There’s a tendency in parts of the church to think that few will be saved. This stems from basing thoughts about judgment on stories such as the flood in Genesis 6. If we dwelt more upon the story of God raising up a saviour to save the world in Genesis 41-47, we might finish up with an entirely different view of salvation!
The harsher view is also reinforced by a misunderstanding of scriptures such as Matthew 22:14, which says, “For many are called, but few are chosen”. This statement comes at the end of a parable Jesus tells us about the kingdom of God being like a wedding feast; and it is clear from the context that when Jesus speaks of the chosen few, He is not talking about salvation.
Let me explain. The story starts with a king arranging a marriage for his son and sending out invitations. When the invited guests all decline, because they are too busy, the king sends messengers with more invitations, but the invited guests kill those servants. The king then sends his army to destroy that city and sends his remaining servants into all the highways to invite everyone to the wedding, both good and bad. Once the feast has started, the king notices one man who is not dressed up for the wedding and has him thrown out (into the darkness). That’s when the statement on few being chosen appears.
So who are the many and the few? What is clear is that the guests who are initially invited are the Jews and their city is Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Romans. Those found on the highways are the gentiles (all other nations), so the ‘many’ who are invited into the kingdom is everyone, all the Jews and all the gentiles. So who are the few? That could either refer to the Jews, who were the especially chosen guests, or the badly dressed man who was expelled (*see footnote below, if his treatment has bothered you!). In either case, the few are not chosen for salvation, but, in the case of the Jews, to model the kingdom and ‘bring’ salvation, and in the case of the man expelled, to miss out on the feast. In fact, whenever the Bible talks of God choosing people, it is never for salvation (He chooses everyone), but always to perform a task.
So what was River chosen for? What tasks has Father God asked us to perform? I think these six help make our community very special:
- To live in freedom and bring freedom. It was for freedom that Jesus set us free, and wherever the Spirit is, there is freedom. Freedom from the law and religion, as well as freedom from sin and the fear of death.
- To declare the goodness of God. As Tom Wright says, it’s not that God is angry with people, but somehow manages to find a way to save a few. Rather, God, our loving Father, is determined to bless every family on earth, and therefore works against everything that holds people back from His abundant life and blessing.
- To overflow with joy in the Holy Spirit. River Church was birthed in a joyful outpouring of the Spirit on a bunch of teenagers. Since then we have enjoyed discovering gifts such as prophecy, tongues and healing. Jesus sends us His Spirit to empower us in all sorts of ways to work with Him on His mission to bless and save the world.
- To be family. We are held together by our relationships, our love for one another and our appreciation of these values, rather than a set of beliefs.
- To call everyone to fulfil their destiny. Every person is created in God’s image and made for a glorious purpose. Regardless of age or gender, every believer is an ambassador for Christ and called to represent Him.
- To bring heaven to earth. We have been given authority to serve through being good news to the poor, setting captives free, healing the sick, making peace, and bringing His presence, justice and joy in His name.
This is our calling in partnering with Him to bring revival to our land. So let’s do everything we can to make our calling and election sure, let’s give what we can to live life this glorious way, for we will reap a harvest if we do not give up! (Galatians 6:9)
* For those who, like me, have felt sorry for the badly dressed man... after all he was dragged off the street: I understand it was customary for wealthy hosts to provide wedding garments at the door so his lack of attire is really a statement about him gaining entry some other way, not using the door, or not being bothered to change. Both speak to us as Jesus is the doorway to life and He loves us too much to leave us in a less than glorious state, so has given us every blessing (Ephesians 1:4) and everything we need for a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3).