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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Title:It's God's grace that's the reason for his gospel call
Text:CD 3/4 art 7-8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Bible Translation: ESV

Book of Praise: 2014

Psalm 118:1

Hymn 1

Psalm 36:1,2

Psalm 118:5

Hymn 82:1,2

Read:  Matthew 22:1-14

Text:  Canons of Dort chap III/IV art. 7,8


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ

If it is true, and it is true, that "many are called but few are chosen", were those who were not chosen even called at all?  If it is true, and it is true, that salvation is of the Lord, that the Holy Spirit is the one who opens hearts and draws people in to believe and so be saved, is the call of the gospel always genuine?  What is this call of the gospel?  Why does the gospel call go out to some and not to others?  And what does it mean to accept it? 

  This afternoon we will consider these questions as we turn to the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22, and consider this in connection to what we confess together in the Canons of Dort, chapter 3&4, article 7 and 8.  I preach God's Word to you under this theme:

It's God's grace that's the reason for his gospel call

1. Those whom God calls are graciously called

2. Those whom God calls are earnestly called

1. Those whom God calls are graciously called

Why does the call of the gospel go out at all?  What's the reason why people even get to hear the command to repent and believe?  Is it something about them, the hearer, that makes them worthy to hear it?  If so, what about those who never get to hear the gospel, who die in ignorance and unbelief?  Were they less worthy?  Has it got anything to do with worth at all?

We read together from Matthew 22, the parable of the wedding feast.  In this parable a number of invitations went out.  First, these invitations only went out to a few.  Let's read that in Matthew 22:1-4.

1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’

We'll get to the part about them refusing to come later, but for now I want you to notice that not everyone was invited:  indeed, it was only a select few who were.  Why was that?  Was there something more worthy about those who were first invited compared to the many who were not?

  For a normal wedding invitation the answer to that question is probably Yes.  For a normal wedding invitation the people who are invited are normally those who are part of the family, are close friends or else someone else who is significant to those getting married or their immediate families.  But what about in this case?  What about those who were first invited in the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22?

  From the very beginning of this parable, the Lord Jesus points out that the wedding story is really a picture of something else.  The wedding story is, he said, about "the kingdom of heaven."  And so the question this parable answers is this:  who is invited, that is, who is called to enter the kingdom of heaven, and who will truly answer that call?

When the Lord Jesus gave this parable, he gave it in the first place to the chief priests and the Pharisees who were standing nearby.  In Matthew 21 he had given another parable, a parable about a master who owned a vineyard.  The master of that vineyard was going away and so he leased the vineyard out to tenants who were expected to look after the vineyard for him, and send him a percentage of the crop.  But these tenants were wicked.  When the master sent his servants to collect the rent, they beat one, killed another and stoned another.  And then finally the master sent them his own son, thinking "Surely they will respect my son."
  But instead they killed him and threw him out.  And that, Jesus explained, was exactly what the nation of Israel had been doing.  They'd killed the prophets, they rejected John the Baptist, and now they would kill the Son himself, the Lord Jesus Christ.  And when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard this, Matthew 21:45 says, "they perceived that he was speaking about them."

  And he was.  And now in chapter 22 he gave them another parable to warn them of what would happen if they continued to resist him and reject the call of the gospel.  The chief priests and the Pharisees, and many of the religious people living in Israel with them, were proud.  They were filled with the feeling of being self-righteous.  They believed that they had every right to inherit the kingdom of heaven, while the tax collectors, the sinners and the gentiles would remain outside.  But they were wrong.  They were not wrong to think that they had received the invitation, that God had called them to wedding feast.  Indeed, he had.  It was with Israel, and almost exclusively with the descendants of Israel that the LORD had established his covenant.  It was to Israel that the LORD had said, "I will be your God and you shall be my people."  And it was in the land of Israel that the LORD dwelled in his temple.  And it was to his people Israel that God then sent his Son. 

  And as such they were privileged.  The Canons of Dort chapter 3&4, article 7 says in the first line,

"Under the old dispensation God revealed this mystery of his will to few."

And the mystery which is meant here is the ministry of reconciliation, as article 6 points out, the gospel of salvation.  Not everybody heard this, not everyone was called in this way.  But Israel was.  But what should they think about that?  How should they see themselves, and how should they see others?  Why did God call them first, why did he reveal himself to Israel and establish his covenant with them?  What was different about them?  What was better about them than anyone else?

  The Jews thought they were better than others.  The chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees acted as though God would necessarily receive them into his kingdom while locking many others out.  But they were wrong.  They were not more deserving than others.  God owed them nothing and there was nothing about them that made God love them more.  In fact, remember what the Lord had already told his people in Deuteronomy 7:7-8.

"It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you ..."

It was God's grace that was the reason for Israel to receive the gospel call in the first place.

  And so what should the people of Israel have done?  How should they have responded?  They should have responded in the way described in our Canons of Dort, chapter 3&4 article 7, where it says

"The cause of this very distribution of the gospel is not to be ascribed to the worthiness of one people above another, nor to the better use of the light of nature, but to the sovereign good pleasure and undeserved love of God.  Therefore we to whom so great a grace is granted, beyond and contrary to all we deserve, ought to acknowledge it with a humble and grateful heart."

And then when it came to others, to those who had not heard of God, nor received his laws, nor heard the command to repent and turn to the Lord, they should never have proudly looked down their noses at them.  In no ways should they have seen them as less worthy of God's grace or of the gospel call.  Rather, as article 7 of the Canons also explains, they should have simply accepted this as the will of God, but all the while praying that many more might hear the call to enter the kingdom of heaven.  But what they did instead was to proudly declare that others did not deserve to and so were unable to enter the kingdom of heaven - but all the while refusing the one way for them to enter themselves.  And that's why the Lord Jesus began his parable about the wedding feast by speaking about them, the chief priests and the Pharisees, and many Jews with them, who had received the call, the invitation, but who refused to attend.  And because they refused the invitation, Matthew 22:8 says, those invited were not worthy to attend.  They were not worthy, and their rejection of the wedding invitation proved that.  And this was a rejection that had happened not just once, but again and again throughout the history of God's people Israel, even up to their rejection of Jesus Christ.  "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" Jesus cried out in Matthew 23:37,

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!"

So why were those first people invited to the wedding feast in the first place?  Why was the nation of Israel called to respond to the gospel and so enter the kingdom of heaven?  Not because they were better, not because they were more worthy.  In fact, their rejection of the call of the gospel proved that.  It was God's grace, and only his grace, that was the reason for Israel to receive the gospel in the first place.

But it was also by God's grace that the gospel call was extended to far more people today.  In his parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22 the Lord Jesus went on to say in verse 8-10,

8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

The first people to be invited - the chief priests, the Pharisees and others among the Jews who rejected the call of the gospel - were not worthy.  It was their fault, and their fault alone that they did not enter but would instead be punished.  But what about what happened next?  Were those invited in the place of the Jews who had rejected the wedding invitation more worthy?  Not at all!  These were the gentiles, the tax collectors, the sinners, the social outcasts!  In the parable of the wedding feast, the servants went out to simply call all whom they could find, both bad and good.  And the point this parable is making is that there was nothing good, nothing worthy in those who were invited.  It was simply because of the grace of the King!

And that's what we need to remember also.  Article 7 of the Canons says that in the new dispensation - that's now, after Christ's death, resurrection and ascension, in the new dispensation

"he took the distinction between the peoples away and revealed it to a larger number.  The cause of this very distribution of the gospel is not to be ascribed to the worthiness of one people above another, nor to the better use of the light of nature, but to the sovereign good pleasure and undeserved love of God."

And therefore, article 7 goes on to say,

"we to whom so great a grace is granted, beyond and contrary to all we deserve, ought to acknowledge it with a humble and grateful heart."

Be careful that you do not do the same as the chief priests and Pharisees in the days that our Lord Jesus walked on this earth.  Be careful that you neither puff yourself up with pride, believing that you are somehow better, somehow more worthy of God's grace than others, and be careful that you do not neglect this well-meant offer of the gospel.  Instead acknowledge it with a humble and grateful heart and come to the banquet.


2.  Those whom God calls are earnestly called

The parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22 teaches us that not everyone who receives the invitation to the wedding will end up going.  There are many, both Jews and Gentiles, who reject the call.  But the problem was never with the invitation.  The Call went out to those first invited and in fact it was even repeated. 

"See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready.  Come to the wedding feast."  (Matthew 22:4)

In our next sermon on the Canons of Dort we will explore why they did not respond, and why others did respond to the gospel call,  but first we have to accept that the call did go out, and God was earnest in the call that was made.  Let's read again what we confess in chapter 3&4, article 8 of the Canons:

But as many as are called by the gospel are earnestly called, for God earnestly and most sincerely reveals in his Word what is pleasing to him, namely, that those who are called should come to him. He also earnestly promises rest for their souls and eternal life to all who come to him and believe.

And that is indeed true.  Consider, for example, what God had told the people of Israel in Isaiah 55:1.

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

And in Matthew 11:28-29 our Lord Jesus said,

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

And 2 Peter 3:9,

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

It is true that not everyone called will accept the call of the gospel, and the Canons of Dort will explain this in article 9 of chapter 3&4.  But before we even get to that, the Canons of Dort wants us to be sure that the Gospel call is genuine.  "Many are called but few are chosen", the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 22:14, but those who are called are earnestly called.  What that means, therefore, is that no one can come the Lord Jesus on the last day and complain, "Yes, you called me to respond to the gospel, but you did not really mean it.  It is not my fault but your fault that I did not believe."  No!  No one can say that. 

  And there is also something else that no one can say.  No one can say, "I really wanted to respond to the gospel, I really wanted to believe, but I was not one of those chosen, I was not one of the elect."  That too is not correct.  If you respond to the gospel you will not be disappointed, you will not have believed in vain. 

  And that gives us hope, that gives us encouragement not just for ourselves, but also when we witness to others:  to our children, to those who have received the covenant promises, and also to those who are not yet Christians, who do not believe.  When the king sent out his servants in the parable of the wedding feast, they went out in the knowledge that the king was genuine:  he most certainly would have his wedding hall filled with guests.  And the king was also genuine in his promise that all those who were invited were genuinely called to come.  So do not think therefore, that the doctrine of election means that the call of the gospel is ever deficient.  Do not say to your children and do not say to others, "I have an invitation to pass on to you, I have a message that tells you to repent and believe the gospel - except I'm not sure if the invitation is real, I'm not sure if call is an earnest one."  No!  You cannot say that.  Rather, speak out and tell others about the gospel, calling them to repent and believe.  Give to them the sure promise that God will never cast out those who come to him by faith.

But now back to the parable of the wedding feast.  Because the parable takes a surprising turn.  After the call went out and many, both bad and good were brought in, the king himself came.  Matthew 22:11-14.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

There was one man there who had snuck into the banquet hall, who had not bothered to take the wedding garment that was offered to him.  But what does that mean?

  The point that Jesus is making here is that while other people might now be invited to the marriage feast, the same rules still apply.  There is still only one way to rightly respond and there is only one way to be granted admittance to the wedding feast.

  Amongst those who were called to the marriage feast there was a man who refused to take the new wedding garment that was offered to him.  Perhaps he had the Jewish equivalent to his own tuxedo, white shirt and bow tie  - that is, he was relying on himself, his own good works to be received into heaven.  Perhaps he thought his regular Jeans and T shirt type clothes were good enough – that is, he was complacent, he didn’t see the need to change.  We don’t know.  What we do know, however, is that when this man was given the wedding garment to wear, he said, “No thanks.  I don’t need that.  I've got my own clothes, thank you very much.”

This man ignored the dress code that God insists on.  No, it is not that he hadn’t tucked his shirt in properly or forgot to polish his shoes.  It is not that his clothes just were not quite up to scratch, and so he missed out on a technicality.  This man was turned out on his ear because he did not come to the wedding banquet in the way the Great King, the Lord, had told him to.

  This talk about a wedding garment is not really about linen, rayon or cotton.  The point of the parable is not about clothes.  Rather it is a picture that the Bible uses in both the Old Testament and the New Testament about putting on the righteousness that is offered to you.  This wedding garment then is a picture of us being declared righteous in Jesus Christ.  The wearing of the wedding garment is a picture of not only hearing the call of the gospel but also of responding to it.

  And that's a message that we need to hear.  Because you too have received that wedding invitation.  You too have been called by the gospel.  But what will you do with that invitation?  How do you respond?  The Jews in Jesus' time on earth had become complacent.  The Jews in Jesus' time had grown smug.  They assumed it was all for them, they believed that if anyone was going to get to heaven it would be them.  But they did not change, nor did they truly embrace the gospel of salvation that Christ had come to offer them.

  But what about you?  Will you be speechless when you meet the King?  What clothing will you be wearing when you enter the wedding feast?  What right do you have to sit down at the wedding banquet of the Son of God?

  Actually, we do not have any right in ourselves.  And we do not have our own clothes that will pass muster.  But Jesus died for our sins, and He offers us the covering of His own righteousness in which alone you can dare to stand before God.

  And will God reject such a person?  Will he reject you because he didn't really mean to save you anyway?  Will he reject you just were not quite good enough, you doubted just once too often, you were no more than a bruised reed or smoldering flax?  Of course not.  For it is for people like you that Christ died.  It is for people like you who know, who know all too well, that you have nothing to offer, that Christ offers you the wedding garment, His righteousness. 

  And it is the wedding garment that is freely offered to you and received in faith that makes you secure.  He gives that garment to you freely, out of mere grace.  And with it, you are guaranteed a place in the Kingdom of heaven!

  That's the promise, and that's the call of the gospel.  It is a gracious call and it is an earnest call.  And so now what will you do?  How will you respond?  Jesus comes to us and He says, “My Father has called you.  He is expecting you.  So come.  Come to the banquet!  Take the wedding garment, the clothes that have been prepared.  Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ taking hold of the promise that has been given to you.  And you can sure that you will be received into his kingdom.”  Amen.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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