want to believe that we can cover our sin with something we manufactured or that we don’t need covering for our sin at all…….NEVER!!! Only the “clothing” of Christ’s perfect righteousness can dress us for heaven.
    Very good and the last articcle also!

  2. Again, I shake my head at those who make the gospel so complicated! I think that’s why there are so many scripture verses on being the children of God – He is our Father, and we are His children. We need to have that childlike absolute TRUST in our heavenly Father, and the Word that he has given us.
    Mike, what you exposited here is a correct, obvious interpretation of scripture (imho).
    However, I am sure that there will be those who will disagree – and I will once again shake my head at why they can’t see the obvious – that’s right there in front of their eyes!

  3. Sandra, In every case today in dealing with objectors to yesterday’s post, they wanted to address “proof texts” I never even used in that post. They wanted to assume I was making arguments based within some philosophy like they were. Nope, we just exegete scripture. We add nothing and take nothing away. We keep the context intact. We do not force unnecessary context. Yes, it is obvious, but the willingness to see it is tied into spiritual acuity in some way. I am very fortunate in that I was never part of any group that was into Calvinist haters. I didn’t even know what Arminianism was when I started studying this stuff. It was as I studied it for myself that I realized that our God is Sovereign and there is no area in creation where that is not true.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  4. Until Jesus comes or we go to be with Him, the Calvinist-Arminian controversy won’t be resolved.

  5. Agreed. Just like that simple analogy of a boat and an anchor- the Word of God HAS to be the anchor that grounds us, and stops us being carried away by the continual pounding of waves of compromise and false teaching that has abounded, is presently abounding, and will abound till our Lord’s return. How arrogant are we when we try to twist scripture to fit our worldly wisdom!

    On a side note, and please don’t laugh, but we had never even heard of Calvinism or Arminianism until our eyes were opened when our church started the 40 days of purpose in 2005- and we slowly began to awaken to God’s Truth being sacrosanct over the “experiential” christianity that we had “enjoyed” for SO many years. Don’t cringe, but I hadn’t even heard of Spurgeon until after our exodus from extreme pentecostal churches – and my husband bought a book on Church History – and I am still playing catch up – even though I committed my life to the Lord in 1983 at the age of 17 (it’s frustrating that some of the terminology you use I have to look up in a dictionary!!!! – it’s even worse on the Pyromaniacs site – I feel like such a babe I’m a little embarrassed to even post a comment!!!!)

    I don’t have sufficient words to explain that I KNOW that I KNOW that my Father in heaven KNEW ME before I was even formed in my mothers womb – and that I was predestined into His kingdom – and for that I give thanks, always, and forever give thanks, to our mighty Saviour. There aren’t sufficient words in our earthly language to express my/our gratitude that we were called, and we answered that call. He is my Father, and I am His child.
    Such a simple analogy – but it says SO much!
    In Christ,
    Sandra

  6. Mike, thank you for this breath of fresh air! I am learning how to exegete Scripture and let it speak for itself.
    Stella Marie…that’s a good one…”fig leaf” christianity. That really gives a good mental picture. I will not forget that one!

  7. Most people’s Christian “experience” is built upon the shaky foundation of man’s ability. The fallen nature of man does not want to succumb to the Mighty Hand of God. They view it as weakness, I suppose.
    Most want a Jesus that walks beside them, sits in the seat of the car next to them and they converse about this and that!
    He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, his tongue is a sword (the Word) that will divide and conquer! He is coming back one day in judgment. They want that little baby in the manger instead of a conquering King trodding down the enemy!
    This King, well, He is my King and His power and glory are my constant source of strength. Not my own strength, HIS strength, only because of grace through faith, HIS grace and HIS faith!
    Glory to His name!

  8. Trent, while I used to believe the very same thing, I no longer do. Why? It really isn’t about Calvinism vs. Arminianism, but about whether God is Sovereign or isn’t He. You won’t find me getting into very many Calvinism vs. Arminianism debates, but I will most certainly step in when I hear professing Christians elevating man’s will to the same level or above with God’s. You have got to be kidding. Only our enemy could come up with that one. If you have any doubts about the true nature of the sovereignty of God and the precise scriptural proof of it, Go here.

  9. Fig leaf christianity….thats good! I like that too.
    Mike, once again you exegeted the text ‘rightfully’ and we thank you. And you are SO right, its all about Gods sovereignty. I wonder if they get responsibility on our part after we are saved, with Gods sovereignty?

  10. I’m gonna say it. It’s not a Calvinist view point…although, yes it was the way he saw it BUT all Calvin did was a point by point rebuttal using scripture. It’s a Biblical viewpoint. Nothing less.

  11. Another cringe-worthy reply by me – about rewards. We had been indoctrinated that “the degree to which you get to know the Lord on the earth, is the degree to which you will see him in heaven!” Meaning, if you just “scrape” into heaven, you will be way out in the outer courts – nowhere near the glory of the Lord – way out in the dim dark outer courts. Only those special few will be “close” to the Lord in heaven. This pastor was very much into Rick Joyner books.
    We have MANY pentecostal friends that believe this.

    I would appreciate you exegeting about rewards in heaven Mike – if and when when you get the time.

  12. I am actually doing a word study on that right now. I’m not ready to do the post yet, but the Greek word that is most often translated as “rewards” in the New Testament was some form of the word ἀποδώσει, which simply means “to render, to recompense, et cetera.” The pattern I am seeing is nothing like that you were given, but then again there is most definitely a “system” in place for scale or whatever you want to call it based on our faith and obedience. I just read the parable of the lost sheep and I have a hard time fitting that scenario into what you were given as well. God loves His sheep. All in Him know Him.

    I can’t do one thing about those lost years before 2004 when I knew no better, but now that He has my attention, I give Him my all. I am His to do with as He pleases. I think that is what He desires. He wants us to pray to our loving Father every day, to love Him, to seek Him, to want Him in control, to gladly turn from sin, deny ourselves and follow our Lord when it would be so much easier to do otherwise. That is what we are called to do. Forget that legalistic stuff; just pray and worship and spend as much time as you can loving Him and serving Him as you can. Your comments here help me quite a bit and I appreciate that. So, please continue my sister.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  13. Amen to that Mike! I’m not studying Greek, but I will ponder this topic more in my study times.

  14. I still believe this will all be resolved when we get to Heaven, because up there we’ll have perfect knowledge, whereas down here, we still see through a twisted mirror(glass darkly in King James).

  15. Hello There
    I just found your blog, very interesting.
    I will be visiting here often. kittykit, you
    must tell me where all the good blogs
    are! lol

  16. Kitty Kit, I was going to say the same thing….it is not a Calvinistic view……it is a BIBLICAL one. (never a good idea to hitch you wagon to a man, they are fallible and will always err)

  17. Not true Trent. God does not want us to be in darkness and that is why He gave us His truth. That is also why KJVonlyism is something to stay away from.

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