God the Father foreknew and elected and gave to the Son, before the foundation of the world, everyone who would ever be saved. God the Son stood good for the elect and said, "Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, o my God: yea, thy law is within my heart" (Psa. 40:7, 8). In the process of time God the Son came, born of woman that is, virgin born--and in His own body redeemed God's elect in His death on the tree. Then God the Holy Spirit came to call out the elect and bring them to Christ for salvation, and finally to bring every one of them home at last without the loss of one.
Now, my friend, not one of God's elect will be lost. You who teach that you can be saved today and lost tomorrow are among the goats, and not the sheep. God's sheep won't be lost. If you can be saved today and lost tomorrow, then you are just a goat that has made a profession, and you lost your profession; therefore, you have nothing. But God's sheep are brought home by the Holy Spirit, and there won't be one of them lost. That's God's Word, whether you believe it or whether anyone believes it.
Our subject today is "THE EFFECTUAL CALL OF GOD," or "The Holy Spirit Calling Out the Elect." That's one of the most gracious studies I have ever gotten into -- it is one of the richest studies that I have ever made on God's Word. Let's never get away from this fact, "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his" (II Tim. 2:19). Our text today is found in II Pet. 1:10,
"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your CALLING and ELECTION sure."
We have set forth here in this text, first, the effectual call of God -- "make your calling sure" and, second, God's election -- "make your election sure." Notice that calling comes before election. You may ask, "Why?", because you would naturally think that election came before calling, and that it should read, "Give diligence to make your election and calling sure." On the Divine side, election comes first. On the human side, calling comes first, because no individual knows he is elected until after he is CALLED. The Bible student who masters these two great doctrines of God's Word -- namely, "CALLING" and "ELECTION" -- has made a great advancement in the realm of Divine truth. Let's remember this -- God did not elect His people and then leave it to chance, or to any human being or evangelist, or to any particular church or denomination or organization, to call out His elect. Calling is Divine, as election is Divine. God uses human instrumentality; He doesn't have to, but He has ordained to do so -- "Through the foolishness of preaching He has ordained to save those that believe" (I Cor.1:21). Divine calling of sinners to salvation in Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit. There is no other doctrine in God's Word that is hated by unsaved religionists as these two great doctrines are -- God's election and the Holy Spirit's calling.
The verb, "call" has a twofold meaning: in the first place, it may express the act of naming, as in Matt. 1:21, when God said, "Thou shalt call his name JESUS." Also, in Rom.1:7, "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called saints." In the second place, the verb, "call," means to invite or to summon, as in Mark 2:17 when Christ said, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." We also find that the word, "call," which expresses a command, has two meanings -- there is first the general call that goes out commanding everyone to repent, as set forth in Matt. 22:3, "And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come." This call can be resisted. Then, second, there is the special call, as set forth in Rom. 8:30, "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." This special call is set forth in I Cor.1:9, "God is faithful, by whom ye were CALLED unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." Then also in 1 Cor. 1:26,
"For ye see your CALLING, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are CALLED."
Then 1 Cor.7:21-22 says, "Art thou CALLED being a servant? care not for it:. . For he that is CALLED in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman." This same truth is set forth in Eph. 4:4, "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are CALLED in one hope of your calling. " Then our text says, "Give diligence to make your calling and election sure." Take your concordance, if you have one, and look up the word, "call" or "calling," and you will be surprised as to how many times you will find it in the Word of God.
The general call is an outward call and can be resisted. It is a call that comes to the outward ear and never touches the heart, never awakens the sinner. He may come out and make a mental decision for Christ, join the church and be baptized, but he is still the same old sinner, untouched, unaffected, unchanged. The effectual call is an inward call that touches the spirit of man and quickens him, and this call cannot be resisted. The Holy Spirit through the Word of God gives an outward call to the sinner, which we call the "general call," and then, by taking the Word of God and applying it to the sinner's heart, He gives the inward call, the "effectual call, " that no sinner can ever resist. It is effective. The general call is objective; the effectual call is subjective. The one can be resisted; the other cannot. The effectual call is the Holy Spirit calling God's elect unto salvation in Christ. Now, my friend, there is no such thing as a sinner turning Christ down, because God never offers His Son to any sinner until that sinner is made ready by the Holy Spirit to receive Christ as his Lord and Saviour. Sinners who are not called effectually can turn the truth down; a sinner who has received the effectual call can never turn Christ down. Now you ponder that; that's true.
Sinners are brought to Christ for salvation only and wholly by a Divine call. All of our preaching or teaching -- no matter how learned we are, or with what pathos we may preach, or with what earnestness we may present the Word, or how clearly we may explain it -- will not bring a sinner to Christ apart from the effectual working and calling of the Holy Spirit. Men may be moved to tears and show great emotion -- they may be made to weep and mourn, but all of this is surface work unless the Holy Spirit makes the Word of God effective to the heart of a sinner. Now, let's look at the Word of God more closely (I Pet. 2:9),
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath CALLED you out of darkness into his marvellous light."
Here is set forth the Divine call, and the Apostle Peter recognized it. You and I may give the general call and bring many to decisions, but only the Holy Spirit can give the Divine call and make it effectual in the heart of a sinner. If we could just recognize that every individual we are preaching to out of Christ is dead in trespasses and sins -- spiritually dead! They can't hear -- they are deaf; they are blind -- they can't see. They are totally depraved, they are enmity against God; therefore, only the Holy Spirit can quicken or make alive that sinner and give him the warning call that breaks all resistance against God, brings him wholly yielded to Christ, and gives him faith to lay hold of the Son of God as his own personal Lord and Saviour. Now, my friend, that humbles us preachers in the dust, doesn't it? It should.
Now, let's read II Thess. 2:13-14,
"But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto He CALLED you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."
We have here set forth, first, God's election -- "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation." Then we have set forth the means by which He will bring us to salvation in Christ -- "Through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." This is "whereunto he CALLED you by our gospel." How does He call a sinner unto Christ? Now you listen -- "Through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." "Sanctification of the Spirit" comes before "belief of the truth." There has to come the Divine call before a sinner can believe. The Divine call is made effective through sanctification of the Spirit. Now what is "sanctification of the Spirit"? The word, "sanctification," here means, "set apart." It is the Holy Spirit setting apart a sinner unto salvation in Christ. He does that by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. When God gets ready to save one of His elect, the Holy Spirit gives that sinner the effectual call through sanctification of the Spirit, or by means of sanctification of the Spirit. In other words, the sinner is marked, separated, called out from among all others. The Holy Spirit does this by and through the Word of God. Listen to James 1:18, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth," and I Pet. 1:23 says, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."
You see, when the Holy Spirit calls a sinner to Christ, He broods over that sinner and plants the Word of truth, the Word of God, in that sinner's spirit, whereby He quickens, makes alive, that dead sinner and brings him forth as a new creature in Christ Jesus. There must first be the conception before there can be the birth. This is true in every phase of life. It is also true in the spiritual life. The new birth is the work of the Holy Spirit. If there is no conception, there is no birth. You may work on the emotions of a sinner and get him to crying, or get him to make a decision for Christ, which is only a mental assent to or the acceptance of some truth or doctrine, and call it salvation; but it is not. Just let the Holy Spirit begin to work with the sinner the least bit, and the average one of us preachers will do our best to bring him out on a decision and call it salvation. Oh, that we preachers had some sense and would stop our foolishness and our trifling with the souls of men and give the Spirit a chance to bring men to Christ! Then we would have new creatures in Christ Jesus. Many of us say that we believe in a born again church membership, but I wonder how many born again members you have in your church, preacher! Yes, I know you will come back at me with this, that we can't judge who is saved and who is not saved; but surely you can tell the difference between a dead sinner and a live sinner. A born again believer will act in a way that is entirely different from a person who is not saved.
Let me give you two or three illustrations of the effectual call. Matt. 20:16 says, "Many be called, but few chosen. " This truth is also found in Matt. 22:14, "Many are called, but few are chosen." In Luke 19:5-10 we find old Zacchaeus in a sycamore tree waiting to see the Lord, and when He passed by, Jesus said unto him, "Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house. . . For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.." Here we see Christ giving old Zacchaeus the effectual call, and sometime later we find him giving away half that he had, and rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ saying, "This day is salvation come to this house." Christ said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and I call them by name, and they follow Me" (John 10). The elect of God are always called God's sheep. They are never called goats, because He said, "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold." Did you ever stop to think of that? God's elect are never called goats; they are always called God's sheep, even before they are saved -- like the prodigal son who went to a far country is referred to as a son. A lot of preachers think that he was a saved person, backslidden, but he wasn't. God called him His son because he was; he was one of God's elect, and He finally brought him home and brought him to salvation in Christ. Therefore, God's elect are always spoken of as His sheep, because it is God's elect to whom the Holy Spirit gives the effectual call, calling them by name.
This is true when God called Saul of Tarsus that day on the road to Damascus, and He said, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" When the effectual call came to Saul of Tarsus, he immediately changed his whole attitude and, "trembling and astonished said, Lord, what will thou have me to do?" Just ten minutes before that he was going to kill Him. He wished he could get a hold of Him; he wished he could kill every one of His children -- every Christian -- but now, trembling and astonished, he's saying, "Lord, Lord." It was the effectual, personal call that came to the heart of that murderous villain called Saul of Tarsus, that broke all resistance and left him at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ crying for mercy. Yes, it was the effectual call that unhorsed him, and if the sinner ever gets the effectual call, he will be broken and be brought helpless to the throne of God's grace. It must be a call like the one that came to Lazarus as he lay there in the tomb, which represents a dead sinner -- "Lazarus, come forth!" As we have said time and again, every sinner, though he be one of God's elect, is dead, and only the power of God can raise him to life and bring him to Christ for salvation. Now that's true.
This effectual call can be illustrated by this picture from nature. Here is an old mother hen with her brood of chickens out there under the peach tree scratching, clucking, and every one of her chicks are running helter-skelter, twittering, paying no attention to her clucking. That's the general call. Just like the message going out at this time -- thousands are listening, Hell from beneath moving to meet thee at thy coming, and yet you are paying no attention to the Gospel call; you go on in your sins. You may be enjoying the message; or you may be criticizing it, but you are not mourning over your sins. Then.all at once the old mother hen will give a peculiar cluck -- you won't detect it; neither will I. But it is a warning cluck, and without a moment's notice every chick will flee for cover. It is a danger call. So it is when the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God home to the heart of a sinner and gives that sinner a warning call and awakens him; as he begins to come to himself, he sees his danger; he begins to see his sins and God's hatred of sin. He realizes that he is lost, that he has no foundation to rest on, that he is without God and without hope. Slowly the Holy Spirit washes all the false foundation from under him, takes away every mudsill. The old mudhouse of his confession begins to cave under; the roof begins to cave in, the walls fall asunder, and he is left without any hope. All that he ever put his faith in vanishes away and leaves him stranded without God and without hope. Then, and only then, does he begin to feel his need of Christ. He begins to cry after Him, realizing that it is Christ or Hell: "I must get to Christ!" he says. All the time it is the work of the Holy Spirit breaking that sinner off every false hope, away from every false security, weaning him from everything and bringing him to look only to Christ. Paul said, "It pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and CALLED me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me" (Gal.1:15-16). When the Holy Spirit CALLS a sinner, gives him THE EFFECTUAL CALL, He does it for one purpose -- to bring him to the place of full surrender that he might reveal Christ, the Son of God, as his all-sufficient Lord and Saviour, and to bring him into union with the Son of God. May God give you the effectual call this morning, brother!
Let's notice the nature of this effectual call. In the first place, it is a miracle working call. The salvation of every soul is a special miracle wrought by the Holy Spirit. It is the creation of a new being. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). The effectual call gives LIFE to the dead sinner. Ezek. 16:6 says, "Yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live." Yes, it is God who gives life to the dead sinner that comes with the effectual call. John 5:25 says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." "SHALL LIVE! When the Holy Spirit calls a sinner, that particular call is for that particular sinner, just like the call that came to Saul of Tarsus: no one else heard that call. They heard a sound, they saw the effect, but they did not understand that call. Why didn't Christ call every one of them? He only called Saul of Tarsus, because he was the only one of God's elect. The Lord Jesus Christ did not call anyone else by name except Saul. It was a particular call, a personal call, that went to the very heart of that individual and left him in the dust crying for mercy.
This effectual call gives SIGHT to the blinded sinner (2 Cor.4:3-4), "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them ." When God calls the sinner, one of the first things He does is to open his blinded eyes. This effectual call OPENS the sinners heart (Acts 16:14), "And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira,which worshippedGod, heard us: WHOSE HEART THE LORD OPENED, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." Only the Spirit can open the closed heart of a sinner. It is closed by unbelief; it is closed by enmity toward God. It is closed by rebellion, and only the Holy Spirit can take the cross as a hammer and beat open that door until the sinner becomes submissive and willing for the Lord Jesus to enter in.
Another nature or aspect of the effectual call is, it is IRRESISTIBLE. Behind this call is the power of God. "The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are CALLED, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (I Cor. 1:22-24). Yes, behind the effectual call is the very power of God. Paul said again, "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (I Cor.2:4). Paul said again, "Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance" (I Thess. 1:5). My friend, if the sinner could resist this Divine call, he could overcome the Creator. The Word of God says, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me" (John 6:37). I want you to notice the force of that word, "shall" -- "they shall come," and, brother, they shall come. If the sinner could resist this Divine call, it would mean the breaking of the Scripture, because Rom. 8:30 says, "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." Listen, awakened sinner, listen! if God has called you, He will justify you! It means all of God's elect will come home.
Election marks the one for salvation, and only marks him out to be called, but the Holy Spirit does the calling. I praise God that is so; then I know my preaching won't be in vain. Otherwise, I would have no assurance that any individual would ever be saved. But, as I bring God's message, you may be sitting there before your radio casually listening to me -- you may be criticizing me; you may be saying, "I don't believe what that preacher is preaching," because in your unsaved state you can't understand it, you can't see it; yet if you are one of God's elect -- and only God knows it -- and if it is time for the Holy Spirit to call you, He will carry that message home to your heart; when He does, brother, you will not be able to resist it. You may say, "I will not hear him," but you will hear me. You may say, "I will not have it," but you will have it. You may say, "I will not come," but God says you shall come. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! "All that the Father giveth me SHALL COME to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). You may try to run away, but God will overtake you. Yes, He will! We have a man in the studio this morning who said one day, "I'll will run away -- I won't have it." He went two hundred miles, but he came creeping back to where the Gospel was preached, and one day he bowed in submission unto the will of God. Yes, sir! You may try to drown conviction in sin, but the Holy Spirit will bring you to Christ. You "shall come."
I know this great old doctrine is scorned and rejected by the natural man, because "we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock (that is, unto unsaved religionists), and unto the Greeks foolishness (that is, unto the intellectuals). " I know "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14). I know "man is enmity against God" and, left to himself, would never choose Christ. I know every man is free to choose Christ if he desired to do so, but I also know this awful fact, that man, of himself, does not want Christ nor anything that God likes. But when the Holy Spirit speaks to that sinner's heart, raises him from the dead, makes him a new creature in Christ Jesus, reveals Christ to his heart, and gives him faith to receive Christ, he will not turn Him down! This is my hope today -- my only hope. Otherwise, all my preaching would be in vain. But, thank God, one here and one there God has called, and you who are saved know that one day God called you -- you couldn't resist that call, and today you are rejoicing in Him. And I know when the Holy Spirit begins a work in the human heart, He will perform it until the day of redemption (Phil. 1:6). This great doctrine of the effectual call gives honor to the Holy Spirit, humbles us in the dust that no flesh should glory in God's presence (I Cor.1:26-31).
Let's praise God for the effectual call, because this is the ground of our victory in preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ! Come, sinner; God is calling you this morning. He will justify you. Lie in the dust at His feet, and He'll raise you up.