THE KINGDOM AND CHOICE

There isn’t any teaching that seems to be growing as rapidly in our day as what is referred to as “Reformed Theology”.  In days past it has been referred as Calvinism but the teachings involved goes far back beyond Calvin.  The differences that have seemed to always been there almost since the first century is whether everything has been planned and determined by God or does man have free will to determine whether or not they will submit to the offers God has made possible for all people.  Closely tied to the whole matter of whether it is all determined by God or man has been given choice is whether Jesus death on the cross and his atonement was for a limited number of people or for all people every where.

In looking at the basic thought notice one of Jesus’ stories about the kingdom of God.  In Matthew 22:1-14 he spoke to the crowds and to His disciples which is important to notice.  If the story had only been told to the disciples it might have different implications.  “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  He sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.”  He sent other slaves to urge them but they paid no attention and “Went their own way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them.”  The king was angry and declared those who had been invited weren’t worthy to take of the feasts and sent the slaves out into the main highways and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.  The slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.”

This story fits well with the great commission of Jesus sending the disciples into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature and those who believe and are baptized are saved or that repentance and remission of sins should be preached to all people.  (Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:43-44)  It also fits with the reality that Jesus tasted death for all people according to Hebrews 2:9.  His grace has appeared all people offering them salvation (Titus 2:11-13).  While it was true that the slaves went out to compel the people to come in and the declaration was made that “All things were ready” it was still their choice whether or not they would come.  The invitation went beyond the few who had been first invited to the highways and all they came into contact with.

If it had all been chosen by God and predetermined by him as to who would come and who wouldn’t the whole idea of the king becoming angry because those who had been invited didn’t come but chose to reject the invitation and do their own thing would be ridiculous.  People were invited who turned the invitation down.

Also in the second part of the kingdom story when the banquet hall had been filled with people who had accepted the invitation to come to the wedding feasts, the king came into the hall to look over the dinner guests.  “He saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’  And the man was speechless.  Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

While this whole aspect of the story of the wedding feast and how it relates to the kingdom of God seems strange to us it makes a powerful point with regard to man’s ability to hear God’s invitation and accept or reject it or even partially accept it and not go all the way as the Lord’s disciple.  From our point of view this whole things makes no sense.  But the people of that day would have recognized the problem immediately.  When the king invited the people to such an event as the wedding feast for a child he provided the garments for the guest.  For a person to come to the wedding feast and not have on the wedding garments meant they had come in with the guest but refused to put on the wedding garment provided by the king.  It illustrates the fact that one may start in their life of faith by accepting the good news of Jesus and becoming part of God’s kingdom yet refuse to live the life that God teaches us to live if we are part of his kingdom.  When we start on the right way and then turn back we are thrown out of the wedding feast or the acceptance of the Lord.  One chooses whether or not they will become a follower of Christ and they choose whether or not they will continue as a disciple of his.  As Jesus said in John 8:31-32 “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”

God’s kingdom is available to all and every person in invited to be part of that kingdom.  But to be in God’s kingdom involves submitting to the rule and reign of God in our lives all the time not just at the beginning to get in.

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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