A Question I Was Asked:

How Can 'Many' Be Called But 'Few' Chosen?

The Question:

How can "many" be called but "few" chosen (Matthew 22:14), in light of our understanding of the elect, those subjects of God's irresistible grace, who alone are called. Is this a contradiction?

UK Apologetics Reply:

There is no contradiction anywhere here. In the New Testament, the sense of 'calling' occasionally varies; it is not always discussing exactly the same thing. Always check the context! In this case, it is necessary to check the first part of this chapter, especially verses 1-10 of Matthew 22. This is all about the current putting aside of the physical Jewish/Israelitish people in favour of the Gentiles. Notice verses 8-10:

"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. (Matthew 22:8-10).

No serious Bible commentator doubts that this refers to the (apparently temporary) putting aside of national, physical Israelites (because of their rejection of Jesus) in favour of the Gentiles, something we see at the present time. For his part, Paul seems convinced that a great conversion of the Jews will yet come (Romans 11:25-32) but there are few indications it has started yet. So the comment 'many are called but few are chosen,' here seems to primarily refer to the current putting aside of physical Israel, but it should, perhaps, be seen as a philosophical comment rather than a numerical one; so it speaks of the Jews, few of whom are 'chosen' at the present time, though they were freely invited to the wedding banquet. Gentiles ('anyone you can find') are invited to come in instead. The irony, of course, is that Gentiles themselves become grafted in to Israel and do indeed form spiritual Israel in our present day (Romans 11:11-24). Yet (as we have noted) a mass calling of physical, fleshly Israel will yet come according to Paul.

However, the 'many are called but few are chosen' scenario can also be applied (and sometimes is) to the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-22). That is where seed falls on all sorts of ground, including the stony and unproductive, but with some falling on really fertile soil, typifying the grace-endowed believer who goes on to bear fruit. Some hear the Word, but it is unproductive within them at the present time so, for the moment, few respond. My belief is that this is not an eternal truth (since we know that Christ will eventually and finally enjoy an overwhelming victory) but refers to this age of the Church in which few are responding at the present time.

These other ways of looking at the topic of 'calling,' in no way affect nor undermine God's calling of His elect, those He intended calling from eternity, furnishing them with His saving grace; let us look at this group:

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.....He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them." (John 6:44, 65).

These are those who cannot be snatched out of God's hand - they are the elect of God:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. (John 10:27-29).

Therefore, we may perceive that 'calling' can be understood in more ways than one. There is a (perhaps somewhat loose) sense in which everyone who reads the words of Jesus receives a 'call,' and there is some responsibility there (the parable of the sower), but that is not the same as the irresistible call of those whom God covers with His grace, intending them to become part of the Christian community at the present time. Again, the 'calling' referred to in the parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22), which was rejected, refers to the Jews who, through the Old Covenant, did indeed receive a call, a 'call' which - with few exceptions - they turned their backs on, so 'few' of them are 'chosen' for the present.

I hope that this answers the question.

Robin A. Brace. May 26th, 2013.