“All things are 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.” (Matthew 22:1-14)
We have before us the parable of the marriage feast. It is the third in a trilogy of judgment parables, parables by which our Lord describes the basis of God’s judgment upon those who despise the blessings and privileges of grace. In the parable of the two sons (20:28-32), the parable of the husbandman (20:33-46), and this parable of the marriage feast our Savior shows us why God cast off the nation of Israel and sent the gospel to the Gentiles. Without question, it was God’s purpose from eternity to save his elect among the Gentiles. Without question, God predestinated the fall of the Jews as the very means by which he would save his elect among the Gentiles (Rom. 11:11, 25-26). There are no accidents in God’s universe (Rom. 11:33-36). Yet, the cause of divine judgment upon that nation was and is their unbelief.
The gospel was first revealed to the Jews, the nation of Israel, in the types and shadows of the Mosaic economy. To Israel alone God gave his law, the priesthood, the tabernacle, and his prophets. When Christ came, he preached the gospel to none but the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Yet, that nation, being blinded by their religious leaders, despised the privileges of mercy God gave them, the gospel of his grace, and his dear Son. Though they feverishly adhered to the rites and ceremonies of the law, they had long rejected the message of God’s prophets. When John the Baptist came preparing the way of the Lord, they ignored him. When God’s own Son came, they hung him up on the cursed tree to die. And when God sent the apostles and disciples of Christ to proclaim the message of Christ the risen Lord and ascended King, they rejected their message, imprisoned them, beat them, and murdered them.
Therefore, in 70 AD the Lord God sent the Roman army, under the command of Titus, into Jerusalem. By the hand of Titus, God destroyed both Jerusalem and the nation of Israel. At the end of Daniel’s 70th week, the house of Israel was left desolate. Their light was turned into darkness. Never again would that nation have a word from God or a visitation of his grace. God said to his servants, “Israel will not hear. Leave her alone. Go ye therefore into the highways of the world, and as many as you find, whether Jew or Gentile, bid them come. And whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Israel rejected God. Therefore God rejected Israel. Israel despised the light God had given her. Therefore God withdrew the light. Israel despised and rejected God’s Son. Therefore God cast her off forever. God’s judgment upon the nation of Israel stands as a beacon to warn us. God will not trifle with those who trifle with his Son and the gospel of his grace. An awesome weight of responsibility lies upon the shoulders of all who hear the gospel of Christ faithfully preached to them. It will not be heard without consequence. It will be to all either a savor of life unto life or of death unto death (2 Cor. 2:15-17; Rom. 11:21; Pro. 1:23-33). The same sun that melts the candle hardens the clay. And the same message that melts the believer’s heart before God hardens the unbeliever’s heart in judgment. In this parable of the marriage feast our Savior plainly teaches us seven things.
1. The salvation proclaimed in the gospel is comparable to a marriage feast. — “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son” (v.2).
At a marriage feast everything is provided for the guests. They are not expected to bring anything. It would be an insult for them to do so. Even so, in the gospel of Christ there is complete provision for all the needs of a man’s soul before God. Everything needed to relieve spiritual hunger and thirst is found in Christ. The pardon of sin, peace with God, and the hope of eternal life are all spread before us in rich abundance in the gospel. This is truly “a feast of fat things.”
All this bounty comes to needy sinners through the love, grace, and mercy of God, by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. By the preaching of the gospel, Christ himself speaks to sinners. He calls sinners to himself. The Son of God calls sinners into marriage union with himself! And every sinner who comes to him by faith, he clothes with the wedding garment of his own righteousness, gives a place in his kingdom, and will present faultless before the presence of his Father’s glory in the last day (Matt. 11:28-30; John 7:37; Jude 24-25).
The gospel of Christ truly is “glad tidings of good things!” The God of Glory calls sinners into union with himself through his dear Son. He calls for rebel sinners to be reconciled to him by faith in his Son; and he does so upon the basis of reconciliation accomplished by his Son (2 Cor. 5:18-21).
2. Our Lord Jesus here reminds us that the invitations of the gospel are full, free, and unlimited. — “All things are ready, come to the marriage” (v.4).
There is nothing lacking. No barriers are set before us. No conditions are to be met by us. — “All things are ready!” The gospel sets an open door of mercy, love, and grace before all fallen sinners, and says, “Come.” No one is excluded from the range of its invitation. — “Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.” Though only few enter in by the straight gate, all are bidden to enter. And all who enter find that “all things are ready.”
There is nothing to be made ready by us, or even by God. All things are already ready, made ready by the eternal purpose of God and the finished work of Christ, the sinner’s Substitute. Pardon by blood atonement is ready! Righteousness is ready! Peace and reconciliation are ready! Sonship by adoption is ready!
3. Yet, our Savior also teaches us that the gospel of the grace of God is flatly rejected by many who hear it.
“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” (vv. 5-8).
Most of those people who hear the gospel receive no spiritual benefit from it. Many who hear the gospel of Christ week after week, month after month, year after year yet refuse to trust him. The preaching of the gospel profits them nothing. They see no beauty in Christ. They feel no need for Christ. Such rebels may not openly scoff and ridicule the message of grace, or outwardly oppose the gospel. They show their contempt by their love of other things, their preference for other things, by their love of the world, which is enmity against God. Their hearts are full of this world, so full of the pleasures and cares of the world that there is no room for Christ. Money and property, fashion and pleasure, happiness and popularity are the things that interest them. Christ and his gospel simply have no appeal to them. The sad fact is, multitudes will find themselves in hell, not because they were grossly immoral, but because they loved the world and gave no consideration to the Son of God.
While this is clearly, as I stated in the opening paragraph, a judgment parable, it is a parable full of grace. Robert Hawker wrote with regard to it…
“We shall enter, through the teaching of God the Holy Ghost, into the beautiful design of our Lord, in this parable, if we take with us, all the way through it, the leading features the Son of God hath drawn. The kingdom of heaven is uniformly meant to describe the kingdom of grace, in the present gospel state of the church. The certain king, here spoken of, is God our Father. And the marriage is that union the Son of God hath been mercifully pleased, at the call of God his Father, to make with our nature, and with each person in that nature whom God the Father hath given to him, whose redemption Christ hath purchased, and God the Holy Ghost hath regenerated, for the purpose of grace here, and glory hereafter.
This marriage took place, in the plan and counsel of Jehovah, before all worlds. The church was then presented by the Father, and fore-viewed by the Son, and sanctified in the will and design of God the Holy Ghost when Christ betrothed her to himself forever. And although, in the ordination of the divine will, this church of Jesus was to be involved in the Adam-fall of our nature, in common with the whole race of men, yet the original connection could not be dissolved by this spiritual adultery, but rather afforded occasion for the Son of God to get more glory and honor by her recovery, is the wonderful means he accomplished in time, by the salvation he wrought for this purpose.
The church, therefore, departing from her glorious husband, and having lost the image of God by sin, and having mingled with the heathen, and learned their works; this parable represents the King as sending forth his servants to bring his church home to her lawful Lord and Husband again, notwithstanding all her baseness and unworthiness of departure.
The invitation to this purpose is represented under the image and similitude of a great dinner, in which a plentiful table is spread, the richest food is provided, servants are in waiting, and all with one voice say, all things are ready, come to the marriage!…The servants being again and again sent, and the contempt shown by some, and the cruelty by others; are meant to set forth the various ages of the church, in which Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles, have ministered to this one end, and the events which have followed. These things are so plain, that every one who is acquainted with the Bible, cannot but know them…The final issue of the Lord’s design, can neither be frustrated, nor unaccomplished. The Lord Jehovah, in his threefold character of persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, hath made, for this, an effectual security. The church is One with Christ, her Head and Husband, from all eternity. Hence every individual which constitutes a part in that mystical body, notwithstanding the after act in the Adam-nature, and Adam-fall, is secured from a pre-union with the Lord, her Husband, from everlasting ruin. Hence their effectual call and conversion is engaged for in covenant settlements. A secret union subsisted between Christ and his members from all eternity. And this brings up after it an open espousal of every one of them at the season of their conversion. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power. And hence they are carried safely on through all the periods of time, and will be brought home to a more public display of the divine love, at the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven (Rev. 19:9).”
4. Next, our Master tells us plainly that many who profess to believe the gospel are yet without faith and under the wrath of God.
“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. (vv. 10-13).
C.H. Spurgeon said, “This man without the wedding garment is the type of those who pretend to be Christians, but do not honor the Lord Jesus, nor his atoning sacrifice, nor his holy name. They are not in accord with the design of the gospel feast, namely, the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ in his saints. They came into the church for gain, for honor, for fashion, or for the purpose of undermining the faith of others.”
Yes, the vast majority of those who take up a profession of religion are walking in the broad way that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14, 21-23). This man without a wedding garment is the representative of all who are found in the last day without the garment of Christ’s righteousness. Our Lord did not say that he was without a garment. No doubt he was clothed, as many are, in a righteousness of his own. His crime was that he was not wearing the wedding garment, the garment of Christ’s righteousness.
Many would have us believe that this wedding garment is the good works of a holy life. Thanks be to God, that is not the case!
“If our acceptance at Christ’s table upon earth, or at his marriage supper in heaven, rested upon what some are so fond of talking of, but not a single son or daughter of Adam’s fallen race ever knew; I mean good works and an holy life, no guests would be found for either. Neither doth this wedding garment consist in the adorning of a renewed soul by the graces of the Holy Spirit, such as faith, repentance, or any, or all of the sweet effects of the Lord’s work in the soul. These are all blessed and essential things in the life of grace, and every child of God, called by grace, will be blessed in the enjoyment of them, but they are not Christ. These are the effects, not the cause; the fruits of regeneration, but not the root of salvation. The wedding garment, therefore, is none of these. And though it is blessed, yea very blessed, when grace is in lively exercise, to behold how true believers in Christ, from an union with Christ, act faith upon him, and live to him, and his praise; adorning, the doctrine of God our Savior in all things: yet these form no part in the wedding garment, which is wholly of Christ, wrought out by Christ, and is; put on the believer by Christ. Every act of theirs is polluted, and must be cleansed in the blood of Christ, as well as their persons; for without this cleansing, neither the one, nor the other, can find acceptance before God.” (Robert Hawker)
Let us be sure we have this wedding garment. If we appear before God in any other at that great day, we shall, like this man, be speechless, and shall be cast “into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” But the possession of this garment, the righteousness of Christ, proves that we were eternally betrothed to Christ, and that we are, by his grace, a part of his chosen bride, adorned for her Husband and by her Husband, “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Rev. 21:12; Eph. 5:23-32).
5. Still, our Savior assures us that man’s unbelief will not alter, thwart, or in any way hinder the purpose of God. — “The wedding was furnished with guests” (v. 10).
The purpose of God does not depend upon man. Though the Jews rejected God’s Son, he had a “remnant according to the election of grace”, who gladly embraced him. And though many refuse to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, every chosen, redeemed, and regenerated sinner in this world, everyone purposed by God from eternity to be saved, shall be saved by him and shall believe on him (Rom. 3:3-4; 11:11, 24-26).
6. In the last day, on the day of judgment, all false professors will be detected, exposed, and eternally condemned (vv. 12-13).
In this life a profession of faith and a fairly moral life is enough to secure a name and reputation as a Christian. But when we stand before God, he will examine us thoroughly and judge us according to strict justice by those things written in the court books of heaven (Rev. 20:11-12). If we are not washed in the blood of Christ and robed with his righteousness, we will be lost forever. None shall enter into everlasting bliss whose names were not written in the Lamb’s book of life by divine election before the world began. And all whose names are in that book shall enter in, because they are made perfectly holy and righteous in Christ (Rev. 21:27).
7. 7.In verse 14 the Son of God declares that the source and cause of true faith is God’s sovereign, electing love. — “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
If you and I are true believers, if we truly believe the gospel of Christ, if we truly rest our souls upon the Lord Jesus Christ alone, it is because God, from all eternity, chose us as the objects of his special love and grace (Jer. 31:3). All who believe God gladly confess, with Toplady...
“‘Tis not that I did choose Thee,
For, Lord, that could not be;
This heart would still refuse Thee,
Hadst Thou not chosen me:
Thou, from the sin that stained me,
Hast washed and set me free,
And to this end ordained me,
That I should live to Thee.
‘Twas sovereign mercy called me,
And taught my opening mind,
The world had else enthralled me,
To heavenly glories blind.’
My heart owns none before Thee,
For Thy rich grace I thirst -
This knowing, if I love Thee,
Thou must have loved me first!’“
Called and Called
“Many are called.” — That statement refers to the general call that goes forth to all who hear the gospel. But there is another call. There is an inward, personal, particular, divine call, which is issued by God the Holy Spirit to God’s elect and to them alone (John 10:3). This call of the Holy Spirit is always effectual and irresistible. God the Holy Spirit effectually draws chosen, redeemed sinners to Christ by almighty grace (Ps. 65:4). This call always produces faith in Christ. It always results in salvation. This inward, irresistible call is given only to God’s elect, those who were chosen, predestinated, and redeemed (Rom. 8:28-29; 1 Cor. 1:21-24; 2 Tim. 1:9-10). The examples of this call are numerous (Ezek. 16:6-8; 37:1-14; Matt. 4:18-22; Luke 19:5-6; John 11:43-44).
Were it not for this effectual call of the Spirit, no one would ever be saved (John 6:44-45). But this is not the call mentioned in our text. The call, which our Lord speaks of here, is the earnest proclamation of the gospel by his servants. Every time a true servant of God preaches the gospel of God’s electing love, redeeming mercy, and saving grace, sinners are called to faith in Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). The call of the gospel is universal in its scope. It goes forth to all who hear the gospel preached. It is a sincere and gracious call (Rom. 10:1-4), issued by divine authority which all who hear it are responsible to obey (Pro. 1:22-33).
The question is often asked, “If only God’s elect are going to be saved, why do we preach the gospel to all men?” The Scriptures give us three clear answers to that question: (1.) Our Lord commands us to preach the gospel to all (Matt. 10:27; 28:19; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). (2.) The preaching of the gospel is God’s ordained means of salvation for his elect (1 Cot. 1:21-25). And (3.) we have no way of knowing who the elect are until they believe the gospel (1 Thess. 1:4-5). Therefore, we preach the gospel to all. And when we have done so, when we have faithfully preached the gospel to all, we are free of their blood (1 Cor. 9:16; Ezek. 33:7-9).
Sinners respond to the preaching of the gospel in many ways. Some flatly reject the gospel call (v. 3). Some lightly esteem it (v. 5; Lam. 1:12). Others are enraged by it (v. 6). Some pretend to obey it, taking up a profession of religion (vv. 10-11). And some, those to whom the gospel comes in divine power, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Why? Why do some believe, while others believe not? It is because “few are chosen.” The difference between those who believe and those who believe not is the choice of God. There are some people in this world whom God has chosen to salvation. Sooner or later, they shall be saved. They shall believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The rest are left in their sins. God has done them no injustice. He does not violate their will. He does not force them to do what they choose not to do. He simply leaves them to themselves. And you can be sure of this — If God leaves a man to himself, if God leaves a man to his own free-will, that man will never believe on the lord Jesus Christ and be saved (John 6:37-40; 10:16, 26; Acts 13:46-48).
Thank God, he does not leave all men unto themselves! He has chosen to save some. There is yet “a remnant according to the election of grace”, of whom he says, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Let me make just four statements about this matter of election, as it is presented in this 14th verse.
1. It is a fact beyond dispute that the Bible teaches the doctrine of God’s sovereign, unconditional, election of his people unto salvation in Christ (John 15:16; Rom. 9:11-13; Eph. 1:4-6; 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Pet. 1:2).
2. It is also a fact beyond dispute that the Bible declares that God’s elect in this world are few. Our Savior said, “Few are chosen.”
3. I solemnly admonish you to make your calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10). Trust the Son of God. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. If we are among the number of those chosen, redeemed, and called to salvation and eternal life in Jesus Christ, we ought to be filled with wonder, praise, and gratitude before the holy Lord God (Rom. 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 4:7; 15:10). Election has secured for us a place with Christ in glory. And in the end, it shall be said, “The election hath obtained it.”
“Who shall condemn to endless flames
The chosen people of our God.
Since in the Book of life their names
Are clearly writ in Jesus’ blood?
He, for the sins of the elect,
Hath a complete atonement made;
And justice never can expect
That the same debt should twice be paid.
His sovereign mercy knows no end,
His faithfulness shall still endure;
And those who on His Word depend
Shall find His Word forever sure.”