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Friday, March 24, 2006

Grace Revealed: Effectual Call

The doctrines of Unconditional Election (primarily) and Total Depravity necessitate the remaining three doctrines. However, these doctrines bring clarity to questions that arise from consideration of the first two.

Effectual Call is simply this: that God’s grace is overpowering and irresistible, and just as a man does not contribute to his salvation with a work of “choosing Jesus”, he also can neither refuse the gift of grace nor return it once received. God’s call of the elect is fully effective and cannot be denied.

We certainly can see that God has the ability to do so. Grace is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9) and thus inherently is not something we earn or even choose. The gift aspect of justification is highlighted when one realizes that there is no distinction between people. All are equally sinful, so all who are justified must be justified by God’s gracious gift. What, then, causes one man who hears the Gospel to be justified and another who hears the same Gospel not to be justified? If the bestowment of salvation arises from any factor beside the sovereign work of God’s effectual grace, then one must conclude that an actual difference exists in the characters or wills of the two respective individuals who responded in different ways to the gospel. The one who has received Christ must not have been as hard, rebellious, or captive as the one who rejected.

If the belief or unbelief rises at all from an unregenerate heart (as opposed to the grace of God alone) and distinguishes one man from another while all have the same natural or bestowed capacity, then the exercising of the capacity must be better than not exercising it. If it is better, then the believer has contributed to his own salvation.

If it is not better, it must be the same or worse, and clearly it cannot be worse. If it is the same, then there is no difference between belief and unbelief, and all unbelievers should be saved as well as believers.

The only escape to this is to acknowledge that faith, like righteousness, is a gift of God and is bestowed gratuitously by Him. All sinful humanity is in the same condition; therefore only distinguishing and effectual grace causes one to differ from another. Of course, this truth does not mean that the one who is saved is “unwilling” to be saved. The Holy Spirit moves in such a way as to create willingness in the form of repentance and faith. He who is saved is made willing in God’s power. None are saved who do not willingly receive “the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Phillipians 3:9). The dead man is made alive, the stony heart becomes flesh, the captive is set free, the slave is become a son, and the enemy is made a friend!

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

The other component of the effectual call is its effects in regeneration. The Scriptural descriptions of this regeneration include new birth, freedom from bondage and resurrection from the dead. None of these acts requires or even includes an act by the person being changed. Furthermore, the change is complete and evident to all.

When we are made into a new man, we put off the old man and can resist the fleshly desires, not because we made a choice to, but because God’s effectual call makes us able to. Prior to regeneration, the dead, enslaved sinner freely follows his will – his will to sin and resist God. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. Gal 5:24 Have you ever wondered why a person can “accept Jesus” and then beat their wife? It is because regeneration is the work of God’s grace, and not the result of an intellectual or emotional decision. Thus, false converts abound in today’s churches because we preach ‘decisionism’. Regeneration produces a mourning for our sins, a repentance from them, and a dedication to Christ. Our regeneration does not make us sinless , after all, If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:10). However, a life of sin is incompatible with the regeneration of the spirit - If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: (1 John 1:6). The life of the believer is the testimony that he has been effectually called and is among the elect - There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1).

Regeneration and faith are part and parcel of the free gift of salvation by grace. Man can only be saved by God, and thankfully, he has chosen to save us – because we cannot choose to save ourselves.

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

To be continued...


  • Spot-on, Hammer!...with one exception. ;-)

    Prior to regeneration, the dead, enslaved sinner freely follows his will – his will to sin and resist God.

    To be sure, this idea was promulgated by Augustine, Calvin and the like. However, I can’t find it explicitly articulated in Scripture, although it seems to be implied in various passages.

    I don’t mean to quibble over a minor point; I don’t think this is minor. I really do think that the “sin nature” has been misunderstood by, well, almost everyone. Man’s fallen condition is but one aspect of God’s over-arching, eternal plan. As I mentioned in the thread of one of your earlier posts in this series, God uses (always has) the “sin nature” of man to His ultimate glory. For example: Adam, which necessitated Christ’s sacrifice, Joseph’s brothers, through whom God saved the world from famine, Pharaoh, through whom God demonstrated His power, Saul of Tarsus (chief among sinners), who persecuted believers before becoming the most prolific Apostle and so on.

    My point is that even the “enslaved sinner” cannot “freely follow his will”. The ONLY will that is followed is God’s sovereign, perfect and eternal Will. This is more than a little comforting…to me, at least.

    By Blogger Robert, at 3/24/2006 08:26:00 PM  

  • this post really hit home,and made me cry....because until you are truly saved you cant understand this,and only gods grace can open up our hearts and our eyes....god is so good

    By Blogger stacy, at 3/24/2006 09:26:00 PM  

  • Robert,
    I have thought long and hard about your position and least with the Scriptural portion of it - that is, that God has and does use what appears to be evil for his glory.

    Of course, the purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, so perhaps it follows that every decision of any consequence is God's. The point of demarcation between your position and mine is the question: what is or is not a decision of consequence? Are we free to roam about the boat over which we have no say in destination or route, or are we tied to the mizzenmast?

    I hold to the former, but that may be just my sin nature talking :)

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 3/27/2006 12:12:00 PM  

  • Stacy,
    Thank you for your testimony! If it is alright with you, I plan on quoting your comment in my final post on grace.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 3/27/2006 12:12:00 PM  

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