Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Does Matthew 22:1-14 Teach a General, Well-Meant Offer
of Grace and Salvation on God's Part

Herman Hoeksema

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 ... 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 ... For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1-14)

About this we remark:

1. This last statement, “For many are called, but few are chosen,” should be enough to make us 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 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 stated—even somewhat unexpectedly, upon a superficial reading of the parable—is 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. 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 of the Saviour, and presently shall attain its full realization in the day of Christ.

3. Those who are bidden and who will not come are the Jews. The 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. 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. 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.

This entire parable teaches precisely the opposite of what the free-offer men want 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.

(Herman Hoeksema, A Power of God Unto Salvation, or, Grace Not an Offer, pp. 28-29)