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Many Called but Few Chosen - Matthew 22:1-14


Many Called, Few Chosen            (click here for audio)

Matthew 22:1-14

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 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.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 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.”




Jesus often spoke in parables.   The purpose of parables served to illustrate one main point, or one biblical truth in the form of a short story.  You might say parables are “earthly stories” with a “heavenly meaning”.    When you read the gospels you find quite a few of them told by Jesus.   The disciple of Christ asked him   “why do you speak to the people in parables?”

Look in Matthew 13:10-17   For the people who had a hunger for God’s truth, the parables were stories easy to understand  and the truth illustrated would also be easy to remember.  For the people who had no desire for God’s truth, the parable served no purpose.

   This one in Matthew 22 is commonly called “The Parable of the Wedding Feast”.

Jesus tells this parable to illustrate what it is like at the end of the age.   In the parable the king gives a wedding feast for his son………….


Many are called, but few are chosen

What does it mean?

We see from the parable how  many are called, or they are invited to the wedding feast.  The king is God.  The Son is Christ.   The servants is God’s messenger, prophets, and His church.   The Servants went out to call those who were invited to the wedding feast.  They didn’t set a particular date. Because the groom would prepare the home for his bride.  This could take some time.  When the home was fully prepared, the groom would leave to get his bride without notice.  The marriage ceremony would then take place and the banquet would follow.  That’s why a call went out to all those previously invited.  No date on the calendar is given.    That’s why Jesus gave us no date for His return.  We don’t look at calendars,  we look up because our redemption draweth nigh. He comes without a notice.

They would not come.   Other servants were sent out with a message,  “See, I have prepared my dinner……..everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”

They paid no attention.  One went to farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.   Here is a clear reference to the treatment given to God’s prophets down through Bible history.  It also includes the killing of John the Baptist;  the stoning of Stephen; and the murder of James, the brother of John in Acts 12.   It’s the same thing when John said of Jesus “he came unto his own, and his own received him not.”  (John 1:11)  The king was angry and sent troops, destroying those murderers and burned their city.  This refers to the coming judgment and I believe includes the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD.

The man with no wedding garment.  A wedding garment that was provided by the king to all the guest showed honor and respect to the king and his son.  The man who was wearing his old clothes was disrespectful,  dishonoring to the king and he was taken from the wedding feast.

This is a lesson from the Lord Jesus that to be covered adequately requires God’s provision.  God has given the special garment to cover our sins.  We are given the righteousness of Christ.    Adam and Eve were not covered adequately with their self-righteous fig leaves.  God killed an animal, shedding its blood, and providing a covering from that sacrificial animal.  This represents the covering we received from Christ who shed his blood to give it to us.  In Heaven we see the redeemed wearing “white robes” and the reason for the whiteness of the robes is due to their being washed in the blood of the Lamb.  Our trust is in God’s righteousness, not our own..[1]

Philippians 3:9

and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—


The man was expelled to outer darkness.  This is a description of the eternal home of all who reject Christ.  For eternity they will live without God and it will be eternal suffering because it says there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Excruciating pain forever. 

The phrase  many are called, but few are chosen” is given at the end.  What does it mean?

The Call goes out to the many, but only the few respond positively to that call.

The reason why everyone does not respond positively to the invitation is not given in the parable.  It’s only stated that “many are called and few are chosen”.   We’ll consider other passages to help us with the reason why people do not respond appropriately to the invitation to come to the feast, or come to Christ for salvation.

Theologians sometimes make reference to the General Call as contrasted with the Effectual Call of God.


There is the GENERAL CALL – this goes out to everyone.   This would be the “many”    Many are called.     The EFFECTUAL CALL – goes out to those who have ears to hear—this is to the “few”

Let’s look first at the GENERAL CALL….

The General call goes out to everyone first by

1.  The Call of Creation-    how can anyone look upon the creation and not have thoughts of a Creator?  The bible says -  “The heavens declare the glory of God” 

Psalm 19:1-4: The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

Romans 1:19-23

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.  24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.


2.  The Call of Conscience

God has given every person a conscience.  It is in the nature of a person to have a code of ethics, God’s law written upon their conscience.  There is a sense of right and wrong.  It is greatly flawed because of sin, but there is the remains of God’s law upon the heart of men.

Romans 2:14-16

14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

What is revealed by creation,  and  by conscience is NOT sufficient to save a person,   it serves to lead them to hear the GOSPEL.

Phillips Brooks –famous  Episcopal clergy—known to write “O Little town of Bethlehem”..wrote letters often corresponding with Helen Keller…somebody had to read the letters, because Hellen Keller could not see, hear or speak, or speak where you could understand….fascinating story as to how she learned a way to communicate….

In one of her letters, Helen told Bishop Brooks that she had always known about God, even before she had any words. Even before she could call God anything, she knew God was there. She didn't know what it was. God had no name for her -- nothing had a name for her. She had no concept of a name. But in her darkness and isolation, she knew she was not alone. Someone was with her. She felt God's love. And when she received the gift of language and heard about God, she said she already knew.

3.  The Call of the Gospel  - John 3:16   For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17)

The General call is for all people because the gospel is for everyone.  But here’s the problem, due to man’s sinful nature and total depravity, a person (left to themselves) willl not turn to God without God first moving their will and giving them a heart to believe in Christ.  Humanity, left alone, is unwilling and unable to come to God for salvation.  Notice  in Matthew 22:3  they would not come.

·         They paid no attention.

·         They had no interest – they went to their farm, to their business

·         And some were hostile and treated the servants with cruelty and shamefully, and killed them.

Unredeemed Flesh  -  has no interest in the things of God.

Romans 8:7-8

 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

John 6:44   No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And

1Cor 2:14

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned


Jesus said -  “Many are called, but few are chosen”      We don’t know who those few chosen ones might be, so we give out the “call to repentance” to everyone.    The General call goes out indiscriminately.  We don’t know who the Lord’s sheep might be.  We don’t know who the “chosen” or the “elect” might be.    We declare the gospel to all men….because all men are sinners,  and Christ came to save sinnners.   He is the Savior of the world.  Not everyone in the world will receive him, but for those who do receive Christ,  He is their Savior.

H O W    D O E S   G O D  C H O O S E   P E O P L E   if they are unable,  unwilling to come to Christ?

Theologians often use another term called   the Effectual call.   This is seen in the scriptures with the word  “the called”.   Everytime you see the word  “the called” in the epistles,  it is referring to all who respond positively to the message of Christ.  To them was given the effectual call.   What does that mean?     The effectual call is understood as God’s sovereign drawing of a sinner to salvation. The effectual call to a sinner so overwhelms his natural inclination to rebel that he willingly places faith in Jesus Christ.[2]  God does not violate the sinner’s will, He changes his will.   He makes the sinner willing and He freely comes to Christ and is saved.

Where do we have this effectual calling given in Scriptures?

Phlippians 2:13   13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.



Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose

Ephesians 4:1-4

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—

1Cor. 1:9,  24-31

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”


Let me give you a few more…


2Thess 2:14

To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2Tim 1:9

who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

1Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

2Peter 1:3, 10

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election

Romans 1:5-6

through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,


Why is the Effectual Call,  or  the irresistible grace of God acting upon the sinner necessary?

Can’t the sinner come to Christ on his own?

John 6:44   No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And

1Cor 2:14

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned

Romans 3:10-12  tells us the unregenerate person is incapable and unwilling to come..

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.


God must provide the miracle of the NEW Birth….before a person can respond in faith and repentance….John 3  except a man be born from above…..BORN OF FLESH IS FLESH;  BORN OF SPIRIT IS SPIRIT….. 

No one is saved by the power of one’s heritage, OR ANCESTRY;      power of one’s will;   or by the power and persuasion of another person…..IT IS THE POWER OF GOD….  IT IS A WORK OF GOD.

John 1:12-13

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.


What about  Free will?    Doesn’t man have the freedom to choose?     Adam had free will. He freely choose to disobey God…..AND THE RESULTS…plunges all humanity in sin.

Spiritual death…came….

1Cor 15:22  22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 

As for Free will…  we have free will…. To decide many things….  Turkey sandwich, or peanut butter….    Free time….take a walk, read a book….or someone might make you wash the dishes…

There are many other areas…we don’t have free will….   

·         Run a mile in 100 yard dash in 8 seconds

·         Raise my IQ …..become the smartest person in the world 

·         Make a billion dollars

My free will will not allow me to do certain things physically and mentally….   Since the fall of man, free will has affected us spiritually…  God said to Adam…in the day you eat… die.  He died spiritually.

James Montgomery Boice -  gives this illustration…

It is as if a person were standing on the edge of a muddy pit with slippery sides. As long as he is on the edge he has free will; he can either stay on the bank or jump in. But if he decides to jump in, then his free will is lost as far as getting out of the pit is concerned. He has free will to walk around on the bottom or to sit down. He has free will to try to scramble up the side or to accept his plight philosophically. He has free will to cry for help or to be silent, to be angry or complacent. But he does not have free will to be again on the edge of the embankment. 

This is what happened in Adam and Eve. They were created on the edge of the pit. God said, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die' (Gen. 2:16-17). This was a test case, and Adam and Eve had free will to obey or to disobey the commandment. When they disobeyed it they fell away from God. They lost the free will to choose God, and they proved it by running away from God when God came to see them in the garden. 

Since Adam and Eve, all people are born with the same inability to choose him. Some are complacent; some are angry. Some are silent and philosophical. Some are resigned; some are anxious. But all are unable to come to God. No one does come to God until God reaches down by grace into the mud pit of human sin and impotence and lifts him up and places him again on the bank and says, 'This is the way; walk in it.' [3]


Ephesians 2:1    dead in trespasses and sins

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience

among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved


Acts 16:13-14  Lydia – Lord opened her heart

13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.


God’s sovereign choice in  “opening the hearts” for sinners to believe   does NOT do away with

Human responsibility.

Man is responsible before God.   God commands all men everywhere to repent.

The heavy subject of  Divine Sovereignty  and Human Responsibility will never be resolved in our finite minds.  Both truths are taught in the Word of God. 

I only know  that according to the Word of God   ‘many are called, but few are chosen”

I also know  that the scripture says    And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17)

John 6:37

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.


If you desire to come…you are invited to come to Christ…. I pray you will trust Christ today.


In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand


In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live


There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ


No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand


[1] Got

[2] Got

[3] (Boice, Philippians, 144-145). 


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