16 March, 2016

Matthew 22:1–14—“The wedding is ready … come unto the marriage”

And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matt. 22:1-14).

The parable of the wedding feast is thought, by many, to teach that the gospel is a “well-meant offer of salvation” or an “invitation,” expressing a desire of God for all men, bar none, to be saved.


Prof. David J. Engelsma

[Source: Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, April 2014, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 6465]

I call attention to the fact that in that passage in Scripture … Jesus did not speak of an “offer” or of an “invitation,” but of a call, a summons. The king sent forth his servants to “call them that were bidden” (v. 3). Throughout the passage, the word translated “bid” and “bidden” is consistently, in fact, the Greek word meaning ‘call’ and ‘called.’ In addition, Jesus’ own authoritative explanation of the parable is the truth that “many are called, but few are chosen” (v. 14).

The call to the many who disobeyed the summons to the wedding dinner was not a well-meant offer that ignored, indeed contradicted, God’s eternal decree of choosing, that is, election, as is the case with [the common grace] theology of a desire, that is, gracious will, on the part of God for the salvation of those who reject the summons. On the contrary, the summons—the “call,” the “bidding”—is strictly controlled by and serves election.

What this means is that the general summons, the serious summons, to all who hear the gospel message is motivated by God’s sincere desire and gracious will for the salvation of the elect among them only. This desire is realized in every case. Controlled as it is by the decree of election, the universal summons, or call, in its external aspect is not the expression of a desire on the part of God for the salvation of all who hear the summons. In the preaching of the gospel, God does not desire the salvation of all hearers. According to Jesus, in Matthew 22:14, God calls many in the gospel whom He has not chosen, that is, towards whom He is not graciously inclined and whose salvation He does not desire. He calls many whom He has eternally reprobated.



Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)

About this we remark:

1. That already this last word, “For many are called, but few are chosen,” should have been enough for [the defender of common grace] to make him see clearly that in this parable there is no reference to a general and well-meant offer of grace and salvation on God’s part. There can be no doubt but that the Saviour wants us to understand the entire parable precisely in the light of these words. They are an explanation of the parable. If now the main thought of the parable had been that the Lord offers His grace to all without distinction, with the sincere purpose to save them all, then there should have been stated at the end: for grace is offered to many, but few accept it. But precisely that is not stated. What is statedeven somewhat unexpectedly, upon a superficial reading of the parableis that many are called, but few are chosen. This immediately lets us know that God the Lord does not purpose to save all who live under the preaching of the Gospel, but that He gives grace only to the elect to follow up and obey the call to the wedding. You have therefore also in this parable a call to come to the wedding-feast which goes forth to all who are bidden, but a particular bestowal of grace (no offer) upon the elect alone.

2. That the wedding here is the kingdom of heaven, as that is prepared for the Son by the Father, was foreshadowed in the old dispensation in Israel, was realized with the coming, the suffering, and the exaltation of the Saviour, and presently shall attain its full realization in the day of Christ.

3. That those who are bidden and who will not come are the Jews. That call of the servants of the King is the call of the prophets … However, they paid no heed to that call of the prophets, but resisted their word, mistreated them, and killed them, and thereby showed that they were not worthy to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Therefore the King in righteous wrath burned their city. Israel as a nation was rejected. Jerusalem was destroyed.

4. That this call of the prophets was never a general offer of grace. The invitation to come to the wedding was no offer of grace, but a call to repentance, to keep God’s covenant, and to walk in His ways. However, seeing that, according to the explanation of the parable by the Saviour Himself, not all who were called were elect, they did not all receive grace to heed the call. Israel as a nation manifested itself as completely unworthy to enter into the kingdom of heaven when that kingdom was revealed in Christ Jesus. Therefore Israel was rejected.

5. That the servants then, upon the commandment of the king, turned away from Israel in order to go out into the highways and byways, to call Jew and Gentile, good and evil, to the kingdom of heaven. But also in the new dispensation this calling goes forth always according to the rule that many are called, but few are chosen, and that therefore we must not expect that all who are outwardly called shall also come. The entire parable teaches precisely the opposite of what the [the defender of common grace] wants to draw from it, namely, that grace is precisely not an offer, but a power of God unto salvation, and that where that power of God to salvation does not operate in the calling, hardening sets in, and rejection follows. But the elect receive that power of God unto salvation, and they enter into the wedding of the Kingdom of heaven.



Prof. Herman C. Hanko


The parable speaks of many who rejected the call to come to the wedding feast. This call, to which Jesus refers by the words “many are called,” is the external call of the gospel. This is not always admitted by interpreters of this parable. Many make the main point to be the display of the patience of God. They would have us believe that on the foreground is a picture of God, who can justly destroy these men who refuse to come, but who continually gives to the wicked another chance in the hope that they will still change their minds and come to the wedding feast. As far as God is concerned, he loves them all and longs to see them all come to salvation. There is a certain limit to this patience of God: presently it will be too late. But for the time being God eagerly and longingly seeks to persuade them to change their minds and come to him.

Others admit that the call of the gospel referred to here is the external call, but they insist that this external call is an offer of salvation. Much like the other interpreters, they teach that God loves all men through a cross that is for all men and an atonement that covers the sin of all men. Based on the universality of the love of God and the universality of the atonement of the cross, God offers the salvation of the cross to all men and gives them all an opportunity to accept this offer and heed the invitation to come to the wedding feast of the Son.

We have noted before that this is the age-old error of Pelagius and Arminius, which makes God a helpless beggar dependent on the will of man. It is an error that has been condemned again and again by the church. Yet it is an error which, sad to say, has laid its paralyzing grip on much of the church world of today.

The external call of the gospel is quite different from these ideas. In the first place, the external call comes to all who hear the preaching of the gospel. These hearers are not all the men in the world, for all men in the world do not hear this external call. But there are many more men who hear than are actually saved. The conclusion of this parable makes a distinction between the “many” who are called and God’s “few” who are chosen.

The external call of the gospel is the call to repentance and faith in Christ. This does not mean that God invites men to come to him. A king never invites, at least not in the sense in which we use the word today. Even an earthly king never invites his subjects to come to the palace. They are summoned and commanded to come by the sovereign prerogative which the king possesses. The choice of whether they are going to come or whether they will refrain from coming is not left up to them. They refuse to come at their own peril. How much more is it not true that the sovereign Lord of all never invites to the wedding feast. He calls and commands to come, and he thus places men before the obligation to come.

This call of the gospel is essentially the demand of God to all men that they love him. This was the demand God placed on Adam in paradise. This demand God maintains. The fact that man has sinned against him and has by his sin fallen into total depravity does not alter the fact that the demand remains. But because man sinned against God, this demand becomes the demand to love God in the way of repentance and in the way of turning from sin to faith in Christ


[Source: For Thy Truth's Sake [Grandville, MI: RFPA, 2000], pp. 205-206]

The defense of the well-meant offer involves an incorrect interpretation of the distinction between God’s decretive will and His preceptive will. According to God’s decretive will, God determines to save only His elect. According to His preceptive will, God desires to save all men. That there is contradiction between the two is justified on the grounds of the doctrine of paradox or apparent contradiction … [The defender of the well-meant offer] must not include in the preceptive will, God’s desire to save all men. God’s desire is not His command. God’s desire is that which He wills to do, that which He has eternally purposed in His counsel. God’s desire is His decretive will. Just as soon as one speaks of a “desire” of God, one speaks of God’s will, in other words, His decretive will.


[Source: Common Grace Considered (2019 edition), p. 352]

[In] Matthew 22:1-14, where Jesus speaks of a wedding feast to which many were called, although they refused to come, the call was not an “invitation.” It was the king’s wedding feast for his son, and the king called (v. 3) the guests. Now the call of a king is not an “invitation.” It is a command. So much so is it a command that when those called did not come, the king “was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (v. 7).
Not even a king destroys those who decline an “invitation.” But a king has every right to destroy those who refuse to obey a command.
Jesus, the supreme teacher, also immediately adds that God accomplishes His purpose: “For many are called, but few are chosen” (v. 14).



Rev. Martyn McGeown

The classic passage on the gospel call as a command is the “Parable of the Wedding Feast” in Matthew 22. Many have misinterpreted this parable to teach a sincere and gracious invitation to the reprobate to receive and enjoy salvation. However, the word “invite” is inappropriate. Throughout the parable, Jesus uses the Greek verb “call” (kaleo):

The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son. And sent forth his servants to call [kaleo] them that were bidden [i.e., called, kaleo] to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden [i.e., called, kaleo], Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage (vv. 2-4).

Many of the called refuse to come, and the king destroys them in verse 7. Then Jesus adds, “Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden [i.e., called, kaleo] were not worthy” (v. 8). After the wedding feast is filled with guests—who were not only called, but “gathered” (v. 10)—Jesus concludes, “For many are called [kaleo], but few are chosen” (v. 14).

The first important lesson from this parable is that both the external preaching, which comes to both elect and reprobate, and the internal call of the Holy Spirit, which is given only to the elect, are referred to as a “call” in Scripture (vv. 3, 14). God calls both the elect and the reprobate, but in different senses. The call of Matthew 22:14 is not the same, therefore, as the call of Romans 8:30 (“whom he called, them he also justified”). Some who are externally “called” (kaleo) are not justified and glorified, and therefore we could say that they are not elect. Thus the hyper-Calvinist, who denies that God externally “calls” the reprobate, is proved to be in error. This text is the basis for the classic Calvinist and Reformed distinction between the external call and the internal call.

Second, the word kaleo proves to us that the gospel comes as a command to all who hear, not as a gracious invitation. If I invite you to my birthday party, that is a gracious invitation, which you are free to accept or reject without any serious consequences. When God, the King in Matthew 22, calls men and women to the wedding feast of His Son, Jesus Christ, He is greatly displeased when they refuse. Moreover, we read that He destroys those who do not come (v. 7). That cannot seriously be understood as a gracious invitation to them.



More to come! (DV)

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