03
Jan
14

Effectual Calling–Romans 8:28-30

There is no question but that there is a general and universal call of the gospel. It is a sincere and bona fide offer of salvation in Christ, and all who respond positively to this call in faith and repentance will assuredly be saved. It is this call Jesus spoke of in Matt. 22:14 when he said, “. . . .for many are called, but few are chosen.” The problem is, this call is always ineffectual unless it is accompanied by God’s internal and effectual call. We refer to this internal call as “effectual” because it effectively brings sinners into partnership (union) with Christ. Paul wrote, “God is faithful, by whom you were called in to the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”(1 Cor. 1:9). This is clearly not true of everyone who is invited by the gospel. In keeping with this, he wrote in verse thirty of the same chapter, “Because of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus. . . .” In other words, the fact that we are in Christ is the result of God’s activity and not ours (see–1 Cor. 1:30).

“Drawing” in John’s Gospel

It seems likely “calling” in Pauline literature refers to the same work of God as “drawing” does in John’s gospel. In both calling and drawing, it is clear it is God, the Father who calls/draws. In both, the result is faith in Christ. Apart from calling or drawing, sinners cannot or will not come to Christ. Jesus said, “No one can (is able to) come to me unless the Father who has sent me should draw him, and I will raise him up again at the last day.” In this same context (v. 37), Jesus has told his hearers that all the Father is giving him (he uses the present tense to indicate action that is going on) will come to him and that he will never by any means reject those who come. This should be distinguished from what he teaches in verse thirty-nine where he speaks of those the Father has given him with the continuing result that he still has them. This was an action completed in the past. The latter donation speaks of God’s decree before the world was. In accordance with that decree, the Father is, by drawing them to Jesus, giving them to him. Jesus tells us that all he “draws” in this way will come to him. “Every person therefore having heard and having learned of the Father comes to me” (45b). In other words, this drawing is an effectual drawing. This teaching clearly accords with what the apostle Paul wrote about “calling.”

“Calling” in the New Testament Epistles

A careful examination of the New Testament Epistles will reveal there is not a single occurrence of the words, “called,” “call,” or “calling” in which it refers to the universal call of the gospel. The New Testament writers consistently used it to refer to that effectual call by which God the Father unites his chosen people to Christ. So much is this the case that at times they refer to believers as “the called ones,” for example, see Rom. 1:6 and 8:28. I would like you to consider two passages in which it is clear that “calling” cannot refer to the external call or invitation of the gospel. They are Romans 8:30 and 1 Cor. 1: 22-24.

Romans 8:30

In the first of these we encounter what some of the old writers referred as “God’s golden chain of redemption.” This chain began to be forged by God in eternity past and stretches into eternity future. It should be clear that every link of this chain has reference to the same people. Those who are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ are the same as those who are glorified. The first link of this “golden chain” is God’s predetermination of the elects’ full conformity to the image of his Son. He determined to restore his image in his redeemed people even before that image was lost in the early days of human existence. Then, Paul informs us that those, only those, but all of those he thus predestined, he also called. It is important that we understand the identification of the ones called with those he predestined. If God’s predestinating activity means anything, it assures us that all he has planned will certainly occur. Every one of those God predestined will be glorified or conformed to Christ’s image. Each link of this chain concerns the same group of people. He does not write, “Some of those he predestined, he also called” or “some of those he called, he also justified,” or “some of those he justified, he also glorified.” The entire purpose of this argument, which he began to pursue in chapter five, is that those whom God has justified, may “rejoice in hope [the confident and settled assurance] of the glory of God [again becoming reflectors of his glory by bearing his image, i.e., glorification]. His specific argument in this immediate context is that God’s eternal purpose guarantees the believer’s glorification. Since this is true, it is impossible that “calling” in this verse refers to the universal call, i.e., invitation, of the gospel. If that were the case, everyone invited by the gospel would be included in those God predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son–“whom he predestined THEM he also called.” Additionally, we would have to argue that everyone who has been invited by the gospel is also justified–“whom he called, THEM he also justified.” This clearly cannot be the case. We must conclude that “called” in this verse refers to God’s activity that effects faith in those who are outwardly invited by the gospel. Otherwise, apart from faith, they could not be justified.

1 Cor. 1: 22-24

In 1 Cor. 1: 22-24, Paul describes the prevailing attitude and recalcitrant rebellion of those to whom he preaches the gospel. He informs us that the Jews to whom he preaches go on requiring a sign and the Greeks to whom he preaches go on seeking wisdom or philosophy. Instead of tickling their ears or trying to produce signs to authenticate his message, he goes on proclaiming to them the naked, unvarnished truth that God’s anointed one has been crucified on a Roman cross and now stands as the crucified one. Then he describes the reaction of both Jews and Greeks to this message. As far as the Jews are concerned this is an offensive message. The idea that their expected Messiah would die as a vile criminal by crucifixion was more than they could tolerate. Left to themselves, they routinely rejected this message. To the Greeks, this message was moronic. They, too, roundly rejected it. When we read these words, one of our assumptions in the case of both Jews and Greeks must be that they had heard the gospel. They could not regard it as an offense and foolishness if they had not heard it, could they? To state the matter differently, both the Jews and Greeks to whom Paul proclaimed the message of Christ had been CALLED, i.e., invited by the outward call of the gospel. But, in contrast to those who persistently rejected this outward call Paul wrote, “BUT TO THOSE WHO ARE CALLED, BOTH JEWS AND GREEKS, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. What effected such a change? How is it that Christ and the message of his crucifixion which before was offensive and foolish is now power and wisdom? The answer can only be God’s internal and effectual call. If we insist that the call must refer to the external invitation of the gospel, we would have to believe the passage teaches something like the following: Both Jews and Greeks persistently reject the gospel invitation every time they hear it, but to those who are invited by the gospel, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is now God’s power and wisdom. That is pure nonsense.

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3 Responses to “Effectual Calling–Romans 8:28-30”


  1. January 4, 2014 at 2:40 am

    But Randy – all the Pelagians tell me all men are called and, therefore, all men can decide to save themselves. In their fantasy world, the man makes the call effective. Pity their god ain’t God.


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