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What does Christ mean when He refers to the many who are “called” and to the few who are “chosen” as recorded in Matthew 22:14?

Verse 14 summarizes the Parable of the Wedding Feast spoken by Jesus Christ in which He teaches about the Kingdom of God and about the accountability that people have when God offers them salvation—that is, eternal life (compare Matthew 24:1-14).

Contrary to what many teach and who say that parables were used by Christ to make His teaching more clear, just the opposite is true. The Bible addresses this:

“All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: ‘I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world’” (Matthew 13:34-35).

In a previous account, His disciples directly asked Jesus why He taught the people with parables. The answer is revealing:

“He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: “Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.” But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it’” (Matthew 13:11-17).

Jesus asked His disciples, “‘…Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’” (Matthew 16:13). They responded with various answers, and Jesus then asked His disciples, “‘…But who do you say that I am?’” (verse 15).

Peter’s response was this: “‘…You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (verse 16).

Jesus then makes this profoundly important statement—showing that understanding of this kind came through God’s revelation:

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’” (verse 17).

We should also note what Jesus further instructed these disciples concerning His own identity and the revelation that was given to them at that time (that would change once Jesus Christ had died and then was resurrected by God the Father):

“Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ” (verse 20).

As the record of the New Testament shows, Jesus had specifically chosen twelve disciples—along with others—to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God (compare Luke 6:12-16; 9:1-6). Through the teaching and the many miraculous things done by both Jesus and His disciples, many people both heard and saw; yet, it was only the few who continued with Jesus:

“From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (John 6:66-69).

Others had the opportunity to follow Christ, but they, like the many, rejected it. Such an example of a person “called” is found in Matthew 19:16-22:

“Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ Jesus said, ‘”You shall not murder,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “Honor your father and your mother,” and, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’ The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23), Jesus speaks of those who hear “the word of the kingdom” (verse 19). He then explains this parable to His disciples showing how some hear and don’t understand; some readily understand but fade away when trials arise; some understand but then choose what this world offers; some (the few) hear, understand and—like Christ—bear “fruit” (compare Galatians 5:22-23).

As the Parable of the Sower reveals, being “called” is a first step in gaining entrance into the Kingdom of God. We should understand that God alone does this. Being a Christian has its beginning point with God’s calling—something that Jesus Christ emphatically taught:

“‘No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day’” (John 6:44); “And He said, ‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father’” (John 6:65).

However, as we explain in our booklet, “Are You Predestined to Be Saved?,” in the box, “Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen,” on pages 52-54, the first three types of people in the Parable of the Sower were not really “called” to salvation:

“In the parable with the sower, in Matthew 13:18–23, four types of people are mentioned who all hear the Word of God. But only one person accepts the Word and produces fruit (verse 23), while the other three give up and fall away. Does this mean that all of them were truly called by God to salvation? And—that God was caught by surprise when the first three fell away, although He had predestined them to be called in this day and age? Hardly! God very well knew that only the fourth person would respond and continue in His calling, as God knows the hearts and minds of people. Only the fourth person was predestined to be called and chosen in this life.”

Paul teaches, “that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). Again, Paul reminds us, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9).

Being called into knowledge of the Truth of God is not the only thing that must occur—we must then bear the fruit of righteousness in order to be among those who are the “chosen!” In this process, as we continue in our calling to follow Jesus Christ, we have this assurance—as written by Paul:

“[B]eing confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

We find this additional confirmation:

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30).

As an example of this promise being fulfilled, let us consider the apostles of Jesus Christ—note what Jesus taught them:

“‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you’” (John 15:16); Also, “‘If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you’” (John 15:19).

Judas failed in his calling as an apostle and was replaced by Matthias to become among those specially chosen to rule over the twelve Tribes of Israel once Jesus Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God on this earth (compare Matthew 19:28; Revelation 21:14).

Paul fulfilled his calling, and he knew he was chosen to receive eternal life in God’s Kingdom:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

While the many heard Jesus preach and saw His works, most are the ones who fulfilled His parable found in Matthew 22—invited guests, but they refused to actually fully participate in God’s calling. For a thorough explanation of this parable, please read the entire above-mentioned box in our free booklet, “Are You Predestined to Be Saved?”

This parable has much broader application than just the many who rejected or the few who followed Jesus during His ministry. The Work of God and Jesus Christ, as Head of the Body, the Church (compare Ephesians 1:22-23), has continued—and so it does in our time and will into the future of this age!

The opportunity that God is now presenting is a calling to be among the firstfruits of salvation—called “a better resurrection” in Hebrews 11:35 (compare John 5:24).

When Jesus returns to the earth to powerfully remove the rule of Satan and his many demonic followers, He will establish the government of God—God’s glorious and everlasting Kingdom! When He does this, He will not be alone; there will be a precious few with Him:

“‘These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are CALLED, CHOSEN, and FAITHFUL’” (Revelation 17:14).

Lead Writer: Dave Harris