Matthew 22:1-14 Part 2

(Historical and Doctrinal Overview of the Parable)


As you’ve heard me say before, upon my being asked about it, the reasons we don’t spend a lot more time on the doctrines of election and predestination are, 1) (and this is the least of them) they are so well-known, accepted and understood by this congregation that they’re now elementary doctrines of the faith, and 2) with one possible exception, heretofore in the text of Matthew we’ve not seen explicit mention of them.

Now, it could easily be said:  “Yes, but – what about the implications in the text?”  And I say, “Yeah, you’re right of course!  There have been implications of election and predestination in the text.  And we could have dealt with them – and other doctrines as well.  And this would have been a ten-year project instead of a seven!  The fact is that the first twenty-one chapters has presented us with so many things to learn and assimilate and hide in our hearts that we’ve had to really labor against our own weaknesses!  And, speaking for myself, I know that the Lord has been glorified by the analytical preaching of the text of the Gospel.  Although we’ve dealt with some implications, for the most part we’ve stuck to the text.

But, that aside, you’ll notice that I said “heretofore” there has been no explicit mention of God’s election and predestination in the text.  That’s no longer true with the beginning of chapter twenty-two.  Although this is a parable, and therefore it has to be interpreted in that context, Jesus hesitates not in the least to proclaim His Father’s sovereign election of the “few” in Israel.  And it is clear that these few are previously called the “remnant” of Israel that God had chosen and held to be His Own – many of them hunted and found by the disciples before the crucifixion. And the rest evangelized after the resurrection.  And all of which got out of Jerusalem and Israel before Christ’s Parousia.

But for a brief time before we come to the text next Lord’s Day, I want to just say some things with regard to the value (i.e. value to everything that exists) of divine election and predestination.  I’m not going to jump off into systematic theology here and start comparing catechisms and defining terms and preaching topically!

But I just want to say these few things about the value of these Biblical doctrines, because the underpinning of man’s understanding of himself and his religion and his society and his culture and his government is God’s sovereign election!  I want to show you that, and have you understand its great value.  And then, having done that, we can easily reach some conclusions about why the Church and the state are in their present condition.  And, of course, it will set us free to understand this parable.

It is said by many today, in our present social climate, that the reason for our cultural decay is that people have strayed from their religious roots.  That young people and adults alike have lost their way to God.  Some of them, philosophers, correspondents, radio and TV hosts, etc., are proclaiming a return to “values” (whatever that means).  Some even go so far as to say we’re leaving God out!

At the same time that social engineers and educationists are working hard (because of guilt) to eliminate any mention of, and relationship to, religion, these others are touting a return to religion and religious values!  While some are building a case for parental and pastoral religion abuse in the home and in the Church, others are screaming for parents and clergy and teachers to return to instilling the values of their traditional religions!

The idea being that, whatever the religious mores are, seeking God will have a calming social effect and reverse the current trend toward cultural decay and social chaos.  Whatever the religion is, they say, it has some “values” attached to it.  Whatever the path to God is, it will provide the “value base” that is needed to give the society the stability it so desperately needs.  Many of the recent losing party are even “packaging” religious values.

Now, all the religions of the world, with one exception, teach that the way to God is accomplished by man.  God is found by human initiative.  It doesn’t matter which ones you examine, that will be the case!  The means will differ somewhat in most, but the approach to God commences with man!  Man, if you look closely at all the tenets of each of the religions, takes the initiative.

And I’m sure that most people you would come in contact with, should you ask them they would say that that’s a pretty good thing!  There’s probably a lot of different ways to God they would say; and that can certainly be a stimulus to religion, because the more ways there are, the more individuals will participate!  All the tastes and preferences can be satisfied!  Religion, they say, is promoted this way!

And, of course, the more ways there are to God the more acceptable they all are as a group.  No one has the exclusive on God, so nobody can be intolerant of anybody else!  My way is just as good as your way, so let’s live and let live!  And everyone sort of accepts that mentality.

And, lastly, this gives the state an opportunity to compete for the minds and hearts of men too, doesn’t it? And with the power of the sword at its disposal, it has a distinct advantage in the competition.

Now, as I said, in all the religions of the world man takes the initiative toward God – with one exception.  There’s only one.  In Biblical, Reformed Christianity God stops fallen, cursed, God-hating man dead in his tracks and redeems him!  There’s no other way for the accursed human rebel to live except he be born again through the electing, predestinating love and grace of God!  Man is arrested in his flight of hatred from God, and the blood of Christ is applied to wash him clean; he is given the body of Christ as a new humanity; his eyes are turned to God in obedience; and he is turned in loathing from his sin nature – all by the initiative of God!

So you see there is one “slight” difference here between all the religions of the world and the Biblical worship of the One Triune God (there are many differences, of course, but none more striking than this one).

And since that is the case (since there’s only one), isn’t it true what I said earlier – that the doctrine of election is the underpinning of man’s understanding of himself and religion and society and culture and government?

Isn’t it true that if there’s only one religion in which the salvation of man is accomplished solely by the initiative of God, then there is exclusivity in Christianity?  (Jesus said, “I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man comes to the Father except by Me.”  Exclusivity.)  Then isn’t it also true that there must be intolerance of every other religion – because they’re all false and idolatrous?

And then it also follows that the state, in promoting the highest good for all of its people, must not promote pluralism and tolerance of all religions; for there is only One God, Who elects and predestines according to the council of His Own Will.

For man to be epistemologically self-conscious (i.e. for us to know ourselves in reality), we must know the electing and predestinating love and grace of the One True God; for every other way is designed by man and initiated by man – and thereby false!  Therefore the understanding of the Biblical doctrine of election is, by necessity, the underpinning of man’s knowledge of himself!  Man may not know himself while, at the same time, absenting himself from this truth!

The knowledge of the doctrine of election is also the firm foundation and underpinning for culture and society!  We have the greatest example of this in the Reformation.  Reformed Theology (the Biblical worship of God) produced the most advanced society in the history of the world – with the best order, and the most concern for the environment, and the finest creature comforts, and the best medical care – non-arguably the most cultured civilization that ever lived!

Reformed Theology above all recognizes that the One True God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – initiates the salvation of men!  By His electing love and mercy, and by His predestinating will, men are transformed from death unto life; kings and presidents are enthroned and dethroned; nations and governments are established and destroyed!

But all other ways to God, all other ways to societal order, all other ways to civilization and culture are designed and initiated by man!  So knowledge of the doctrines of God’s Sovereign election and predestination are the underpinnings of society and culture!  Without this understanding man initiates his own ways to God and his own salvation; and all his religions and all his efforts at building are doomed to failure!

And, now, taking the broader and historical view, the Scriptures plainly state that God has predestined (planned) from the beginning whatsoever comes to pass.  And those prophetic portions of Scripture give us a little glimpse into God’s predestined future.

In the Older Testament Writings, there were many things prophesied which, in reading the later Scriptures, we can see come to pass.  Some of those Jesus speaks about in our text today:  The few (called the remnant) which God reserved for Himself; the Messiah, Who came “in the fullness of the time”; the Jewish nation, prophesied in Psalm two and Psalm one hundred eighteen to gather against God’s Messiah and kill Him.

All of these things were predestined by God and prophesied by the prophets and brought to pass in God’s history.  They are clear examples of God’s predestination of all things.  And there are great things which are predestined but which are yet to occur or yet to occur in their fullness!  The Kingdom is an example.  The wholesale conversion of the Jews is another.

And, for the Lord’s people who understand the doctrines of election and predestination, there can be absolutely no fatalism and depression over the fact that all things are predestined.  Those feelings, which some people do have in connection with this doctrine, are as a result of being completely self-centered!  But for those whose eyes are upon God and His glory, the doctrines of election and predestination are most awe-inspiring and joy producing.  They build faith and longsuffering and maturity and obedience – and they also build nations and cultures and societies.

But without it, look where we are now.  We’re dead in the water as a nation – trying to decide which of the man-designed, man-initiated courses to national salvation we need to take.  And what has us in this position?  The churches and the people have rejected the electing and predestinating love and grace of Almighty God in favor of man-initiated religions.  Neither Church nor the state any longer have the knowledge of election and predestination, and therefore the underpinnings of everything are gone.  The only religion in which God initiates the salvation of men is no longer preached or believed.  In fact, it’s no longer allowed in public by the courts of men!

So the only exclusive religion (i.e. the only one in which God initiates the salvation of men) has been given away; and all there is available to hear are the many choices of man-initiated religion.  How could the nation be in any other condition than the one it’s in?

Now, this discussion of election and predestination was brought up the way it was in preparation for a correct understanding of this text.  (Which we’ll get to next Lord’s Day.)  And there’s something else that we have to spend a minute on, too, before we get to it.  Because it fits in so closely with what we just got through with.

And that is the concept of the “historical moment”.  And what I mean by the historical moment is that, in some situations and on various occasions, time, from God’s perspective, isn’t the most important thing.  The history is; or the disobedience is; or the covenant is.  And under those constraints, time becomes relatively inconspicuous.  And history becomes but a moment.

It is said in the Scriptures that a thousand years is near nothing to God.  And on occasion the Scriptures are written as if that was in the forefront of the writer’s mind!  And there just doesn’t seem to be any concept of time.  Large chunks of history are just compressed into the “historical moment”.

But I think that every time that comes up in the text of the Bible, it is because all things are being viewed, at that point, from God’s perspective.  And He isn’t limited to seeing things the way we are.  Remember, time is part of God’s creation!  And God isn’t limited by His creation.

For example, in Psalm two (which we used last Lord’s Day as a prophetic text) the installation of Christ as God’s King is written there in the Hebrew perfected tense – as if it were accomplished.  In other words, as an instrument of prophecy, the Psalm required no interval of time between God’s decree and the enthronement of Christ as Zion’s King!  Even though the Psalm was written maybe a thousand years before Christ, that thousand years, in God’s mind, was irrelevant; it was already done!  It isn’t necessary for God to see two events a thousand years apart as having any interval of time whatsoever between them.

And within the concept of the historical moment is the way we must view this parable at the beginning of chapter twenty-two.  This, as we learned last Lord’s Day, is the parable of the preparation for the marriage celebration.  And in the historical moment we must see seven hundred and fifty years of preaching and prophecy to the leadership and people of Israel.  Preparation!  The call to them was with longsuffering and with great persistence.

And also within the historical moment we must see the entire three-year period during which the remnant, “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, were found by Christ’s disciples – not only called of God, but also elect.

Many are called ones, but few are chosen ones.  The whole nation was called to repentance by no less than seventeen major prophets beginning with Isaiah in 750 BC and ending with John the Baptist.  And there was no repentance.  Just because they were called – many times – by God’s servants (and in many other ways) didn’t mean they were elect of God.  In fact they were predestined for reprobation!

But when the disciples of Christ went out to find the elect remnant of God – the lost sheep – they did hear the call.  And they responded by following Jesus.  And they were ransomed by His sacrifice on the cross.

But many in Israel ignored the prophets rather than suffer the interference (we’ll take that up later), and many, as the former parable indicated, mistreated them and killed them.  The word I’ve translated “arrogantly mistreated” is the word “hubris”, which we’ve seen once before.  We’ll do some more work on that.

But this parable is most certainly to be seen in the context of Israel’s sin and the elect remnant which God knew from the beginning.  Israel is condemned already because God did not know them.  They were aliens oversowed in God’s Garden.  And He did not choose them.

And they did not sorrow and turn and plead for His mercy.  They obstinately (with hubris) stayed the course of their rebellion all the way to the cross – proving themselves to be among the many who were called; but not among the few who were chosen.

This morning we come to the public worship of our Lord Jesus Christ celebrating with the elect remnant of Israel.  They and the eleven elect disciples of Jesus were the first fruits of the ransom sacrifice of the Son of God.

God had known them at the beginning – by name.  And He had kept them by His Power.  And by His keeping them they did not bend the knee to Baal.  And by His keeping them they knew Him when the disciples found them and preached to them.  And when Jesus healed them.

And on that great day when the Son of God was murdered, His blood was shed to cover their sin; His body was given that they might have a new one.  And the third day, when He rose from death, they were with Him and in Him.

Today there are not “a few” to be taken from the many.  The celebration today is that “many” belong to Him – and there will be many, many more!  It is a celebration of complete victory.  Mankind is redeemed!  The world is redeemed!  Man, by the millions, will recognize Him when they are called.  And we will all celebrate our resurrection from the dead with those first few who God knew by name – and kept – and loved.

For all things have been delivered over to Him – all things!  Earth, heaven, hell; men, angels (both good and fallen); time, death and eternity.  All things.  Salvation and damnation, grace and judgment, life and death.  All things.  Truth, righteousness, glory, peace and joy, consolation and refreshing, rest and hope, deliverance from sin, victory in temptation, overcoming the world order, communion with God, the love of God, life in God.  All things have been delivered over to Him.  He is the Mighty God in Whom exists all the virtues of God, and His is the possessor and executor of all creation and history.  He is the Prince of life and the captain of our salvation.  He is the King and the mighty Warrior Who submits the world to Himself, and Who will not fail to subdue it all to the glory of His Father.