God has spoken to humanity through His prophets and His son Jesus Christ who is also known as the living Word of God or the Word made flesh (John 1:14). God’s call to humanity is clear and consistent throughout history as recorded in scared Scriptures. Let us take a look at a few Scripture passages to bring to mind God’s invitation to us.
The Lord said: “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:22) This verse tells us that the promises of the gospel are universal. None are excluded. The ends of the earth, the remotest parts of the world, are invited to embrace salvation, and all those portions of the world might, under this invitation, come and accept the offers of life. The invitation has gone from His lips, and the command has gone forth that it should be carried to every creature (Mark 16:15), and now it pertains to His church to bear the good news of salvation around the world. God intends that it shall be done, and on His church rests the responsibility of seeing it speedily executed.
Similarly, the prophet Hosea told the people of Israel: “Return to your God Yahweh, O Israel! Your sins have caused your downfall. Return to Yahweh with humble words. Say to him, ’Oh you who show compassion to the fatherless forgive our debt, be appeased. Instead of bulls and sacrifices, accept the praise from our lips.” (Hosea 14:1-2) The invitation to return implies previous departure, or distance, or wandering from God. The return to which they are invited is not merely to turn their mind or face toward God, but to turn their face and feet home to God; they are not to go half-way and then turn aside, or part of the way and then turn back, but the whole way; in other words, their repentance is to be complete and entire. As punishment was threatened in case of obstinate impenitence, so mercy is promised on condition of thorough repentance.
In the New Testament, Jesus spoke about God’s gracious invitation to embrace salvation and to return to Him in the parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14). The focus of the parable is on the wedding feast of the Son, Jesus the Messiah. The parable clearly intends to portray Israel’s spiritual indifference to the invitation in the sharpest way, culminating in their killing the messengers of the covenant. In Matthew 23 Jesus will accuse the hypocritical leaders of killing the prophets. The imagery of a wedding banquet turns to the serious message when the man without the proper wedding clothes is not merely thrown out of the banquet, but is bound hand and foot, and cast into darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is obviously the judgment scene that Jesus repeated so often with these very words. Thus the banquet is the celebration of those who enter the kingdom, and the exclusion is the judgment of God for those who reject the invitation of grace.
The parable closes with an explanation: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” The word “many” is not intended to be a restricted number; it is used several times in Isaiah 53 to speak of those for whom Christ poured out his blood. The invitation has gone out to all who care to listen, but some just refused, and some wanted to come but refused to submit to the requirements of entrance into the kingdom. So none of these will be present in the kingdom. Those Jesus refers to as “chosen” are the people who respond to the invitation to come, and respond in the proper manner so that they are prepared to enter the kingdom. Because the Bible refers to the recipients of grace as “chosen,” we may conclude that it intends to say that God is not surprised by the acceptance of some and the rejection of many–in other words, sovereign grace is still at work, even though on the human level we see how some refuse and some accept and prepare.
In our day the invitation goes out from the Holy Spirit through the Church: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come’.” And whosoever wills may come and drink of the water of life freely (Rev 22:17). Those who refuse, whether violently opposed to Christ, or pretending to be in Christ, will have no part in the kingdom, but will be cast into outer darkness.
This is the message of the Gospel, the good news. It is only good news if salvation delivers us from darkness (if there is no darkness, no judgment, then there is no reason for good news). The Church must carry the invitation to the world, even if the world might refuse the invitation, or even treat them violently and kill them.
Let us open our hearts and let God speak to us in the hymn “Turn to Me” by John Foley – Saint Louis Jesuits (Based on Isaiah 45:22-23 Isaiah 51:12,4,6):