"For many are called, but few are chosen" – Matthew 22:14
We rejoice in the blessed gospel doctrine of God’s electing love. We rejoice to hear our Savior say, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” We say with the psalmist, “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest.” But election alone never saved anyone. Election is not salvation. Election is unto salvation. It is not enough that we should be chosen to salvation. Before God almighty, in his holiness, justice and truth, could save chosen sinners, those who were chosen by him must also be redeemed. Election is the work of God the Father. Redemption is the work of God the Son.
How we rejoice in and give thanks to God for our redemption by Christ! Precious blood indeed is that blood which put away our sins! Every God taught sinner has learned to give thanks to God for that glorious gospel doctrine of limited atonement, particular, effectual redemption by Christ. Yet, even our redemption by Christ, though it guaranteed and infallibly secured the salvation of God’s elect, is not salvation. Salvation involves the work of the Father and the Son; but it also involves the work of God the Holy Spirit in regeneration and effectual calling.
The effectual call of the Spirit is the Holy Spirit’s work of effectual, irresistible grace, by which he draws all chosen, redeemed sinners to Christ, creating faith in them, granting them repentance, and converting them by almighty grace. This work of the Holy Spirit in effectual calling must be understood in two aspects: (1.) The outward, external call of grace which comes to sinners by the preaching of the gospel; and (2.) The internal call, which is the effectual operation of the Holy Spirit by which sinners are infallibly converted. In this chapter we will see what the Word of God teaches about the external call of the gospel.
It is this external call of the gospel, which our Lord spoke of when he said, "Many are called, but few are chosen." The Son of God plainly declared that many, not all, but many, are called to repentance and faith in him by the preaching of the gospel, and that few of the many who are called are numbered among the chosen. The means by which this external call is given to sinners is the preaching of the gospel.
God calls sinners to life and faith in Christ by the preaching of the gospel. Every time a true servant of God preaches the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ, electing love, redeeming blood, and saving grace, sinners are thereby called to Christ (2 Cor. 5:20).
The preaching of the gospel is not an offer of Christ, of his grace, or of salvation by him. No preacher has the power to give grace and salvation. And no dead sinner has the power to receive God’s grace and salvation in Christ. The preaching of the gospel is not an offer of Christ, or an invitation to sinners to receive Christ. The preaching of the gospel is a proclamation of the unsearchable riches of Christ, of his grace, of peace, pardon, righteousness, and life, and salvation by him (Isa. 40:1-2).
This is God’s appointed means of grace. God does not save sinners through the lies of false religion, but through the word of the truth of the gospel (Eph. 1:13-14; 1 Cor. 1:21; Rom. 10:17; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23-25).
The gospel call is universal in its scope. Our Master commands his servants to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all (Matt. 28:18-20). The gospel is a universal message of grace and salvation. We preach the gospel indiscriminately to all who will hear us, calling all to repentance and faith in Christ, just as our Lord commanded us. Yet, as we have observed already, even the outward preaching of the gospel is not absolutely universal. In the Old Testament, God sent his Word to Israel alone. During his earthly ministry, our Lord and his Apostles went to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. In the Book of Acts, God’s servants were frequently prevented from going to some places and sent to others. Even so, today our God sends the gospel to some and hides it from others. “Many” are called, but not all.
This call of sinners to repentance and faith in Christ is an unqualified, unconditional call. There are no conditions, qualifications, experiences, feelings, or anything else the sinner must meet, go through, or measure up to before he can trust Christ.
God almighty commands sinners, as sinners, to come to Christ (1 John 3:23). If God commands a person to do something, I presume it is all right for him to do it! God does not say, feel, do, get, experience, but “believe!” The only terms of peace God sets before sinners is unconditional surrender to King Jesus. Gospel preachers stand before eternity bound sinners as God’s ambassadors, sent with his terms of peace. They have no authority to change his terms, but simply proclaim them. Sinners must either surrender to the King, or be destroyed by the King.
This call of the gospel is given by divine authority. That man who is sent of God to preach the gospel is sent with a God given, divine authority, a divine authority which cannot be obtained by any means except the call and gift of God. It is an authority that cannot be obtained from any source other than God himself. He speaks as the very mouth-piece of the Almighty (Matt. 10:40). When God speaks by a man, God strives with men (Gen. 6:3). When men resist the message delivered to them by a man who speaks in the power of God, they resist God the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51-52).
This divine authority makes the preaching of the gospel a matter of urgent responsibility (Pro. 1:23-31). Gospel preaching leaves sinners without excuse. If any will obey the gospel call, if any will trust the Lord Jesus Christ, he will save them. Indeed, if any hear his voice and obey the gospel, if any believe, he has saved them. Their faith is the evidence of his saving operations.
The call issued to sinners in the preaching of the gospel is a sincere call (Rom. 10:1-4; Matt. 23:37). Arminians, free-willers, who despise the gospel of God’s free grace, often attempt to repudiate the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ by saying, we are not sincere in preaching the gospel, or that belief in the doctrines of grace will dry up the zeal of God’s people and make them anti-missionary. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was this gospel by which the Apostles turned the world up side down. It is this gospel by which God’s church still invades and prevails over the very gates of hell.
This gospel call is a most gracious call (Isa. 1:18; 55:1-7). In infinite mercy and grace, God sends saved sinners to proclaim to perishing sinners his free grace, and uses the most gracious terms imaginable to persuade hell deserving men and women to come to Christ. These are terms of grace. -- “Whosoever will, let him come!” -- “If any man thirst, let him come!” -- “Whosoever believeth on him shall not perish!” -- “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved!” -- “He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life!” -- “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!”
God’s servants call needy sinners, reasoning with them, pleading with them in God’s name, with God’s authority, in Christ’s stead, to trust Christ and be saved (Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11). Were it not for the obstinate hardness of sinful hearts, all who hear the gospel would immediately see that only spiritual madness and utter insanity makes it necessary for preachers to plead with their souls.
In preaching the gospel we proclaim to guilty souls full pardon by the blood of Christ, perfect justification by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, complete cleansing from all sin, eternal life in Christ, immutable acceptance in the Beloved, infallible security in his grace, and peace, peace, blessed peace with God!
Though it is, in itself, ineffectual for the saving of any, when accompanied by the power of God’s Spirit, the preaching of the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Isa. 55:11; Rom. 1:16-17). I have often been asked, “If only the elect are going to be saved, why preach the gospel to all?” Let me give you five answers to that question.
1. My Master has commanded us to preach the gospel to all (Matt. 10:27; 28:19; Mk. 16:15; Acts 1:8).
2. God has chosen to save sinners through the foolishness of preaching.
3. We have no way of knowing who God’s elect are until they believe the gospel (1 Thess. 1:4-5).
4. When we have faithfully preached the gospel to all, we are pure from their blood (1 Cor. 9:16; Ezek. 33:7-9).
5. We preach the gospel to all, because God has promised by this means to save some.
We preach the gospel freely to all men, with earnestness, zeal, and unabated fervency, and with absolute confidence of success, because this is God’s message, and because God will save his people by the gospel we preach.
"We are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 2:13-14).