March 26, 2011
“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
– Matthew 22:14 (KJV)
First, let us look up the words used in the verse. We have the word “many” which is pŏlus in the Greek. It means much, many, large, great, abundant, altogether, and plenteous. I think it could mean a great number of people, but, since altogether was used, it could also mean everyone.
Then we have the word “called” which is klētŏs in the Greek, meaning invited, appointed, or a saint. Specifically for this verse, it means called or invited. This would suggest a person or group of people, who God has called to be His people, considering the use of the word “saint.” It would also suggest that these people were (or this person is) designed specifically for their position or role, considering the use of the word “appointed.” I also think it interesting if you consider a similar word, “paraklētŏs,” which is the word used to denote the Comforter, or Holy Spirit, by Jesus, in John 15:26. That word’s literal meaning in the Greek is intercessor, counselor, advocate, and comforter. This is someone who is called to your side to aid you. In that sense, the “called” are so named because they are summoned to aid God in His purpose.
Next, we have the word “few.” The Greek word for that is ŏligŏs, which means puny (in value), somewhat, few, little, small, or slight. This is a comparison term and considering the context of the statement, it would make sense that this would apply to only a remnant of the “many”.
Finally, we have the word “chosen.” In the Greek, this word is ĕklĕktŏs and means select, chosen out, favorite. Specifically for this verse, it means chosen or elect. That would suggest specificity, meaning these are singled out for a particular reason or purpose.
Now, taking all these words in the phrase, we could say that this verse is saying that a great number of people, if not all of them, are called or invited, but only a small or slight remnant are chosen out or favored.
However, to adequately understand the verse, it must be read it in its original written context.
1 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said , 2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come . 4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying , Tell them which are bidden , Behold , I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed , and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 5 But they made light of it, and went their ways , one to his farm, another to his merchandise: 6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully , and slew them. 7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth : and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then saith he to his servants , The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 9 Go ye therefore into the highways , and as many as ye shall find , bid to the marriage. 10 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 . 11 And when the king came in to see the guests , he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless . 13 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. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
From this story, we see something. The king called those ordained to partake in the marriage of his son. This parallels the king with God, and his son with Jesus. The marriage ceremony is the marriage of the bride of Christ and Jesus. His invitation to the “bidden” was God’s plan to bring salvation to His chosen—Israel. Now, in the story, the “bidden” came up with all kinds of excuses not to go to the marriage ceremony, because they were more concerned with the cares of the world. The king even bid them a second time to join him in the celebration, paralleling God’s mercy and long-suffering for us, desiring them to partake in the marriage. However, they once again declined, and this time, they mistreated the messengers. The result for them was death.
But the king still desired communion, so he sought all else to attend, both good and bad. Of course, this parallels with God’s desire for relationship with mankind even when Israel rejected Him. Then, when it’s time for the ceremony, the king banished those who came unprepared for the ceremony.
This, I believe, parallels with understanding and pursuing your calling. For example, if God calls you to preach, but make no preparation in becoming a preacher, don’t study, and don’t write a sermon, but show up to preach; you made yourself unworthy of the invitation to partake in the marriage with God, because you’ve chosen to make yourself unfit for the ceremony.
At the end of the story, we have Jesus making that statement; “For many are called, but few are chosen.” I think in context of this story, the statement is saying that God calls us into relationship with Him—He summons us to the marriage (not simply a one-time wedding ceremony, but a continual marriage). How we respond and prepare for what He’s called us to (showing up in a wedding garment) determines if we are chosen, or elected, to partake in the invitation.
A lot of people want to equate this to salvation and/or getting into heaven. I believe that is the wrong focus. I believe heaven and salvation are pointless goals if you can’t even get the relationship aspect down. When you make this argument about salvation or admittance into heaven, you bring up the whole “once saved, always saved” vs. “ability to lose salvation” argument, as well as “free will” vs. “God’s Elect” argument. I care nothing for these arguments and I don’t see this verse as support for either side, but rather a call to join God in His plan for our lives.