In Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus told the parable of a wedding feast thrown by a king for his son. Usually this parable is taught in the context of the saved and unsaved, but let’s take a closer look. At the feast, a man was put outside because he was not wearing the required wedding garment. This man was neither a stranger nor an intruder, and there is nothing to suggest he hadn’t been invited to the wedding. In fact the king addressed him as “friend”. The Greek word used for friend is “hetairos” which has the implication of a companion who is on the level of an acquaintance. Jesus used the same word to address Judas in Matt. 26:50 in Gethsemane when He said to him: “Friend, why have you come?”
There is another Greek word used in the New Testament for friend and it is ‘phileo’. (More on this later).
Back to the wedding: In the culture of Jesus’ day guests invited to the wedding of a wealthy person would be handed a specially made robe, chosen and prepared by the bridegroom’s father, to wear at the wedding feast. It was a great offence to refuse the wedding garment. So this man, an invited guest, was not allowed to stay at the wedding, not because he did not have a wedding garment, but because he had obviously declined to wear the one provided. Many were invited to this wedding, but someone who had offended the bridegroom’s father was not allowed to take part. Jesus concluded the story with the words: “For many are called, few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14)
Turning to Revelation 17:14 we find that those who are with the Lamb at the end are ‘called, chosen and faithful”.
,… they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
Called, chosen and faithful describes the three major stages in the Bride’s journey from her initial calling to full maturity as the Wife of the Lamb. The fact that many are called but few are chosen reveals the uneasy truth that even though all of the church (the many) are invited into this Bridal relationship, in the end not all will be prepared to embrace the cost of becoming the Lamb’s Wife (the called, chosen and faithful few).
Called: In Matthew 25:1-12 again Jesus used a wedding parable to teach that there will be those who assume a relationship to the Bridegroom they don’t have. Therefore they were denied a place at the wedding feast, this time by the bridegroom, who tells them “I don’t know you”. There are several Greek words in the New Testament, all with slightly different meanings, that have been translated into the English word ‘know’. In this case Jesus used the word “eido” which means, literally, to “know by observation or perception”. The bridegroom in the parable was saying to the five foolish virgins “I don’t recognise you” or more literally: “you stand in no relationship to me.”
However, when Jesus spoke of “knowing” in the context of a full and healthy relationship He used the Greek word ‘ginosko”, which means “to recognise, and understand completely”, e.g. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14,15. The word ‘ginosko” is also used to convey the thought of intimate connection or union between a husband and a wife, e.g. Mat. 1:25; Luke 1:34
Within the church there are believers who have come to a saving knowledge of Christ but who never move beyond that initial conversion into discipleship. Like the rich ruler in Luke 18:18-23, though they believe in Christ, there is something they hold back from His Lordship. Despite his good intentions, the man could not enter into discipleship, which requires us to be prepared to forsake all and follow. These have all been invited into Brideship, but unless their lives become fully surrendered will not remain faithful when tested. The Father is exceedingly jealous over the faithfulness of His Son’s Bride, and it is the Father who approves the Bridal company (Ephesians 1:3-5).
Chosen: Every believer is called, or invited, but those who comprise the Bridal company continue into full discipleship. Called is not the same as chosen, or election, which are interchangeable throughout the New Testament. To be called is to be invited, to be elected is to be chosen.
Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call (G. Klasis = invitation) and election (G. ‘ekloge” meaning chosen) sure, 2 Peter 1:10
Called and chosen disciples are those who move further on than simple belief in Christ. They are in the process of forsaking their own ways to follow His. They are both servants and friends.
In John 15:15 Jesus said to His disciples: You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. John 15:14-16
In this case the Greek word ‘phileo” is used for friend, meaning a partner or companion who is close and dearly loved.
During this season the Bride is learning to be both friend and beloved His mouth is most sweet, yes, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem! (SOS 5:16) It is a time of learning about His character (He is altogether lovely) and that His Word is true and trustworthy (His mouth is most sweet).
This second stage of discipleship is also a time of testing. It is necessary for the Bride to be sifted and tested during this season because she can still be easily distracted or deceived. Both Peter and Judas are good examples. Jesus’ statement in John 6:70 reveals Judas had been both called and chosen: “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” John 6:70. Judas never got to the ‘faithful’ stage.
Peter too was sifted (Luke 22:31-32). He denied being a close friend of the Lord’s three times, but we know that he bitterly repented and was deeply changed by the experience.
During this season the Bride is also discovering the costliness of her calling. In some form she will be introduced to the Cross and must decide whether she will meet with the Bridegroom in the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10).
Faithful: Finally, the Bride begins to enter into the fullness of her calling. These are the bondslaves. (Some Bible versions use the term ‘bondservant’ but they are the same word.)
In ancient Israel, a bankrupt person could live as a servant in a relative’s house for six years or until the next Jubilee year, whichever came first. On gaining freedom he had the option of declaring his allegiance to his master by remaining as a bonded slave (Hebrew: “eved”) in his household. A bondslave was one bonded, or joined, to his/her master for life. This was not an unpaid harsh or forced slavery as we think of slavery today. Unlike the ‘hireling” (John 10:12,13) the ‘eved” (bondslave) was treated well and kept safe as a valued member of the master’s household. He/she would voluntarily be physically marked, or sealed by a ring through the ear, as an outward sign of being bonded to the master. (See Exodus 21:5-6 and Deuteronomy 15:16-18)
An example of the level of authority and trust a bondslave could enjoy is Eliezer of Damascus, who was Abraham’s chief steward and “ruled over all that he had” (Genesis 24:2). Abraham sent him to find a wife for his son Isaac.
In New Testament culture bondslave simply meant “one who is bound to the master”. They had given up all rights of their own and lived entirely for their master’s bidding. Very often these were former slaves who had been granted freedom but, with the master’s approval, voluntarily chose to remain as slaves out of love for the master. Therefore, they were chosen, but they themselves had also chosen. Bondslaves were very highly valued, greatly trusted servants who often enjoyed a close friendship with the one to whom they were bonded. For example, when Jesus spoke the parable of the ‘faithful and wise steward’ He was most likely speaking of a bondslave. That steward was made ruler over all the master possessed. (Luke 12:42-44)
Jesus Himself took on the role of bondslave to the Father: “Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondslave, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7). The New Testament apostles also metaphorically described themselves first and foremost as bondslaves to Christ (See Romans 1:1;, Philippians 1:1, James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1:1;)
The hallmarks of a bondslave are voluntary love and faithfulness. Spiritual bondslaves demonstrate the heart attitude of a bondslave through daily living out a covenant relationship with Christ their Bridegroom. His will is their will. They do not live to please man but their Bridegroom, Christ: For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. Galatians 1:1)
To be continued….
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2012 Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.