An intriguing parable taught by the Lord distinguished between those called by God and those chosen by God. Since the information about the difference between these two initiatives by God toward humans was presented in parable form, it is necessary to interpret the parable’s elements to gain an accurate understanding of the parable’s intended meaning. This essay will present the parable’s interpretation and then summarize some theological realities about one’s call and one’s choice.
Outline of the Parable
The parable was recorded by Matthew in his gospel (Matt: 22:1-14). The context of the parable was God’s removal of Jewish management of His kingdom (Matt. 21:43-45). No doubt, some of Jesus’ disciples heard this parable. The obvious conclusion from the context is that God does what God wants to when He wants to.
The parable was divided into two sections: section one covered the time frame from Jesus’ resurrection to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 22:1-7). The second section spanned the time frame from the tribulation’s beginning to Jesus’ second coming (Matt. 22:8-14).
Elements of the Parable, Section One
- The king is God the Father.
- The son is Jesus, following His resurrection (33 AD). Psalm Two indicates the day when Jesus became the Father’s Son in a unique way (Ps. 2:7). The apostle Paul identified clearly that day when Jesus’ role as Son took on this unique significance—i.e., at His resurrection (Rom. 1:4).
- The wedding feast celebrates Jesus’ marriage to His Bride—the Church (Rev. 19:7-9). The slaves sent out to call those invited are Church saints chosen by the Father to fulfill this special task.
- Those invited to the wedding feast were born-again Church saints. The saints were offered the opportunity to demonstrate they had been chosen by the Father for a unique role among the Son’s Bride. The Father’s choice would be apparent by their responding positively to the Father’s invitation. However, those invited were immersed in their own family and business affairs. Therefore, they ignored the Father’s invitation, thereby showing themselves as not chosen by the Father (Matt. 22:8).
- The “rest” were uninvited Jews who had not been born again.
- The uninvited Jews mistreated the Church saints, even killing some of them (e.g., Stephen in Acts 6:8-7:60).
- God the Father, enraged at the Jews’ treatment of the Church saints, sent the Roman armies to destroy those murders, as well as to burn their city—Jerusalem (70 AD).
Elements of the Parable, Section Two
- “His slaves” will likely be the Father’s resurrected Jewish and gentile saints from the tribulation (Rev. 7:9).
- The highways and streets will probably in the nation Israel following the tribulation and would therefore be populated exclusively with born-again Jews.
- All the born-again Jews will be either good or evil.
- The dining hall will be jammed with dinner guests.
- Upon examination, the Father discovers a single guest without proper attire for the wedding feast. The proper attire will likely be a white robe. White is the color of God’s righteousness given the saints (Rev. 19:8). The one guest without proper attire will likely be clothed in a robe tainted by self-righteousness. Because of his own righteousness, the one guest probably had been deceived by sin into thinking his own deeds of the Law were acceptable to the Father thereby making him a slave to evil (cf. Rom. 7:8-23). This probable mind set left him dumfounded by the Father’s challenge of his attire.
- The King’s servants—distinguish lexically from those charged with bringing in the guests—are instructed to effectively limit the evil one’s mobility and to remove him bodily to a place outside the wedding hall where it will be dark. Outside the wedding hall there will be significant emotional trauma and distress. This place outside the hall is not Hades.
- Jesus concluded His parable by observing that “For many are called, but few [are] chosen” (Matt. 22:14). The “many called” are all those who received invitations to the wedding feast. The “few chosen” are those labeled as the Father’s slaves and servants—a true minority among those receiving invitations plus the guests actually attending the wedding feast.
Following are some lexical and theological observations from Jesus’ parable.
From the New Testament Greek lexicon, God’s calling and God’s choice are not biblical synonyms. Two different words are used with two quite different and specific meanings.
Theologically, the following observations/conclusions may be listed:
- Remember, Jesus said, “Many are called, but few [are] chosen” (Matt. 22:14; cf. 2 Pet. 1:10).
- Based on Jesus’ words quoted by Matthew—which are actually God’s words (John 12:49; cf. Deut. 18:18)—“many are called.”
- Therefore, not all are called.
- All who are called, believe (John 5:24; cf. Rom. 8:28-30; 9:8).
- Therefore, all who believe are called.
- A few of the called are chosen, according to Jesus’ teaching recorded by Matthew (cf. Rom. 9:10-11).
- Therefore, not all who are called are chosen.
- From Jesus’ interpretation of His first recorded parable, all the chosen bear fruit (soil four, Matt. 13:23).Also from Jesus’ interpretation, those who bear some fruit are not all chosen (soil three, Matt. 13:22).
- Finally, some of those called bear no fruit (soil one, Matt. 13:21).
- Therefore, forcing an equivalency on the biblical text between God’s call and God’s choice leads to confusion and aberrant theological scenarios.
The apostle Paul made it clear that both God’s calling and God’s choice are quite independent of what a person is, or what a person does (Rom. 9:10-18). The theological reality of God’s sovereignty in these matters is: saints cannot change God’s call of the unsaved through prayer. His timing of His call may be subject to prayer, but not the object of His call. Further, a believer may legitimately pray for the timing of God’s choice of another believer, but not God’s selection of whom He will choose.
God does not intend that all humans be saved from eternal judgment—only those He calls. Finally, God does not intend all believers to be chosen, for instance, as Paul was. There are, however, certain characteristics a chosen believer exhibits that may be properly emulated by the “chosen” population.