We’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in the 17th Century. Recently we’ve been answering questions about effectual calling. Last time I wrote on the subject, we saw effectual means your mind is enlightened and your will is renewed so that you embrace Christ. But who does God effectually call?
The Bible is clear that only those who God elects are effectually called. This truth is taught in Acts when the apostle Paul confronts some Jewish opposition: ‘Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”” When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed’ (Acts 13:46-48). Notice that only those who were appointed for eternal life believed. And as belief is a sign of effectual calling, we can conclude that only those appointed by God are effectually called.
But does the Bible really teach that some people are elected to be saved and others are not? Yes. The Bible speaks about certain people being predestined for salvation. Paul says: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment–to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory’ (Ephesians 1:3-12). Paul clearly says that God ‘chose’ and ‘predestined’ Christians.
Now this is an uncomfortable truth for us to hear. It makes God sound unjust. Why should I be punished for not believing if I was not predestined to believe? Paul answers this question by noting that God has a right to do what he wants: ‘One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?’ (Romans 9:19-21).
The truth is, because of our sin we all deserve to be punished. None of us deserve to have God predestine us for eternal life. But in his mercy, God chooses some people to have such an inheritance. The rest he justly punishes for their unbelief and consequent sin.
So, if you are a believer, do you thank God that he effectually called you? Do you realise that he could have justly passed over you?
If you’re not a believer, seek the Lord now by trusting in Christ. You don’t know if you’ve been called or not. Perhaps you have been…
Joel Radford