Well, it’s happened again. Another university sent out worthless acceptance notifications to hundreds of hopeful high school students who applied for admission.
This time the school was the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Someone in the admissions department mistook a list of 430 applicants for a list of accepted students. All 430 applicants received the same acceptance email. “Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you’ve been accepted as a student at USFSP for the fall 2019 semester.” But most of applicants received it in error.
Within an hour, USFSP sent a subsequent email, “Please disregard the previous email.” Thanks a lot!
The University has really hit the high school students with a double whammy. First, it invited them to study with them, with the full knowledge that they couldn’t honor all those invitations. Then, they gave a false announcement, “You’re accepted,” when they weren’t accepted.
Fortunately, God’s invitation to salvation is not like a university’s invitation to “come study with us.” The university’s invitation carries no guarantee that the student, if he accepts the invitation, will himself be accepted by the school. The university sends out a blanket invitation to the graduating classes of many schools. Yet it knows it cannot honor all the invitations it sends out.
Why? Well, for one reason, not everyone qualifies for acceptance to the university. And even if the university has “open-admissions,” it does not have enough professors and classroom space to accommodate all who receive the invitation. So the invitation is conditional.
But that’s not how God operates. When God invites the whole of humanity to salvation, we can be sure he’s got a heaven big enough to accommodate everyone. When God invites good and bad alike, we can be sure His invitation is not conditional, based upon our own merit or qualifications. And when God tells us He desires all people to accept His invitation, we can be sure that “all” means all (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). And there are no clerical mistakes on God’s part. There’s no, “Sorry, although you received the acceptance letter, it really wasn’t meant for you.” God’s invitation to you is completely valid.
Wait, a minute. Doesn’t the Bible say, “Many are called, but few are chosen?” Yes, it does. But this does not mean, “Many are invited, but few will be accepted.”
Inviting the Unexpected
Look at the parable in which Jesus spoke those words (Matthew 22:1–14). In this parable, a king gives a wedding feast for his son. An initial invitation had gone out to all the guests. Then, as the feast was being prepared, the king sent out his slaves to announce to all the guests, “Everything is ready! Come to the feast!”
But the invitees ignore the king and go about their everyday routine. Some of the guests actually mistreat and kill the king’s slaves. In anger, the king concludes, “The wedding feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy” (Greek, axios, Matthew 22:8).
So the king shifts gears. He’s prepared a marvelous feast and (without refrigeration) it will all go to waste. So the king orders his slaves to invite and bring into his banquet hall the poorest and disabled people of the kingdom. They gladly accept the king’s invitation and fill his banquet hall. And, though they are dressed in rags, he adorns each participant in wedding garments.
Then, one of the original invitees shows up at the feast—perhaps jealous that the king has favored the poor and disabled above him. But he stands out like a sore thumb. He’s not wearing the official wedding garments distributed by the king, but only his own lavish raiment. So the king orders the man who had previously offended him to be cast out of the hall “into the outer darkness.”
Worthy of the Invitation
Then the king closes with these words, “Many are invited, but few are chosen” (Greek, eklektos, Matthew 22:14). The word “chosen” here is an adjective, not a verb. So it doesn’t have the meaning “few will be accepted.” Rather, the word “chosen” in this parable corresponds to word the king used to describe the original invitees in verse 8. “They were not worthy.” They had received the invitation but proved themselves unworthy of it by rejecting it. On the other hand, the poor wretches who did respond to the invitation proved themselves worthy of it simply by accepting it. The Greek word eklektos (usually translated “chosen”) has the meaning here of “choice, select, the best of its kind or class.” In other words, the king’s closing assessment means, “Many are invited, but few prove worthy of the invitation.”
The poor and disabled had no merit in themselves. They didn’t deserve the king’s invitation. But they made themselves “worthy of the invitation” by accepting it.
God Takes Care of Us
In the same way, God has sent out an invitation to all of us to embrace His Son, Jesus Christ and to sit at His eternal wedding feast. The invitation is perfectly valid. You didn’t receive it due to some clerical error. And God is perfectly capable of honoring every last invitation. His banquet hall is big enough to accommodate the whole of humanity. And though we’re all clothed in the filthy rags of our own unrighteousness (Isaiah 64:6), God will provide to us wedding garments of His own making. He will clothe each of us in the robe of His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).
To reject God’s invitation is to offend Him and to dishonor His Son. Our rejection will also constitute the tragic waste and squandering of heaven’s eternal blessings purchased at Christ’s expense. So, for your eternal destiny’s sake, say “Yes” to God.
Dear Father in heaven, in the only way I know how, I open my heart to You and to Your Son, Jesus Christ. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Take possession of my life. Cleanse me of my sins. Clothe me in Your righteousness and make me fit for heaven. Amen.
Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p.197
James Moulton and James Milligan, Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 196
In article photo: Sailor reunites with her grandma and her aunt during a family assessment in Puerto Rico. by U.S. Navy Page licensed under CC BY 2.0