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Archive for May 25th, 2013

Divine Calling

Please see the last post on the series, “Doctrine of Salvation,” Christ’s Atonement

Divine calling/Gospel call can be defined as the call that invites and draws the unsaved person to Christ for salvation.  The definition may not be straight forward, as it seems because there are particulars that needs to be considered.  For example, what are the different callings of God?   Is the Gospel message effective that people hear, read, and see, effective?  In order to tackle that, we need to understand that there is general call and irresistible/effectual call.  Is a calling necessary and can the calling be resisted? Next talking point will be the historical views.  But before we get into it, I will try to define and describe the terms that are critical to our understanding of Divine calling.

The first term to cover is effective/effectual calling.  Effective calling can be defined as the act of God the Father that operates in the context of the Gospel proclamation in which He calls people to Himself for salvation.  Effective calling is referred to as internal calling. The Gospel call is offered to all people—even to those who do not desire the Gospel.  Sometimes, the Gospel call is referred to as external calling or general calling.  Since the Gospel call is the vehicle used in Gospel proclamation and is intended to be preached to all, it can operate as an effective call or general call to the sinner.  In order to get more clarity,  it will be beneficial to see the elements involved.

The elements of the Gospel call, which invites sinners to embrace the message, involves the explanation of the facts concerning salvation.  The facts concerning salvation indicates that all of mankind have sinned (Rom. 3:23), the penalty of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), and Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty of sin (Rom. 5:8).  Another element is the invitation to respond to Christ via repentance and faith (Matt. 11:28-30; Matt. 11:28; John 1:11-12); and thirdly a promise of forgiveness and eternal life (John 3:16; Acts 3:19; cf. 2:38; John 6:37).  Let’s now move into the historical views.

As for the general call, Pelagians and Liberals believe that the call can be responded to without divine assistance.  In other words, humans can respond with their own strength.  This humanistic thinking is a result in a denial of original sin, denial of total depravity, and a belief in the universal fatherhood of God upon everyone.

As for Lutherans, they believe that the special ability to hear the Gospel maybe resisted. Also the universal call to salvation in their mind, brings some measure of illumination that reveals that sinners need Christ and are provided some measure to respond to the Gospel message.  However, they do believe that sinners may resist God’s grace.  In their perspective concerning external calling and internal calling, they do not believe that there is a Calvinistic distinction.

When it comes to the Arminians, they believe that all are able to respond to the general call.  They believe that there is a single, general call of God to the sinner for salvation.  They believe that the emphasis on the general call and inner effectual call from Calvinism is not warranted.  As a result, general call and effectual/inner call should not be distinguished from their perspective.  Arminians also believe that since prevenient grace neutralizes the effects of Adam’s sin, all people are able to respond to God’s universal call to salvation.  They also believe that those who respond to God’s general call are the elect and the called.  Moreover, since prevenient grace neutralizes the effects of sin that came from Adam, sinners are able to respond positively to God’s Gospel call.  Also, the Spirit’s work in calling people to faith is resistible.

As for the Reformers, the general call (which happens in the Gospel proclamation) can be resisted, but the special call cannot be resisted (Romans 8:29-30).  This camp believes that because of sin and total depravity, a person does not have the ability in his own strength to believe God for salvation.  Man cannot respond to God on His own because of total depravity (Ephesians 2:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:14). Man’s mind is marred by sin and can never respond to spiritual things.  As a result, a sinner needs the Holy Spirit to intervene (John 3:8; Titus 3:5).  As stated earlier, general call is for all to hear, but the response to the general call depends upon the gracious power of God’s Spirit.  If he chooses to work upon an individual, then the person will respond.  Once they respond, then it becomes a special call or effective call.  Another important area to cover is the language of calling.

In the Old Testament, the verb qara and the root-related words occur 689 times and means, “to call out” or “invite.”  And in the New Testament, the term kaleo, which means, “to call,” is a term that is used 148 times.  When Apostle Paul uses the words kaleo (29 times), klesis (8 times) and kletos (7 times), it is almost always used with the sense of divine calling.  Apostle Paul understands that the calling is the process by which God calls those who are elected before the foundation of the world.  And He does that for the elect in order to justify them and sanctify them.  On another note, in the NT Epistles and Revelation, the word kaleo is a particular word and related word that becomes a technical term used in conjunction of drawing sinners to Christ through His powerful Word and Spirit.  Moreover, the effectual drawing that happens in the context of the Gospel call/general call, brings sinners to faith.  For that example, please see Matt. 22:9; Acts 2:39 (proskaleomai); Rom. 8:30; 9:11; 1 Cor. 1:9, 26; 7:20; Gal. 1:6, 15; 2 Thess. 2:14; 1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 3:1; 9:15; 1 Pet 2:9; 2 Pet. 1:3; Jude 1; Rev. 17:14; 19:9.  In each of those verses, those whom God called, inevitably came to saving faith in Christ because those whom God elected will come to salvation (Ephesians 1:3-4)  I will now move into the OT and NT understanding of the external call of God.

The general call, which is also referred as the Gospel call because of its general invitation, takes place whenever the Gospel or the Word of God is preached.  It is used in the OT (Isa. 45:22; Isa. 65:2; Jer. 7:13) and in the NT (Matt. 11:28; Luke 5:32; Luke 13:34; Rev. 22:17).  It must also be remembered that the Gospel call is not a sham or deception.  Anyone who responds will be saved.  And when people do not respond, it is not God’s fault, but it is the fault of the person who desires a lifestyle of rebellion.  Scripture indicates that the fault of the person not being saved lies not with God, but with the spiritual impotence of the depraved person.  God does not force people to sin or make them sin.  God is holy and perfect.  For example, they do not respond because some hardened their hearts (Exod. 7:13; 8:15, 19, 32);“there is no one who understands” (Rom. 3:11); and things that come from God are foolishness to the unbeliever (1 Cor. 2:14).  In order for them to respond, they need their eyes open by the sovereign Holy Spirit.

As for the Bible’s description of effective calling that happens in the Gospel proclamation, there are many verses that gives great insights, but we will only cover a few.  For example to be called by God means to be delivered from “darkness and into His marvelous light.”  To be called by God, means to “enter into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12; Acts 2:39).  To be called by God means one “belongs to Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:6), a “saint” (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2), “citizen of the realm of peace.”  To be called by God means that one has “freedom” (Gal. 5:13), “hope” (Eph. 1:18; 4:4), “holiness” (1 Thess. 4:7), “eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12), etc. [1]


[1]Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 692-693.

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