MANY ARE CALLED, BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Evening, September 26, 2004
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).


There is a certain amount of mystery connected with evangelism. We go out and invite many people to come to Christ, but only a few of them become real Christians. Sometimes we may wonder if we are evangelizing the right way. We may think that if we evangelized differently more would listen. But the parable of the marriage feast, that Christ gave in Matthew 22:1-14, clears up this misunderstanding, although it does not fully explain the mystery of our text,

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).

Some say that this refers to a "general call," but not to "effectual calling." Others say that the call spoken of here is the call to salvation, but most people reject it. I have read both sides of the question, but the fact that this matter remains debatable seems to me to show that there is a certain amount of mystery connected with it. By "mystery" I simply meant that I think the subject is beyond our human capacity to fully understand. Since it deals with "the mystery of his will" (Ephesians 1:9), it cannot be completely explained theologically. While it would be interesting to deal with the passage theologically, I don't think it would help you very much. Therefore, I will not approach the passage from a theological basis.

Neither will I deal with the parable from an historical perspective. I could go into detail regarding the rejection of Jesus by the majority of the nation Israel, and explain the history connected with the passage. While that would be interesting, I don't think it would help you very much.

Therefore, I am not going to give the theology, or the history, connected with this parable. Instead, I will deal with it on a practical level. I am going to show you how it applies to the evangelism we do every week.

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).

Those who have done evangelism for any length of time know perfectly well, from a practical standpoint, what Christ meant. No matter what form of evangelism we use, only a few people will be converted and added to the local church.

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).

I like Adam Clarke's comment on the text:

Many are called by the preaching of the Gospel into the outward community of the Church of Christ; but few, comparatively, are chosen to dwell with God in glory, because they do not come to the master of the feast for a marriage garment…This is an allusion to the Roman custom of raising their militia [army]; all were mustered, but only those were chosen to serve, who were found proper (Adam Clarke, LL.D., Clarke's Commentary, Abingdon, n.d., volume 3, p. 211).

I think Clarke was probably right, that Christ was thinking of the way the Romans raised their armies. They called every man to come, but they only chose those who qualified.

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).

All are called to come to Christ for salvation, but most people disqualify themselves. What makes them unqualified to be saved? Christ gave the answers in this parable. He tells us about four kinds of people excluded from salvation.

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).

I. First, those who will not come are excluded from salvation.

Please look at Matthew 22:2-3.

"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king [God the Father], which made a marriage for his son [Jesus], And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come" (Matthew 22:2-3).

God sends us out to call everyone to come to Christ, but many people simply won't come; in fact, the vast majority will not come. No matter what we do or say, these people will not come to Christ and be converted. That is a description of most people we encounter in evangelism, as we go out to the streets and colleges in Los Angeles. We can say, with Christ, "they would not come" (Matthew 22:3). We wish they would come, but they won't. Jesus told us that would be the case when He said,

"Broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it"
    (Matthew 7:13-14).

Most people will continue to go down the broad road that leads to Hell. Only a few people will enter the narrow road that leads to life in Christ.

It is true, in times of revival, "when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19), that more people will come to Christ and be saved than we see now - but even in a true season of God-sent revival there is always much that is counterfeit and false. That's why it shouldn't surprise us that there is a growth of cults and heresies in China, where a great revival is now taking place. That has always occurred during times of revival. The great evangelist Asahel Nettleton said, "When God builds a church, the Devil is sure to build one next door." So, even during a time of great revival, many, perhaps most, will not come to Christ,

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).

II. Second, those who pay no attention are excluded from salvation.

Please stand and read Matthew 22:4-5 aloud.

"Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden [invited], Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it [paid no attention to it], and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise" (Matthew 22:4-5).

These people are not quite so blunt as the first group, who simply "would not come" (Matthew 22:3). They will often come to church to hear the gospel a few times. But they do not get converted. Jesus said, concerning them,

"When they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection" (Luke 8:14).

They seem to listen to the gospel of Christ. They seem to be happy in the local church. But sooner or later the cares and worries of the world, and its desire of money and pleasure, choke them and they fall away from the local church. When the "cares" and pleasures of the world come to bear on them, they are "choked" and begin to fall away. This attitude disqualifies them from becoming true Christians. It causes them to pay no attention to the gospel, and begin to turn back to the cares and worries of the world. Thus, they too are disqualified from becoming true Christians,

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).

III. Third, those who rebel are excluded from salvation.

Turn to verse six. Let us stand and read it aloud.

"And the remnant [the rest] took his servants, and entreated them spitefully [and mistreated them], and slew them"
    (Matthew 22:6).

You may be seated.

Albert Barnes, in his classical commentary, gives this explanation:

And the remnant, That is, a part made light of it; treated it with silent contempt, and coolly went about their business. The others were not satisfied with that, but showed positive malignity. Some sinners seem to be well satisfied by merely neglecting religion; [but] others proceed against it with open violence and bitter malice. And entreated them spitefully. Used harsh…words. Reviled and abused them. This was done because they hated and despised the king [God]. So sinners often abuse and [revile] ministers of religion because they themselves hate God, and can in no way else show their hatred so well (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, Baker Book House, 1983 reprint, note on Matthew 22:6).

You should not be surprised when some people get very angry with you during evangelism. Jesus said,

"I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you...If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:19-20).

That's part of the price we pay for taking the gospel to the lost in evangelism. There will always be some people who are angry with us for sharing the gospel. They are really in rebellion against Christ. Thus, they too are disqualified from becoming true Christians.

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).

IV. Fourth, those who come into the local church but
remain unconverted are excluded from salvation.

Look at verse ten.

"So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests" (Matthew 22:10).

Dr. Gill said that the wedding is a picture of "the house and church of God, into which large numbers of the Gentiles were brought" (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume I, p. 254). Dr. Gill also pointed out what "both bad and good" means. He said that "good" means those who become real converts when they have been brought into the church. He said that "bad" means "empty professors," those who are brought into the church, and seem to be religious, but remain unconverted (ibid.). I think The Applied New Testament Commentary is correct when it says,

The one guest without proper wedding clothes represents all those who have not truly believed in Christ and put on his righteousness. They are the bad guests mentioned in verse 10 …Even though they have come to the king's house with all the other guests…they will be thrown out (The Applied New Testament Commentary, Kingsway Publications, 1997, p. 212).

Remember that the "king" in this parable is God. With that in mind, look at verse eleven.

"And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment" (Matthew 22:11).

The wedding garment represents the righteousness of Christ, which is put on at conversion, when a person trusts Christ. This man without a wedding garment is one of the "bad eggs" spoken of in verse ten, who come into the local church and pretend to be converted, but their conversion is false.

What will happen to the false professor? Look at verse thirteen.

"Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 22:13).

This shows that it will do you no good whatever to come into the fellowship of the church without being converted to Christ. You must actually come to Christ and be born again. Jesus said,

"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

Without salvation in Christ, church attenders will be "cast…into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 22:13).

There will always be some people who come into the fellowship of the local church but remain unconverted. Thus, they too are disqualified.

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).

I think Adam Clarke was probably right, that Christ was thinking about the way the Romans raised their armies, when He said,

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).

The Romans called every man to come out for inspection, but they only chose those who qualified.

You are disqualified if you will not come. You are disqualified if you pay no attention. You are disqualified if you rebel. You are disqualified if you come to church, but remain unconverted.

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).

We should learn two lessons from this parable. First, it is a warning to those of you who are here tonight, but are not yet converted. Remember that most people will never get saved. Most people will go to Hell. That's what Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13-14, and in many other places in the Bible. Christ taught that only a few people will be saved. Make sure you are one of them! Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins. He rose physically from the dead, and ascended back to Heaven, where He is now seated at the right hand of God. Come wholeheartedly to Christ. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31).

The second lesson we should learn from this parable is not to be discouraged when we go out to evangelism. When we go soul-winning we have already succeeded, whether anyone pays attention to us or not.

"And [the king] sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding…" (Matthew 22:3).

When we obey God, our king, we have already succeeded! We have succeeded in obeying God! That is the greatest success of all!

If someone listens, and becomes a Christian, we will rejoice. But if no one listens, we will still rejoice! Our rewards from God do not depend on their obedience; they depend on our obedience,

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).

Go, labor on; 'tis not for naught
    Thy earthly loss is heavenly gain:
Men heed thee, love thee, praise thee not,
    The Master praises: What are men?

Go, labor on; spend and be spent,
    Thy joy to do the Father's will:
It is the way the Master went;
    Should not the servant tread it still?
("Go, Labor On; Spend and Be Spent" by Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889).

While Mr. Griffith sings that song again, I'm going to ask you to rededicate your life anew to evangelism and soul-winning. Jesus said,

"Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:23).

Will you dedicate or rededicate your life to obey Him? If you will, please come forward and kneel here in front of the pulpit as Mr. Griffith sings again, "Go, Labor On; Spend and Be Spent."


(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Matthew 22:1-14.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Go, Labor On; Spend and Be Spent" (by Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889).

THE OUTLINE OF

MANY ARE CALLED, BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).

(Ephesians 1:9)

I.   Those who will not come are excluded from salvation,
Matthew 22:2-3; 7:13-14; Acts 3:19.

II.  Those who pay no attention are excluded from salvation,
Matthew 22:4, 5, 3; Luke 8:14.

III. Those who rebel are excluded from salvation, Matthew 22:6;
John 15:19-20.

IV. Those who come into the local church but remain unconverted
are excluded from salvation, Matthew 22:10, 11, 13;
John 3:3; Acts 16:31; Matthew 22:3; Luke 14:23.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."