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TEXT: Romans 8:28-30
SUBJECT: Doctrine of Salvation #3: Effectual Call
This afternoon, with God's blessing, we'll move on in our study of the Doctrine of Salvation. Our salvation begins outside of time. Before God made the world, He chose to save us and planned our lives in such a way to be sure we will be saved. These two eternal acts are called Election and Predestination. They are the bedrock on which our salvation is built.
But, if God chose to save us in eternity, He did not save us in eternity. Some Christians believe He did, but the clear teaching of Scripture is against them on this point. In eternity, God wills to save us, but we are not saved until we pass from death to life or from a state of condemnation into a state of justification. We are given eternal life, but the eternal life we are given comes to us in time.
This aspect of our salvation begins with what theologians have named The Effectual Call. This term is not as well known as it should be, so let me spend a few minutes explaining the words themselves.
The more important word is Call. The Bible teaches that we are a called people. But it also uses the word in more ways than one. For example:
The prophets and Apostles were called men. Amos was a farmer whom God called from this work to preach His Word in Israel and Judah. Peter, James and John were called to give up their lives as fishermen to become fishers of men. Apostles and prophets were extraordinary officers in Israel and the Church, and so they received an extraordinary call to the office. This is an important use of the word, 'Call', but not what I have in mind today.
A second calling is to the more ordinary things in life, singleness, marriage, work, and so on. Some people are called by God to singleness, others to marriage. While (almost) everyone is called to work, some are called to be doctors, some plumbers, some housewives, some ranchers, and so on. These, too, are callings, and the Bible tells us they're from God and we're responsible to serve Him in them-to be a hard-working carpenter, an honest CPA, a dentist who cares for his patients. This is another use of the word, 'Call', but again, it has nothing to do with today's topic.
A third use moves us closer to the present subject. It is the Outward Call. Everyone who hears the Gospel is called upon to repent of his sins and to believe in Christ. Most people who hear this call, do not respond to it. This results in an increased condemnation, a prospect that worries people who see friends and family come to church every Sunday only to leave in the same state of unbelief in which they came.
The Effectual Call shares some traits with the other callings, but the word, 'Effectual' sets it apart from them. The Effectual Call is God's invitation or command that actually brings sinners to faith in Christ. One of the best known examples of this in the New Testament is the conversion of Lydia whose story is told in Acts 16. She and her friends had gathered at the river for a prayer meeting. Paul joins them in prayer, and preaches the Gospel to them. How many responded to the Gospel, we don't know, but we know Lydia did and Luke tells us why-
Whose heart the Lord opened that she should attend to the things spoken by Paul.
I'm sure everyone at the prayer meeting was polite and thankful to have a rabbi of Paul's learning to teach them, but-as far as we know-only one of the dear ladies came to faith that day. Each one was called to repent and believe, but only Lydia did because it was only her heart that the Lord opened.
This is the Effectual Call and only this explains why two people sit in the same church listening to the same sermon, but one goes home newly justified and the other still condemned.
The One who does the calling is God. While the Son and Holy Spirit are sometimes found inviting or wooing or warning sinners, the Bible seems to make God the Father the chief Caller. I Corinthians 1:9, for example, says-
God is faithful by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.
II Timothy 1:8-9 makes the same point-
Be a partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel according to the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling.
Today's text, Romans 8:30 clearly agrees-
Those He predestined, He also called.
Every informed Christian believes it is God the Father who predestines us to eternal life, and Paul says the one who did this also followed up on it by calling us to Himself.
The Father's priority in our salvation is important because some 'Gospel' preaching seems to make God the Bad Guy who wants to punish us, and Jesus the Good Guy who gets us out of trouble with the Father. Nothing could be more false or dishonoring to God and Christ!
The idea that Jesus would, in any way, be at cross purposes with His Father totally misunderstands His character and mission-
The Son does nothing on His own, but only what He sees the Father do.I and my Father are one.I delight to do your will, yes, your law is within my heart.I do always those things that please Him.Nevertheless not my will, but yours be done!
If Jesus went to the cross for us, it is His Father who sent Him there! If Jesus invites us to come to Him, He is imitating His Father who calls us to Christ.
If God is doing the Calling, who is He calling? Here, we have to return to our definition. If the Effectual Call is really effectual, it follows that the called are those who respond to His call.
Many are called outwardly. Think of the crowds who gathered to hear Jesus, who even rejoiced in what He had to say, only to be offended and follow Him no more. The last part of John 6 tells a very sad tale, of thousands-maybe tens of thousands-flocking to Jesus, and then flocking away from Him, leaving only twelve followers, and one of them was a devil!
Were the crowds called to repent and believe? They were. Were they called in their own language and in such a way that they knew what Jesus wanted? Yes. Was the invitation sincere? And, was it backed up by powerful signs and wonders authenticating Christ's office? Yes, all of the above. But that day, nobody came to Christ because that day God did not extend His effectual call to anyone there, as far as we know.
Because, when God calls us effectually, we come. II Corinthians 4:6 supports this and never fails to move me-
But God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness has shone in our hearts to give us the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
The reference is to the Creation Story of Genesis 1. When God commanded the light to shine on that First Day, there was no fight, no reluctance, no delay-
And God said, 'Let there be light' and there was light.
What happened to the dark world, Paul says, has happened in the hearts of God's People. We were as darkened and dead as the world was before God spoke, but when He spoke the darkness had no power to resist the light. His call to natural light was effectual then; His call to supernatural light is effectual now!
Lydia did not open her heart, God did. Saul of Tarsus was not calling on God for enlightenment, God sent His light to Saul in the face of Jesus Christ.
Like every other aspect of our salvation, Effecutal Calling is-
Of Him and through Him and to Him.
If you want to know if a man was born, you don't have to look up his birth certificate or interrogate the doctor who delivered him. All you've got to do is see the man. If he is a man, he was born. No further proof is needed.
What's true of birth is also true of the Effectual Call. If you want to know if you've been called Effectually by God, all you've got to do is know you've come to Christ in faith and repentance. If you have come to Christ, God has Effectually called you.
The goals of Effectual Calling are two. In this life, it calls us holiness, I Thessalonians 4:7-
For God has not called us to uncleanness, but unto holiness.
The immediate context indicates the uncleanness Paul refers to is sexual uncleanness, adultery in particular. God has not called us to that-that we can do on our own! The world and the devil are calling us to that, not God.
What's true of this part of our lives, goes for all the others as well. God has not called us to idolatry or to lying or to cowardice or to gluttony or to self-righteousness or covetousness. He has called us to the opposite of all these things, to worship Him, to tell the truth, to be brave, to exercise self-control at the table, to be humble and meek, and to be content with what we have.
The earthly end of the Effectual Call is godly living.
The other end is not of this earth. The God who calls to holiness in this life is also calling us to glory in the life to come. Those He called.He also glorified.
We cannot be too thankful for the Effectual Call. What if God didn't call us? What if the Gospel invitation was for somebody else? How would we get into the banquet without an invitation? How thankful we ought to be that God has called us! And how content we ought to be that He has-even if we don't have the job we want or the husband we deserve.
We cannot be too thankful that God's Call is Effectual. What if God sincerely invited us to Himself, and left it there? What good is an invitation to a banquet if you don't know where it is, or you can't get there, or you have no appetite for it? If God did nothing but invite us to Himself, nobody would come! Because-
No man seeks after God.
But, with the effectual call, God not only invites us to Himself, but He enables us to come to Him. He creates a sense of need; He makes Christ look good to us; He works repentance and faith in us. The Effectual Call, you see, is not an Effectual Drag. Outside of us, God calls us; inside of us, He makes us want to come and enables us to do so.
This gives us hope for ourselves and others. When you feel discouraged about your own failures, remember the God who Effecutally Called you, will Effectually bring you into holiness and glory. Getting there may be very painful, very embarrassing, not the way you'd choose if it were left up to you, but it is God's way and that means, it's the Best Way.
What's true for you is also true for your friends and family who don't believe in Christ. After hearing the Gospel all these years, we wonder why our children are not sitting next to us right now, receiving the Word of God with joy!
Or, we wonder why our friends are so hardened against the Gospel, as though it were bad new rather than Good News. We've witnessed to them, prayed for them, tried to set a good example for them, but they seem farther away from God than ever.
And so, we're discouraged. Until we remember the Arm of the Lord has not been shortened! The God who called the chief of sinners is well able to call our children and neighbors who do not yet know Him. When it comes to salvation, the Effectual Call is just another way of saying-
With God all things are possible.
So, let us witness and pray for the lost, and then leave their fate to God and live in the hope of His goodness. Amen.
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