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Theology > Salvation > Work of Salvation > The Call of God


Those whom He predestined He also called.
Rom. 8:30

Calling follows election: “Those whom He predestined He also called” (Rom. 8:30). The call of God is His initial act in time whereby He begins fulfilling what He purposed in eternity when He predestined the individual. Calling follows predestination, since calling is determined by predestination—predestination is in eternity, while calling is in time.

The call is the beginning of the work of salvation in the life of the sinner. Some would equate calling with regeneration, and in the encompassing act include union with Christ. Others distinguish between the three. It seems that the distinguishing of the three is more for the purpose of understanding and learning rather than for having a definitive statement of the precise order of things. As has been stated in other articles even the suggestion of an ordo salutis that intends to list chronologically all of the aspects of the work of salvation is inappropriate (see: Ordo Salutis).

The call is God’s; it is His initiative, His deed. The call arises within God and in no manner has a contingency related to man. In the fullness and comprehensiveness of His essence God calls:

God the Father calls (Isa. 45:22; Acts 2:39; I Cor. 1:9; I Thess. 2:12; I Pet. 5:10);

God the Son calls (Matt. 11:28; Lu. 5:32; Jo. 7:37; Rom. 1:6; Rev. 3:20);

God the Spirit calls (Matt. 10:20; Jo. 15:26; Acts 5:31-32; Rev. 22:17).

Being of God the call is a holy call: “God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (II Tim. 1:9). For the call to be spoken of as “holy” means that it is of God; He calls and His call, as well as all that He does, is holy.

The call of God is the call of the Gospel; where there is the Gospel there is the call. To hear the Gospel is to hear His call. Because of the Gospel He calls, and through the Gospel He calls. Apart from the Gospel there is no call, and any reference to a call that is not associated with the Gospel is not the Theistic call.

The call of God comes to the sinner who is dead in trespasses and sin. The call confronts, the call condemns, the call convicts, the call invites, the call commands, the call converts, the call creates—the call saves. The call makes new, a new creation.

The one without life is given life, and it is the Word that is used by the Spirit to awaken the sinner, bring life to the sinner. God’s Word is creative: Gen. 1:3; Ps. 33:6, 9; 147:15; Rom. 4:17. And the call is in connection with this creative Word, that is, the power and effectiveness are in the Word not in the individual’s understanding of the Word; hence, the Word can even be effective in the lives of infants and idiots. It is God’s power operating through His Word that awakens and enables the sinner to respond. Numerous texts affirm this fact, and the folowing reflects the teaching of these verses:

While Ezekiel was prophesying to the dry bones, the breath of life came into them and they lived (Ezek. 37:1-14);

No one can come to the Son unless the Father draws him, awakening the one who of himself has no desire to seek the Lord (Jo. 6:44);

The Gentiles were glad when they heard the word and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48);

While Paul was preaching God opened the heart of Lydia enabling her to receive the words that Paul spoke (Acts 16:14);

God gives life to the dead; though spoken of Sarah, it is symbolic of what God does for the sinner (Rom. 4:17);

Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth (Jas. 1:8);

Having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and abides (I Pet. 1:23);

God calls the sinner out of darkness into His marvelous light (I Pet. 2:9).

Paul writes: “those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). The “call” that v. 30 speaks of is a call that comes to the one who has been predestined, and when the call comes it leads to justification, and finally glorification. Because of this dynamic, the call is often referred to as effectual; it is more than a mere invitation, it is a call that compels—a call that accomplishes. See: Acts. 16:14; Jo. 6:44-45.

Some distinguish between an external call and an internal call, a general call and a saving call. But no such distinction is made in the Scriptures. Rather the Spirit causes the elect to hear the call of God, while the rest do not hear and do not respond to God’s call. It would seem, therefore, that extended discussion between the characteristics of the external call versus the internal call are pointless. The Scriptures simply affirm that God calls men to Himself, some hear and respond, while others do not hear and do not heed. Additionally, discussion of effectual calling in connection with regeneration also seems pointless and counterproductive.

There is the lingering question of whether the place of the Word is immediate or mediate, with most Reformed writers stressing immediate while Lutherans stress mediate. Does the Spirit act directly on the sinner or does the Spirit act in connection with the Word? It seems proper to stress that the Spirit acts with, by, and though, the Word; there is no call or regeneration apart from both: the Spirit and the Word. Both are of God and are used in unity by God to awaken and create life within the sinner.

The call of God is to all of the man: the intellect, will, and emotions. Whatever divisions are applied to man, God’s call is a call to man as a unity; it is not a call to the intellect, or the will, or some other aspect of man’s being. It is to man as man.

God is faithful,
by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son,
Jesus Christ, our Lord.
I Cor. 1:9

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