The White Horse

What does “many are called but few are chosen” mean?

In this post, we’ll discuss a very simple yet profound Bible verse.

Knowing this verse is key to understanding a number of other verses in the Bible.

It’s Matthew 22:14, which statesMany are called, but few are chosen.”


The first part, “many are called,” can really be called God’s fairness doctrine. In other words, God makes available the truth of the gospel – that salvation is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, to every person, and everyone receives a calling or notice of the gospel. Effectively, this is the great commission of Matthew 28:19 “Go…and make disciples of all the nations…”

No one is judged without the opportunity to accept or reject God, as God has chosen to reveal Himself.

Now, you may ask, what about the pygmy in Africa who has never seen a missionary or read a Bible. Well, that is covered in Romans 1:19-20 “…that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, both His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” This is known as God’s natural revelation.

But it goes even further. In Romans 2:15 “…the work of the Law [is] written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness…” God reveals Himself in nature, which man can clearly see, and in the heart of every man.

God is revealed to everyone, and man is without excuse.

God, as a perfect judge, judges all men on what they do with what they receive. This is alluded to in Luke 12:48 “…everyone who has been given much, much will be required…”

Everyone then will receive a calling which will be a “general call” or “natural revelation.” No one will be judged without an opportunity to accept or reject God as He is revealed to them.


Now the second part of the versebut few are chosen.

This refers to some whose calling is a special calling, know as an “effectual call.”

Notice this is not active on the part of the recipient. The person who is called is not choosing, the person who is called is being chosen. It’s God who is executing the action, the choosing.

The effectual call is a call unto salvation which is the result of God’s sovereign election to those whose names have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the creation of the universe, and is aligned with John 6:44 which states “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…”.

This effectual call or “drawing” will always result in salvation.


So all receive a calling of the gospel. Many will reject this calling and thus reject Jesus Christ. A few, those elected by God’s sovereign choice and who receive an effectual call, will accept the invitation and obtain eternal life.

This “many” and “few” contrast is also discussed in Matthew 7:13-14 “…the gate is wide …that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is narrow…that leads to life and there are few who find it.”


It may interest you to know that Matthew 22:14, concerning calling and choosing is not an isolated concept in the Bible. In 2 Peter 1:10, Peter advises believers to “…be all the more diligent to make your calling and choosing sure; for in doing these things, you will never stumble.” What Peter is encouraging here is the assurance of your salvation.


If you understand this distinction, a number of verses will suddenly become much clearer.

For example, 1 Corinthians 1:26-30 states “For consider your calling, brothers, that there were not many wise…not many mighty, not many noble. But God has chosen the foolish…to shame the wise…the weak…to shame the…strong, and the base…so that He may abolish the things that are, so that no flesh may boast…but by His doing you are in Christ…”

A general calling to everyone would not be restricted to “not many wise, mighty or noble” but an effectual call that was by “His doing” to demonstrate God’s sovereign election, would. This verse is discussing the effectual calling.

Another example is in 1 Corinthians 7:15-17, Paul is setting out one of the two exceptions to divorce in the Bible – that of an unbeliever who leaves. You can hear, in this discourse, the believing spouse’s hesitancy in abiding in this and a feeling that maybe the believing spouses think that their words and examples might ultimately save the unbelieving spouse. But Pauls teaches in vs 16-17 “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?… Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk.” In other words, your spouse will be saved, if God has elected him or her (assigned) and has given them an effectual call.


“Many are called but few are chosen.” God is eminently fair. All receive a calling. Out of love, some, whom God has elected, receive a special calling that will always result in salvation.

What a powerful verse.

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"It wasn't a potential atonement actuated by the sinner, it was an actual atonement initiated by the savior."

John MacArthur

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