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We know the famous invitation of Jesus as recorded in Matthew:

Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Also, we know the most famous text in the Bible recorded by John:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

We see that all are in His plan. If not, it will be unfair on the part of God; and Satan would have accused Him on this point.

Therefore, what does this passage mean?

Many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:14)

This statement was made at the end of the parable of the man without a wedding garment. If you notice carefully, in this parable the ones who were called (the Jews), did not turn up for the wedding of the King’s Son. And the King sent an open invitation to all. He said:

As many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. (Matthew 22:9)

And all who were available came. It was not restricted to a limited number. He said, “As many as ye shall find”. That is, anyone and everyone who were around. Many responded to the open invitation of the King. Therefore, Jesus said: “Many are called”, in the sense, many gave ear to the call and came even though all had the invitation.

Also, in the great final commission, Jesus said:

Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:15)

The call goes to the entire world, and to every creature. But how many are willing even to listen to the Gospel? There are quite a few who turn a deaf ear to the message even without listening to what it is all about. How then can they hear the call of God? But there are many others who give ear to it, and these fall into the category: “Many are called”. Not that God has restricted His invitation to only this group, but that this group was willing to hear the call of God.

Some of them after listening don’t respond. But there are a few who respond, and get converted to the Gospel message. These are the ones, who are referred to as: “Few are chosen”.

That does not mean that the ones who respond positively to the message will naturally be saved. They have started well; they need to end well too. Peter admonished the believers who accepted the Gospel invitation to do something more. He said:

Make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. (2 Peter 1:10)

They were to make sure their calling all the time by being in the faith and growing in it. Jesus too said that beginning well is no good; one should end well too – that is what matters most!

But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13)

Also He warned the ones who have responded to the message not to relax and take it easy as most of the Christians do. He said:

Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. (Luke 13:24)

This is how “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).

Does God call and choose arbitrarily? – Not at all. We have already seen that His invitation is extended to all creatures. All who listen to His invitation, He calls them; and all who make sure their calling, He chooses them for Heaven. That’s very fair. All can fit into it if they want to. But the sad part is, ultimately, only a few will be chosen because the majority will be unwilling to sacrifice and fulfill the conditions of salvation, which is indeed little compared to the great sacrifice of Christ!

Peter wrote of God’s desire:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

And John the Revelator penned down the all-open invitation that he heard:

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)