Why does the Bible say that some are called and chosen in this day and age? (Part 3)


In the last two installments, we showed that those who are called today to salvation were elected or chosen to be called before the foundation of the world—before time began. We debunked the idea that some would be called first, and only later, after having proven themselves to be worthy, they would become chosen. Rather, those who are called to salvation today had been chosen long ago by God to be called in this age.

We also said in the first installment, that the “Bible does not teach that God calls many today to salvation, but that most reject their calling and that only a few will respond and become chosen and faithful. If that were true, then those who have rejected their spiritual calling to eternal salvation would have committed the unpardonable sin—and this is decisively not correct. Today, God only calls and chooses the few (compare 1 Corinthians 1:26–29), and when He brings them to true conversion, they, for the most part, will stay loyal to Him (although it is possible, that some, who are truly called to salvation, will commit the unpardonable sin).”

We discussed the parable in Matthew 22:1-14 and explained that the guests who had been invited to the wedding were never called or chosen to salvation at that time; they were unconverted people who were simply “called” to have a physical relationship with God—specifically, but not exclusively, referring to the modern descendants of the houses of Israel and Judah, who, like the Pharisees of old, should have known better.

What, then, is the meaning of Christ’s statement in Matthew 20:16, where He ended His parable by saying: “For many are called, but few are chosen”? This phrase is only used in Matthew 22:14 and in Matthew 20:16. The Greek words for “called” and “chosen” are “kletos” and “eklektos.”

Let us read the entire parable, in context, beginning with Matthew 19:27-30:

“(27) Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?’

(28) So Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

(29) And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.

(30) But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’”

Continuing with Matthew 20:1-16:

‘“(1) For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.

(2) Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

(3) And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

(4) and said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” So they went.

(5) Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise.

(6) And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?”

(7) They said to him, “Because no one hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.”

(8) So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, “Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.”

(9) And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius.

(10) But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius.

(11) And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner,

(12) saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.”

(13) But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?

(14) Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.

(15) Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?”

(16) So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.’”

In this parable, the landowner is describing God the Father who, through Christ, hires laborers to work in His vineyard. The laborers describe, for the most part, true Christians (compare Matthew 9:37-38). They all receive a reward at the end.

Many commentaries feel that the statement in Matthew 20:16, “For many are called, but few chosen,” was added by the translator. Some claim that it is genuine. Regardless, the statement cannot be used to show that many are called by God for salvation in this age, and that only few are chosen, while the “many” fall away from the Truth. In fact, none of them is described in this parable as falling away.

The context of Christ’s words, that the last will be first and the first last, and that many are called, but few are chosen, is one of timing (when someone is called in this life) and of different functions and offices in the Church and potentially in God’s Kingdom. While all converted Christians have been called by God to salvation, not everyone in the Church has the same office or function. Some are chosen to have different functions. Some are chosen to be apostles, evangelists, pastors, elders or deacons, while others have not been chosen for such functions. Also, insofar as the future is concerned, some who were only called and chosen a few years prior to their death, might have a higher position in the Kingdom of God than some who “grew up in the Church” and stayed in the Church throughout their lives.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers even suggests regarding “But many that are first shall be last and the last shall be first” (in Matthew 19:30):

“… unless their spirit should become other than it was in its self-seeking and its self-complacence, there might be an unexpected change of position, and the first might become the last.”

The Pulpit Commentary wrote: “The Lord may have had in view the case of… Paul, who was called late, and yet laboured more abundantly than all that were before him.”

Regarding Matthew 20:1-16, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible writes: “It has reference to rewards, and the meaning may be thus expressed: ‘Rewards shall be bestowed in my kingdom, or on my followers, in the same manner as they were by a certain householder – in such a way that the last shall be equal to the first, and the first last.’”

Jamieson Fausset and Brown agree, stating:

“This parable [in Matthew 20], recorded only by Matthew, is closely connected with the end of the nineteenth chapter, being spoken with reference to Peter’s question as to how it should fare with those who, like himself, had left all for Christ. It is designed to show that while they would be richly rewarded, a certain equity would still be observed towards later converts and workmen in His service.”

Addressing the further statement by Christ in Matthew 20:16 (if genuine), that many are called but few are chosen, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains Christ’s words as follows:

“Many are called into my kingdom; they come and labor as I command them; many of them are comparatively unknown and obscure; yet they are real Christians, and shall all receive the proper reward. A few I have chosen for higher stations in the church. I have endowed them with apostolic gifts or with superior talents, and suited them for wider usefulness. They may not be as long in the vineyard as others; their race may be sooner run; but I have chosen to honor them in this manner, and I have a right to do it. I injure no one, and have a right to do what I will with my own.”

None of this takes away from the Truth that God has foreknown and predestined those whom He truly calls to salvation in this age.

Some have tried to use the “parable of the sower” in Matthew 13 to say that many are called for salvation in this age, but only few are chosen to remain faithful, while the “many” fall away from the Truth.

Let us read the entire parable in context, beginning with Matthew 13:3:

“(3) Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: ‘Behold, a sower went out to sow.

(4) And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.

(5) Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth.

(6) But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.

(7) And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.

(8) But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

(9) He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’”

We then read that the disciples asked Christ about the meaning of the parable, who first responded by saying that the masses would not understand the meaning, but only those whose eyes would be opened. He stated that the eyes of His disciples had been opened so that they could see (verse 16), and He then continued to explain to them the meaning, beginning in verse 18:

‘“(18) Therefore hear the parable of the sower:

(19) When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.

(20) But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;

(21) yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

(22) Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

(23) But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.’”

There are other parables which express the same Truth; that is, that some are called to salvation, while others may listen and even attend the Church for a while, but they were never called to salvation. Compare the parable of the tares and the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) and of the dragnet with the good and bad fish (Matthew 13:47-50).

In the parable of the sower, the seed—the “word of the kingdom”—is sown by the sower—God the Father, through Jesus Christ and His disciples. Today, God’s Church has the commission to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God in all the world as a witness. And as the parable points out, the reaction of those who hear the word is quite different. In the parable, four types of people are mentioned who all hear the Word of God.

The first person hears the word, but does not understand it. The word was sown in his heart (compare Mark 4:15), but Satan comes to take away the word out of his heart, lest he should believe and be saved (compare Luke 8:12). He might have retained the words which he had heard in his heart for a while, but did not understand and believe them. He was not called to salvation.

The second person receives the word on stony places, without any root in himself. He immediately receives it with joy and even believes for a while (compare Luke 8:13), but when tribulation comes, immediately he stumbles. When the sun is up, he withers away because he has no root (compare Mark 4:6). He reminds us of the man who built his house on sand, not on the Rock Jesus Christ, and when the wind blows, the house crashes (Matthew 7:24-27). Christ told those who believed in Him and even believed Him that they would only be His disciples if they were to abide in His Word (John 8:30-31). He then pointed out that they were not His disciples and not of God; that they were unable to listen to His words; and that they were of their father, the devil (compare verses 43-44, 47). Likewise, the second person in the parable of the sower did not abide in Christ’s words either; he was not “of God”; he was not truly Christ’s disciple. He was not called to salvation.

The third person hears the word, but he becomes unfruitful when the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches and the pleasures of life (compare Luke 8:14) choke the word. While we read in Mark 4:7 that he yields no crop or fruit, Luke 8:14 says that he brings “no fruit to maturity.” He does not bring the right kind of fruit which God desires. He does not bring fruit worthy of repentance (Luke 3:8) and fruit for eternal life (John 4:36). He is not one of Christ’s disciples because he does not bear “much fruit” (John 15:8). He was not called to salvation, either.

Only the fourth person is the one who was predestined and chosen before time began to be called in this life to salvation. He receives the word on good ground (he built his house on the Rock); he hears the word with a noble and good heart and keeps it (compare Luke 8:15). He understands the word; and bears fruit with patience (compare Luke 8:15). The word fell on good ground and it yields a crop that springs up, increases and produces (compare Mark 4:8). Even then, some of the persons in the fourth category produce more fruit than others; their reward will be in accordance with their works.

Only the fourth person was predestined to be called and chosen to salvation in this life, as all the conditions were present to guarantee that he or she could make it into the Kingdom of God. God was not caught by surprise when the first three persons “fell away,” although He had allegedly, as some say, predestined them to be called in this age. Or, worse yet, that He knew that they would fall away although He had predestined them before time began to be called in this age—before all others. This is truly a preposterous idea.

When God foreknew, predestined and elected or chose someone, before time began, to be called to eternal salvation in this life, He expected that person to remain faithful. Many, though, who may think that they are called by God to salvation, are not truly called at all (Matthew 7:21–23; Matthew 15:13).

God does not call many today to salvation; He just calls the few or the firstfruits. The calling of the vast majority of mankind will occur later, during the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment. God did not call the few in this age, knowing that out of “the few,” “the many” would fail and depart from the Truth and leave the Church, and that only the “chosen ones” would stay and make it into the Kingdom. Those who come to the Church and then leave the Church were, in all likelihood, never called to salvation in this age, even though we must say that, sadly, some might have been called to salvation and in departing from the faith, after having received the Holy Spirit, they lost it again and have committed the unpardonable sin.

When YOU are called in this age, God has predestined YOU and elected or chosen YOU, long before you were born; long before the foundation of the world; long before any physical creation and before time began, to call YOU TODAY—not to fail, but to succeed.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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