31 Jul Effectual Calling
This past Sunday we touched on the doctrine of effectual calling as we considered Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:1-14. What led us to this doctrine was verse 14 in particular which reads, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (ESV).
This may be a difficult concept and that is understandable. In order to expound on this, I am copying the chapter from the Westminster Confession of Faith that deals with this doctrine along with the Scripture proofs you can read. I’m interjecting some of my own comments in italics along the way. Fasten your seat belts!
The Westminster Confession of Faith
CHAPTER X—Of Effectual Calling
1. All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, (Rom. 8:30, Rom. 11:7, Eph. 1:10–11) by His word and Spirit, (2 Thess. 2:13–14, 2 Cor. 3:3,6) out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; (Rom. 8:2, Eph. 2:1–5, 2 Tim. 1:9–10) enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, (Acts 26:18, 1 Cor. 2:10,12, Eph. 1:17–18) taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; (Ezek. 36:26) renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, (Ezek. 11:19, Phil. 2:13, Deut. 30:6, Ezek. 36:27) and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: (Eph. 1:19, John 6:44–45) yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. (Cant. 1:4, Ps. 110:3, John 6:37, Rom. 6:16–18)
The Confession is saying that regeneration comes before faith- that God must give us a new heart that we might then believe the gospel. He does for us what we can’t do for ourselves. This is rooted in the understanding of how deep the effects of sin are on our mind, will, and emotions. God’s grace is that great to overcome all of our sin and resistance. This should humble us and move us to worship and praise!
2. This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, (2 Tim. 1:9, Tit. 3:4–5, Eph. 2:4–5, 8–9) who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, (1 Cor. 2:14, Rom. 8:7, Eph. 2:5) he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it. (John 6:37, John 5:25)
God’s electing grace isn’t based on Him foreseeing who would come to faith as some are want to say. If that’s the case, then God’s electing grace is really a response and not His sovereign, gracious act.
3. Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, (Luke 18:15–16, Acts 2:38–39, John 3:3, 5, 1 John 5:12, Rom. 8:9) who worketh when, and where, and how He pleaseth: (John 3:8) so also are all other elect persons who are uncapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word. (1 John 5:12, Acts 4:12)
This is a comforting paragraph. The authors of the Confession are recognizing that God is able to save anyone- even those who are incapable of hearing the gospel. This is not to be taken as universalism but as acknowledging God can work outside the ordinary for the severely mentally challenged or even miscarried pregnancies. He can do what He wants and all that He does is good!
4. Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, (Matt. 22:14) and may have some common operations of the Spirit, (Matt. 7:22, Matt. 13:20–21, Heb. 6:4–5) yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: (John 6:64–66, John 8:24) much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess. (Acts 4:12, John 14:6, Eph. 2:12, John 4:22, John 17:3) And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested. (2 John 9–11, 1 Cor. 16:22, Gal. 1:6–8)
This paragraph fits well with what we considered in the parable of the wedding feast. There may be some in the visible church (the church as we see it) who are not in the invisible church (the church as God sees it). Only those who put their trust in Christ alone are saved by God. Morality, other religions, or a general spirituality won’t do- faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone saves and all who call upon the name of the Lord, have that promise!