“… whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
— Romans 8:30
Have you ever called to someone—maybe your child playing in the yard or a friend you see across a room—and that person didn’t respond to your call? While people may not respond to us for a variety of reasons, God never has this problem. He is sovereign. The ones He calls always come to Him. In theological circles, this truth is known as the doctrine of “effectual calling.” (“Effectual” means “producing results.”) From the beginning of the world, God chose the ones who would be His, and He presently goes about calling His chosen to Him.
God calls His chosen people in two ways: outwardly and inwardly. The outward call comes from God’s Word, the inward call comes from the Holy Spirit, and the two interact to draw us to God. When we hear the Word of God preached, the Holy Spirit works in our hearts so that we’ll respond to it. (The doctrine of effectual calling is also “irresistible grace” because the Holy Spirit calls us so lovingly and powerfully we can’t possibly resist Him.) A person whom God has not chosen gets only the outward call. Such a person hears the Word but cannot respond to it because the Holy Spirit hasn’t worked in his or her heart.
Some people believe that God gives only an outward call, that they hear God’s Word and have the power to accept or reject it. But this cannot be true because it would mean God doesn’t have enough power to choose whom He wants. His call would not be effectual. It would also mean that people wouldn’t need God to choose them because they would be all-powerful. But we know this is not true. Until God chooses us, we’re dead in sin with our minds darkened and unable to understand or choose spiritual things.
None of us deserves God’s choosing. In His infinite mercy, He chose us according to His good pleasure. The fact that the Lord wanted to choose any of us and that He sent Jesus to seek us is an awesome mystery. He revealed it so that none of us would boast of our salvation. Do you hear God’s call? Be sure to respond today.