To be called is one thing, to be chosen is another. Of those who are called into the visible church, some are called into a still closer relationship with God. Not all who are called to the enjoyment of Christian privileges are effectually called to eternal life. So says our Lord – ‘Many are called, but few are chosen’ (Mt. 22.14), thus distinguishing two categories, the called, and the chosen. The chosen are certainly among the called, but to them the call is of a special character; it is accompanied with the power of the Holy Spirit in such a way as to make the call effectual; the call becomes a drawing, the drawing becomes an embracing, and the embracing prevokes a response. So Doddridge sings,
He drew me, and I followed on,
Charmed to confess the voice divine.
There is an absolute need of this effectual call if any are to be saved. So long as the beings whom God made, though holy, were left to their own will, they were liable to fall, and some did fall. Man fell, and some of the angels fell also. Those angels who did not fall are called by Paul ‘elect’; so that God conferred on them something more than creation, holiness, even His restraining and preserving grace. That they ‘excel in strength’ was not enough to keep them. It was the grace of God that fixed them in their holiness. And if angels needed this grace, how much more fallen man! What can human free will do in the matter? Adam had free will, backed up by an
inward principle of created holiness. But he broke the covenant of works and fell; and we can never be saved by such a covenant. By nature we are far from God, and our will is Satan’s throne. Nought but God’s effectual call will dethrone such a monarch. And God says, ‘A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh’ (Ezek. 36.26).
God has different methods of calling; and some have louder calls than others. There is the Gospel call, read or preached. There is the call that comes by God’s providential dealings, for these also are His servants. The Prodigal Son was brought to his father by extreme poverty and by the desertion of so-called friends. Naaman was called by his leprosy, and scripture abounds in other such instances.
The human, and logical objection to effectual calling is that it is supposed to lead to antinomianism or to licentiousness, to a ‘let us sin that grace may abound’ philosophy of life. Consider then to what the people of God are effectually called. They are called out of darkness into God’s marvellous light; out of Satan’s kingdom into God’s kingdom (1 Pet. 2.9). As in Satan’s kingdom, they become God’s subjects and serve Him. As God first implants the new spirit, the new heart, so He sows the seeds of Christian character, and so He constantly draws out those traits throughout life, so that they are regular evidences of effectual calling. God’s people are ‘called to be saints’ – not libertines! They are bidden to walk worthy of God who has called them ‘unto His kingdom and glory’. Far from leading to licence, nothing could be stronger than Paul’s words, ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them’ (Eph. 2.10). And be it noted that this follows immediately the strongest possible assertion that ‘By grace are ye saved . . . Not of works’ (Eph. 2.8,9).
As the actions of men spring from the root that is in them, there must be a great difference in the sight of God between those actions which spring from His own seed of grace in those who have been effectually called, and those actions which are only the outcome of the natural heart, still dead in trespasses and sins. As the two categories are different at the root, so will they be in the fruit.
If this calling is so effectual, why does Peter exhort Christians to give diligence to make your calling and election sure’ (2 Pet. 1.10)? He does not mean that calling and election are not sure as regards God; for Paul says, ‘the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his’ (2 Tim. 2.19). And again, ‘the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.’ But our calling and election’ need to be made sure to our own faith, and this cannot be without holiness of life. ‘The Spirit (Himself) beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God’ by shewing
us the family likeness in ourselves.
To what are the ‘chosen’ ‘called’? ‘God is faithful by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.’ And this is a communion maintained by the believer’s being constantly led into God’s presence by the Holy Spirit, telling Him all that concerns them, seeking to know more of Him, and of His matchless beauty, entreating His guidance and His constant protection from all evil, and generally delighting themselves in Him. Here, this communion is kept up by faith. In heaven it is by sight. Those who are not effectually called may perform many ‘Christian’ duties in a dry and formal way, and satisfy both themselves and other men; but without this fellowship with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, born of the root of grace in the heart, they will be empty and barren.
The ‘chosen’ are also effectually called to show forth God’s praise. No others will do it in an acceptable manner. “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips;
but their heart is far from me’. And the Lord went on to say, ‘In vain do they worship me’ (Matt. 15.9). Acceptable praise is drawn forth from the heart where the seed of grace has been sown, since only such a heart can understand and enjoy the character of God in Christ. In heaven, the chief occupation will be praise, the praise of God in the song ‘of Moses and the Lamb’. ‘Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me’.
Whence does this effectual calling spring? It has been purchased with the precious blood of Christ, along with our continuance in that calling, including succour in the time of temptation. Christ suffered being tempted, and being perfectly pure, the temptations must have been very great suffering to Him. Every selfish and unholy thought in the hearts of His immediate disciples must have been loathsome torture to Him. Hence the purchase price of our calling ought to call forth our gratitude, our determination to show forth His praise, who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light.
The great consideration for us is – have we been effectually called? Have we got beyond the external benefits and blessing of the gospel? Have we ever received the grace of a broken and contrite heart? If not, it may be said to us, as to the guest in the Parable, ‘How earnest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?’
K. W. H. Howard