A very beautiful and concise description of the divine calling in the preaching of the gospel is presented to us in the parable of the Marriage Of The King’s Son. The Lord shows us in this parable that the gospel is always the glad tidings of the promise of salvation in Christ Jesus. He also informs us that God sends forth His messengers to preach this gospel of the promise only to those to whom He is pleased to send them. And He points out that this preaching always has a twofold effect as a savor of life unto life and a savor of death unto death, gathering those who are made worthy in the righteousness of Christ, and exposing and condemning those who are unworthy because of their rebellion and sin. So that the conclusion of the parable is that God gathers His own; the wedding chamber is filled with guests, even while the rebellious are cast out into everlasting torment. For, as Jesus applies His Word, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:1-14.
How beautifully and accurately the contents of the gospel message are summed up in the simple statement, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son.”
The figure speaks for itself. God is the King, Whose kingdom is eternal in the heavens. That kingdom is never in any sense of the word of this earth. It never belongs to the passing things of this world; flesh and blood cannot enter into it. The history of this present time only serves to realize that heavenly kingdom in all its glorious perfection in the new creation, where the “kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.” Then the highest purpose of all things will be realized, for every creature will join its voice in singing that grand song of redemption, “Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.” This already suggests that the chief content of the gospel is God, to whom must be the glory forever.
The King’s Son is Jesus Christ, the Crown Prince, to whom is promised the kingdom of His Father. He is the Firstborn of God, Who through the deep way of suffering enters into the glory that is prepared for Him. As a reward on His accomplished work of the cross He receives a place at the Father’s right hand, and all power is entrusted to Him in the heavens, on the earth, and unto the depths of hell. Ascension Day is His Coronation Day. And when all things are finally accomplished according to the decree of God, He will subject Himself with all the new creation unto the Father, that God may be all in all. All power is given to Him in heaven and on earth. He is carrying out the work of God unto that time when He will appear with the clouds to raise the dead, to judge the nations in righteousness, and to take His Church unto Himself in glorious perfection. The preacher must preach Christ crucified and risen, in whom is revealed the living God, the God of our salvation.
For Christ’s Bride is the Church. It is exactly as Head of His Church that Christ receives the kingdom. Therefore Scripture speaks of that assembly of the redeemed as something very special in the eyes of God. She is God’s chosen people, His peculiar possession, which He gives to Christ as His Royal Bride. What figure could better express that most blessed covenant fellowship which God eternally establishes with His people in Christ? What could better describe that most intimate bond of life and love that unites God’s people to Him in Christ?
Therefore the marriage of the King’s Son takes place at the time of His coronation. When Christ is exalted to heaven He also immediately proceeds to take His Bride unto Himself. Pentecost marks the beginning of the marriage of the Lamb. It is the fulfillment of the promise for Christ and for His Bride, and therefore it is also the realization of all their eager expectations. This grand event is worthy of a special recognition both by the King and by the subjects of His kingdom. God prepares a feast of oxen and fatlings and invites His guests to share His bounties and His joy at His table. He makes wedding garments that His guests may be properly attired at this royal feast. Their own wretched, filthy rags are replaced with garments of Christ’s righteousness, which have been washed in the blood of Calvary. They know no higher honor that can be bestowed on them, but that they may be in the same room with their King, may sit at the table of the King’s noble Son, and may express their praise and adoration to their sovereign King. And as if that were a small thing, they may even eat of the King’s bounties to the praise of His glory. In anticipation of this marriage of the Lamb the poet of Psalm 45 sang,
Thy beauty and thy grace
Shall then delight the King;
He only is thy rightful Lord,
To Him thy worship bring.
Enthroned in royal state,
All glorious thou shalt dwell,
With garments fair, inwrought with gold,
The Church He loveth well.
In the parable the guests that receive a place at the marriage and the Bride are one and the same. The gathering of the guests constitutes the bringing of the Bride to the wedding feast. The blessedness of covenant fellowship at the wedding feast is the joy and blessedness of the Bride, the Church of Christ.
Indeed, blessed is that people whose God is Jehovah. And blessed are they that hear the joyful sound of the gospel.
Throughout the parable the emphasis falls upon the call that is issued by the king to come to the wedding feast. We read:
“And (the king) sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
“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.
“But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: “And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.
“But when the king heard thereof, he wasp wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city.
“Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.
“Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.
“So the 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,” Matthew 22:3-10.
We notice at once that the parable distinguishes between two different calls that are sent out. There is the first call that announces the marriage, informs that the date has been set, and urges those who are called to come to the wedding. Later this same call is repeated with the added assurance that all things are now ready, the wedding is about to commence. But there is also a second call that is proclaimed upon the highways or crossroads of the world. Only after this second call has served its purpose are all the guests assembled and the wedding is “furnished with guests.”
Jesus is plainly making a distinction between the preaching of the glad tidings in the old dispensation as it was limited almost exclusively to the Jews and the preaching of the gospel in the new dispensation as it reaches out to every nation, even unto the ends of the earth.
It is even possible that the text makes distinction between two phases of the preaching in the old dispensation. The Lord speaks of the call to the marriage, which is later repeated with the assurance that the dinner is prepared. The first call most likely refers to the announcement by the prophets of the approaching marriage of the King’s Son, urging those who were called to prepare to come and pay homage to their King. The second-call was by John the Baptist and by Jesus Himself, proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. But in any case, the preaching was addressed to those who were professedly citizens of the kingdom, to those who were historically in the line of the covenant. The preaching was limited within the narrow confines of Israel as a nation.
When the Lord speaks of the servants being sent into the crossroads of the world, He evidently is referring to the preaching of the gospel to the ends of the earth, and therefore to others than those who were within the narrow confines of, the Jewish nation. Already in the old dispensation God had promised that Japheth would dwell in the tents of Shem. Besides, Abraham’s seed is a spiritual seed, since he is the father of all believers. The multitude promised to him as innumerable as the stars of heaven is not complete until the elect are gathered out of every nation and people of the earth. Christ spoke of other sheep that He still must gather before His flock is fully gathered in.
Therefore the call that is referred to repeatedly in this parable is the general preaching of the gospel as it is sent forth wherever it pleases God to send it. Generally when we speak of the divine calling we distinguish between the external calling through the preaching and the internal calling by the Holy Spirit in the heart. Only when the external call is accompanied by the call of the Holy Spirit in the heart is the call of God powerful and efficacious unto salvation. But the emphasis of the parable falls upon the external aspect of the calling, as is evident from the fact that many made light of it and would not come to the marriage. Only in some, that is, in the elect, was this external calling accompanied by the work of the Holy Spirit in the, heart unto salvation. We have here the preaching of the gospel as it is proclaimed from the pulpit and on the mission field wherever that Word is preached in sincerity and truth.
The point I wish to make at this time is, that even this general preaching of the gospel is not universal, but is limited in its scope. In the old dispensation it was limited almost exclusively to the line of the covenant. We can trace that line very clearly in the generations of Adam, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and the twelve tribes of Israel, or the Jewish nation. Only occasionally were some brought into that line of the covenant from among the Gentiles. But many nations never heard the gospel message in the old dispensation. Many people lived and died without having had any contact whatever with the law and the prophets. God sent His Word to whom He would.
Even Christ in His public ministry limited Himself to the small area of Palestine, rarely going beyond the border of Jewry, and then only for a short distance and a brief visit. If He had willed He certainly could have provided means whereby He could have reached the entire then known world with His ministry.
But also in the new dispensation the gospel preaching has been very limited. Paul is the only one of all the apostles who was appointed to go out among the Gentiles. And even his ministry was limited, so that finally he was writing as an apostle in chains. Yet he knew that the Word of God is never bound, but is always the power unto salvation, whenever and wherever God will use it to gather His people. And when that Word was preached it never returned void. And never does. It always serves God’s purpose.
That we must discuss next time.