What did the Lord mean by saying, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14)?
Did He mean that a special worthiness on the part of some of those called gave them the favoured place?
Well, the statement beginning with the word “for” throws the mind back on what preceded. There we find the servants of the king going forth into the highways, and gathering all, both bad and good, who became guests at the wedding feast having taken their places at the table, the king surveys his guests; and, finding one not having a wedding garment, he rebukes and casts him into outer darkness, “for,” he says, “many are called, but few chosen.” That is, the man who had not the wedding garment, though called to the feast, was not chosen as a guest. He was cast into outer darkness. He had heard and accepted, outwardly, the invitation, but had not availed himself of the garment provided by the bridegroom for the use of the guests, and was therefore rejected.
The fault and the blame were his own—because the garment was free, and to refuse the garment was to insult the host. The man, therefore, proved his moral unworthiness of the place he had daringly taken. He lacked the one qualification for that place. Mere outward, nominal assent is not sufficient; there must also be the acceptance of the offered garment; and this makes the choice valid. The refusal of the garment renders the call nugatory. Hence, when viewed from the side of human responsibility, it is fair to answer the question in the affirmative, that the Lord looks for a special worthiness on the part of those who receive the favoured place—that worthiness, of course, being their acceptance of the garment.
How significant this fact in this day of widespread profession! General assent is given to the call. Bad and good have outwardly heard it, and have assumed the Christian profession; but, even of these, few have accepted the wedding garment—the title to the feast—few are morally fit, pardoned, justified, having Christ for their righteousness. For such there can be but outer darkness, weeping, and gnashing of teeth. Reader, have you the wedding garment?