Calling

In its primary doctrinal meaning the word call suggests an invitation from God to men. This meaning is extended to form a ground upon which the ones invited are designated the called ones. The efficacious call of God is equivalent to His sovereign choice. Since there are two elect companies now in the world— Israel and the Church—these are alike seen as called of God. However, Israel's call is national while the call of those who comprise the Church is individual. The certainty of Israel's call is declared in the words, "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Rom. 11:29). Thus Israel's blessing, which reaches into eternity to come, is guaranteed. The word call is closely related in meaning to the word draw. Christ said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). The declaration which this passage advances is decisive. Not only is it asserted that none can come to God apart from this drawing, but that all thus drawn will certainly respond, for Christ said "I will raise him up at the last day." The words draw and call indicate the divine method of choice, though the latter may be used with specific reference to the estate of those thus blessed. They therefore are the called ones. At this point it may be observed that the name believer is in contrast to the term the called ones. The former indicates a human responsibility, while the latter indicates a divine responsibility.

As there is a drawing which is general through the preaching of the gospel, so there is a general call. Christ said once: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). Likewise, as there is a divine drawing which is not resisted (cf. John 6:44), so there is a calling by the Spirit which is not resisted and rightly styled an efficacious call. It is wholly within the bounds of this type of call that believers are termed the called ones. They are thus differentiated from the mass who, though subject to a general call and drawing, are not efficaciously called. A truth to be observed is that God indicates and separates His elect ones who comprise the Church not by any general effort, such as the death of Christ for the whole world or the proclamation of the gospel through which that death is presented as a ground of salvation to those who are lost, but He selects them rather by a potent influence upon each elect person, which influence assures the reception of Christ as Savior. So definite and certain proves the call that it is equivalent to the realization of divine election itself. The Apostle accordingly writes of an "effectual working" of God's power which determined his ministry (Eph. 3:7). It is an upward or high calling (Phil. 3:14); it is a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1). It demands a holy walk (Eph. 4:1, R.V.; 2 Thess. 1:11); it engenders hope (Eph. 4:4); and by outward demonstration the believer is appointed to certify, to give proof of, his calling by the life he lives (2 Pet. 1:10).

There is a peculiar use of the word calling when by it reference is made to the estate of those who are called and at the time they are called. To this the Apostle testifies when he writes: "But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God" (1 Cor. 7:17-24).

The divine and efficacious call is one of the five mighty workings of God in behalf of each elect person under grace. Having referred to them as "the called according to his purpose," the Apostle goes from Romans 8:28 onward to declare that those whom God foreknew, He predestinated; those whom He predestinated, He called; those whom He called, He justified; and those whom He justified, He glorified (Rom. 8:29-30). In this connection, the word foreknow does not mean a mere prescience or knowledge of that which is to be; it here indicates the active exercise of eternal love for the individuals comprising the company who are the elect of God in this age. For these He also predetermined their destiny. Observe the functioning of predestination. It includes precisely the same company numerically and to the last individual whom He calls with an efficacious calling; and it is the same elect company who, without loss of even one, He both justifies and glorifies. In this sequence of five divine achievements, four represent the sovereign action of God. It is calling alone which incorporates some human responsibility in its outworking, and yet without the slightest infringement upon that infinite certainty that all who are called will be both justified and glorified. A call suggests some cooperation in the form of a human response to the call. In this respect, the divine call is wholly different from the other four sovereign undertakings—foreknowledge, predestination, justification, and glorification—which admit of no human action or responsibility whatever.

The question at once arises whether, when one link in this chain is restricted up to the point that it depends at all upon human concurrence, the whole vast undertaking described by these five words is not jeopardized relative to its certainty of fruition. Should God coerce the individual's will the essential character of a call would be wholly obliterated, and the action of the human choice which is so evident in the Biblical declaration of the way of salvation be invalidated. Thus the question becomes one of whether God is able so to persuade, to induce, to prevail upon the human understanding and will respecting the choice of Christ as Savior and all that the choice secures that the called one will, without a possible exception, respond by exercise of saving faith in Christ—even the faith itself being imparted (cf. Eph. 2:8). The assurance is that God can and does so influence men by the enlightenment which the Spirit accomplishes that they, with a certainty that permits of no possibility that even one should fail to respond to the divine call, will every one be justified and redeemed in answer to personal and saving faith in Christ. This is what constitutes an efficacious call. Of great importance in this whole program of salvation is the fact that, when the called one is enlightened and persuaded by the Spirit rather than being coerced, his own will acts in unhindered and unimpaired volition. It has remained true that "whosoever will may come." However, in the counsels of God, which counsels may properly be disclosed alone to those who are saved but which constitute no message to the unsaved, it remains also true that no human will acts in the acceptance of Christ by faith who has not been brought to understand what Satan-blinded minds never do understand, namely, that all divine grace is their portion and infinite blessing theirs in Christ Jesus for the receiving on the basis of faith.

Calling, then, is that choice on the part of God of an individual through an efficacious working in the mind and heart by the Holy Spirit, to the end that the will of the one who is called may be moved by its own vision and determination in the exercise of saving faith. By so much two great necessities are preserved and equally satisfied, namely, only those are called whom God has predetermined to be justified and glorified, and those who are thus called elect from their own hearts and enlightened minds to receive Christ as Savior.

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