THE DOCTRINE OF THE EFFECTUAL CALLA NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH DOCTRINE
By Wayne Camp
Psalm 110:3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. Psalm 65:4 Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.
Some might fault me for using two texts out of the Old Testament for a message on the doctrines of New Testament churches. I would remind any who are of a mind to do this to remember that the churches of New Testament times were admonished to teach themselves in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. If they followed that admonition, they would learn the truth of the effectual call as set forth in these two texts.
Consider the first text. Psalm 110:3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power. The people referred to in this passage are Gods elect. They were chosen by him before the foundation of the world and given to Christ to save. Christ came and accomplished redemption for them making a full and satisfactory atonement for all of his sheep.
Now it would be of no avail for God to choose and Christ to redeem if there were no way to assure the elect would come to Christ for salvation. All men are stubborn and depraved in their wills and they will not to come to Christ. The Greek of the first part of John 5:40 is: kai ou qelete elqein proV me (Textus Receptus). The literal rendering of this is: "And ye are not willing to come to me." Note that elqein is an infinitive rendered to come. The idea of the Lord in this statement is not simply that they would not come, rather it is that they were willing not to come. They were not willing to come to Christ. It was the depravity of their wills that was keeping them from coming to Christ. Herein lies the secret of the inability of man to come. He is so depraved that he cannot will to come to Christ unless he is made willing.
Our text declares that Gods people, his chosen ones, shall be willing. Now we must notice when they will be willing. They will be willing in the day of his power. When he enables them to come they will come.
Notice our second text. Psalm 65:4 Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee. In this verse we have both calling and election. The Psalmist first speaks of the blessedness of the man whom God chooses to salvation. Then he speaks of the blessedness of that man being caused to approach to Christ. God does not simply choose men to salvation; he causes those same blessed ones to approach to himself. They spiritually and savingly come to him. That is effectual call. That is irresistible grace.
THE EFFECTUAL CALL IS OFTEN INFERRED IN THE WORD OF GOD
I have already cited two verses from the Old Testament in which this doctrine of an effectual call is inferred in Scripture. Gods elect will be willing in the day of his power. God has chosen them and he will cause them to approach unto him. Since we know that the churches of NT times taught and admonished themselves with psalms, we must understand they were familiar with these two verses which taught the effectual call.
Consider the inference in the words of James. Acts 15:13-18 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. In verse 14 it is brought to the attention of the church at Jerusalem by the pastor, James, that God was and is visiting the Gentiles "to take out of them a people for his name." He did not visit the Gentiles to try to take out of them a people for his name. He did not visit the Gentiles to invite out a people for his name and leave his eternal purpose in the power of their stubborn and depraved wills. He did not visit the Gentiles to take all of them for his name for if he had not a Gentile would end up in hell for what God attempts he does. He did not visit them to offer them an opportunity to come out to be a people for his name.
What God did was to visit the Gentiles with one single object in mind"to take out a people" for his name. This is a declaration of the Divine purpose, and Divine purposes never fail. Isaiah 46:10-11 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: 11 Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it. God, in his sovereign and mighty purpose did visit, and continues to visit the Gentiles to take out a people for his name. He is accomplishing his purpose.
This doctrine of the effectual call is again inferred in Peters sermon on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. Acts 2:39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. From other Scripture, it is apparent that all that are afar off has reference to the Gentiles. The Gentiles were aliens and strangers to the covenant of promise until they were brought nigh by the blood of Christ (See Eph. 2:12-15). I simply mention this so that all reading this will understand that this involves the Jews as well as the people whom God has, is, and will take out of the Gentiles for his name. Peter says the promise is to the Jews who believed that day, to their children and to all that afar off. Sometimes men jump at that word all and make it inclusive of every person in the human race. But, Peter qualifies it at the end of the verse and, in qualifying it, he clearly sets forth the effectual call. The qualifying and quantifying of the all and the rest of the people in the verse is in this expression, "even as many as the Lord our God shall call." This promise is not to all men without exception. It is to all the men of all races whom the Lord our God shall call.
The promise is to as many as God shall call. This indicates there is a definite number of specific people whom God will call to salvation. The matter is very definite in the declaration of Peter, an inspired apostle. The promise is not to more than God shall call. The promise is not to less than God shall call. The promise is to as many as God shall call. No more! No less! Peter was teaching that first church and all whom God would add that day the doctrine of the effectual call.
Consider the inference found in the words of Jesus to the first church on this earth. John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. Make no mistake about the powerful inference of irresistible grace found in this verse. Many love to use this verse to prove the security of the true believer in Jesus Christ. They are ready to give a hearty "Amen!" when it is used to prove that blessed doctrine. But, there is more in this verse than the preservation of the saints. There is a strong inference of the doctrine of unconditional election. It speaks of a definite number of people who were given to Christ to save. And it infers the doctrine of the effectual call when Jesus unequivocally declares that each and every one of those given to him will come to him. Not more! Not less! But all those given will come without fail.
There is also another verse often used but not believed by some. It is also found in this sixth chapter of John. John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. There is not a person on earth who can or will come to Christ unless drawn by the Father and caused to approach unto Christ. Regardless of what some may teach concerning the alleged "free will" of men, true freedom includes the ability to do what one purposes. I stood in a yard once with another man as we watched two horses running and playing in a pasture. He said, "Isnt it wonderful to see them running wild and free out there." I reminded him there was a strong and high pasture fence enclosing them and they were only free within the bounds of that pasture fence. Man is depraved by nature and he is only free to act with-in the bounds of his nature. To rise above that nature requires power from without. That power is the power of God. His people will be willing in the day of his power. His people whom he has chosen will be caused to approach unto him in the day of his power. Each and every one of those given to Christ will come to Christ but they will only come and can only come when drawn to Christ by the invincible power of God.
In this same vein I remind you of another declaration of Christ in which he taught this doctrine of the effectual call in the presence of his apostles. John 6:65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. Not one person, according to Christ, can come to Christ unless that ability is given him by the Father. If God were to give all men without exception this ability, all without exception would come to Christ. Since all do not come we know that all are not given the ability to come. But, we know that it is the Fathers will that all those whom he has given to Christ come to Christ. And, we know that all those given to Christ will come to Christ. The ones whom he gave to Christ are the same ones whom he has chosen and whom he causes to approach unto Christ. Thus, again we see our Lord teaching the effectual call in the presence of some members of the first church he planted on this earth. It is a New Testament church certainty that those early churches were taught the doctrine of the effectual call.
With the verses we have already considered in mind, let us examine more of the teachings of Christ and his apostles concerning this doctrine of the effectual call. Perhaps one of the most powerful inferences to be found is in the words of Jesus Christ concerning his other sheep, his Gentile sheep, whom he had not yet called into the fold of salvation. John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. The first thing I would have you to consider is the fact that these under consideration in this verse are already his sheep even though they have not yet heard his voice and have not yet entered the fold. At the time Christ was speaking, they were yet uncalled and unsaved; they were outside the fold.
Jesus is speaking to Jewish Christians. The fold to which he first refers is the Jewish fold. He had some other sheep which were not of the Jewish fold. Consider the next very powerful declaration. "Them also I must bring." Will any reader suggest that something which Christ must do will go undone? Could Christ fail to do something which he must do and still be without sin? When he said, "I must go through Samaria," did he go through Samaria? Most certainly. When he declared that he must go up to Jerusalem and suffer many things and die and rise again, did he go to Jerusalem and suffer many things and die and rise again? Absolutely! When Peter tried to deliver Christ from the band of soldiers in the garden and Jesus reminded him that what they were about to do must be, could it be otherwise? No! Perish the thought. He must needs suffer! When Jesus said, "I must preach the gospel in other cities," did he preach the gospel in other cities? He most certainly did! When Jesus said, "I must suffer and be rejected of this generation," did he suffer and was he rejected by that generation? Absolutely! When Jesus told Zacchaeus, "I must abide at thy house," did he abide at that mans house? Absolutely! When Jesus said that "this that is written must yet be accomplished in me," was there the remotest possibility that anything written that was to be accomplished in him would not be accomplished? No way! When Jesus said that all things written in the law and in the prophets and in the Psalms concerning him "must be accomplished," will any suggest that that merely means they may or may not be accomplished.
What Christ must do, he must do. When he says of these Gentile sheep, who were not yet called and not yet in the fold, many of them not even born yet, "Them also I must bring," does that indicate a Divine necessity, a Divine imperative, a Divine absolute? He must bring them and he will do so by an effectual call, by irresistible grace.
But, we have not finished with these other sheep yet. Jesus declares that he must bring them into the fold. Then he expresses the certainty that he will accomplish that when he says, "They shall hear my voice." He did not say, "I hope they will hear my voice." Nor did he say, "Maybe they will hear my voice." And he did not say, "I am going to beg and plead with them to hear my voice." Furthermore, he did not say, "I am going to do every thing I can to get them to hear my voice." He declared unequivocally, absolutely, and explicitly, "They shall hear my voice." They are his sheep, and his sheep hear his voice without fail and he gives every one of his sheep eternal life and brings them into the fold. His affirmation that these other sheep whom he must bring would hear his voice is obviously a strong inference of the effectual call. He was teaching that first church this certainty of the effectual call and its certain success in bringing every one of his elect into the fold.
Of course, this naturally leads us to consider another passage in this same chapter. John 10:27-28 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. Is his statement in this passage not an indication that he speaks of an effectual call? Jesus has sheep who are lost and sheep who are saved. The sheep in this passage were sheep before they heard his voice; they were sheep before they followed him; and they were sheep before he gave them eternal life. The fact they are his chosen ones, his sheep given him by the Father and for whom he would lay down his life, was the ground upon which he assured himself and his church that all of them would hear his voice, follow him, receive eternal life from him, and never be plucked away from him. They were his, given to him by the Father and all given to him by the Father will surely come to him, he must bring all his sheep into the fold, and each and every one of them shall hear his voice. That is the effectual call and irresistible grace taught to the first New Testament church on this earth by her head and founder the Lord Jesus Christ!
I see another inference of the effectual call in the preaching of Paul while in Antioch in Pisidia. The Jews had turned from his preaching but the Gentiles asked him to preach to them. As he preached he related how God had sent him to the Gentiles to preach the gospel to them. Here are his words and the result. Acts 13:47-48 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. Who are these who believed when they heard Paul preaching? They are Gentiles. But there is another thing that identifies them. They are Gentiles who have been ordained to eternal life. As many of that group gathered there that day as were ordained to eternal life believed.
This is most interesting to consider. There is not the slightest indication that even one of that number who was not ordained to eternal life believed. There is not the slightest indication that more than were ordained to eternal life believed. Nor is there any indication that less than those of that group who were ordained to eternal life believed. Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in all the ages of human history will be exactly the same number and persons as those ordained to eternal life before the foundation of the world. The tally will be the same. The persons will be the same. The list of believers will perfectly match the list of the elect, those ordained to eternal life. For always, and in every place, those who believe are those who were ordained to eternal life. And, why do those ordained to eternal life believe? Because they are his sheep and his sheep must be brought into the fold. They are his sheep and his sheep shall hear his voice. They are his people, chosen and ordained to eternal life, and they shall be willing to come in the day of his invincible, irresistible power. They are his elect and he will cause them to approach to him. Paul believed and preached an effectual call of the elect to salvation. Luke recorded that those who believed in Antioch in Pisidia were ordained to eternal life, and that ordination to eternal life was before they believed.
Have you considered the Lords very assuring words to Paul just before he went to the wicked, idolatrous city of Corinth to preach. Paul was fearful, as any person might be under such circumstances. Acts 18:9-10 Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: 10 For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. First, I would remind all that the Lord can control the most vicious people so that they do not hurt his people or his preacher if that be his will. He who tamed the fires of a fiery furnace in Babylon so that it did not singe the hair of three men can surely control the wicked men in Corinth. He who tamed lions so that they would not touch Daniel and then returned them to their ravenous ways when Daniels enemies were thrown in, can surely quench the blood thirst of the men of Corinth. God says to Paul, "Fear not, I am in charge. Not one man will set on you to hurt you."
The Lord then informs Paul that in the city of Corinth there are many people who belong to him. "Were there already saved people there?" you ask. No. Evidently not. Paul had not yet been there and he would later write, ". . . in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. The obvious inference is that these Corinthians were all saved under the preaching of Paul. They were not saved before Paul went there to preach. But, they were already the Lords for he said, "I have much people in this city." Since the gospel is the instrumental means God uses in the salvation of his elect, Paul must go there and preach to them and be used of God in bringing them to Christ. Here are some more of those other sheep we have been considering. They were the Lords people and they must be brought to Christ. They would hear his voice and enter the fold. They did hear his voice and enter the fold when they were made willing in the day of his power. They were his elect and were caused to approach unto Christ. They were his sheep and his sheep hear his voice. There were not enough hounds in hell to keep Paul from fulfilling his appointed task in Corinth. Christs power over all flesh was fully exercised so that he gave eternal life to those whom the Father had given him from Corinth and who were to be called out at that particular time.
There is yet another verse which is used, or misused, by some who seek to refute the doctrines of sovereign grace. You will know it when you read it. 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. I affirm that this verse clearly infers the doctrine of the effectual call or irresistible grace, if you please.
The key to understanding this verse is discovering who the us-ward are. I was taught in Seminary to apply a rule called the rule of interpretation to the Scriptures. It said we must ask, "Who is speaking? To whom is he speaking? About what is he speaking? And When was he speaking?" I now apply the questions that are pertinent to an understanding of this verse that is so misunderstood and misapplied. To and of whom is Peter speaking in II Peter 3:9. It is evident from the first verse of this chapter that this epistle is addressed to the same people as the Peters first epistle. 2 Peter 3:1 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance. These epistles are addressed to the elect. 1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. They are addressed to the ones who have been begotten to a living hope. 1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. They are addressed to the ones who have an inheritance reserved in heaven for them. 1 Peter 1:4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you. They are addressed to the ones who are kept by the power of God. 1 Peter 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. They are addressed to the ones who have obtained like precious faith. 2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. They are addressed to the ones who receive from God all things that pertain to life and godliness. 2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue. They are addressed to the ones who have been called to glory and virtue. 2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue. They are addressed to the ones who shall partake of the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. They are addressed to the ones who have a calling and election of which they can be assured. 2 Peter 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.
Peter speaks of the blessed assurance of II Peter 3:9 which is simply this: Jesus will not return until all the us-ward toward whom he is longsuffering are saved. Not one of them will be plucked out of his hand. Not one of them will be finally lost. All of them will come to Christ as assured in John 6:37.
The alternative to this interpretation is universal salvation. If Peter is saying that God is not willing that even one member of the human race perish, then all will be saved. God works "all things after the counsel of his own will" therefore, if he is unwilling that any of the human race perish, none will perish. Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. "Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased" and if it pleases him to save the entire human race without the exception of a single person he will do so. (Psalm 115:3). "Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places" and he still does as he pleases in all places, even in the hearts of sinners, and if it pleased him to save all men he would do so. (Psalm 135:6). "He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth" and if it were his will to save all the inhabitants of the earth he would do so for he does what he wills among them. (Daniel 4:35). If it were Gods will and pleasure to save every member of the human race he could do so for he declares, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure . . . I have purposed it, I will also do it." (Isaiah 46:10-11).
We have but three alternatives in this matter. We must give II Peter 3:9 the interpretation required by its context and limit it to the elect as I have. Or, we must proclaim ultimate universal salvation. Or, if we contend that it is Gods will, purpose, plan and endeavor to save the entire human race, we must declare God a failure and hell a ghastly monument to the failure of the Triune God.
If you contend that it is Gods will and pleasure to save every person in the human race, and admit that he has not and can not save every person in the human race, you charge God with failure, tremendous, catastrophic failure. You affirm that hell and those there are monuments to the failure of the great God of heaven. You charge Christ with failure because he is unable to save all whom he came to save. You charge the Holy Spirit with failure because he is unable to quicken and draw all those given to Christ to Christ. You may preach a God who fails, a Christ who is frustrated, and a Holy Spirit who is stymied in his efforts if you will, but I pray thee have me excused.
It is apparent from II Peter 3:9 that God is not willing that any of some group perish. It is also evident that it is his will and purpose that all of that group come to repentance. If that group be the entire human race, he has failed to do as he wills to do. But, if that group is the whole number of Gods elect then he has not failed for all those whom he has chosen will be caused to approach unto him. His people will be willing in the day of his power. He is not willing that even one of the elect perish so none of them will perish. By his omnipotent power he will cause all of them to be willing to come to his Son. Thus, it is apparent that when Peter addressed this body of New Testament Christians he had in mind the effectual call.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE EFFECTUAL CALL IS EMPHATICALLY AND UNEQUIVOCALLY TAUGHT IN THE SCRIPTURES.
Consider the words of Jesus as he uses the analogy of a shepherd and his sheep to show how he calls his sheep. John 10:2-4 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The sheep hear the voice of their shepherd. The shepherd calls his own sheep by name. The shepherd leads his own sheep out, and they follow him. The shepherd knows his sheep and his sheep know his voice.
Now, see this pictorial lesson used to teach the truth concerning Christ calling out his lost sheep. John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. John 10:26-28 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. Notice in verse 26 that there are some who are not of his sheep, therefore they do not hear his voice, nor do they believe on him. Notice in verse 16 that Jesus refers to some other sheep not of the Jewish race whom he will yet call. We have considered these already but remember that he has not called them yet. He has not yet begun to visit the Gentiles to call out of them a people for his name. Yet, though the majority of these other sheep were still unborn when Jesus said this, he still calls them his sheep. He is going to definitely call these sheep and they will definitely hear his voice and enter the fold. John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. In contrast to those who are not of his sheep, not given to him in the covenant of redemption, Christs sheep do definitely hear his voice. His sheep do most certainly follow him. He gives eternal life to his sheep. Not one of his sheep whom he has called will ever perish or be plucked out of his hand.
Let us notice also that in Scripture there are certain people who are specifically referred to as the called. They are designated the called of Jesus Christ. Romans 1:6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ. They are called saints. Romans 1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek expression in this verse is kletois Vagios (KLETOIS HAGIOS). Called is not a verb as the KJV indicates. It is a verbal adjective, a past participle used as an adjective. We say, "Saved sinners." Paul says, "Called saints," not "called to be saints."
There are also called saints mentioned in Pauls first epistle to the church at Corinth. 1 Corinthians 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours. In his letter to the Galatians Paul refers to those who have been "called into the grace of Christ." Galatians 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.
Now let us consider some other verses in which this doctrine of effectual call was set before the churches of New Testament times making it a New Testament church certainty. In the first verse they are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. The same folks are mentioned in verse 30 where they are the ones whom he foreknew and predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son whom he also called, justified and glorified without loosing a single one. Romans 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
We meet these folks again in verse 24 of the first chapter of First Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Paul introduces us to three groups or classifications of people in this verse. His first group he calls Jews. His second group he calls Greeks. His third group he calls both Jews and Greeks.
According to Paul, these three groups respond to the preaching of Christ crucified three different ways. The Jews find the gospel to be a stumbling block. The Greeks find the gospel to be foolishness. The group composed of both Jews and Greeks find the gospel to be the power and wisdom of God. There is only one difference in the Jews and Greeks in the first two groups and the Jews and Greeks in the third group. The third group, composed of both Jews and Greeks, are the called. Again we have, in the Greek, this expression, tois klhtois which translates the called. The thing that causes this group to receive the gospel as the power of God and the wisdom of God is the call of God, the effectual call. The only difference is a God-put difference, God called this group.
Gods word tells us several other things about this call. This call was given us in the purpose of God before the foundation of the world. 2 Timothy 1:8-9 God, Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. In the mind and purpose of God this call has already been issued and those called have already been justified and glorified. Romans 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
We should also note some things about this call of God to his elect. This calling is a calling by Gods grace. Galatians 1:15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace. This call is a call to eternal glory. 1 Peter 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus. This call is a call to glory and virtue. 2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue. This call is a calling which can be made certain. 2 Peter 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. This call assures the sanctification and preservation of those called. Jude 1 Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called. This call assures the called of an eternal inheritance. Hebrews 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
Moreover, this call is irrevocable. Romans 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. God never starts to call one to salvation and then decides not to. He never tries to call one and, meeting resistance, abandons the calling and the called. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. God never begins calling one to salvation and then quits before the work is complete. Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. What shall we say to these wonderful facts about the effectual call. We could say, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Or, we could say, "We are more than conquerors through him that loved us." Regardless of your reaction to this wonderful and effectual call, it is just that. It is wonderful. It is effectual. The success of Gods eternal purpose in Christ Jesus does not depend upon the alleged free will of man. Rather it depends upon Gods ability to call. His elect will be saved because he effectually calls them. Romans 9:11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;). The purpose of God according to election will stand. It will not stand by mans good works. It will not stand in mans ability to come to Christ. It will stand in Gods ability to call everyone of his sheep unto himself. I cannot will for myself a straight back so that I would not be stooped, a new pancreas so that I would not be diabetic, nor a new ear nerve so that I would not be deaf in my right ear. I cannot even will for myself knees that are free from arthritis or teeth that have no cavities with fillings. Surely I could not entrust the welfare of my eternal destiny to the alleged power of my will. No, my dear Brothers and Sisters, Gods purpose of grace in me has been successful because its success rests on his power to call, to draw, to regenerate, to sanctify, to save from sin, and ultimately to glorify everyone of those whom he chose and whom Christ redeemed and whom the Holy Spirit regenerates.
And this brings me to the next point that must be considered.
THE TOTAL DEPRAVITY AND INABILITY OF MAN REQUIRES AN EFFECTUAL CALL
Of course, if you do not believe in the total hereditary depravity of men you will not be with me on this point. Those who believe that man has the ability, in and of himself, to freely will to come to Christ will never see the necessity of the effectual call. It really comes back to the fact that this whole thing hinges on the doctrine of total depravity. If you believe men are totally depraved, you must believe in an effectual call if you hold that any will be saved.
God commands all men to repent but man will never repent unless effectually called because he is at enmity with God and cannot obey God. Romans 8:7-8 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. God commands sinners to repent but man is incapable of obeying this command. He is not subject to the law of God and cannot be. Gods law says he must repent. But the only way he can repent is if God, perchance will grant him repentance. Otherwise he is a totally condemned person. 2 Timothy 2:25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. When some in Israel repented it was because God gave them repentance. Acts 5:31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. When the church at Jerusalem heard of the salvation of Gentiles in Antioch and regions around that area, they praised God for granting repentance to the Gentiles. Acts 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. Depraved men must repent but, left to themselves they cannot repent. In the effectual call and regeneration, God grants repentance to his elect and they then can repent.
God commands all men to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ but man cannot unless effectually called because he cannot obey God. 1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. The gospel is more than a mere invitation. The gospel involves and includes a command to men to repent and believe. You are not merely asked to believe, you are commanded to believe. But there is no way you can conjure up the kind of faith that believes to the saving of the soul. God must give you faith if you ever believe. The effectual call is the means whereby God enables the sinner to come to Christ. In regeneration he gives the repentance and faith essential to coming to Christ.
Man has no power to change himself and unless regenerated and called effectually there will be no change spiritually. Jeremiah 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. Can the Ethiopian change his skin simply by willing that it be another color? Certainly not! Can the leopard change his spots simply because he wills to have them shaped differently, be of a different color, or be located in different places? Absolutely not!
The inference is that if the leopard could change his spots and the Ethiopian could will a change in the color of his skin, then a depraved sinner just might stand a chance of changing his own nature. But, no one has ever seen either of these things happen and neither has anyone of his own will ever changed his sinful nature. He has no ability or power to change himself.
Men are dead in trespasses and sins and must be quickened and called if they are ever to leave the course of this world after which they walk. Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. To quicken means to make alive, to give life to. Why does the sinner need life, spiritual quickening? Because he is spiritually dead. He has no ability to raise himself up from his deadness. He must be quickened by the power of the Holy Spirit for he cannot quicken himself.
Man is without spiritual strength and cannot come to Christ unless enabled to do so. John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. Jesus speaks of mans inability in this verse; He CANNOT come to Christ unless drawn and enabled to come by the Father. This is one reason the effectual call is essential.
In what is commonly called the general call we call upon and command all men to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, but when God would call one of his elect to salvation in Christ, he attends that general call with special power and causes his elect to come to him. He has chosen them from the foundation of the world and he calls them effectually in time.
We hear some modern-day preacher representing Christ as standing at the door of the sinners heart. He is knocking and pleading to be let in. The sinner is told that he must open the door of his heart and let the Saviour in. This is based on a message to the church at Laodecia, and is not directed to the unregenerate in any way. The truth of the matter is, God must open the hearts of lost people if they are to give attendance to and receive the gospel with joy. It was certainly demonstrated to be so in the case of Lydia. Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. A person may hear the gospel audibly but not hear it spiritually. The gospel, to effect salvation in the hearer, must be heard in the heart. God must open that heart for the sinner to hear savingly. From as early in life as I can remember, I heard the gospel, but then one day, August 27, 1951, I really heard the gospel. On that day it came in power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. And, I can tell you the call that came to me that day could not be successfully resisted. I had vowed that morning that there was no way they were going to get me. They didnt; God did! I praise him for his effectual call; his irresistible call to salvation.
I guess I should give one definition at this point that I should have given earlier. The word irresistible does not mean "not resisted." It means "not successfully resisted." I was teaching a class in Systematic Theology in Seminary a number of years ago. A student raised an objection to this doctrine. I reached for a dictionary I always kept on my desk in my classroom. I read the definition of the word irresistible. It was what I have just given, "not successfully resisted." I asked for a show of hands of all in the class who had resisted the call to salvation. All raised their hands. I then asked for a show of hands from any in the class who had resisted successfully. Not a single hand went up. I then said, "We should have no more objections to this doctrine. This class is a monument to the irresistible grace and calling of God."
I am amazed at the perfect consistency of the Scripture. God never tells a sinner to "get saved." That is active voice and God always uses the passive voice. "Thou shalt be saved." "By grace are ye saved." God is the actor and man is acted upon in this matter of salvation. This is especially true in the matter of regeneration, one aspect of our salvation. "Ye must be born again." "Except a man be born . . ." "Which were born." "You hath he quickened."
The idea that a sinner can will his own spiritual birth is totally outside the teaching of Scripture. The dead sinner has no more ability to will the new birth for himself than an unborn baby has the ability to will his own birth. The travail and labor in childbirth belongs to the mother. The baby is passive. He does nothing to produce his conception or birth. God must will the new birth for any person who is born from above for he will never will it for himself. John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. One is not regenerated because of his blood line. One is not regenerated because of the will of the flesh. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." And the flesh will never will regeneration. All men are alienated from God and enemies in their minds. The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God; and cannot be subject to the law of God while one is in his unregenerate state. Divine law declares that one must be born again. Where does that leave the unregenerate? It leaves them entirely dependent on the sovereign grace and mercy of God who quickens whom he will. John 5:21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. The new birth is completely of the will of God, according John 1:13 and the verse just cited.
Because of this innate inability of man to will and produce the new birth for himself, the effectual call is absolutely essential and the churches of the New Testament period were regularly and consistently taught that blessed doctrine. In the effectual call the called one is not simply called; he is given the ability to respond favorably to that call so that he does come to Christ. Therefore God must call and enable men to come to Christ. John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. God must give them what is necessary for them to come to Christ. John 6:65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. Man does not simply reach down within himself and get the strength and ability to come to Christ. He could search for an eternity and he would not find it in himself. While it is true, Jesus did not say, "No man will come to me except it were given unto him of my Father." What he did say was, "No man can come except it were given unto him of my Father." As in verse 44, we have here a question of ability, not of willingness. The unregenerate simply cannot come to Christ. He must be enabled through the regenerating and calling power of God. Only then will he come.
If any are to will to come to Christ, God must work in them causing them to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. If you have come to Christ, why did you will to do so? Is it something you just conjured up in your mind? No, not if you did truly trust Christ for you will never do his good pleasure unless he works in you both to will and to do it.
God commands all men every where to repent. That is his holy decree. But, the carnal, unregenerate cannot be subject to the law of God and cannot, therefore, repent unless God enables them to do so. God must grant men repentance if they are to repent. Acts 5:31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. Notice the fact that God exalted Christ to give repentance to Israel. He did not expect Israel to repent of themselves. The grace of repentance must be given by God.
The major confessions of faith adopted by Baptists over the years have stated that repentance is a grace of God that is one of the fruits (results) of regeneration. You who are in the ABA, BMA, or other Baptist groups check your confession of faith and see if it does not clearly set forth regeneration as the cause, not the result of repentance and faith. See if it does not call repentance and faith "inseparable graces" that are wrought in the soul in regeneration.
Having spent 25 years pastoring churches connected with the ABA, I am more familiar with their historical position than of other churches. When the ABA was organized they adopted a confession which, on the subject at hand said, "We believe that in order to be saved, sinners must be regenerated . . . and that its (regenerations) proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance, and faith, and newness of life." The confession further stated, "We believe that repentance and faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls in regeneration." Both of these statements show unquestionably that repentance and faith are products, or fruits of regeneration."
In all fairness to the current generation of folks in ABA churches, I should point out that the messengers, in recent years have changed the doctrine of the ABA on this matter. I have before me as I write a copy of the 1995 Yearbook. On page 209, in a doctrinal statement, they say, "We believe that . . . the requisites to regeneration are repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ . . ." Notice the reversal of the order. The confession of faith that has stood as the doctrinal position of the ABA for many years declared repentance and faith to be fruits of regeneration. The modern ABA believes that repentance and faith are requisites of regeneration.
Both cannot be true. One or the other is false. If repentance and faith are fruits of regeneration, they cannot be requisites of regeneration. A fruit of something cannot also be a requisite of that same thing. If regeneration produces the fruits of repentance and faith, how can repentance and faith be requisites of regeneration? The "fruits of ones labor" is that which results from his labor. The labor produces the fruits, not the fruits the labor. If repentance and faith are requisites of regeneration, they cannot be fruits of regeneration.
Most know the meaning of fruit. The peach is the fruit of the peach tree. The tree produces the peach, the peach does not produce the tree on which it grows. But, let us look at the meaning of the word requisite. A requisite is something that is mandatory and necessary to something. If repentance and faith are requisites of regeneration, they are necessary and mandatory before one can be regenerated. Therefore, if requisites, they could not be fruits of regeneration.
The old confession, long held up as a standard of doctrine for the ABA churches, says that repentance and faith are fruits of regeneration. The new doctrinal statement says that repentance and faith are requisites of regeneration. If the old is right, the new is wrong; if the new is right, the old is wrong. They are diametrically opposed to one another and cannot both be true. The messengers of the churches obviously changed a basic and vital doctrine that relates to salvation.
I recall being told in church history class that one of the evidences that the Roman Catholic church is not the true church is its ever-changing doctrinal position. When any church or group of churches start changing their doctrines, they send up a flare that signifies they were not right before or they are not right after the change.
The messengers of the ABA have changed their doctrine. As I said before this is a basic and vital doctrine relating to salvation. My question is, "How many more doctrines will they change?" I can foresee that one day they will add another requisite to the ones recently added that are requisites of regeneration. Will it be baptism? Will it be church membership? Will it be believing that one must speak in tongues if he is to be regenerated? When changes start, one never knows where they will lead. If the Lord does not return soon, one wonders where they will go. One change leads to others. How far will they go?
I apologize for this diversion from the subject at hand. But, it is not really a diversion. One who believes that regeneration is produced by repentance and faith, could never believe in the effectual call and be consistent. In the effectual call one is enable to repent and believe because the effectual call is a concomitant of regeneration. It happens in the same moment. Therefore, one who believes repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ produce regeneration would also believe that repentance and faith would also be requisites of the effectual call. Does God need to call someone who has already repented and believed? There is no end to the absurdities and errors connected with this doctrine that regeneration is the fruit of repentance and faith. You brethren in the ABA who read this had better keep your ear to the ground. When the winds of change start to blow, there is no telling which way they will blow.
Let us also notice there are other indications in Scripture that man does not repent of himself. Those who were scattered abroad under the persecution of Saul went as for as Antioch preaching the gospel. Many Gentiles were saved and a church was organized at Antioch. Word of this came back to the ears of the congregation at Jerusalem. Acts 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. Notice carefully the wording of what they said. "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." Repentance is a grant, or gift, from God. He gave repentance to many in Israel; he granted repentance to the Gentiles in Antioch. It is evident that the church believed in the effectual call. In regeneration and calling God enables the sinner to repent and grants to him the grace of repentance.
It is apparent that this was a firm conviction of the Apostle Paul. He wrote concerning some who had erred. 2 Timothy 2:25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. Again we see the evidence that God must give repentance. He must enable one to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. This is yet another evidence that the effectual call was taught the churches of New Testament times. No sinner could repent or would repent unless effectually called and enabled to come to Christ.
If it were not for Gods effectual call to salvation not one of his elect would ever come to him. If Christ had not quickened and called Lazarus effectually and powerfully, he would never have gotten up from the dead. Can you imagine Christ standing at the tomb and pleading with Lazarus to get up from the dead? No! He commanded him to come forth and he came forth. When the command of grace goes forth and calls one of the elect to Christ he comes. He does not debate with Christ. He is commanded to come forth from his deadness in trespasses and sins and he comes forth. Raised and brought to spiritual life by the command of a thrice holy God. John 5:21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. Christ never sought the permission of Lazarus free will before he raised him from the dead. He commanded him; he did not negotiate with him.
You cannot cure a toothache by the power and determination of your own free will, how could you expect to overcome the depraved state of your mind and heart and will your own salvation? You cannot add an inch to your stature by willing it; how could you expect to change your nature by the power of your own will?
The sinner who truly comes to Christ does so in the day of Gods powerful calling. Psalm 110:3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power. Thank God for the calling in which we are made willing. He chose us in eternity. In time he calls us by his grace to the salvation to which he has chosen us. And happy and blessed is the man whom God has chosen and caused to approach unto him through his precious Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
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