Posts Tagged ‘Doctrine of Salvation’

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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For the first post of this Doctrine of Salvation series, please see the first post: Summary of the Doctrine of Salvation

A good definition can be as follows: God’s sovereign selection of certain sinners for salvation before the foundation of the world that is not based on any human merit.

Before we get into the details concerning the doctrine of election, it is important for us to define some important terms that come up in many discussions concerning this topic. The first word is foreknowledge (prognosis).  Foreknowledge is in regards to a predetermined relationship of certain people before the foundation of the world; and is distinct from mere knowledge and facts.  In Romans 8:29 the use of foreknowledge is linked to predestination and in 1 Peter 1:2, foreknowledge is linked to election.  What is important to note that only twice does the term of foreknowledge in the New Testament is referring to knowledge and facts beforehand (Acts 26:5; 2 Peter 3:17).  The other references to the word foreknowledge signify foreordination and predetermination (Acts 2:23; Rom. 8:29; 11:2; 1 Peter 1:2, 20).

Another important term is “predestine” (proorizo).  This term means to determine things beforehand (Acts 4:27-28; Rom. 8:29, 30; Eph. 1:5, 11). According to Reformed theology, the term “predestination” a term that is related to election is not only a term included for believers, but also unbelievers (reprobation).

The next term is election.  The Hebrew term for election is bahar (“elect” or “choose”) and its derivatives occur 198 times in the Old Testament.  With this term, God chooses a people for Himself (Psalm 135:4), certain tribes (Psalm 78:68), specific individuals (1 Kings 8:16; 1 Chron. 28:5).  In the New Testament, the Greek verb  “to elect” is eklegomai and the Greek noun for election is  eklektos, which is found around 22 times.  The primary meanings of those two words refer to salvation, not service.  Let us now move into the categories of election.

The first category is election to service.  Concerning election to service, God chose Moses for leadership (Num. 16:5-7), Eli’s father for priestly functions (1 Sam. 2:28), David’s appointment to be Israel’s king (1 Sam. 10:24), Solomon appointed to be king and to build the temple (1 Chron. 28:4-6; 29:1), Jeremiah appointed for prophetic ministry (Jer. 1:10), Zerubbabel for leadership (Haggai 2:23), the Levitical priesthood for ministry (Deut. 18:5; 21:5); and He chose kings to govern (Deut. 17:15).  Moreover, Jesus chose his apostles and followers to preach the gospel of the kingdom (Mark 3:13-15; John 15:16).  Next category is corporate election.

For corporate election, we can refer to Israel as a primary example.  Deut. 7:6 says, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”   What is interesting is that Israel was chosen and given the privilege to serve God (1 Kings 3:8; Psalm 132:13); and were chosen not based on their merits, but solely on God’s sovereignty and love (Exod. 32:9; Deut. 4:37; 9:6; 10:15; Psalm 47:4).  On another note, God’s election of the Israel is also irrevocable (Rom. 11:28-29).  Corporate election is not only seen with Israel (not all Israel is saved), but with the church too.  The church is the community that is sovereignly chosen by God to serve Him.  They are called out from the power of sin and called to worship Him.  In 1 Peter 2:9-10, the church is mentioned and the church is described with language language that was used in the Old Testament.  For example, Peter uses, “chosen generation,” “a royal priesthood,” “an holy nation,” “a peculiar people,” and “a people of God” in juxtaposition to the church.  When the church is used in the New Testament regarding election of the church, it is referring to salvation, but when election is used to refer to Israel in the Old Testament, it emphasizes the difference concerning the nation Israel as “chosen, blessed, and commissioned” from the pagan nations that surround Israel.

Besides the corporate election of Israel and the church, there is also personal election that is mentioned in the Bible.  In the Old Testament, God is seen as seeking Adam and Eve after their sin.  He did not destroy them, but he covered them with animal skins (Gen. 3:21).  God also sought Noah because “Noah found favors in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8).  God’s personal election is clearly seen with Abraham.  God chose Abraham to be the father of Israel so that he would bring blessings to all the nations of the earth (Gen. 12:1-3).  In Gen. 18:19, Moses the write notes that Abraham is chosen also so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD; and they are to do that by doing righteousness and justice.  What is fascinating about the word “chosen” (ידע; yada) means “to know.”  So in this context, it paints the picture that God sovereignly chose Abraham for salvation.  Yada is also used in Exodus 33:17 to refer to God knowing Moses.  Yada is used in Isaac Gen. 17:19-21 to refer to God choosing Isaac rather than Ishmael.  It is also used in Psalm 65:4 concerning God to bring people near to Him and is used in Jeremiah 1:5 to refer God’s election of Jeremiah before He was formed.  The idea of personal election is clear in Jeremiah.  God chose Him and knew Him personally and lovingly.

For verses in the New Testament concerning election, please see Matthew 11:25-27; John 5:21; John 6:44; John 13:18; John 15:16a; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:28-30; Romans 9:11-13; Romans 11:7; Ephesians 1:4-6; Ephesians 1:4-6; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 1:1-2a; and Revelation 13:8.

Another category that needs to be pursued is the concept called “foreknowledge.”  Understanding this term will help one see clearly the doctrine of election.  When it comes to this view, some believe that the word “foreknowledge” means foresight.  Hence, God looks through the corridors of heaven and down into the tunnel of time to see who will believe in His Son.  As a result, it perceives God’s election being conditioned upon whether a person believes or not.  Others see the concept as referring to a predetermined love relationship that has nothing to do whether man believes or not.  Thus, I believe foreknowing means foreloving in this context.

In conclusion, although there are passages where there are occurrences of the word foreknowledge referring to foresight and not forelove, but each verse must be examine the context of each verse and passage to determine what it means.  For example, the use of the word “foreknew” in Romans 11:2 means a predetermined love relationship.  God has not rejected the people whom He chose.  It would be odd if the word foreknew means foresight.  In Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 1:2, the word “foresight” is best understood in the sense of “forelove.”  Another example would be Romans 8:29, which states an important phrase: “those whom He foreknew.

The word “foreknew” is not a reference simply to foreknowledge.  Hence, it cannot simply be tied directly to God’s omniscience in the sense that from eternity past, He chose some because He knew who would place their faith in Him.  According to Granville Sharp Rule, the word “forelove” equates with predeterminism.  Hence, God, set His love on His people and established an intimate relationship with His elect.

Another thing to take into consideration are the perspectives on the doctrine of election.  Besides the notion that Christ chose His people before the foundation of the world without being condition upon man’s choice, it is important to remember that election in Christ (Eph. 1:3-7), is presented as a comfort (Rom. 8:28-30), is a reason to praise God (Eph. 1:5-6, 12), is an encouragement for evangelism (2 Tim. 2:10); and election is a reason for us to not take it too hard on ourselves when people consistently refuse the Gospel.

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