Don’t Squander Your Invitation to the Kingdom of God
“For many are invited but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14 (J.B. Phillips)
The 22nd chapter of the Gospel of Matthew starts with a parable that the Lord Jesus told about the Kingdom of God. In the J. B. Phillips New Testament there is a paragraph title heading before this parable entitled “The Kingdom is not to be lightly disregarded.” Since the parable in Phillips is such an easy read I’ll include it here in its entirety:
“The kingdom of Heaven,” he said, “is like a king who arranged a wedding for his son. He sent his servants to summon those who had been invited to the festivities, but they refused to come. Then he tried again; he sent some more servants, saying to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Here is my wedding-breakfast all ready, my bullocks and fat cattle have been slaughtered and everything is prepared. Come along to the festivities.”’ But they took no notice of this and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business. As for the rest, they got hold of the servants, treated them disgracefully, and finally killed them. At this the king was very angry and sent his troops and killed those murderers and burned down their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is quite ready, but those who were invited were not good enough for it. So go off now to all the street corners and invite everyone you find there to the feast.’ So the servants went out on to the streets and collected together all those whom they found, bad and good alike. And the hall became filled with guests. But when the king came in to inspect the guests, he noticed among them a man not dressed for a wedding. ‘How did you come in here, my friend,’ he said to him, ‘without being properly dressed for the wedding?’ And the man had nothing to say. Then the king said to the ushers, ‘Tie him up and throw him into the darkness outside. There he can weep and regret his folly!’ For many are invited but few are chosen.” Matt. 22: 2-14
One of the common mistakes that people make when trying to interpret the Biblical parables is that they look too deep for complex meaning, attempting to find alignment and a matching analogy for every detail of the parable. Most times the meaning is straight forward and simple, and therefore the analogy should be kept simple and direct. Find the basic message and focus on that. The key to understanding the parable is finding the basic message and this isn’t always obvious.
I must admit that this parable of the kingdom in Matthew 22 has always confused me a bit. I always started thinking along the lines of “the original invited people must be the Jews” and then “the second group from the byways must be the Gentiles like us” and then I attempted to align the rest of the analogy. When I read the Phillips version, the paragraph title, mentioned above, about “lightly disregarding the kingdom” set me looking at the parable from a different angle. Another nudge in this direction (presumably from the Holy Spirit) came when discussing this parable with a brother who commented that the part that jumped out at him was the people who were too busy with their farms or businesses to respond to the invite. The final epiphany happened when I looked closely at the last sentence: “For many are invited but few are chosen.” Let’s drill down into this.
In the original Greek, the work translated as “chosen” is eklektos which means “picked out or chosen” or more specifically can mean “chosen by God.” It comes from a root word eklegomai which has as part of one of its meanings “of God choosing whom He judged fit.” In the Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, addressing specifically verse 14 of Matthew chapter 22, it says “those who have become true partakers of the Christian salvation are contrasted with those who have been invited but who have not shown themselves fitted to obtain it.” Verse 14 could then be translated as “Many are invited but few are judged as fit to remain.”
In the parable, we see that those who have responded to the invitation and are in attendance at the wedding feast are then inspected by the king. One who is not dressed properly is rejected as unfit to remain.
Once again I say that there is wisdom in simplification. My simple view of this parable is as follows: Many people are invited, but many of them either reject or disregard the invitation altogether and don’t go, or they respond to the invitation, are in attendance, but are told they are unfit to remain. Ultimately, the reason that people didn’t make it is because they did not take the invitation seriously enough. Some seemed to disregard or ignore the invitation from the start, and others responded to the invitation, but didn’t take the requirements associated with the invitation seriously enough (i.e. the man who entered the king’s wedding feast but neglected to dress in the required wedding attire).
So how does this apply to us today? Well, if you are reading this and you know that God is beginning a work in your life, if He is calling you or inviting you to be restored to Him and become a part of the family of God and of His kingdom, then don’t take it lightly. Don’t find excuses to distract you from His urging. There’s always something that will get in the way: work, family, activities, whatever. Resist and recognize the immense importance of the invitation that God is presenting to you and don’t take it lightly. If God has sent someone into your life as His spokesman, don’t disregard them or treat them with disrespect, but take very seriously what they are telling you because in reality it is coming from God.
Recognize that the invitation may only be afforded to you once in your life. You would be wise to take full advantage of the invitation or you will have deep regret later.
For some who have responded positively to the invitation and desire to become a part of the kingdom of God, recognize that there are requirements that need to be met. God expects us to walk in the spirit, not in the flesh. He expects us to grow and mature in our faith. He expects us to be transformed and become new creations, walking in love and holiness. I see this as the requirement that He will be inspecting about us when we stand before Him on that day, and He will be “choosing the ones that He judges to be fit” for the kingdom. I realize that some may say that the only requirement needed is the covering of the blood of Jesus, but this does not align with the Word of God. Our original acceptance is due to the merits of Jesus on our behalf as we cannot earn our place in the kingdom of God by our own merits, but it is a free gift from God our of His mercy.
Our invitation to the Kingdom of God is a gift of grace. It is the free gift of salvation through the offering of Jesus’ redemption on the cross represented by His blood. To be judged as fit to remain in the Kingdom of God is dependent on our meeting God’s requirements.
In fact the Scripture suggest that the act of kindness shown towards us by the grace of God through the gift of redemption from the sacrifice of Jesus is intended to lead us to an inner change from evil to good, and to think and walk in newness of life that leads to righteousness.
“Are you [actually] unaware or ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness leads you to repentance [that is, to change your inner self, your old way of thinking—seek His purpose for your life]? Romans 2:4 (AMP)
Yes we all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and be judged according to what we have done. I firmly believe that this judgment will determine if we are fit to remain in the kingdom (and not just to see how much of a reward we will be getting as some have suggested). We should not take this lightly. The redemption of the blood of Jesus, much like the invitation in the parable, is the means for us to enter into the kingdom, but once we are in, there is no need to inspect again for the entrance requirement (i.e. blood covering), but rather we are inspected for the additional requirements, in our case, the fruit of the spirit in our lives.
Here are some Scripture to reinforce this (I like the extra comments in the Amplified Bible version):
“And I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them [for this heaven and earth are passing away]. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the Book of Life; and the dead were judged according to what they had done as written in the books [that is, everything done while on earth].” Revelations 20: 12-13 (AMP)
“Therefore, whether we are at home [on earth] or away from home [and with Him], it is our [constant] ambition to be pleasing to Him. For we [believers will be called to account and] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be repaid for what has been done in the body, whether good or bad [that is, each will be held responsible for his actions, purposes, goals, motives—the use or misuse of his time, opportunities and abilities].” 2 Cor. 5: 9-10 (AMP)
“Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5: 19-21 (AMP)
“But do you think this, O man, when you judge and condemn those who practice such things, and yet do the same yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment and elude His verdict?” Romans 2:3
“But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you again, why do you look down on your [believing] brother or regard him with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God [who alone is judge].” Romans 14:10 (AMP)
Be aware that God is a merciful and forgiving God, and that He has made a provision for us to receive His mercy and forgiveness as long as we are in this world. We all stumble at times and need to humbly come to our heavenly Father and ask forgiveness, and He is faithful and just to forgive us.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
We must realize that our opportunity for this mercy is limited to this life, and once we are dead, the window of opportunity will close, and then we will be judged. Consider this advice from the Lord Jesus:
“Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.” Matthew 5: 25-26
As any lawyer will tell you, the time for mercy is before you get before the judge, for the judge must follow the rule of law, but your accuser can be merciful outside of the court. Likewise, before we stand before the judge, we have the opportunity to receive mercy and to correct any evil or ungodliness in our lives. We must not squander this opportunity.
We must remember also that it is the Holy Spirit who will work in us to attain holiness and righteousness in our walk. Our job is to humbly respond and work with Him, and not against Him, in this process of sanctification.
“For this is the will of God, that you be sanctified [separated and set apart from sin]: that you abstain and back away from sexual immorality;” 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (AMP)
May the Lord grant to all of us the wisdom to see our own faults and to correct them properly before that day so that we will not have squandered our invitation to His Kingdom, but will be judged as fit to remain.
“And may the Lord cause you to increase and excel and overflow in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may strengthen and establish your hearts without blame in holiness in the sight of our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints (God’s people).” 1 Thessalonians 3:12 (AMP)