Who Are You O Man

Romans 9:19-24


Well you will say to me then, ‘Why does He then still find fault? For who has resisted His will?’ But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me this way?’ Does the potter not have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Father, we thank You that You have counted us worthy of grace even though we are so unworthy of Your mercy, so unworthy of any blessing that we might receive from You, and yet You’ve poured it out upon us. As we just sang there, “We are prone to wander,” Lord, we recognize that. We see it is in our hearts and our nature to go astray, and “all we like sheep have gone astray, we’ve turned everyone to his own way.” But You, Father, have laid on Your Son our iniquity; “by His stripes we are healed.” And we praise You today, Lord; we praise You for the work You have done in our lives because of Your love, and by Your grace. And we ask, God, that You would compel us by that same love to not be able to contain or to hold back Your Gospel from going forward. Lord, use us to be conduits through which Your grace flows to others, Lord, because You so love the whole world. We thank You for Your great love today, for it is by Your love that we have been made the children of God. We praise You, in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”

You can be seated.

Perhaps you’ve asked that question before, or at least thought it, especially living in such a place as this: Why was I born in this place, and at this time? Or, you look at the way that God has worked in a certain way in your life, maybe it’s even going through a difficult trial, and you see what is taking place and you say, “How is it that God decided to do it this way instead of that?” “Why is God working in this manner and not in that?” We all find ourselves, at various times, asking those sort of questions. It’s part of our very nature as human beings. There’s many, many questions that we find ourselves, especially when we’re by ourselves just thinking, we start to wonder and ponder about certain things. We desire to know our origins. We want to know and understand our purpose. We seek to identify our identity. And we especially want to comprehend what our destiny is. These are the questions that many people find themselves contemplating. In fact, these are the questions that every single philosophical thought is based upon, these essential questions.

You know one of the wonderful things you discover when you begin to look at the Scriptures, when you begin to comprehend what it is that God has spoken to us, is that God does provide for us answers to these deep questions of life. But if you’ve taken time to study the Scriptures, you’ve taken time to look into what God has to say in response to those deep questions of our soul, you find that sometimes the answers that God gives are not in the way or in the manner that we would anticipate or expect. There are times, in fact, where God’s answers are just hard for us to fully grasp. Can any of you relate to that? You know, looking at how God sees things sometimes is hard for us to understand because we are, in reality, the Bible makes it very clear, we are wicked, our hearts are fallen. And so for us to imagine a God who is completely righteous – holy, holy, holy – completely set apart from any sort of corruption or sin, it’s hard for us to grasp that. And so as Isaiah recognized and spoke, as inspired of God, in Isaiah chapter 55; God spoke through him and said, “My ways are higher than your ways, My thoughts beyond your finding out.” And so recognize that to be the case when we get to know God through His revealed word.

Now the text that is before us is a text in which Paul is dealing with some of these deep difficult questions that we sometimes find ourselves asking of God. The last several weeks as we’ve been going through Romans chapter 9, we’ve seen that the apostle Paul is answering questions that sometimes trouble us. And here in the text that we’re in today – verses 19 through 24 – we’re right in the thick of Paul’s argument. You see if God, in verse 18, as we saw two weeks ago, if God has mercy upon who He wills, and upon who He wills He hardens, then one would probably object with the objection that Paul highlights in verse 19. “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?’” The New Living Translation renders it this way: “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what He makes them to do?” You see when you look at the scape of humanity, when you look at salvation coming to humanity, and you see that there are some, as we’ve seen in this text, that are chosen out to work out the work of God, the plan of God, and there are others who were hardened, like Pharaoh; there are some that, when you look at their lives, it seems like they received great blessing and love from God, while another did not – “Jacob have I loved,” even so, he was a wicked scoundrel, “and Esau have I hated.” And it’s not necessarily that God hated him; it’s just that in contrast between Jacob and Esau, you would look at the outcomes and you’d say, “It seems like God more blessed Jacob than Esau.” And so people look at that and say, “Well why does God work in that way? If He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, why did He blame Pharaoh or hold him responsible for the decisions that he made? Wasn’t he simply doing just what God had called him to do, or essentially made him to do?”

Now the entire book of Romans, so far, almost the entire book, has been Paul’s responses to the anticipated objections of his readers. Paul will make a statement, and then he’ll back that statement up, and then he will respond to the inevitable question that will arise in the mind of the one who’s reading. And over and over again, especially since chapter 5, all through 6, through 7, and then 8, Paul has been responding to those inevitable, anticipated objections. And here again, in Romans chapter 9, verse 19, he highlights one of the anticipated objections. He says, “You will say to me.” So “I’ve just declared that God, He had mercy upon Moses, who was a murderer, an escapee from justice, He had mercy upon him and blessed him and the nation that he led, and then He hardened Pharaoh and the nation that he led. And He judged the Egyptians, whereas He blessed the people of Israel. And yet the children of Israel, they also hardened their hearts towards God. How come God was merciful to this one sinner and He was not merciful to this other sinner? And so someone will look at that and they’ll just say, “It just doesn’t seem to make sense.” And so Paul says, “I know your objection is going to be this: ‘Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what He make them to do?’”

Now, interestingly enough, at every inevitable question until this one in Romans chapter 9, Paul has patiently taken the time to answer the objection. Every single time he comes across a potential objection, he goes through and he answers it very patiently and painstakingly. And yet this time he doesn’t. He doesn’t. His response to this question is rather interesting. Apparently this objection, in the mind of Paul, was absurd. It seems by his response that Paul did not even consider this question to be valid. Look at verse 20, his response: “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?” What a minute!! It seems like a logical question. If God hardened Pharaoh and then held him responsible for the decisions that he made, then how is that not unfair or unjust? Why does God hold him responsible for the decision that it seems like God made him make? At least that’s our perception of it. And Paul’s response – “Who are you, O man, to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me this way?’”

Now, might I just point out that this is the quintessential biblical smackdown. “Who are you, O man, to reply against God?” It is on the same level with what we read in the book of Job. Have any of you ever read the book of Job? I highly encourage you to read the book of Job. It’s a very interesting book. Fascinating. It’s considered by most Bible scholars to be the very first work of the Bible. Although it’s not in the very first section of the Bible, it’s considered to be the first work of the Bible – the oldest book of the Bible. And in the book of Job you have a man by the name of Job whom God’s recognition of him was that he was a righteous man, that he was blameless. And in the book of Job we see into the spiritual realm, and we find that Satan comes before God, and he has been looking upon all of humanity, and God says, “Have you considered by servant Job?”

And Satan says, “Listen, Job is a mercenary; he only serves You for what You give him. If You took away everything that You’ve given to him – all his blessings – he’d curse You to Your face.”

And so God says, “Okay, let’s test your hypothesis.”

Now Job didn’t get to hear this. If he did, he probably would have objected, and said, “Hey, wait a minute!! I don’t think that’s a good idea!!” Right? Listen I guarantee, if you and I had an opportunity to see the things that were coming in our lives, that God sees, being outside of time, knowing what is coming, we would probably object as well.

And so we see in the book of Job that Satan was given opportunity. And he took away Job’s health, and he took away Job’s wealth, and he took away Job’s children. And Job, for almost the entire book, sits before three of his friends who accuse him falsely of sin. They slander his character; even though God’s account of his character was that he was blameless, that he was righteous. And all through the story of Job, as Job is giving his rebuttal to his friends who are accusing him of sin, he is essentially saying, “God, I want an opportunity for a hearing with You.”

Perhaps you’ve heard someone say that before. Maybe you have even thought that. “When I get to heaven I’ve got a lot of questions to ask Him.”

And so Job, throughout the book of Job, is saying, “I want an opportunity to plead my case before God. I want an opportunity to ask Him a question.”

And you know what, Job had that opportunity in Job chapter 38. Let me read to you from Job chapter 38, verse 1, “Then the Lord out of the whirlwind, and said: ‘Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?’” Essentially God says, “Job, you speak of things you don’t understand.”

He goes on: “Now prepare yourself like a man.” God says, “Stand up like a man. I want to talk with you. And let’s see how you’re going to answer. I have some questions for you. You think you have some questions for me. Let me start with My questions for you.”

Verse 4: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.” That’s a biblical smackdown. [laughter] That’s being dressed down by God right there. God says, “You’ve got some things, some objections, some questions; let Me ask you a question: Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”

This goes on for several chapters. God asking him questions like this: “Tell me, if you have understanding? Who determined the measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?”

And so we find ourselves sometimes asking questions of God; questions that we think, “You are unjust if You don’t answer this question. God, why was I placed in this place, at this time, afforded the blessings that I have, when someone else was not?” You know you really ask these kind of questions when you experience the culture shock of coming back from a place like the Philippines or a place like Mozambique after a mission trip. You know a lot of times people talk about culture shock when you go to another culture, but the greater culture shock happens when you come back to your home culture, and you see all the abundance that you have, and you look around and you see sometimes how we take for granted the things that we have, and you start to ask that question: “God, why is it that I was born at this time and in this place? Why have You made me in this way? Or why have You done it this way?” Or sometimes we go through a crisis or a trial and we say, “God, why have You done this?!” The reality is sometimes we don’t get a response, do we? Or at least we don’t get the response that we anticipated. I guarantee Job did not anticipate that question: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”

You see, in the question, God is addressing the fact that He is God and we are not. Any of you guys seen that great movie Rudy? I love that movie. Not a huge fan of Notre Dame, but I love the movie. And there’s a scene in the movie where Rudy goes to talk with the priest there, and he sits down, and he’s questioning things, and he can’t understand something that’s going on in his life. And the priest says to him, “You know there’s two things I’ve learned in this life: There is a God, and I’m not Him.” You know, and sometimes we need to be reminded that we’re not God, we don’t have full understanding, we don’t fully comprehend what it is that God, who sees all things and knows all things, is doing.

And so Paul says that this objection, this question is not valid. Now it’s hard for us to contend with that, because we think we have every right to ask this question. But Paul, in his response, shows that the question is absurd. It would be like if I were standing in my front yard and the palm tree that I planted in my front yard a few years ago spoke to me and said, “Why did you plant me right here?”

I go, “What are you talk…? Who do you think you are? Do I not have power to put it wherever I want? I have a plant, I put it wherever I want it!! And I can uproot it if I want to. Why? Because it’s mine!! It’s mine!!

And so Paul uses the illustration of the clay saying to the potter, “Why have you made me like this?” God has prerogative, in His sovereignty, to do as He wills, especially, note this, especially as it pertains to the accomplishing of His purpose and His plan. You see, if anything, the Bible reveals that God has a plan. There is a strategy in human history. God did not create haphazardly. In fact Isaiah tells us this, that God did not create without purpose. He had a reason when He created all things seen and unseen, and ultimately that is to magnify His glory, to show how awesome and good He is. And so God has prerogative and sovereignty to work as He wills over His plan. Now, in saying that, I think it’s important that we be reminded that the biblical presupposition that we’re working from, is that the sovereign God sovereignly respects human responsibility. He sovereignly respects human moral agency. God respects our free will. Therefore, it is my conclusion that Paul here is speaking to God’s use of the believer, (God can use the believer – that is the person who is righteous because of faith), He can use the believer, and He can use the unbeliever alike (the unrighteous person) to accomplish His purpose here upon the earth. He is able to use those instruments that He has created, even if they fight against His will. God has a purpose and a plan that He has purposed to do, and it will be accomplished, and nothing will thwart that plan. Nothing will frustrate the plan of God. Even if you have Pharaoh who fights against God’s plan, which was to remove His people out of Egypt; even if you have Pharaoh fighting against God’s plan, he will not frustrate it.

Now we have a hard time comprehending this because we have plans that are sometimes frustrated. Right? How many of you have made a plan before, at eight in the morning, and by noon nothing has gone according to plan? That’s like every day in the DeBenedictis household. [laughter] So we experience this reality that our plans often do not come about the way that we want them to come about, because there are obstacles, there are things that come that get in the way of our plans. You know the Bible says in Proverbs chapter 16, verse 9 that a man plans his way, but God directs his steps. So you may have a plan, but God has a bigger plan, and He’s going to accomplish His plan, and nothing that we do in fighting against it will foil His plan. It might delay the outcome. Let me give you and example: God intended and planned that His people, the children of Israel, would come into the Promised Land, and He brought them to the edge of the Promised Land in Numbers chapter 13. It was always His plan to bring them into the Promised Land. And yet, because of their unbelief, they could not. So for 38 years that generation wandered in the wilderness until all of them died, and then God brought them into the Promised Land. Although they were stiff-necked, hard-hearted, and unbelieving, God’s plan still went forward, it was just delayed.

Let me point out – God has a plan in your life, something He wants to accomplish in your life and mine. And He will ultimately accomplish that plan. But sometimes, because of our kicking and screaming, it’s delayed. This is why He said to Paul, “Isn’t it hard for you to kick against the goads?” How many of you have found yourself at some point in your life kicking against the goad of God’s plan? It’s a hard place to be, isn’t it? It’s like plowing gravel. Not fun.

So our plans can be foiled; God’s plan will ultimately come to pass, even if there are those who set themselves in opposition to His plan. This is why I have little concern, I have little concern about what the Supreme Court says or does. I have very little concern about who is elected to be the leader of this nation or another nation. I just don’t have any concern over that. Why? Because God’s plan is not going to be frustrated by it. Church, we need to understand this. The church in America gets all flustered and freaked out when something doesn’t go according to our plan. Do you think that God is frustrated? Do you think that it took God by surprise? I think not.

Look at verse 21, Romans chapter 9: “Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump.” Would you underline that word in your neighbor’s Bible? “…the same lump.” “…from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another vessel for dishonor?” “Does not God have power…” The Greek word there exousia, it means jurisdiction or authority. God has authority, He has jurisdiction over the clay; He is the potter. The Bible tells us this explicitly in Isaiah 64, verse 8, I believe it is – He is the potter, we are the clay. So God, the potter, has power and jurisdiction/authority over the lump of clay that is fallen humanity – the same lump, we are all a part of the same lump of clay – fallen humanity. And from that same lump, He has authority to make one vessel for honor – notice the word for – and another for no honor, or dishonor. Now, recognize that this vessel that is created for honor, it is intended to bring honor to the Master. We are not fashioned and formed by God to bring honor to ourselves. You see, we seem to think, because we live in a culture that highly exalts the person, the individual, we seem to think that we are formed to bring honor to us. But no, we’ve been formed for the intended purpose of bringing honor to God. All of creation was created to bring honor and glory to Him. And yet creation is fallen, the lump of clay is fallen!! Look around; see some fallen clay? We do, right? You’re staring at some up here, I’m staring at a whole bunch down there – fallen clay. And God, the Father, the potter, He is able to take and make from that lump of fallen clay, He says, “I’m going to take this one and I’m going to form it for My glory, for My honor, so it becomes a vessel for honor.” And yet there is some within the clay that is formed to be a vessel for no honor or for dishonor.

What are the vessels for honor in the text that we’ve been looking at here in Romans chapter 9? Well Abraham, Abraham was cut from the lump of fallen clay, he was a sinner like all other sinners. Isaac, he’s just another sinner, cut from the lump of fallen clay, and yet God says, “I’m going to make you for honor, to bring glory to Me. Jacob, listen, if you read the book of Genesis, you know that Jacob was part of the fallen clay, and yet God says, “I’m going to use your life to be a vessel for honor.” Then Moses, and then the Jewish remnant, and then the Gentile remnant (those who would come to faith in Christ), they are formed into vessels for honor. But there were vessels for no honor or dishonor – Ishmael, Esau, Pharaoh, unbelieving Israel, the unbelieving world. God will still have power and authority over them, but they will not be those vessels that are bringing forth glory in the way that God intended that they would.

But the question arises: What determines a vessel for honor or a vessel for dishonor? What is it that separates one from being a vessel for honor (they’re both taken from the same lump of fallen clay)? But what is it that makes one for honor and another for dishonor? I would suggest to you, and I believe that we’ll see this bear out in the text, I would suggest to you as we, actually we’ve already seen a little bit, that those vessels for honor, they become vessels for honor from the same lump of fallen clay, because of belief evidenced by love and obedience – belief evidenced by love and obedience. And therefore one becomes a vessel for dishonor or no honor because of unbelief – unbelief evidenced by rebellion and hardness.

Now what is given to these vessels respectively? If you have one that is a vessel for honor and one that is a vessel for dishonor, what do these two vessels receive from God? Look at verse 22: “What if God, wanting to show His wrath…” What if God, desiring to reveal His wrath… You say, “God desires to reveal His wrath?” Yes, the Bible actually tells us, we saw this back in Romans chapter 1, verse 18, at the very beginning of the book: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against” what? “…all ungodliness and unrighteousness of those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” So the Bible declares, in the very same book that we’re in, that one day God is going to reveal His wrath.

“What if God, desiring to reveal His wrath and therefore to make His power known.” So that people can see, through the revelation of His wrath, that He is powerful. Is this even possible? Yes. Remember God poured out His wrath and His justice upon Egypt. What was the result of God’s wrath poured out upon Pharaoh and the armies of Egypt? Well, when the children of Israel began to come into the Promised Land, some 40 years later, they came first to the city of Jericho. And when they came to the city of Jericho, Joshua sent two spies in there, and they met a woman, a harlot there, and she said, “We have heard of you and we’ve been fearful. Our hearts melted within us.” Why? “Because we heard what your God did to the Egyptians.” He made His power known.

“What if God, desiring to reveal His wrath and to make His power known, He endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” He endured their stubborn rebellion. He endured their stubborn rebellion as they fought against Him. Why? Because He wanted to show His wrath upon them, “and,” verse 23, “that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory.” You see, that word glory, the very same relation to honor – the vessels for honor, they are receiving mercy, the vessels for honor, that bring honor to the Master, they receive mercy. The vessels that are dishonoring the Master, they’re “dising Him,” not a good idea. What do they receive? The revelation of God’s wrath. But these vessels were formed out of the same lump of fallen humanity. And I would suggest they were formed according to His foreknowledge. One for no honor, upon which God reveals His wrath; another for honor or for glory, that brings glory to the Master, and God gives to them mercy.

Now the question then is: Who are the vessels for honor and who are the vessels for dishonor, and how do you become a vessel for honor that receives mercy, in spite of coming from the same lump of fallen sinful humanity? Well remember, the potter has chosen clay to form, from that lump of fallen humanity. Verse 24: Who are they? “Even us,” Paul says. Who are the vessels for honor that receive mercy? “Even us whom God called.” Even those who God has called. “Not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles.” You see at this point many Jewish readers of Paul’s letter would object. Because in the mind of the Jewish readers, in the mind of the 1st Century Jews, and Paul was cut from that lump, he was of that same cloth, if you will. Many of the Jews in Paul’s day, they considered that they, by default, by the very fact that they were descendants of Abraham through Isaac, they were the vessels for honor, and all other people were the vessels for dishonor. And now Paul brings in this concept that: No, God has called and chosen that there would be some vessels for honor, not of the Jews only, but also of Gentiles. Do you realize that the Gentiles, especially the Pharisees, and Paul was formerly a Pharisee of the Jews, the Pharisees of the Jews, they considered Gentiles to be unworthy of God’s grace, unworthy of God’s grace! And yet here Paul says, “God has bestowed His grace and His mercy upon even Gentiles, by His calling.” He has called some out of Israel – a remnant from the line of Abraham – but He has called also those out of the world – Gentiles – to be vessels for honor, because they’re all cut from the same lump, whether they are a Jew or a Gentile, it’s all still fallen humanity. And so what we see here is that God’s mercy is not exclusively for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

So why has God chosen to call one over another? Why has He chosen to call me or to call you, to take us out of the lump of humanity, the same lump of fallen humanity, and say, “I’m going to form you into a vessel for honor?” Why? Why has He chosen? Well, the ultimate answer to the question is that “many are called, but few are” what? See you already know where I’m going with this, because you’ve heard that said before, although you may not remember where you saw it or read it. “Many are called, but few are chosen.” “Many are called, but few are chosen.” You see that word chosen is the Greek word eklektos, it where we get our English word elect. The call goes to all. “Many are called, but few are elect.” And so someone says, “Well how is someone elect?” And you know this is a big discussion in Christendom in America today. “How is it that there are some that are elect and some that are not elect?” And there are some that go a step further and say, “This group is elect for heaven, and this group is elect for hell.” You know that’s what many 1st Century Jewish Pharisees thought – they were elect for heaven, and the rest were elect for hell. That was their view of things. How is it that I have been called and chosen, you have been called and chosen, but there are others that have not been called and chosen? Well Jesus, He gives two parables in which He actually uses these words: “Many are called, but few are chosen,” in the Gospel of Matthew.

Turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 20; Matthew chapter 20. Matthew chapter 20 opens with a story, a parable that Jesus tells about the laborers and the vineyard. There was a master who had a vineyard, and it was harvest time. And so he went out into the marketplace to call workers. The workers would gather in the market, waiting to be called. And so at 6:00 in the morning he went and he called workers, and some came; those that were there came. He said, “I need many workers for my vineyard, because it’s very large, and the work is much.” And by the third hour of the day, 9:00 in the morning, he recognized “I need more workers.” So he went back to the marketplace. And he had made an arrangement, he had made a deal with the first workers that came at 6:00 in the morning, and he said, “I will pay you a denarius, a day’s wage. I will pay you one denarius to work in my vineyard.”

And they said, “Yes, that’s what we’re looking for. We’ll come.” And they came.

And so at 9:00, he went and he brought more workers. He found as many as who would come, and he called them, “Come work in my vineyard.” And they came. And then again at noon he realized “I need more workers.” And so he went at noon, and he called more workers. And then as the day wore on, at 3:00, he realized “we still need more workers, the work is great.” And so he goes back to the market, and there’s now new workers there, and he says, “Come and work in my vineyard.” And they came. And then one more time, at 5:00, near the end of the day, one more hour of work, he goes back to the marketplace, and finds there’s more workers there, and he says, “Come, work in my vineyard, I need more workers.” And they worked for one hour.

At the end of the day, he gathers all the workers together, and he begins paying those who came at 5:00. And he calls them forward, “You who came at 5:00, come.” And he gives them a denarius, a day’s wage. Now at that moment, those who started the day at 6:00, what do you thing they started thinking? “Bonus!! He doesn’t want them to see what he’s going to pay us!! Because they came late. And if he gave them a day’s wage, he’s gotta pay us something big.” Then he brought those who came at 3:00, he gave them a denarius. Then those who came at 12:00, he gave them a denarius. Then those who came at 9:00, he gave them a denarius. Then those who came at 6:00 in the morning, he gave them a denarius, and what do you think happened in their hearts at that moment? They were angry.

Verse 13, Matthew 20, look at this; Matthew 20, verse 13: “But he answered,” the master answered, “one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?” “Did we not contract for this, for this day’s wage? Yes, that’s what we contracted; that’s what I’ve given you.” “Take what is yours and go away. I wish to give to this last man the same as I gave to you.” Verse 15, note this, this is powerful: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?” Is it right? Is it lawful? What do you think? Now, in our minds, if we came at 6:00 we might think that it’s unfair, right? Let’s get a vote, how many might think, “That seems unfair to me.” Oh come on, be honest. [laughter] But is it lawful? Yeah!! Notice what he says; look at this: “Or is your eye evil because I am good?” Why do we suppose him unjust? Is he unjust?  Why do we suppose him unjust? Because our heart is evil, and we project upon him that he’s unjust and he’s unfair and it’s wrong. And so he says, verse 16, “For the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are” what? Chosen.

Turn to Matthew 22; Jesus here in Matthew 22 tells another parable at the beginning of the chapter. Chapter 22, verse 1, He tells a parable of a king who had prepared a wedding feast for his son. And this king sends his servants to the countrymen of his territory to call in the invited guests. All of his countrymen are invited to come to the wedding feast of his son. And he sends them to go and bring them in. And they go, the servants go and they tell the people, “Hey, the wedding feast is ready, come in.” And the people make light of it; they didn’t come.

And so the servants return to the king, and he says, “Where are the guests?”

And they say, “They didn’t come.”

“Go again. Call them again.”

So now they go a second time. They call the people to the wedding feast. And they didn’t come, they made light of it.

Some said, “Oh, I gotta tend to my field.”

“Oh, I gotta tend to this.” Whatever. They didn’t come. And some of those countrymen, they took some of the servants and they beat them and they killed them.

News came back to the king, and he was indignant, he was vengeful because of what they had done. He every right to be so. And so he sent his armies to these murderers, and they judged the murderers and they burned down their city.

And then the king looked upon the wedding feast, and it was all empty – no one there. And so called his servants and he said, “Go out into the highways and the hedges, go out to all peoples, not just to my countrymen, and call any – good or bad,” the text said. “Call them, bring them in.”

And so they went out and they called as many as they could to come into the feast. And now the feast was filled. And the king comes and he looks over his guests, and in them midst of his guests he finds one, and man who did not have a wedding garment. Now there’s some question among Bible scholars about what’s going on here. Some people say that the king would give wedding garments to those guests of his feasts; and there is some cultural evidence to that. Whatever the case may be, he finds one who did not have the wedding garment. And the king asked him, “How come you don’t have the wedding garment?”

And the man had no answer. So, verse 13; Matthew 22, verse 13: “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” Why? “For many are called, but few are” what? Chosen.

Now, when I said earlier, “Many are called, but few are,” and many of you said, “chosen,” you knew those words because you probably heard it at some time in some place. But maybe you didn’t make the correlation to these parables in which the context is given. And sometimes people use these words – Many are called, few are chosen – without looking at the context. But the context is essential, it’s important, because there are some very important things we learn from these parables. You see these parables reveal that God is good and just, even though we project upon Him our own wickedness. God is good and just, even though we project upon Him our own wickedness. Matthew 20, verse 15 reveals this: “Is it not lawful for me to do with what I have as I wish? Or is your eye evil because I am good?”

Secondly, these parables reveal that God’s sovereign work is according to His foreknowledge. God’s sovereign work is according to His foreknowledge. You say, “How do you see that in the text?” Well, in the second parable, in Matthew chapter 22, those of you who know a little bit about the history of the Jewish nation, you know that that parable completely highlights everything about what they did before it happened. How is that? Because God has foreknowledge; He knows what’s happening, what’s going on.

Number three: these parables reveal that God is patient and slow to wrath, in that He repeatedly calls workers to the harvest and guests to the feast. He repeatedly calls workers to the harvest and guests to the feast.

Fourth, they reveal that God judges those who do not respond – the unresponsive invited guests – and He judges those who respond in the wrong way – the man with no wedding garments who decided he would come in by his own method, by his own means, by his own righteousness. Because I believe the wedding garment speaks of us being clothed in His righteousness. And so God judges those that do not respond or respond in the wrong way.

Fifth, they reveal that God is not a respecter of persons in His call or His reward. How so? Well, he called the invited guests – his own countrymen, the Jewish people – but he also invited the wanderers in the highway, those who were both good and bad – Gentiles. He is not a respecter of persons in His call, but He is also not respecter of persons in His reward. The late comers to the harvest, they received the same as those who came early.

Why has God chosen to work in the way that He has? Well whether we like it or not, whether we project upon Him our own unrighteousness or not, it is God’s prerogative to do with the lump of clay that is fallen humanity as He wishes. But God does all things with goodness, and God does all things with justice and in accordance with His plan, and He is not a respecter of persons, and He is gracious and patient. And we know that God holds accountable those who respond with hardness in rebellion. He holds us accountable for our actions, and God will judge the one who refuses to come. He will judge the one who comes by their own means, in their own way, by their own righteousness.

And here we sit, 2,000 years later, and God is still calling for workers for His harvest. He’s still calling, even though we might be at the eleventh hour. And He rewards openly and freely, the same that He rewarded those who came at the first. Those who lived and followed Jesus in the 1st Century, they don’t have a greater reward because they followed Him 2,000 years ago than we who follow Him today; but the call is still open. The wedding feast is being readied; it’s not fully done, but it’s being readied. The book of Revelation speaks of the marriage supper of the Lamb – there’s coming a day when God’s going to call the invited guests to come. Will you come? Will you come wearing His garment of righteousness, or will you try to do it in your own righteousness and strength? The call is given to all. And I suggest to you that those who are vessels for honor are those who respond in the way and manner in which God has called. They are the ones who respond to His saving grace, and they are the ones who are chosen in Christ, not chosen outside of Him, but chosen in Christ. I pray that you’d heed His call, because He’s calling today.

Let’s stand.

Father, we thank You for Your calling, and we pray that it would be evidenced by our heeding Your call, that we are elect in Christ, according to Your foreknowledge. God, thank You for Your grace, we praise You today for Your mercy. You’ve not given us what we deserve, You’ve given us over and abundantly a reward that we did not deserve. Thank You for setting us free. We pray in Jesus’ name that You would open the eyes of the blind. Amen.