•••by Russell Young
An understanding of the difference between the “called” and the “chosen” will bring Biblical teachings into much clearer understanding. “Calling” can have different applications. It may refer to a person’s having been called to Christ, it may mean that he or she has been called to endure a specific tribulation (as in the case of Job), or it may refer to a person having been called to a specific ministry according to his or her gifting.
In the parable of the wedding banquet Christ said, “For many are invited [called, KJV] but few are chosen.” (Mt 22:14, NIV) Clearly, more are called to enjoy the wedding banquet of the Lamb than will be chosen to attend. The difference will be the matter of righteousness. In the parable mentioned above, the guest without “wedding clothes” was cast out. (Mt 22:12)
The chosen ones are chosen from those who have been called into fellowship with the Lord. From those who have been invited few will be honoured or chosen for positions of privilege. Those chosen to attend the wedding banquet will be selected because of their commitment to righteousness.
Who are the “called”? All have been called to come to the Lord for cleansing, but not all have received the invitation. As in the parable, God has commissioned His servants to go to the street corners and invite anyone that they can find.
The called who have accepted God’s invitation through confession and repentance are cleansed of all past sins and are given the Holy Spirit that they might walk righteously. Many teach that once a person is redeemed, his state of holiness or moral purity remains one of consecration forever. The Bible does not endorse such a view, however.
Peter wrote of the redeemed who have become entangled again being worse off than if they had not known the way of righteousness in the first place. (2 Pet 2:20-21) They are neither morally blameless nor are they consecrated to God, but have chosen to go their own way. The writer of Hebrews has revealed the “impossibility” of bringing back to repentance those who have fallen away. (Heb 6:4-6, NIV) They have been redeemed but have treated with disdain their gifting.
When a person is redeemed, he or she is cleansed from their “past sins;” however, that one’s state of holiness might not last. There is a walk to be walked and a life to be lived. John has recorded, “If we claim to have fellowship with him [Christ] yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 Jn 1:6-7, NIV) The fellowship that a person is privileged to enjoy with the Lord is dependent upon the nature of his or her walk. Paul admonished believers not to mock God through living in the sinful nature. (Gal 6:7) The Lord proclaimed that some would be cast from him because they were evil-doers even though they had called him “Lord.” ((Mt 7:21-23)
Paul has reminded his brothers, those who have been called, that they have an obligation to be led by the Spirit and to “put to death the misdeeds of the body.” (Rom 8:14, NIV, 4; Gal 5:18)
There are many other passages that imply that not all of the called will be of the chosen. Those who teach otherwise are offering false comfort, rather than truth, to their listeners.
To re-state the Lord’s words, “For many are invited [called, KJV] but few are chosen.” Since there are more called than chosen, there are two ways of taking this passage. That is, the chosen must either be of a group separate from the called or the chosen must be from the group of the called or invited but not all of it.
If two different groups are being referenced, it might be considered that some were “called” to be of the family of God while others were chosen. That is, God might have directly chosen them according to his “foreknowledge” to be part of the family. In such case, they would have become part without even having had to respond to His invitation while the other group would have been invited (called) but would not have had any hope of being chosen.
The other option is that God had called (invited) individuals to be part of his family but they must respond or accept the invitation. (They would have had the option either to accept or reject it.) From these and according to his foreknowledge, or knowledge before having chosen them, and according to his understanding he makes his choice. According to the love responses of the called, God becomes informed of the confessor’s heart state and of his claim of repentance as revealed through his testimony. God “knows” or becomes “knowledgeable” of that person’s spiritual disposition. His Spirit is either being honoured or it is being quenched, denied, and/or blasphemed. “Forsaking” the Spirit is considered blasphemy (Ezek 20:27) and leads to death. Regardless, fewer are chosen than are called.
Some accept that by their good fortune and through God’s grace and mercy, he chose them before the beginning of time to be a member of his eternal family; however, this special application of God’s grace is not the teaching of God’s Word. All have been invited (Rev 22:17; Titus 2:11; Mt 28:19) According to Paul’s teaching, “God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thess 2:13)
Although many understand Paul’s teaching of glorification to apply to all of those “called,” the passage really only offers hope of glorification, to those “called according to God’s purpose.”
In the parable of the wedding feast, the King had noticed a man who appeared at the banquet without proper wedding clothes. This man was being disrespectful of the King’s standard of dress and of the King, and failed to acknowledge or to honour him through acceptable presentation. He had taken no care and had shown no concern regarding the event or the person being celebrated. He did not show up with an attitude of love or respect for his King but had treated the event and his Sovereign as common and ordinary. He was thrown outside into the darkness. The dress required for access to the wedding banquet is a white robe, the dress of righteousness. Only those so dressed will be chosen to participate in the wedding banquet. “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14)