“For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).
This may be one of the most questioned scriptures of all time. In fact, at a particular event I speak at regularly, a question about this passage was asked during Q&A more than any other.
What did Jesus mean?
Let’s start by looking at the words individually, and then the whole. Jesus said “many” are called. There’s very little to misunderstand here– it is defined as much or large. In other words, think BIG, mucho, numerous, more-than-you-can-count.
The second word we can look at is the word “called.” The Blue Letter Bible defines it this way: invited (as to a banquet), or invited (by God in the proclamation of the Gospel) to obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom through Christ, divinely selected and appointed.
Jesus gave another example of this in Matthew 22 in His parable of the king who gave a wedding banquet and invited everyone to come. Without a doubt, every person–regardless of age, background, color of skin, education, or any other defining thing–is invited to receive eternal life and salvation.
So to summarize: mucho, numerous, more-than-you-can-count have been invited to have life in Christ!
What throws people is the last definition which speaks of being divinely selected and appointed. But remember, God doesn’t have favorites and the Bible will never contradict itself. Peter, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, boldly proclaimed, “Most certainly and thoroughly I now perceive and understand that God shows no partiality and is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).
So, let’s look at the next word of importance in Matthew 22:14 and then come back to this… (it’ll make more sense in a moment).
The word “few” is a bit obvious. It means small, or little in number (the complete opposite of many). But it’s the next and final word that has caused the most controversy: chosen. The definition here is as follows:
1) picked out, chosen, to obtain salvation through Christ
2) choice, select, i.e. the best of its kind or class, excellence preeminent: sometimes applied to certain individual Christians
We can’t change or twist the definition to fit our understanding, so we must line up our understanding with God’s meaning. If we’ve already stated that God shows no partiality, then it would contradict His Word to say He picks out favorites from among the world to be His children. So let’s consider the words of Jesus: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End…” (Revelation 1:8). In other words, He knows everything.
And if God knows everything, then He would know in advance the exact moment you and I accepted His invitation of salvation. And from that moment on, the Bible says, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). In other words, God has a plan mapped out for us at the moment of salvation–therefore, predestining a path to follow based on what He has already seen ahead of our choices.
And that brings us to the conclusion. It’s not so much that few are chosen, but by better definition means: few choose.
Jesus said, “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14). The world (and the devil) offer a WIDE variety of solutions for a happy and fulfilled life. But Jesus said He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is no other way.
BUT… If you choose Him–He has chosen (and accepted) you too! And this God knew from the beginning. Therefore, upon accepting His invitation automatically categorizes you in an elite group, the best of its kind (according to Heaven’s definition of humanity).
In other words, you have chosen wisely!