May 2, 2008

The Call of God

Posted in Christian life, Gospel, Reformed Theology at 11:23 pm by Dan Lowe

Matthew 22:14 (ESV) – 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

What does it mean to be “called” by God?

Scripture often speaks of the call of God.  Scripture speaks very specifically of Christians as being “called” (Rom 1:6-7, I Cor 1:2, Gal 1:6, Eph 4:1, 4, Col 3:15, II Thess 1:11… just to list a few.) 

What is this call of God?  It is a call by God for sinful men and women to respond to His saving purposes.

Scripture speaks clearly that this call of God goes out universally to all men and women everywhere (Isaiah 45:22, 55:1, 6-7, Matt 11:28) in three distinct ways:

1)      Through creation –

Romans 1:18-20 (ESV) – 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Fallen humanity has no excuse for denying the existence of God.  We can clearly see that God exists from creation (cf. Psalm 19:1-4.)  If we know God exists, then do we not have an obligation to seek Him out and honor Him with the lives that we live?  Creation is calling humanity to respond to God…

2)      Through our consciences –

Romans 2:12-16 (ESV) – 12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Even though the Gentiles did not possess the special revelation of God’s Law, there are fragments of God’s Law written upon the conscience of fallen mankind.  Our God-given consciences are calling us to respond to God…

3)      Through the proclamation of the gospel –

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) – 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

As the redeemed people of God, we are commanded by Jesus Christ to “make disciples of all nations.”  We are to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world.  As the gospel is preached, human beings are being called to respond to God…

This is often called the general call of God because it goes universally to all humanity.

However, the call of God is not always welcomed and responded to by those who hear it (Jer 7:13, Isaiah 65:2, Lk 13:34, Rom 10:21.)

In the parable which precedes Matthew 22:14, Jesus is addressing the Jewish nation in general.  They were called by God to repentance and faith in their Messiah, but they rejected Him.  They were called, but not chosen for salvation.

What does it mean to be “called” but not “chosen”?

Human beings will not naturally respond to the call of God.  Scripture is clear that sinful human beings naturally:

1)      Do not understand God (Rom 3:11.)

2)      Do not seek after God (Rom 3:11.)

3)      Are hostile to God (Rom 8:7.)

4)      Are blinded by Satan (II Cor 4:4.)

5)      Are spiritually dead (Eph 2:1) and unable to respond to God’s call (Jn 6:44.)

Although the call of God to respond to His saving purposes goes out universally, only those chosen by God for salvation will respond to this call.

Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44.)

Notice how strong this statement is.  Jesus states unequivocally that no one can respond to the gospel in repentance and faith unless the Father draws Him.  They will be raised (to eternal life with Jesus) in the last day.

Romans 8:28-30 (ESV) – 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Notice that those who are called “are called according to His purpose” and “those whom He predestined He also called.”  This verse teaches us that “the effectual call is rooted in God’s sovereign, elective purpose and infallibly results in justification and final glorification” (Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, Crossway Books, pg 224.)  In other words, though the call of God goes out universally, only those chosen by God will respond to His call.

Dr. Sinclair Ferguson sums up the topic of God’s universal and effectual call in this way:

“There is a call which comes to all men from God through the many evidences he has left of His presence in the world.  But there are also times when God sends notices of demand, as it were, rather than reminders:  when He comes personally, knocking at the door, rather than by circular letter!

Of course, there is an element of mystery in this experience.  We know what it is to hear God addressing us powerfully and personally, through a passage in the Bible, or a sermon we hear.  But when we discuss the passage or sermon with others we discover that it has cut little ice with them. We may not be able to say why God has spoken in this clear way to us and not to others.  We only know that in His sovereign wisdom He has.  We know that two people can listen to the same evangelistic sermon and one will hear the voice of Christ calling him to faith while the other hears only the words of the preacher.  Again, we do not know why this happens.  We are at a loss to fathom the difference between a general call and this powerful, effectual call. We only know the difference is real” (Sinclair Ferguson, The Christian Life, Banner of Truth, pg 33.)

Are you a Christian? 

Then praise God that you have been chosen and called and by God!

Soli Deo Gloria!

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