Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen: Bible Meaning and Importance

The phrase "many are called but few are chosen" is one of the Bible's more challenging passages. Why are few chosen? And what can we do to make sure we are one of the few? Here's what the Bible tells us.

Contributing Writer
Updated Nov 07, 2023
Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen: Bible Meaning and Importance

"For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22:14)

"Many are called, but few are chosen" is a well-known Bible phrase with significant meaning and implications for Christians. This phrase is from the teachings of Jesus and has deep spiritual significance. What does it mean that many are called? Why is it that few are chosen?

In this article, we will explore the deeper meaning of this Bible phrase and its relevance for Christians today.

Biblical Context of "Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen"

The phrase "Many are called, but few are chosen" is found in the New Testament, specifically in the book of Matthew. To understand its meaning, we must examine the context in which it appears. In Matthew 22:14 (ESV), Jesus says, "For many are called, but few are chosen." This statement is part of a parable called the Parable of the Wedding Feast.

Parable of the Wedding Feast

In this parable, a king prepares a wedding feast for his son and sends out invitations to many guests. However, those who were invited made excuses and declined the invitation. The king then sends his servants to invite anyone they can find, both good and bad. The wedding hall is filled with guests, but the king notices one person who is not wearing wedding attire. When questioned, the unprepared guest is cast out. It is in this context that Jesus utters the phrase, emphasizing the importance of being chosen as one who wears a true faith in Christ as your wedding garment.

Matthew 22:1-14

1 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, 2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. 4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: 6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. 7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. 10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. 11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

Meaning of "Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen"

The meaning of this saying can be understood in several ways:

  1. The General Call: "Many are called" refers to the widespread invitation of the gospel message to all people. God's offer of salvation is extended to everyone, and the call to faith in Christ is universal. It signifies the inclusive nature of God's love and grace.

  2. The Chosen Few: "Few are chosen" highlights the idea that while the invitation is open to all, not everyone responds to it in faith. Those who accept the call, embrace Christ, and live according to His teachings are the chosen ones. They are selected by their faith and obedience to God's will.

  3. The Wedding Garment: In the parable, the guest without the wedding garment symbolizes those who claim to accept the invitation but do not live a life in accordance with God's standards. The wedding garment represents the righteousness and holiness that should accompany true faith.

Implications for Christians Today

The saying "Many are called, but few are chosen" carries several important implications for Christians in the present day:

  1. Responding to God's Call: This saying encourages Christians to respond wholeheartedly to God's call of salvation. It is not enough to hear the gospel; one must accept it and live out their faith in a manner that reflects God's grace and righteousness.

  2. Living a Transformed Life: Christians are called to live transformed lives, putting on the "wedding garment" of righteousness and holiness. This entails a commitment to moral and ethical living, reflecting the character of Christ in all aspects of life.

  3. Discernment and Accountability: As Christians, we should be discerning and accountable for our faith. We should examine our lives and ensure that we are not merely professing faith but genuinely living it out. Self-examination and spiritual growth are essential.

  4. Understanding God's Sovereignty: The saying also highlights the sovereignty of God in choosing those who respond to His call. It reminds us that salvation is a gift from God and not something we can earn through our efforts alone.

  5. Evangelism and Outreach: Recognizing that "many are called" encourages Christians to share the gospel with others. It underscores the importance of spreading the message of God's love and salvation to as many people as possible so that more may be chosen.

The saying "Many are called, but few are chosen" has deep biblical roots and profound implications for Christians today. It reminds us of the universal invitation of the gospel, the importance of living a transformed life, and the need for discernment and accountability in our faith journey. 

Ultimately, it underscores the sovereign grace of God in choosing those who respond to His call. As Christians, we are called to embrace the invitation, live out our faith, and share the message of God's love with others so that more may be chosen to inherit eternal life.

What Kind of Calling Is Jesus Talking About?

“Many are called, but few are chosen” applies to anyone who hears the words of salvation. They must decide whether or not to heed the tug on their heart to become a disciple of Christ. 

In the last days of Jesus’ ministry on earth, described in Matthew 21, He is throwing out a ring buoy to Jews and Gentiles alike, inviting them to share in the kingdom of God, to live as He lives. Similarly, in the parable, the king has his servants scrounge up guests, “good or bad.” Jesus calls a wide variety of people with His message of redemption. Of the people who hear Jesus’ message, however, only some truly believe He is the promised Messiah and will change their lives. They are chosen. 

How Are the Few Chosen?

The Holy Spirit prompts the chosen to accept Christ as their savior (John 14:25-26). This, too, is a gift from God. The gift of salvation, freely offered in the gospel, must be received. In the wedding parable, being invited did not guarantee a shabby guest was seated at the banquet. The guest did not even live to attend the wedding!

God gracefully welcomes a properly attired guest into His banquet hall, His kingdom. In one interpretation of the parable, putting on wedding clothes is a metaphor for clothing yourself in righteousness (Romans 13:14). We must change our lives just as we must change our clothes and put on a “new man in Christ” (Ephesians 4:24). We are all invited to take part in the feast. But we must take up the offer and submit to being made new in Christ.

Conclusion of "Many are Called, but Few are Chosen"

This summary of the parable brings home Jesus’ message of worshipping God in spirit and truth (John 4:23). An internal or personal change of heart must take place in a person after they hear God’s message of love and salvation. Many people hear Jesus’ message; fewer follow their hearts to receive its great blessings. Many are called, but few are chosen—and few receive a life in Christ.

As with the people invited to the king’s banquet who did not attend, many people miss the opportunity to respond to God’s calling. A home church,  an acquaintance, or a traveler may call you to Christ. Throngs of people hear the gospel and, in this sense, are “called” to the Kingdom of God—called and invited to experience a personal relationship with Christ.

We individually choose whether to dress up, clean up our souls, and live in a way pleasing to God. Unlike the king in the parable, God accepts us, whatever our outward appearance. God is concerned with our souls. All children of God wear a wedding garment when our spirits are clothed in God’s grace. We are welcomed as proper guests to the banquet.

“These are all whom the Father has chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Ephesians 1:4)

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/leolintang

Betty DunnBetty Dunn hopes her writing leads you to holding hands with God. A former high school English teacher, editor, and nonprofit agency writer, she now works on writing projects from her home in West Michigan, where she enjoys woods, water, pets and family. Check out her blog at Betty by Elizabeth Dunning and her website,

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

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