Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen

by Mike Ratliff

13 “These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast. 14 “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and elect and faithful.” (Revelation 17:13–14 Legacy Standard Bible)

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 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 LSB.

1   And Jesus answered and spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. 3 “And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been called to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. 4 “Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been called, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 “But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 7 “But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. 8 “Then he *said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were called were not worthy. 9 ‘Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, call to the wedding feast.’ 10 “And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 12 and he *said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. 13 “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw 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 Legacy Standard Bible)

The King is God the Father. 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 as 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  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!