Archives for 10.13.06

on the called

In my recent studies I noticed a little word in Mt 22.14.

NAU Matthew 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The word is ‘called‘. Why the distinction of the ‘many’ who are ‘called’ and the ‘few’ who are ‘chosen’?

Tom Constable says “Not all whom God has invited to the kingdom will participate in it. Only those who respond to God’s call and prepare themselves by trusting in Jesus will.” [See Note 1 below.]

The adjective ‘called’ is used ten times in the New Testament. Most of the time it delineates the saints of God or someone called to a special task. Paul is called to be an apostle in Rm 1.1 and 1 Cor 1.1. Paul calls the Romans ‘the called of Jesus Christ’ in Rm 1.6. In Rm 1.7 they are ‘called as saints’. In Rm 8.28, the well known ‘all things’ work together for good to all who ‘are called according to His purpose’. In 1 Cor 1.2, the Corinthians are ‘saints by calling’ and in 1 Cor 1.24 Paul distinguishes between the Jews and the Greeks and ‘those who are the called’. Jude writes to ‘To those who are called’ in Jude 1.

The only other use of called is Rev 17.14:

NAU Revelation 17:14 “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 chosen and faithful.”

In this verse likely the three terms are likely in apposition to one another. While one could imagine some who were called not being chosen, it is hard to imagine those being ‘with Him’ on this occasion as being a further subset of the chosen called ‘the faithful’.

Thus, in every case but the first instance the term either refers to one called to be an apostle or to saints who equal the called. Why then does the Lord say, “Many are called but few are chosen”?

The answer appears not to lie in an examination of usage but in the context. In the parable for which this statement is the conclusion the a king invited guests to the marriage supper of his son, but they would not come. Then he sent his servants after them and they went off on their own pursuits and misused them. Some of them they killed. The king was angry and sent his soldiers to destroy the murderers and burn their city. All of this is a picture of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Then the Lord sent his servants to invite bad and good from the highways to fill his banquet table. This they did until the banquet hall was filled. This parallels the preachign of the gospel to the entire world, filling the kingdom with citizens of every race and tongue.

One among these came to the supper without a wedding garment. The king rebuked him, and sent him out to outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the Lord says: ‘For many are called, but few are chosen.’

Clearly the many included Israel and they include the man without the wedding garment. What is the difference between the guests who remain and all these? They responded to the invitation and they clothed themselves appropriately.

While I suppose we cannot build a doctrine solely on one parable, it appears that the meaning of this passage is that the gospel invitation goes to many (and in scriptural context we would say this means ‘all’) but only those who respond appropriately are the ‘chosen’. Thus in this parable and passage we see the doctrine of the unlimited atonement and conditional election.

I have many friends who are not comfortable with my views here, but how else to explain the Lord’s words?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Note 1: Tom Constable. (2003; 2003). Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Mt 22:14). Galaxie Software.