Many Are Called, but Few Are Chosen

If you truly believe in Christ, the Saviour of “whosoever believeth in him,” then you are one of the “as many as” who were ordained to eternal life.

By Simon Padbury 13 November 2018 9 minutes read

The Lord Jesus Christ commissioned his disciples, and by extension, his whole church: “Go ye into all the world, and preach1 the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16.15). This worldwide proclamation of the gospel is a general call to all who find themselves “under the sound” of it, inviting all hearers (and readers) to turn to Christ in faith and repentance.

This call of the gospel, commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ, is a call from God. Through his servants, “many are called” by God himself to come to his Son (Matthew 22.14—see the context).

The apostle Paul understood this too: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5.20). For it is God himself who issues the call of the gospel, through his people who share the gospel: “God…now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17.30).

So, here are several examples of God’s gospel call to you, reader:

  • “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 45.22).
  • To the people Israel: “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David” (Isaiah 55.3).
  • To Israel and all the peoples of the world: “And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I [God] will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men [i.e. of the people of Israel] might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things” (Acts 15.15-17; see also Isaiah 11.10; 54.1-3; Amos 9.11-12).
  • “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed” (Galatians 3.8).
  • “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3.17). “And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him” (Luke 9.35).

As many as are exposed to the gospel in any way are invited, or “bidden,” to come (Matthew 22.3).

Moreover, salvation is not to be weakly offered to people, in a way that gives them the idea, “You can take it or leave it, it doesn’t matter.” It really does matter!

The preacher must therefore “compel them to come in” (Luke 14.23)—strongly urging and beseeching people, and warning them of the awful judgment of God that will justly fall upon them for their sins if they refuse to come to Christ.

But what of those of us who are not preachers? All Christians2 can extend this gospel call by sharing the gospel with anyone and everyone to whom the Lord, in his providence, gives them the opportunity to do so. All Christians know how important salvation is! And it should be our hearts’s desire that our family and friends come to Christ, and this should be high up among the things for which we pray to God. And we know that our personal gospel-sharing should be done:

  • Out of love for our neighbour (Mark 12.28-31);
  • Out of Christ-like compassion on the multitudes around us (Matthew 4.14; 15.32);
  • Out of loving obedience to God (Matthew 5.14-16; Philippians 2.14-16; Colossians 4.5-6; 1 Peter 2.9; 3.15);
  • And all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10.31-33).

Doing whatever we can to lift up Christ (John 3.14-15) is certainly a most excellent means by which we ought to bring glory to God.

Is it illogical for a Calvinist to invite any individual sinner to come to Christ? No, it is logical.

If God the Father sent his only begotten Son into the world “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3.16), and if any group of people can be addressed in general: “Believe in the Son of God, and you shall not perish but have everlasting life”—then we can certainly give the same particular invitation to an any individual as Paul and Silas gave to their Philippian jailor: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou3 shalt be saved” (Acts 16.31).

Notice even here in this gospel promise what these prisoners for Christ’s sake offered to their jailor: it was a promise of an actual salvation, not an hypothetically potential salvation dependent upon the jailor’s decision for Christ: “Believe…and thou shalt be saved.”

Believers in the Saviour are saved by the Saviour.

Christians believe and proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ who saves those who come to him, those who receive him, those who believe in him.

This is the true, Biblical gospel that we must preach, publish, proclaim, and share with all mankind—or to as many as God in his providence enables us. This gospel will inevitably be preached throughout the whole world, as the Great Commission is fulfilled (see Matthew 24.14; Mark 16.15).

To whoever God in his providence leads us, whether elect or not, we can proclaim the same gospel message. We can proclaim—we should proclaim—we do proclaim—for we are compelled to proclaim: “Believe on4 the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”

So now we urge every reader of these words to apply this call of God to his or her own soul. You are certainly one of the many that are called. Even by reading what you are reading here, you are being called!

“This does not comfort me,” you may be thinking, “‘For many are called, but few are chosen’ (Matthew 22.14)—and I don’t know whether I am in that smaller number of people chosen to be saved, or not.”

Yes, we reply, “many are called, but few are chosen”—but please look again at John 3.16: “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.” Notice this one-to-one correlation: “whosoever believeth” are saved—they shall not perish but have eternal life. And this is still true today.

This same correlation is also found in the following Scripture: “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13.48). And here: “…As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1.12-13).

If you truly believe in Christ, the Saviour of “whosoever believeth in him,” then you can be sure that you are one of the “as many as” who were ordained to eternal life. This is because those who come to believe in the Saviour, and those who were ordained by God to receive eternal life, are the same people.

There is a definite promise of salvation unto eternal life made to all who will come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Reader, whoever you are, this is speaking to you: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou—you shall be saved. You shall not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus himself beseeches all who are deeply troubled about these things: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11.28-30).

In God’s providence, his gospel call will continue to be extended until the end of history, and it will eventually be preached throughout the entire world—“to the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1.8; see also Matthew 24.14; Luke 24.47).

It will be totally effective. All that the Father gives to Christ shall come to repentance and faith in the gospel. The Lord is even now adding born-again Christians to his Church, and he will continue to do so until the fulness of the Gentiles is gathered in and all Israel is saved (John 6.37; Acts 2.47; 13.48; Romans 11.25-27).

So, in the end, that “few” who are chosen are not such a small number! It shall be as the Apostle John was privileged to see in a vision and to reveal to us: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7.9-10).

  1. The word preach translates the New Testament Greek word κηρύσσω (kerusso), meaning to herald, to publish, to proclaim openly that something that has been done (Strong’s Concordance, Greek Dictionary, word #2784). ↩︎

  2. Paul’s assertion that ordained preachers such as himself and Timothy have the “ministry of reconsiliation” (2 Corinthians 1.1), and that they are “ambassadors” of Christ (2 Corinthians 5.18,20), is not an argument against ordinary unordained Christians sharing the gospel on a personal level. Similarly, his assertion that himself and Timothy (and other ordained ministers) are co-beseechers with God when they proclaim the gospel (v.20) does not mean that God doesn’t call people to himself through unordained Christians. Any Christian who thinks that he or she is not obligated to share the gospel with anyone should have a serious think about the following passages, so that they understand that they are not exempted from obedience to them: Matthew 5.14-16; Philippians 2.14-16; Colossians 4.5-6; 1 Peter 2.9; 3.15. ↩︎

  3. Thou is the singular personal pronoun. This means you yourself—singularly, individually. ↩︎

  4. There is no difference between believing on and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. See footnote 4 in Dead in Sins. ↩︎