Question: Does God predestinate only some to be saved. On what basis would He do this?
Answer: Matthew 20:16 is one of the verses most often used to support this false teaching.
“So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many be called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:16)
To understand this verse, we need to examine the context in which it appears, Matthew 20:1-16. So, let us go back to Verse One of this chapter.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard.”
This is the “Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.” We need the context to find out why God said this and to what it is referring. It is not referring to salvation, as many try to apply it. In Verse 2, he (the householder) had gone out into the vineyard:
“And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard (i.e., to work)”
We find out that there were others that also went into the vineyard to work in Verse 7.
“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.”
Now, when it came to the end of the day, in Verse 10:
“But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.”
Notice carefully! Those who murmured had made a deal with the Lord (“the good man of the house”) to work for Him for a certain amount (Verse 2). God had simply kept His part of the bargain. They did not trust God to reward them honestly. What they actually did was limit the grace and goodness of God. God would have given them more; but, God gave them exactly what they had agreed to, and that was a penny a day. The others came freely, just trusting that the Lord would reward them accordingly, and he did. Then, we come on down and find out what the Lord said, at the conclusion of the Parable, in Verse 16.
“So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.”
The Greek word for “called” is “invited or appointed to service.” The reason only a few were chosen for service is because of their attitude. Just as this Parable reveals—the first who came, came with the intent of making a deal with the Lord. Therefore, they did not receive the kind of reward for their labor that God would have given them, if they had not limited God by their dealings.
Therefore, the whole point of this Parable is, they are all invited (this being the “many” in Verse 16); BUT only those are “chosen” who come with the right attitude for service, trusting that God will reward them justly. This is the WHOLE point of the Parable. It concerns serving the Lord and has nothing to do with salvation whatsoever! Many are called, but only a few are chosen for His service depending upon their attitude toward doing His service.
How important it is to examine the context of a Parable to determine if that Parable is speaking concerning salvation or service. Maybe if these false teachers would, as 2 Timothy 2:15 admonishes one to do,
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” and, therefore teach the truth,
“That he (Christ) by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9c)
Why would Christ taste death for every man, if every man did not have the opportunity to be saved?