Many are Called… But few are Chosen
“For many are called; but few chosen.”
[From the “Harmony of the Four Evangelists,” by Chemnitz, Lyser and Gerhard. The exposition here translated is by Gerhard.]
“The reason why few are chosen is not placed in any absolute decree of God, but in men themselves. From the Parable of the Wedding Garment, both these propositions can be most clearly established. That God is not responsible for the paucity of the elect, is apparent from all that is ascribed to God in the parable:
“1. ‘He made a marriage feast for his son.’ By this, the eternal decree of God is meant, that, in the fulness of time, His Son should assume human nature, and personally unite it with Himself, and in it accomplish the work of redemption. For since God, from eternity foreknew that man whom He would create in perfect righteousness and holiness would transgress, by voluntary disobedience, the law which would be given, and, by this transgression would bring upon himself and all his posterity, eternal death. He also decreed from eternity to prepare a remedy for this fall in Christ as Mediator. This eternal decree of God clearly shows that God is not delighted by the death of any one, but desires, and that too, earnestly, that all be saved; for He decreed to send His Son as Mediator for all, and decreed to offer this salutary remedy to all.
“2. That in the fulness of time, He put this decree into execution, and ‘prepared the marriage for His Son,’ i.e., sent Him into the flesh. This work of God also shows that He desires the salvation of all. and has rejected no one from absolute hatred. For in giving His Son to the whole world (John 3: 16), in His Son He offered salvation to the whole world. Because since, by His, assumed human nature, He is ‘of one substance’ with all men, God follows none of them with absolute hatred, but wants all to partake of His blessings.
“3. That He gave His Son to death for all men (Rom. 8:32). For we have shown above, that by ‘oxen and fadings’ in this parable, the passion and death of Christ are mystically signified. He was slain on the altar of the cross, to prepare all things which are required for the celebration of this wedding feast. But from manifest declarations of Scripture written by the rays of the sun, it is evident that Christ died for all men (Rom. 5:8; 2 Cor. 5: 14; 1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9). Wherefore the passion and death of Christ are evident testimony that God sincerely desires that all enjoy the blessings of the heavenly feast both in this world and the next.
“4. That He has called the human race, on account of its relationship to the assumed human nature of His Son, to participation in His blessings and association of eternal joys; for this is what is meant in this parable by the call to the marriage of His Son. But those to whom God in and through the call offers the blessings of His Son, He has not reprobated from any absolute hatred. From the call itself, therefore, we infer that it is no fault of God that only a few are chosen; otherwise election would be opposed to the call and condemnable hypocrisy would be ascribed God in calling to the wedding, by an external ‘will of the sign,’ those whom with the internal ‘will of the purpose,’ He wanted to be absolutely excluded from the wedding. A careful consideration of the manner in which this call is described, will make it the more manifest that the cause of the small number of the elect should be ascribed to the called themselves. The call is described as universal and serious. It is universal because pertaining to all people, times and places…. That it is serious is manifest from the fact that the King is wroth with those declining the invitation, and heavily punishes this contempt of His call. If God. therefore, seriously calls all to partake of His Kingdom, He undoubtedly rejects none from absolute hatred. Hence the cause why only a few are elected cannot be ascribed to God.
“5. Neither must the fact be passed by that it is through His servants, i. e., through ministers of the Church, He calls to the wedding. Whatever, therefore, they do according to His Word in giving the call, He ratifies. But they ‘preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16.16); ‘teach all nations’ (Matt. 28:10); ‘reprove every man and teach every man’ (Col. 1 : 28). and that, too, according to Christ’s instructions. This, therefore, God ratifies, and, thus, through these His ministers, He offers to all the word of the Gospel, and with the word of the Gospel, the blessings of His Son; and in His Son, life and eternal salvation. How, then, could He have rejected from absolute hatred some men, yea the greater part of the human race? That to all called to the marriage of His Son He offers gratuitously the wedding garment, in which they may appear in a worthy manner at the wedding, we have above shown. In the call, therefore, and the word of the call, it is His will that there be an efficacious means in the hearts of men for their conversion, illumination, regeneration, justification, renovation and sanctification; all of which may be understood in a certain way as the wedding garment. But if He desires to effect all these things by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the called, undoubtedly the fault is not attributable to Him that some are without the wedding garment, and, therefore, are cast into outer darkness, i. e.. that they are not of the number of the elect. As, further, by the word of the Gospel, it is His will to enkindle faith in the called, so also, by the same means, He wishes to preserve and increase it; and, hence, that some lose the wedding garment of true faith, cannot be His fault, neither can it be ascribed to Him; but they for themselves, and of their own accord, reject the garment that has been given them out of grace, and, on this account, deserve to be cast out of the wedding feast.
“6. That He is not angry, neither sends His armies to burn and destroy, nor calls others to the marriages, passing by the former guests, before those called decline coming, slay the servants who give the invitation, and make themselves unworthy of the royal wedding; and that He commands no guest to be expelled until one is found who has rejected the wedding garment, makes it clear that exclusion from this royal wedding depends entirely upon the consequent and judicial will of God, whereby, on account of obstinate contempt of the call, and on account of persevering unbelief. He has excluded from salvation some whom, by His antecedent will, He wished to save, and offered to them the means of grace (Acts 13:46).
“All these circumstances testify more clearly than the light of noonday that the reason why there are only a few elect is not to be sought in any absolute decree of God. But that the cause is to be sought only in the men themselves, Christ teaches also in this parable in which he presents to us four classes of men who, by their own fault, are excluded from the joys of the wedding feast.
“Let us apply this, therefore, to our profit: “1. Theoretically, so as to oppose the truths above mentioned against perilous opinions concerning the absolute decree of Election and Reprobation, the distinction between the Will of the Sign and the Will of the Purpose, Election on account of Foreseen Works, the Merit of our works, doubt of grace and perseverance. For if God calls all, and, in the word of the Gospel, offers to all the blessings of His Son. He undoubtedly has reprobated none from absolute hatred. If the call is serious, we must not think that He calls some only with the external will of the sign, and externally. If both call and election are gratuitous, neither occurs on account of foreseen works. If our salvation depends upon gratuitous election, it does not come to us because of the merits of our works. If Election does not fail, true believers in Christ should never doubt concerning the grace of God and the perseverance of faith,” etc.