When the first invitees turn down their summons to the king’s feast, others, bad and good, come to the table (Matt. 22:10). Does this mean that God’s banquet will include the profoundly wicked who finally trusted Christ as well as those who, though upright by human standards, saw their lack of perfection and served Jesus? Or, are the “bad” guests those who profess faith falsely, the poor fish who in Matthew 13:47–50 dwell among the good until the end?
The first interpretation is certainly biblical, but the concluding verses of the parable of the tenants (22:11–14) favor the latter option. Ancient kings often provided the proper attire to the guests at their feasts and, as Dr. John MacArthur notes, this second group of invitees has need of appropriate clothing, for they are found on the street unprepared to attend a wedding banquet. Therefore, the ejected man’s “lack of a proper garment indicates that he has purposely rejected the king’s own gracious provision” (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1, 166). Some apparently accept our Father’s gracious invitation to come into His kingdom without acknowledging their need of the clothing only He can provide — the perfect righteousness of Christ (Zech. 3:1–5; 2 Cor. 5:21). Without this clothing, the bad guests cannot remain and will be cast out on Judgment Day.
This parable teaches us about justification — God’s crediting of His Son’s perfect righteousness to our record through faith alone (Rom. 3:21–26). Yet justifying faith is active, demonstrating itself in good deeds (James 2:14–26; WCF, 11.2). We must distinguish justification, the only way we can stand before the Creator, from sanctification — our working out of salvation by serving others and becoming more like Jesus (Phil. 2:12–13). Still, justification and sanctification are inseparable, and we cannot have one without the other. John Calvin writes: “Let us not flatter ourselves with the empty title of faith, but let every man seriously examine himself, that at the final review he may be pronounced to be one of the lawful guests…for the words of Christ mean nothing more than this, that the external profession of faith is not a sufficient proof that God will acknowledge as his people all who appear to have accepted of his invitation.”
Matthew Henry comments, “Those, and those only, who put on the Lord Jesus, and to whom he is all in all, have wedding clothes.” Personal, saving trust in Christ is necessary to be a part of His banquet. Such faith perseveres until the end of life by feeding on the Word of God preached and read and the Word of God made visible in the sacraments. Take time daily to pray for consistency in your faith and make use of the means of grace to strengthen your trust in Jesus.
For further study:
The Bible in a year: