A guest post by Justin Hoke
Matthew 22:1-14 1And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: 2 "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3 "and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. 4 "Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding." ' 5 "But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 "And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 7 "But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 'Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.' 10 "So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 "But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 "So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. 13 "Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' 14 "For many are called, but few are chosen."
Sadly, it seems that the majority of those who claim to be Christians in our age are heading toward the great wedding feast, unconcerned about whether they are clothed in the right wedding garments. In the above parable, Jesus warns that some will be shocked when they arrive at the great wedding feast, because their clothing is considered unacceptable for entrance. Worse still, these mis-dressed guests will be bound hand and foot, taken away, and cast into outer darkness.
In our day of pleas to “accept” or “try out” Jesus, it seems strange that such a parable exists in the Bible. How, if Jesus so desperately wants everyone to accept Him, does it make sense that He would reject anyone who sincerely wants to be where He is? How is it, that Jesus can reject a man simply for coming clothed with the wrong garment?
To understand the answer to these questions, it is important that you first understand that Jesus is not asking sinners to accept Him. Jesus will only accept those who are given to Him by the Father (John 6:36-39; 44; 65; 10:26-27). The only proper wedding garment for entrance into the wedding feast is the righteousness of Christ credited to us (1 Corinthians 5:21). If we come dressed in any other righteousness, such as the filthy rags of our own self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:6), we will be cast away.
This is not to say that our faith in Christ and His work is not essential, rather it is to say that not all faith is saving faith. James tells us that it is possible to believe like the demons with fear and trembling and yet not be saved (James 2:19). The question is not; do you believe in Jesus? The question is; what does it mean to believe in Jesus? What is the object of your faith? Are you trusting in a righteousness of your own? Or, are you trusting in the righteousness of another credited to you? The object of saving faith is not our own faith. The object of saving faith, which is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29), is the living hope that our sins were imputed to Jesus upon the cross (Isaiah 53:6; 11-12; 2Corinthians 5:21); that He took up and wore our wretched garments before the Father and was treated by the Father as we deserve to be treated (Isaiah 53:10); that He not only bore our sins, but that He paid in full the penalty due our sins (Isaiah 53:11-12); that the Father also imputes to us who believe the righteousness of Jesus; that He allows us to be clothed in the wedding garment of Jesus’s perfect righteousness and treats us as Jesus deserves to be treated.
Sadly, the majority within the visible church today have believed a lie which says that Jesus died for all, bore the sins of all and satisfied the wrath of God for all. Though they may lack the biblical foundation to articulate the implication, they are essentially teaching that all men possess the correct wedding garment already. All that remains for anyone to be received to the wedding feast is to respond favorably to the invitation. They further reason from this faulty foundation that Jesus’s work on the cross does not actually save anyone. Instead, it makes salvation possible for all, meaning that on the cross Jesus bore the sin of all (provided all with the wedding garment) and now only waits for men to accept His invitation to the wedding feast.
The problem is that we are told in the parable that one showed up wearing the wrong garments and was bound hand and foot and cast out with the words, "many are called (invited to the feast) but few are chosen (given the proper wedding garments).
The view that Jesus died for all makes God unjust because it teaches that God condemns men whose sins have been atoned for. Further, it teaches that Jesus died for the sins of men who are already in hell and lastly it makes salvation the result of works and not of grace.
If a person is trusting that his work of accepting the invitation is the work which secures his admittance to the wedding feast, he may have received the invitation, but he is still clothed in the filthy rags of his own self-righteousness. When he seeks to enter the wedding feast, he will be cast out, for he has made the object of his faith his own work.
The Bible is clear that salvation or justification is all of grace, and that even faith is a gift from God, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Those who believe that Jesus died to make salvation possible for all, but only saves those who accept the invitation, have made the act of “acceptance” the work which earns their salvation (Romans 3:20). These are not trusting in Christ, or in the righteousness of Christ credited to them. They are boasting in a righteousness of their own.
How is it boasting? The one who believes that his faith is the condition required to earn salvation will, by necessity also, believe that those in hell had the very same opportunity to be saved as himself. Thus, he is saved because he acted wisely, and they are condemned because they acted foolishly. It is not the righteousness of Christ that he hopes in, but a righteousness of his own which makes him just a little wiser than those who are damned. Further, it is boasting because it suggests that Jesus is not truly the one who saves, but instead, is the one who makes salvation possible. Thus, the one who believes that his faith is the condition required to earn salvation will also by necessity believe that Jesus is not really worthy of all glory in salvation, but rather, that personal faith is also worthy of some measure of glory.
In summary, if the object of your faith is the righteousness of Christ credit to you, then you are wearing the proper wedding garments, and you can have confidence that you will be received into the great wedding feast. If, however, you are clothed in the hope that your faith is the condition which merits your salvation, then you are still dressed in the filthy rags of your own self-righteousness. It does not matter how sincere such faith is, it is not saving faith. If you are never granted to repent, and trust in the person and work of Christ alone, you are heading for the wedding feast in the wrong cloths. And though you expect to be seated at the table, you will to be bound hand and foot and cast out with the words, "depart from me you workers of iniquity I never knew you (Matthew 7:21-23)."
Justin is the pastor of Lake Shastina Community Bible Church. LSCBC is a Reformed congregation in Northern California, committed to the exposition of God's Holy Word.