MANY CALLED, FEW CHOSEN

 

By

 

WILLIAM ARNOT

 

The exposition suggested by Bengel* is simple, consistent, and clean; and it is, I think, correct. Taking term "called" as signifying not all to whom the call of the Gospel is addressed but those only who are effectually called - not those who only hear, but those who also obey the call - taking the term in this sense, which is a sober and Scriptural view, he finds that this is not a distinction between saved and lost, but between two classes of the saved. ** The called and the chosen are both true disciples of Christ, and heirs of eternal life, and yet there is some distinction between them. Chosen must here therefore mean, what it did sometimes mean in ancient times, and does often mean still, the best of their kind. We constantly speak of "choice" or "select" articles, meaning the most excellent. The phrase, whether used proverbially before Christís time or not, is in nature and structure proverbial. He either found it a proverb and used it, or he made it a proverb there and then, for such it essentially is. It seems to have been employed by the Lord on more than one occasion, and differently applied at different times. As we might say among a great number of manufactured articles, all true and genuine: "few are first-rate"; so, among a great number of real disciples, few stand out unselfish, unworldly, and Christ-like, honouring their Lord, and making the world wonder. Most, even of those who are disciples indeed, and shall inherit eternal life, are so marred by self-righteous admixtures, and unsanctified temper, and conformity to the world, that their light is dim and their witness inarticulate. In the transaction with the young man from which this parable remotely springs, an analogous expression is employed to indicate a chosen or choice disciple :- "Jesus said unto him, if thou wilt be perfect go and sell that thou hast," etc. (19: 21). The term "perfect" in that text seems to be entirely parallel with "chosen." The meaning of both is determined by the main drift of the parable; and the meaning thus given accords with the analogy of faith. "The contrast," as Olshausen says, "refers to the different relationships which believers themselves hold to the Kingdom of God.The Greek seems, in this passage, where (Matt. 20: 16) it first occurs, to denote not all the saved, but the excellent among them." The Revised Version retains it only in Matthew 22: 14.]

 

[** So Archbishop Trench:- "Many are called to work in God's vineyard, but few retain that temper of spirit, humility, and submission to God, which will allow them at last to be partakers of His reward."]

 

Another remarkable confirmation of this exposition is in the use of the same term [translated "called out" or "chosen" Matt. 22: 14] in Revelation 17: 14. The word in that passage must have the same meaning that we have attributed to it in the parable. Two reasons, a supreme and subordinate, are given to account for the victory of the Lamb - His own omnipotence, and the trustworthy character of the instruments whom he employs. "The Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings; and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful." If you understand here by [the Greek word translated], chosen by God in the eternal covenant, the logical arrangement becomes obscure. It would be strange if, in enumerating the qualifications of soldiers, one should represent first that were summoned to the warfare, next that they were for that purpose before, and last they were staunch the battle-field. If this had been the meaning of the word it must have stood first in order. The fact that it stands second suggests another explanation. Take it, in the sense which it readily assumes and frequently bears, and the order of the series becomes at once transparent. The soldiers were "called, and choice, and faithful." They were enlisted in the cause, excellent in character, and found unflinching when the fight began.*

 

[* ďThe three words seem designed to tell us that elect ones out of the three preceding dispensations - the Patriarchal, the Mosaic, the Christian - compose the legions of Christ. Not all the saved compose the army it is an election from the elect of all dispensations" (Govett).]

 

So we lift our eyes and see in the heavenlies the most perfectly equipped battalions the world will ever see. Called - summoned to the war; chosen - choice in combat; faithful - staunch in battle: called - singled out by name among others; faithful - by a proved life: called - God-born; chosen - God-filled; faithful - God-crowned. A soldier is said to be faithful who lives up to all the engagements of his commission, who remains true to his commanding officer, and who never sheathes his sword, until demobilized by his colonel. It is lovely to know that men and women who have fought and wept alone, ostracized; and boycotted and killed for the Word of God, come back in the crowded battalions of the skies, wheeling and advancing in serried formations as no aeroplane squadron ever wheeled, the immortal cavalry of heaven. Martyrs beaten in bleeding driblets return as massed conquerors.

 

- D.M. PANTON.