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The Chosen Few

• Greg Boyd

In this week of the Loose Ends sermon series Greg looks at the Parable of the Wedding Banquet. He shares some general principles for understanding parables and addresses common misconceptions. Here we see that God is not like a violent, unjust king, but rather a God who lovingly invites all to a banquet he graciously prepares.

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Idioms are phrases of speech unique to a particular setting or culture. Phrases like “under the gun” or “beat around the bush” have meanings beyond their literal translations that can cause confusion for those outside of the context where the idiom emerged. Similarly, parables are like idioms. To understand correctly, you must know that parables are like one long analogy with some aspects of the parable meant to be representative of the Kingdom of God and some aspects meant to be contrasted with the Kingdom of God.

A general principle for understanding parables:

  • Expected bad behavior = NOT like the Kingdom of God
  • Unexpected good behavior = LIKE the Kingdom of God

Jesus’ primary audience was 1st century Jewish peasants living in and around the region of Galilee. Jesus used his audiences experience as part of his teaching. Any 1st century Jewish peasant would have lived under the rule of landowners, kings, or dignitaries that were often nasty, unjust, and violent. As such, Jesus uses these kings and rulers as part of his teaching, because they were aspects of life his audience was well familiar with. It is also important to note that Jesus often exaggerates their bad behavior, similar to the way a political cartoon exaggerates a politician’s looks and features. The parables are meant to be funny and entertaining so that they are easier to remember and interact with. Some scholars also argue that the parables were therapeutic to their original audience, because they allowed an oppressed people a chance to blow off steam.

The single most common mistake that contemporary readers make when trying to interrupt parables is to confuse the king or ruler in the parable with God. This is where it is important to remember the cultural context and the general principle outlined above. What is expected is NOT intended as a reflection on God and what is unexpected IS intended to reflect the character of God.

Greg then turned to Matthew 22:1-14 and the parable of the Wedding Banquet.

Context: In the 1st century rulers would send out slaves to invite their allies. Once the banquet was prepared they would send their slaves out a second time to let the invitees know that the banquet was ready. No ruler or king would ever ask an additional time, or beg someone to come.

Expected (or Exaggerated) Bad Behavior: The ruler would be unjust and violent. When the ruler in the story is denied (which would have been unheard of in the 1st century context) he has all those he invited killed. This is an exaggerated aspect in the story meant to help it stick in the hearers’ memories.

Unexpected Good Behavior: The ruler imploring his guest to come (no king would ever ask more than once) and then inviting everyone both “good and bad.”

Greg then turned to a few questions that the parable leaves us with. First, what does “weeping and gnashing of teeth” mean? This verse troubles many who have interpreted it to mean hell. In the time of Jesus, outer darkness was thought of a place people went to wait for final judgment. Weeping and gnashing of teeth are descriptions used in both the Old Testament and intertestamental literature. However, nowhere in the Bible does it say that weeping and gnashing of teeth means the person is being tortured or being caused to suffer. In fact, gnashing of teeth in the Old Testament refers to anger and defiance. So, it is more likely that these people are upset that they lost, not repented or sorry for where they are. For more information on this topic check out the sermon “Hell in a Nutshell” or others that Greg has done exploring what the Bible says about Hell.

Second question, what is going on with the guest without the wedding robe? Jewish culture put a huge emphasis on celebrations and festivals and making sure that you were dressed appropriately for them. The guest in the story would have had a wedding robe (which just meant his “Sunday best”). The fact that he didn’t have it on and didn’t have an explanation means that he purposely did not wear it. This would have meant that he was intentional making a statement to the king of what he thought of him and his banquet. The point here is that where we end up reflects our heart’s orientation.

Finally, what does “many are called but few are chosen” mean? This verse is the punchline of the parable. However, it is often misinterpreted and can cause fear for readers who think it means that God is predestining some to heaven and others to hell. It is important to remember that in the story the king does not pick who will end up at the banquet. Rather, guests come of their own accord. Similarly, God chooses everyone who chooses him. All people are call, but love has to be chosen.

Parables always have a practical application. So, what is our take away? It is not enough to accept Jesus’ invitation to the Kingdom. We must also live out our relationship with him. This does not mean we should live in fear or try to earn salvation. Rather, it means that we are married to Jesus and like any married person we should make sure our lives reflect that we are married! We should not expect to sit at the table unless we are dressed for it. As John 17:3 says our relationship with Jesus is our salvation! So, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help show us what old garments we might be holding onto that we need to exchange for the wedding robes that He is trying to give us. The longer we persist in a behavior the better we get at it, so right now is the best time to turn to what God has for us.

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Topics: Hell, Kingdom of God

Sermon Series: Loose Ends

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Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 22:1-14

    But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

  • Ephesians 4:22-24

    You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

  • Revelation 19:7-9

    Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”

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9 thoughts on “The Chosen Few

  1. Mike says:

    Just another example of Greg picking and choosing and twisting Scripture into what he wants, in order to try to mold God into the image Greg thinks He should fit. Warm and fuzzy love, with no tough love. An image which includes no violence on God’s part. Greg is forced to do this because Greg has decided that all violence is evil; therefore, Greg’s god cannot be allowed to ever use violence. Never mind that this involves reinterpreting most of the Bible. Greg is willing to do that. Greg is, apparently, unable to comprehend what most believers seem to understand…..that God uses whatever method He deems appropriate to accomplish His will, and that, if that includes violence (think Flood, for starters), then it’s righteous violence, even if that doesn’t seem right to Greg Boyd. That doesn’t mean that WE can use violence in the same way, to accomplish our will. We’re not God. There are things He does that are righteous acts for Him, since He is God, but would not be right for us, because we are NOT God. We don’t understand the whole picture, or always understand why God chose violence in some situations. But, Scripture is clear……..God often used violent tactics. God even told some of the prophets, “I’m going to do this violence in a way that everyone will KNOW that it is ME doing it.” These are prophets who are speaking under the influence of God’s Spirit. God sees the big picture, and He knows that His violence in some situations is something that He is doing to work everything together for good. It may not look like it to us, because we can only see a small piece of the puzzle. We just need to trust that God knows what He’s doing. As far as eternal punishment goes……everything having to do with God is eternal. Separation from Him is eternal. For Greg to say that, if punishment is eternal, that means God “enjoys” watching people suffer is ridiculous. Where in Scripture does it say that God “enjoys” watching people suffer? It doesn’t. This is something Greg says to try to make God look bad for allowing people to spend eternity apart from Him if they reject Him. Greg needs to check himself when he’s tempted to frame God in this light. Revelation tells us that, for those in the lake of fire, the smoke of the torment of their punishment goes up forever, and there is no rest for them, day or night. When we reject Christ, we reject Him for eternity, and for eternity we suffer the consequences of that rejection. But, we know, that He is not willing that ANY should perish, because He loves the world. So to say that God “enjoys” the consequences people suffer for rejecting Him is ludicrous.

    1. Kevin S says:

      When you say, “..But, Scripture is clear”; would you please clarify that remark? In my book, scripture is by no means ‘clear’.

  2. Mike says:

    Jesus was the exact representation of the Father. He said, “when you see me, you see the Father”. So, lets look at, and listen to, Jesus. He showed love to people through His words and actions, and we should do the same. He also warned people, on numerous occasions, that if they rejected Him, they would face eternal punishment. We should do the same. That is the loving thing to do. If you know someone is on a road that leads to destruction, and you don’t warn them, well, how loving is THAT? Greg would like to ignore these words of Jesus because they aren’t all warm and fuzzy. We can’t do that, though. If we are going to spread Jesus’ message to the world, we need to spread ALL of His message, and not leave out the part of His message that might make people hate us. Some folks only need to hear of God’s love for them, and they are ready to accept Him. Others are proud and arrogant, and need to hear of God’s judgment, as well as His love. Jesus warned His followers that some of the world would hate them, just like they hated Him. And why did they hate Jesus? Because he warned them that their unrepentant hearts would result in their eternal punishment. The only reason Jesus only TALKED about the violent judgment to come, and didn’t SHOW any of that violent judgment, wasn’t because God never engages in violent acts, or that this violent judgment doesn’t exist. It was because, as He told us, He hadn’t come to judge. That wasn’t His purpose for coming to Earth. But, when He said that, He also pointed out that the day of judgment WAS coming. Then, He took that judgment upon Himself, by dying for us, and offered escape from that judgment for all those who would only believe. But for those who reject Him, the wrath of God abides on them, according to Scripture.

  3. kevin says:

    @Mike; you said, “But, Scripture is clear…”. Would you clarify that remark please because, to me, scripture is Not ‘clear’ at all.

  4. Mike says:

    1. The Flood was a violent tactic used by God to kill people.
    2. Fire and brimstone rained down on Sodom & Gomorrah was a violent tactic used by God to kill people.
    3. The plagues on Egypt were violent.
    4. God gave Miriam leprosy in an instant
    5. God opened the Earth to swallow some Jewish rebels
    6. God struck down Annanias and Saphira for lying to the Holy Spirit
    There are more examples, but I suggest you read a little on your own. And, of course, there are multiple times where God uses people to do violent acts on His behalf. He tells them to do these things, and in many cases, speaking through the prophets, He tells everyone in advance that He is going to do violent things, and that He is going to do them directly, or through humans. These are not the misguided words of writers who don’t understand God. They are the words of God Himself, speaking through His Spirit in the prophets. God’s Spirit is not confused about who is doing these things. To be honest, it’s pretty much impossible to read the Bible and not see that God uses violence, at times, to accomplish His purposes. His purposes are always good and just, though, even if, sometimes, we can’t understand how they could be. This is where we need to take that extra step of faith in God’s goodness and love, and just trust that everything He does is for the good of His kingdom. Instead of trying to mold God into the way WE think He should be (all warm and fuzzy, with no justice and no tough love and no violence), we need to just trust His goodness in all situations. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Things that would be wrong for us to do, God can be justified in doing, because He is God and we are not.
    We see often in the OT what God’s judment against sin looks like. It’s hard to watch. Then we see it again on the cross, where His judgment intersects with His grace. It’s hard to watch there as well. Now His grace has been shown to all, through Christ, and He patiently waits for all to accept His grace and love. The time will come, though, as both Jesus, Paul and John tell us, that those who reject God’s grace will face God’s judgment (Revelation), and once again, it will be hard to watch.

    1. kevin says:

      have yet to read boyd’s book ‘crucifixion of the warrior God’; guess i better read that to get the scope of his position before i pass judgement on him.

  5. Denny says:

    Wow, Mike. Catching up on sermons I missed while out of town, I was really stunned by some of your comments. While I feel that you are totally within your right to express your opinion, make your point (scripture references/cross references would be good), differ in your ideas, but really, how helpful to anyone is it for you to be so make statements like the following, none of which are entirely true and are directed at the person, not the belief held?

    Quoted from Mike’s comments above:
    “An image which includes no violence on God’s part. Greg is forced to do this because Greg has decided that all violence is evil; therefore, Greg’s god cannot be allowed to ever use violence. Never mind that this involves reinterpreting most of the Bible. Greg is willing to do that. Greg is, apparently, unable to comprehend what most believers seem to understand

    “Greg would like to ignore these words of Jesus because they aren’t all warm and fuzzy.” “This is something Greg says to try to make God look bad for allowing people to spend eternity apart from Him if they reject Him.”

    Mike, many of your comments sound bitter and hateful. In the future when expressing your thoughts, disagreeing, or making your point, please do so with kindness, respect, and love.

    Matthew 22:36-40 New International Version (NIV)
    36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
    37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Wishing you much love and peace as a child of God!

  6. Mike says:

    You are correct. Although I hate the fact that, in my opinion, Scripture is being misused and misinterpreted by someone who has influence over many people, and is responsible for teaching them who the Bible says God is, I still need to express myself in a more loving manner, without making judgments on the individual himself. Your rebuke is accepted.

  7. Chris says:

    Hi all. This is my first post. I’m kind of new here, and I usually just read the posts to get further insights into a particular sermon. What prompts me to submit this post is the interactions I came across above.
    I was captivated by Mikes posts. I somewhat follow Greg’s teachings and receive many helpful insights from him, so when I read Mikes posts I was somewhat taken aback by the blatant negativity of the comments, as well as the fact that they were allowed to remain here.
    However, as I continued to follow the flow, I was pleasantly refreshed by Denny and Mike’s discourse.
    I don’t know if Denny and Mike actually know each other; if so, kudos to both of you. If not, Double kudos. You have demonstrated to myself, as well as anyone else who happens upon this post, how to disagree with dignity. I salute you both.

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