Summary: What do the words, called and chosen, mean? Jesus illustrated it twice.
Jesus Illustrates "Called" and "Chosen"
There are two Bible words that are pivotal to the Calvinist view: "called" and "chosen".
Calvinism says that before time began God went through the people who would live on the earth and picked out certain ones to be saved. These are the chosen ones. Everyone else is damned to hell. During each chosen person's life God sends a call to him to get saved. To a Calvinist a call is more like a command. When God calls, people must say yes because God is sovereign. No one can say no to God's call.
Many have argued for and against the Calvinist's definition of these words. I prefer to start with what Jesus said and go from there.
The Calvinist would say that few are called and everyone who is called is chosen.
But Jesus did not say that. Twice Jesus said that many are called but few are chosen. This statement alone shows that there are some serious problems with the Calvinist's thinking.
Yet that statement is not the only thing Jesus said on the topic. He actually spoke that statement after telling two parables. These two parables are stories that Jesus used to illustrate what called and chosen are.
The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard
The first parable is found in Matthew 20:1-16.
"For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen."
The illustration in this parable is not as obvious as the next parable because this parable illustrates two concepts. The first concept is the idea that the first will be last and the last first. The second concept is the called/chosen concept. To see how this parable illustrates the called/chosen concept, ask yourself two questions: who in this parable is called and who is chosen?
Who are the called people in this parable? The called people are those in the marketplace whom the householder asked to work in his vineyard. Did everyone accept his invitation, his call? Verse 4 says that those whom he asked at the third hour (9:00AM) "went their way." In other words they did not go to work. They left. This term is also used in the next parable (Matthew 22:5). The next two times he went to the marketplace and called people in the sixth (noon) and ninth hours (3:00PM), he also did not get anyone to work. He asked a lot of people. All of the people he asked are the called people. In those three trips to the marketplace they all said no. He only got people to work at the beginning of the day and at the eleventh hour (5:00PM).
Who are the chosen people? The chosen ones are the people who said yes to the call and went and worked in the vineyard. The householder chose to ask many people in the marketplace but only those who went to work were the chosen ones.