The parables of the wheat and tares and the dragnet are not the only ones that discuss the second aspect of citizenship—that is, keeping it or remaining on the Vine. Here is the parable of the wedding feast.
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”‘ But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. ‘Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:2-14)
This passage illustrates three groups of people: the Jews who rejected the invitation and treated the messengers shamefully. They never made it to the wedding (into the Kingdom). Then we have the mass invitation (or “dragnet”) of both good and evil. The parable ends with singling out the dinner guest who did not have wedding clothes. The passage itself does not define what is meant by the wedding clothes; however, Scripture is not silent on the subject. In Jesus’ discourse to the church in Sardis, He says this:
‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.’ (Revelation 3:1-5)
Here Jesus tells the church they have a name that they are alive, but are dead. Their deeds are incomplete, and as a result, their garments are soiled. If they do not repent, their names will be erased from the book of life. Only the worthy will walk with Him. So in this passage, we see people that have been grafted in to the Vine, but are at serious risk of being cut off (names erased from the book of life). They have gained their citizenship into the Kingdom of God, but may lose it without repentance.
Incomplete deeds results in soiled garments—Jesus’ words are clear. The garments are even more clearly defined elsewhere, in the context of the actual marriage supper no less. Scripture always defines Scripture.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Revelation 19:7-8)
Here we see that it was given to the bride (the church of Christ—that is, citizens of the Kingdom), to CLOTHE HERSELF. The bride has MADE HERSELF READY. Her citizenship, her grafting to the Vine is by God’s grace through faith—a result of the atonement of Christ. Yet the atonement does not stop there. Her keeping her citizenship, or remaining on the Vine is done by her, “given to her” by God to do. And what is the fine linen? Yes indeed, the righteous acts of the saints.
So how does this compare to the passages that state that salvation is entirely a work of God? Well, let’s read one of the most persuasive passages used to promote that position:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Well, we are indeed saved by grace through faith, because it was Christ who willfully subjected Himself to the Father, was given into the hands of evil men, bled and died so that He could conquer death and set us free from the Law of Sin and Death. It was His blood that washed us clean. Getting on the Vine is only through Him, for He IS the Vine!
However, let’s not stop reading at verse 9. Verse 10 says we are His workmanship created in Christ to do good works. Our freedom from sin, the atonement of Christ, had an inherent objective. Remember the Gospel according to Jesus: repent and follow Him. We are to turn from evil and embrace good. We are to do what He saved us to do. And the Scriptures declare, if we fail to do so, we are at risk for losing our citizenship. Our citizenship in the Kingdom of God is dependent on our subjection to the King, and obedience to the King’s laws—that is, the commands of Christ.
– Marc Carrier