The concept of many are called but few are chosen is very alive in the Bible where Jesus says that no one can come to him unless God allows it.

Mathew 22:14

Indeed many are called but few are chosen

Also the verse that states that a man cannot receive anything unless it is granted to him from heaven including eternal life

John 3:27

A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.

This two verses show that even for Christians they cannot come to God unless God already called them and no matter what they do, if God hasn't called them they won't be saved. So is there any circumstance where a believer can have the status of being called but not chosen ?

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    One needs to very carefully define (from scripture) the precise concepts of 'Christian', 'believer', 'called' and'chosen', in order to arrive at a satisfactory and correct conclusion. I am sure there will be much conjecture and many traditional views on this.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 20 at 5:03
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    Can you substantiate that Judas was personally called : and not as one, among many, receiving a general exhortation ? Compare Nathaniel under the fig tree or Andrew and John receiving a personal invitation or Peter being called as an individual. Many are called, given encouragement, exhorted to repent, called to depart from iniquity. But few are chosen.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 20 at 8:10
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    Your question hinges on whom you define as 'Christian' and 'believer'. Multitudes never find where the strait gate is. And many seek to enter in to the strait gate. But few are able. Judas was 'chosen' among eleven others. But on what basis was he 'chosen' - given the opportunity to be the traitor he always was ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 20 at 8:14
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    The gate opens to a way which leads to life. Some are unable to get through the gate (carrying too much ?). One can label these people in any way one chooses. The fact of their existence is that they were unable to proceed to the way of life. They may be 'religious' and they may identify as 'Christian'. It depends what they believe. Jesus said take heed what ye hear and take heed how ye hear. It is important to hear the correct doctrine and it is important to receive that doctrine into a 'good heart' and to respond with true faith. It is necessary to respond aright to real truth.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 20 at 9:16
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    The elect will not be deceived, because they were chosen. And they overcome.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 20 at 14:20

4 Answers 4


Every true Christian has been called and chosen. (But the example of Judas Iscariot is a warning to us all to make our calling and election sure.)

There is a general call and an effectual call.

Many hear the general call. Whenever a person hears the Gospel with its call to repent and believe on the Son of God, they receive the general call. But many do not respond with repentance and faith for "many are called but few are chosen", Matthew 22:14.

Then there is the effectual call as described by Paul in Romans:

And we know all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, them he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30.

The above passage is a golden chain of salvation which cannot be broken. It describes the effectual calling of the few who have been chosen: these are the elect who at some point in life will truly believe, repent, and thus become a true Christian. All true Christians have been effectually called to salvation.

Judas Iscariot was called to be an apostle but was not effectually called to be saved.


As Jesus said: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day", John 6:44.

Post postscript

The OP writes:

These two verses show that even for Christians they cannot come to God unless God already called them and, no matter what they do, if God hasn't called them they won't be saved. So is there any circumstance where a believer can have the status of being called but not chosen?

It is really hard to know what is intended here. There are two groups:

  1. There is someone who says he is a Christian but is not, he has not put all his trust in Christ alone; Let me call him a "False Brother". I do not mean he is intentionally false: he might not know he is not a true believer; and

  2. There are those who are truly Christian. Let me call them True Believers.

If in your closing paragraph you mean a True Believer:

A Christian (True Believer) is, by definition, someone who has already come to God.

A Christian is, by definition, already saved.

And a True Believer has come to God and been saved because God has already effectually called them.

If the OP means by "Christian" a False Brother then for as long as others think he is a true Christian he will have the status amongst other believers of having been effectually called but only God knows if he has been chosen.. he may yet be chosen but not yet effectually called.

Is it that "They cannot come to God.. no matter what they do"?

It is not a good way of speaking. It is not that they cannot come to God, it is really that they will not come to God. They have no desire to come to God.

And it is not "no matter what they do". Rather it is that, if they do anything at all, it is not with the sincere desire to find God. They have no desire for God.

If anyone, anywhere pursues the means of faith alone in Christ alone, if anyone pursues the means that God has given in Scripture and calls upon the name of God for help and grace and pardon they will be saved. If anyone seeks, and keeps on seeking, they will find. Our Lord Jesus has promised it.

Though a man may know that he is saved and (if he believes the doctrine of effectual calling and election and predestination) though he may know because he knows he is saved thus he may know he was chosen by God in Christ before the foundation of the world; no man should believe he is not elect such that he makes no effort to find Christ and salvation in Christ. No one knows that they are not elect. So all should pursue the means of salvation. All should believe the words of Jesus Christ "If anyone believes on me... out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." John 7:38. He should read the scriptures, especially the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

If anyone knows he is not yet saved, and finds an awakening desire to be saved, he should pursue the means of salvation, faith alone in a crucified Saviour who died that our sins might be forgiven by believing on the only Saviour:

Knock and the door shall be opened to you (Matthew 7:7). It is the promise of the only begotten Son of God.

Look unto me and be you saved all the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other. Isaiah 45:22

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (Numbers 21:4-9, John 3:14-15)

Come unto me all you that are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

To the one who does not work, but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited to him as righteousness. Romans 4:5.

No one should see the doctrine of election as a wall that keeps them out, but once a sinner is saved let him see the doctrine of election be a wall that helps to keep them in. When Christ was dying he was not dying for all the sinners in general, he was dying for his own sheep who he knew by name.

He lovèd me and gave Himself for me, Amazing love, amazing sacrifice!

I'll take my harp down from the willow tree, And bid its note in praise of Jesus rise.

He lovèd me and gave Himself for me, And surely I myself to Him will give;

None Jesus will I ever love like Thee, And to Thy glory only will I live.

  • +1 upvote. So someone like Paul was chosen even though he was responsible for the death of many saints? Commented Mar 20 at 11:24
  • Exactly right. That the purposes of election might stand. God chooses whom to save, that none might boast of their own merit. Commented Mar 20 at 11:26
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    @MikeBorden - "Make your calling and election sure" 2 Peter 1:10. It is true we have nothing to do with our election or calling, but our calling calls us to be conformed to the image of his son. Our election has a knock on effect on our lives. "Examine yourselves to see if you be in the faith." (2 Cor 13:5) It is not enough to claim to be elect, the marks of election should be evident in our lives, if they are not we should take corrective action as per 2 Peter 1 and 2 Corinthians 13. Commented Mar 20 at 15:13
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    God has not only chosen who will be saved, but how they will be saved. If a person uses the means of salvation then he will be saved. And then he will realize he was elect/called/chosen. A person cannot know he is not elect, so everyone should use the means of faith and repentance. Commented Mar 20 at 19:44
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    Of course it is, but it was being called into doubt by the one asking the question.. so maybe not as circular as you and I think. I'm just trying to make my answer suit the question. Perhaps I should say "effectually called". Commented Mar 20 at 21:39

Context is so important and all of Matthew 21 through 22:14 should be read. The triumphal entry has taken place, the people are extolling the King and the religious leaders are looking to trap Him and ultimately kill him.

Jesus begins to describe the kingdom and the religious leaders in parables and the culmination of chapter 21 is:

And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet. - Mat. 21:45-46

The next chapter is a continuation of Jesus' rebuke of the chief priests and the Pharisees which contains the verse in question:

Indeed many are called but few are chosen - Matthew 22:14

Many are "invited" but few are "selected".

This is part of a kingdom parable in which the original guests invited beforehand (Israel) to a wedding feast not only declined to attend but murdered the servants (prophets) sent to gather them. (In a similar parable they also murdered the King's son.) The King sent his armies to destroy those guests and their city (Jerusalem) and then sent other servants (apostles) to the highways and byways to invite anyone and everyone (Jew and Gentile), both good and bad, to populate his wedding feast.

One was found in the wedding without appropriate attire: How could this be?

It is to be assumed that the servants who went out and at the 11th hour furnished the wedding with guests from the highways also provided them proper wedding garments. This one who was not properly attired therefore represents one who did not properly respond to the invitation, was not properly clothed and, within the greater context, must be one of the original invitees who first declined to attend or a proselyte thereof.

We must remember that Jesus is speaking this parable against the Chief Priests, the Pharisees, and all who stand opposed.

Many are called but those who refuse to respond to the call are rejected as improperly clothed. They may find their way to the feast but they arrive clothed in their own righteousness (filthy rags) and, bereft of the righteousness of Christ in which true guests must be clothed, they are cast out. Those who have responded to the call, "repent and believe", and are clothed properly (by the King) are those who were foreknown to so respond from the foundation of the world and are therefore chosen (or elect) according to the foreknowledge of God.

It is not that God effectually calls some and effectually reprobates others without any possibility of human choice but rather that the call is genuine and the choice of response is foreknown. Judas betrayal did not take Jesus by surprise. Therefore Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is at hand." And in another place it is written, "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision." And again, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!".

He does not say that they could not. He says that they would not. θελω (thelo): They actively did not want to.

The Kingdom of heaven, in it's parabolic form, is not to be equated with the company of those who are saved until the consummation and the judgement:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,  And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. - Matthew 13:47-50

The Kingdom of heaven is at hand. The King has come. He has been rejected and killed by the original invitees. They have no wedding attire and are no longer welcome unless they say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord". Their beforehand invitation has been revoked but they are not utterly cast aside so long as they repent and believe. The Gospel of the kingdom has gone out into the highways and byways and as many as believe have been called/invited and shall be clothed: Both the believing remnant of Israel and the believing Gentiles who are grafted in.

And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. - Revelation 19:6-9

  • It also means you cannot come to God unless it is granted you by him. Commented Mar 20 at 16:42
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    @SoFewAgainstSoMany It has been granted. The son of man has been lifted up just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert. If someone refuses to repent and believe it is not because God has withheld the ability from them. Commented Mar 20 at 17:30
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    Do you agree it is very cruel of God to create people who he knew beforehand were not going to repent? Commented Mar 20 at 18:19
  • @AndrewShanks Not at all, really. A choice is not less of a choice just because God's foreknowledge is perfect. He foreknew Adam would sin and all humanity is in Adam. It seems much more cruel to command everyone to repent and believe all the while withholding the ability to do so from most and only granting it to a few. I can't make sense of the Scriptures that way. Commented Mar 20 at 19:56
  • So you believe God is sovereign except in the area of human decision making? You believe that that area of the universe is outside of his control? Commented Mar 20 at 21:34

There are initial questions that must be cleared up at the outset; four in total:

Called by whom, for what?

Chosen by whom, to what?

Jesus was speaking from verse 1 in Matthew 22 through to the verse in question and right on to the end of that chapter to a group of religious people who were trying to trap him with their questions. Start reading from chapter 21 verse 45.

Context for the verse in question is a parable Jesus gave about who shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, and who shall not. He is speaking to Jewish people. The parable is about a marriage being prepared for the son of a king. Many are invited to attend - twice, and twice they despise the invitation, then some killed the servants who kept inviting them. Upon hearing this, the king sent armies to destroy those murderers and their city.

The king then declares those initially invited were not worthy, and for fresh invitations to be issues to anyone the servants met in the highways - "good and bad". They readily accepted and (as the custom back then) were issued with wedding garments. But a man sneaked in, uninvited, as proven by the fact that he was not wearing the wedding garment of the invited guests. The king asked for an explanation, but the man was speechless. The king instructed his servants:

"Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen." Matt. 22:13-14 K.J.V.

It could not be any more obvious what Jesus was saying about who are called, but why few are chosen. God invites into his heavenly kingdom those who can be at "the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:7) - but many of them despise this unspeakable privilege. However, others who are so often looked down upon rejoice, get cleaned up with new garments to identify them, and attend this wedding of the King's Son. But woe betide any who try to sneak in without the King's approval! He identifies those chosen to be in the presence of himself and his Son with his garments - I would call them the "garments of salvation", as here:

"And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:9-10 K.J.V.

All four of those initial questions have been answered via Jesus' parable and what the prophet Isaiah foretold.

Now progress can be made to see if this claim is sound or not: This [sic] two verses show that even for Christians they cannot come to God unless God already called them and no matter what they do, if God hasn't called them they won't be saved.

The parable was addressed to Jewish people. The meaning is clear in light of those who hated the Servant of the Lord coming to them, put him to death, then had many of their people, their temple, indeed, much of their nation destroyed by Roman armies in A.D.70. But those who believed Jesus and heeded his parables and his warnings as to how to escape with their lives grew into those for whom their Lord had died, realising (with hindsight) that God had called and chosen them to be in his heavenly Kingdom. He has identified them, and they will be at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

It only remains to be said that John 3:27 fits in perfectly with all of that, for the speaker (John the Baptist) went on to say:

"Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3:28-30 K.J.V.

He who was sent to prepare the Jewish people for the coming of the King's Son was put to a horrible death. In conclusion, see how John's closing words in chapter 3 show plainly what determines if a person is called and chosen to be in the heavenly Kingdom of God:

"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." John 3:36

Answer to this question, "Can a person be called but not chosen?" Absolutely, as Jesus' parable shows. Underlying answer: "Such a one who treats the calling with contempt never was a Christian in the first place, and never will be. But those who receive the calling to the wedding feast of the Lamb and are identified by God with his garments of righteousness, will become Christians and undeservedly so."

  • I knew you before you were formed in yout mother's womb means that God already has the list of saved people just waiting for it to be fulfilled Commented Mar 21 at 15:25

The answers so far seem rather overly long and complicated.

The simple answer is: "Yes, Christians can be called but not chosen", and needs little explanation.

Jesus said that Christians can become unworthy of their calling:

Luke 21:
34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

Paul repeated the message:

2 Thessalonians 1:11:
Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:

And Jesus's message to the Laodiceans shows that whole churches can be rejected:

Revelation 3:
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

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