MANY CALLED FEW CHOSEN
Mr. S. Delves
30th March, 1959.
“For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22, 14.
The Lord Jesus Christ spoke much in parables and there is much instruction of a deep, solemn and vital nature in His parables. But we do need that the Spirit of Truth shall give us that discernment and understanding therein that we may receive this instruction to the profit of our souls.
So in this parable of the marriage of the king’s son, we have the gospel expressed as a feast connected with the marriage union of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church, and to that feast many
are called, though comparatively with the many that are called, few are chosen.
This afternoon,* I spoke mostly upon the general call of the gospel, for that call must extend farther than to those whom God has chosen to be partakers of this feast, and to be brought into this union with the Heavenly Bridegroom, because “many are called but few are chosen.”
I have been thinking since this afternoon’s service on this point “Many are called”, and the way in which I set it before you, that Scripture truths are best and safest expressed in Scriptural terms. I think much unprofitable contention, which has caused separation between the people of God, has been caused by the introduction of non-scriptural terms. Not unscriptural, but non-scriptural terms, thereby setting up endless contention. Whether they are right or not, is it not much better to keep to Scripture? We have not the words of the Spirit in the original, but we have the translation. We may take it that the translation is as clear as is possible in another language. Perhaps you will say, “What is in your mind?” Just this; that the expression “the gospel call” is scriptural, but the expression “the gospel offer” is not. I do not see that expression in the scriptures; but I do see “the gospel call”, for what is this “Many are called”, but the general call of the gospel? You may say there is no difference. But there is. There is a definite difference between the terms. However, it will not help matters for me to spend time on that. But I do feel that much contention is caused by the introduction of non-scriptural terms in this matter. I desire to preach the truth of it in the terms of scripture, as far as I may be able to, feeling my inability in these matters.
There is a general call. The Lord’s servant was bidden to go into the highways, and “as many as ye shall find bid to the marriage.” We must understand the ministry here. They were to go and proclaim the marriage, and leave it at that. “Bid as many as ye shall find to the marriage:” That is the general call of the gospel, so that everyone who comes under the truth of the word thus expressed, should consider themselves as being under that
general call. There must be a necessity for one of these three different reactions to it. Either it is made light of, owing to other things having more influence on the mind and spirit; or when the matter goes to a further degree, there is enmity and bitterness against it; or there is a response to it, which is set forth very solemnly in this parable in the instance of the man of whose case I must speak now, who responded to the call, but presumptuously.
It was not presumption on his part to respond to the call, but it was presumption to disregard the wedding garment. There is such a response to this word that the soul will be really brought into the blessed participation of the gospel in the eternal enjoyment of it, in that union with Jesus Christ. Everyone listening to me this evening is in one of those three categoriesÂ—every one. Either the gospel is disregarded and made light of in comparison with other things which prevail on the mind, or there is a certain acceptance of it which comes short of a spiritual participation in its blessings; or else there is a being brought into this feast and a participation in the eternal fulness of it. These things call for most solemn consideration. Where the call of the gospel is made effectual, it is by the sovereign operation of the grace of God; when men make light of it, it is because their hearts are not thus graciously moved upon by the Spirit of God. When the Lord works effectually. He causes the truth of the gospel to act in the heart so as to bring forth repentance to the acknowledging of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, and every other spiritual fruit of grace.
But now I must come to this consideration of the man who responded to the call and yet was not chosen, because otherwise he would never ultimately have been cast into outer darkness. My friends, if there is anything vital, solemn and important in these things that concern our souls, it is that which makes all the difference between our final reception into this glorious kingdom of God, or ultimate rejection from it. If there is anything important it is that which I have to set before you now. As I have said, I do not regard this man as being just one man only. I feel he is brought into the parable as representative of all in the same case and state. This man did not make light of the gospel; he did not rise up in anger against it and those who preached it. He appears to have responded to it, because he was found among the guests when the King came in, and that represents, as I expressed this afternoon, the consummation of this dispensation at the end of the age. When the King came in he was among the guests. I feel by these guests we must understand all who profess and call themselves Christians, whether real Christians or whether nominal Christians; they were all guests, and this man was among them. We cannot see heaven here, because no one is ever cast out of heaven once they have been received there; we must not take this parable too far. The guests represent the whole body of those who respond to the truth of the gospel and profess to be Christians. This man had not on the wedding garment. It may not be necessary for me to mention this, but I believe it was the Eastern custom of those days to provide a
suitable garment for such occasion, so that every guest should be attired in a proper way, an honourable way, befitting the occasion, and since there might be a case where it was not possible for a guest to provide himself with this suitable garment, it was part of the hospitality of the host to obtain it for him, so that there was no excuse for any one appearing without the wedding garment. This answers exactly to gospel truth and teaching. There is a wedding garment provided for all the guests, and to set aside that wedding garment and appear in any other is to provoke the anger of the King, and to dishonour the occasion. Therefore, this man, not having on a wedding garment, and being unable to offer any reason for the disrespect his action showed, was speechless. He was bound hand and foot and cast out. His presumption was not in coming, for the gospel was a warrant for him to come; his presumption was in setting aside the wedding garment.
You will ask. “What is this wedding garment?” Well, my friends, I think one text of Scripture will give us a direction in this. “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.” We may certainly say that a mere profession of religion is no wedding garment. Moral goodness and uprightness is not the wedding garment. These are very well in other spheres, and most desirable in all occasions of life, but they are not good enough for the marriage of the Lamb. We may truly say that knowledge, however sound and orthodox. though it clothe the mind with understanding, is not the wedding garment. You may have all knowledge, as the apostle wrote to the Corinthians, and still be nothing when it comes to vital things. Good works, though right in their place, and especially when they are the fruit of a gracious principle in the heart, and constitute obedience to the Word of God, are most desirable and honourable, but they are not the wedding garment. All this is not good enough. Certainly all that goes to make self-righteousness is not good enough for the wedding garment; nothing that we have of our own, nothing that we can do will ever do for the wedding garment. We must have something better. Something is provided for us.
To go a little further into this, we might take this wedding garment as being two things: the righteousness of Christ for our justification, and the Spirit of Christ for our sanctification. Now here are essential things, for the righteousness of Christ is that robe which must cover and clothe us in the sight of God, for no other righteousness is good enough, glorious enough, sinless enough, spotless enough, for the marriage of the King’s Son. Jesus Christ has wrought a righteousness for all the guests who truly respond, by God’s grace.
Let us look at this righteousness, for it is a term of gospel truth that I much delight in. The righteousness of Christ! What a view the apostle had of it! What earnestness of spirit to partake of it and be clothed with it! The apostle had made a garment of righteousness for himself before he was converted and called of God. His whole energetic life was spent in working out a righteousness of the law, but when the blessed light of the Gospel shone into
his understanding and into his heart, it showed him anotherÂ—the righteousness of Jesus Christ. One sight of that made his own righteousness look like filthy rags. He said “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.” Philippians 3, 10. “Not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Philippians 3, 9. This righteousness is designed for this very purpose in the wisdom of God. It is God’s own providing, and a better, wisdom could not devise. It was designed by God, and wrought out by Jesus Christ. His whole life was a life of righteousness, one constant, undeviating, perfect obedience to all that God’s just law required, not in the letter, but the spirit of it. In Jesus Christ the law found its fulfilment, so that “He is the end of the law for righteousness, to everyone that believeth.” The law requires nothing that Christ’s righteousness does not meet. If we have any discernment and any feeling of the spirituality of God’s law, it shows us how far we are from being able to fulfil it. In the motives of the heart, spirit, and thoughts the law requires perfection and holiness. The more we see that, the more we feel our hopeless condition. This righteousness is wrought out by Jesus Christ as the Lord our Righteousness. He is our Righteousness;
His is that robe of which we read. To bring this truth within the compass of our finite minds, the Holy Spirit has expressed this truth under the figure of a robe, a perfect garment. Every thought in the pure mind of Jesus Christ, every feeling in His pure heart, every motive in His sinlessness, every word from His sacred lips, everything was like so many perfect threads woven together to make this glorious righteousness. I am setting this before you this evening. That is the robe you must be clothed with. If not, you will be speechless at the last.
“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness,
My beauty are, my glorious dress.”
He is revealed in the gospel, therefore the gospel is said to be the word of righteousness, because it is that word which sets before us how we can be made righteous in the sight of God through Jesus Christ. I feel that, take away the righteousness of Christ, and the Gospel would be empty to me. Take away His blood and righteousness, and I do not see what there is to do me any good. When the light of the gospel shines into our hearts then we see this righteousness for ourselves. This righteousness is unto all, and upon all that believe, for there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, and there is no difference whatever between all classes of men.
This garment of Christ’s righteousness is indeed imputed to believers. That is a wonderful thing to enter into! Faith in the heart to believe it, and the imputation of it by God to the believing heart. It is a righteousness which faith believes and God puts on the sinner. That is the secret of it. You would do well to consider very carefully whether any of this has been wrought in your hearts;
this sense of your own unrighteous condition, a feeling there is nothing about you but filthy rags. Though you might take on a profession of religion, be with the guests and be maintained to the very end, you would be in a shameful condition if you had nothing at last to clothe your soul but rags. Yet in our natural state we could never make ourselves a better garment- You should consider if there has ever been a hope in your heart in the things of God, anything of this believing in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, feeling your need of it, discerning it to be a righteousness wrought out and revealed in the gospel and applied by the Holy Spirit. If you have been brought to believe in Jesus Christ’s righteousness, then you can believe that that righteousness is indeed imputed to you of God. There is a definite exercise of faith in those words, “Believe in Jesus Christ unto righteousness”, that is, believe in Him as one who feels to have no righteousness of one’s own worthy of the name, and discerning His righteousness in the gospel, the nature, the perfection, the beauty, the purpose of it, and to look to God alone for that righteousness to be put on your soul like a robe.
Mark you, this was for good and bad alike. Those servants , went out to the highways to gather as many as they could find, good and bad alike must have this wedding garment. If a man is bad, and every fallen creature is in that condition; if he has led a bad life, had a bad character, been a man of wicked practices, if he is brought to repentance and the grace of God makes the call of the gospel effectual in his heart, this righteousness clothes that bad man, as much as it does another who might be regarded as a good, moral character. None are so bad, that this garment cannot clothe them; none are so good that they can do without it; they must have it the same as the worst. By “good”, we may understand the man whose life is upright and honest, whose character is estimable. Ah! but look at his heart! We must have a better garment than that. The best moral man must have this righteousness of Christ just as much as the worst; there is no difference here.
This man in the parable presumed. He considered himself good. He saw no need of such a righteousness as this. He might have thought it was a disparagement to him. He thought his own must be a satisfactory attire. To come on these terms:
“A guilty, weak and helpless worm,
On Thy kind arms I fall,”
was too low for this man. He did not see any need of it. He had been clothed, but not stripped and clothed. He was among the guests, but had not gone through the experience of being just a worthless sinner clothed only in the righteousness of Another. He could not see his own righteousness to be filthy rags, and if it had been pointed out to him that it was no better, he would have been indignant. I think there are many who would answer to this description very well, among those who call themselves Christians.
They would rebel against the suggestion that their righteousness was unworthy before God and of no account; that they must be justified by what Another has done. That was just this man’s case and character. He had set aside the righteousness of Christ, as people do set aside the righteousness of Christ to look to their own. If there are a few things faulty, and nobody will claim to be perfect, they say, well, the mercy of God will pardon that. But there is something else intended here.
This wedding garment is the spirit of Christ as well as His righteousness. “If any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of His.” The Spirit of Christ; the spirit of humility, of meekness and of love, that the Lord Jesus Christ did so wonderfully manifest. The apostle in the 2nd Philippians writes, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” This humble mind. My friends, we must have the spirit of Christ. Let no one suppose that they can believe in Christ Jesus for righteousness and have nothing of His spirit clothing their minds and hearts. Do not think to venture in among the guests and have no conformity to Jesus Christ wrought in your spirit. The two must go together. There are not two wedding garments, but two parts of one wedding garment. Although justification and sanctification may theologically be considered separately, graciously there is no separation between them; they constitute one garment.
Haughtiness is subdued where there is any likeness to Jesus Christ. So we read, ‘Let all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility.” This is not to be considered as natural humility. Some people have a disposition of mind that looks like that; some people have a haughty disposition. This humility you and I must receive from Jesus Christ, by being brought to sit at His dear feet and learn of Him- It is not just humility, but Christ’s humility.
Are you seeking to put on this wedding garment? If you are not, you are disregarding it. If you see no need of this garment, or are not really exercised and praying to have your mind and spirit clothed with Christ’s loveliness, you are in a dangerous state. Suppose you die without that! We cannot clothe ourselves with this humility, I know. The only way I can set it before you is to seek for it. “Lord Jesus, that humble mind impart.”
Again, there is a spirit of love. There is natural love, and there is spiritual love. The two are different. Spiritual love is the love of Christ, and if any man have not that love, that spiritual, gracious quality, he is nothing. Oh! my friends, to be clothed with Christ’s righteousness. You may say, ‘I cannot feel that I have much of it.” Well, you really should be more concerned about it. If you feel you have not much of this humility, not much of His love, you should be concerned about it. It is the wedding garment. He who is love can clothe you with His love. He who is meek and lowly in heart can clothe you with the same. He who humbled Himself
unto death can clothe your mind with His humility. Christ’s righteousness and Christ’s spirit, that is the wedding garment, my
friends. There is no doubt about it. If setting before you these things today may be a means of directing and stirring up your hearts to a spiritual exercise in these sacred matters, it will be a good hearing time.
This man had not the wedding garment; he was speechless when the King came in. Why? Because he saw his true position. If he had not seen it before, he saw it then. How naked he was! As Job, godly man that he was, said when the Lord revealed Himself, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” He was a godly man. To stand before God without Christ’s righteousness will render anyone speechless. I set these things before you. The Lord graciously work in and by His Word in our hearts.
“Many are called, but few are chosen.” What with those who make light of the call, and those who respond to the call, call themselves Christians, yet set aside and disregard Christ’s righteousness and Christ’s spirit, how comparatively few there are who will be found at last at the marriage supper of the Lamb! Those few will be the ones whom God has appointed to salvation. Not that, I feel, they will be few in number, because the apostle John saw them to be “a great number which no man could number.” But still, if you consider any generation, they are few in comparison. Take this generation, how few! It is not narrow-mindedness, but seeing facts as they are, to say that by far the most disregard the gospel entirely. How many profess and yet never wear this garment!
Another thing, you see the purposes of God are never frustrated, although it may sometimes seem to our very limited minds as though they are. God reminded Elijah, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal.” The few God had chosen; His sovereign purpose was not frustrated by Jezebel, nor by Ahab, nor by the idolatry of the nation. It is the same today. “Divine decrees remain unmoved.” Not one of those chosen to salvation will ever come short of that salvation.
“Many are called.” The few who are chosen will certainly enter into that marriage of the Lamb. The great question for you and me is, “Shall I be with them?” If religion brought salvation we should be all right. If preaching ensured salvation, we should be safe, but it does not. If to have an acquaintance, however sound, with the truth and doctrine of the Word of God, and with experimental religion, meant one was certainly a partaker of the grace of God, we should stand well on those grounds, but it does not. Nothing can make us right in God’s sight, except putting on Jesus Christ. The Lord help us ‘to put on Christ’.
*The afternoon sermon appeared in January, 1971 issue of Gospel Tidings.