Chapter 10, Of Effectual Calling

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  1. Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace. (Romans 8:30;Romans 11:7; Ephesians 1:10, 11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14; Ephesians 2:1-6; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:17, 18; Ezekiel 36:26; Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezekiel 36:27; Ephesians 1:19; Psalm 110:3; Song of Solomon 1:4)

In chapters 10 to 18, the Confession focuses on the application of Christ’s redemption to the elect. Scripture shows us that salvation consists of a series of distinct acts. For example, Romans 8:30: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (ESV). This passage is about three acts in salvation: calling, justification and glorification; but there are more. John Murray states: “When we think of the application of redemption we must not think of it as one simple and indivisible act. It comprises a series of acts and processes. To mention some, we have calling, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification. These are all distinct, and not one of these can be defined in terms of the other. Each has its own distinct meaning, function, and purpose in the action and grace of God.”[1]

The series of acts in salvation observed in Romans 8:30 are not merely listed in random order, but they have a logical sequence: first predestination, second calling, which leads to the third justification; and these ultimately lead fourth to glorification—each act performing its function in a logical order. We see a similar pattern in John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (ESV). The Father’s drawing (i.e. effectual calling) occurs first before the “coming to me” in faith; the result is being “raised up on the last day” (glorification). Even if a biblical passage only mentions one of these acts or processes, we can still detect a logical order based on the function of that act. To illustrate, faith is required for adoption, and justification is required for adoption—for God cannot accept as his own one who is not righteous in Christ; therefore, we can see just in these three that the logical order is: faith, justification, adoption. We refer to these acts and processes as having a logical order, rather than a chronological order with possible time gaps, because most of these acts are applied simultaneously. Ultimately, we only know of this “order of salvation” (i.e. in Latin ordo salutis) only by the special revelation of Scripture.

The first act in the order of salvation is effectual calling, but it is rooted in election. As such, the Confession begins at predestination: Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call.” This follows Romans 8:30, already mentioned, which begins at predestination. We may recall chapter 3:3a: By the decree of God…some men …are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ.”  Since God predestines some to life, and what God predetermines always comes to fruition, then it follows that God will in his time and way effectual call his elect to salvation. Thus the elect will each be effectually called at the “appointed time” (i.e. God’s decreed time), and at a time that is “acceptable” time (i.e. a time pleasing to him). Again, we cite Romans 8:30a: “those whom he predestined he also called” (ESV). This predestined-effectual calling connection has been previously stated in two places:

Chapter 3:6: “As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so he hath, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto; wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation; neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

Chapter 8:8a: “To all those for whom Christ hath obtained eternal redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same.”

God, the Father, effectually calls the elect. The Spirit and the Son are certainly involved in effectual calling, but it is the Father who initiates it. The Father’s role is reflected in passages such as John 6:44a: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him(ESV). And 1 Corinthians 1:9: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (ESV). And, 2 Timothy 1:8b-9a: “Share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling” (ESV). The Lord Jesus himself always gave the Father credit for things attributed to him, and so should we.

The Father effectually calls by his Word and Spirit.[2] The “Word” refers to the gospel message to repent and believe in Christ. That gospel call, which comes externally or outwardly, is made effective by the work of the “Spirit” internally or inwardly in the heart of the elect. Berkhof states: “The calling of God may be said to be one, and the distinction between an external call and an internal or effectual calling merely calls attention to the fact that this one calling has two aspects.”[3] The Word is the gospel message, and without it there is no salvation. This is so because, as Chapter 1 established, general revelation is insufficient to explain God’s will for our salvation. Paul wrote: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching” (Romans 10:14 ESV)? Thus the gospel message is essential to salvation. There is no other message which reveals the way to salvation, thus without the Word, there can be no effectual call.[4] The Spirit works through the gospel call, and inwardly changes the heart of the elect person, enabling and persuading him or her to obey the gospel call, and thus they repent and believe on Christ. This inward work may be referred to as regeneration, and without it, the gospel call remains ineffective in the sinner. We can see then how both the “Word and the Spirit” are essential to effectual calling.

What does effectual calling accomplish in the elect? The Confession explains this in several phrases. First, effectual calling brings the elect sinner out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ. Notice the contrast: “out of” and “to.” We will recall from chapter 9:3 that in the state of sin and death man is averse to salvation, and incapable of embracing Christ. But by effectual calling, the elect person is transferred out of that disabled state, into a state of “grace and salvation.” As indicated in 9:4, the state of grace is when God “freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and by his grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good.” Scripture speaks of this act of God in Ephesians: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4-5 ESV). We see it in John 3:5: “Jesus answered,Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’ (ESV). Thus, effectual calling is an act of God by which he enables the elect to freely embrace Christ and receive salvation.

Secondly, effectual calling results in the enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God. Again, because of our state of sin and deadness (9:3), our darkened minds must be “enlightened” if we are to understand the gospel, and the things of God in a saving way. The Confession echoes several Scripture passages here, such as Acts 26:18a. There we see Christ commissioning Paul to preach the gospel so as “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light” (ESV). Or, 1 Corinthians 2:13-14: “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned(ESV). Our mind must be enlightened “spiritually,” if we are to understand the things of the Spirit. This enlightening is not an existential experience devoid of content, but the enlightenment comes from the content of the gospel, which the Spirit causes the darkened mind—dead in sin—to understand in a saving way.

Thirdly, the Confession states that effectual calling is the taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh. This wording is from Ezekiel 36:26 which predicts and describes the work of the Spirit in the New Covenant: 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” (KJV). In effectual calling, God gives his people a new heart—one that is soft like flesh, not hard like stone.

Fourthly, effectual calling includes the renewing their wills. This builds on chapter 9, Of Free Will. Until the Spirit works in us by effectual calling, regenerating us, the will of man is unable to choose to do any spiritual good leading to salvation. This makes the renewing of the will absolutely essential to salvation. This renewal of the will is done by his [God’s] almighty power. It is a supernatural act of God which renews the will. The result of this renewed will is that it is determining them to that which is good. In other words, the renewed will causes the person to choose (i.e. determine to act) according to that which is good. A.A. Hodge states “That this change is radical is proved from the fact that… it consists in the implantation of a new governing principle of life; from the fact that it is a ‘new birth,’ a ‘new creation,’ wrought by the mighty power of God in the execution of his eternal purpose of salvation; and that it is necessary for the most moral and amiable as for the morally abandoned.”[5]

And so, by the changes described in these four phrases, God is effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ.  John Murray states: “God’s call, since it is effectual, carries with it the operative grace whereby the person called is enabled to answer the call and to embrace Jesus Christ as he is freely offered in the gospel. God’s grace reaches down to the lowest depths of our need and meets all exigencies of the moral and spiritual impossibility which inheres in our depravity and inability. And that grace is the grace of regeneration.”[6]   The Confession does not have a separate chapter addressing regeneration, because it falls under the general heading of “effectual call.”[7]

The Confession states: yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace. Effectual calling is that act whereby God imparts effectual grace—commonly called “irresistible grace” in the Calvinistic system of salvation. Some charge that “irresistible grace” denies man’s free-will. As such, the Confession wisely clarifies that this is in fact not the case. The Spirit works in such a way so as to make the elect willing. To be “made willing” is not an oxymoron. By effectual grace, the Spirit changes the nature of the elect person; that new nature desires to embrace Christ, and so being desirous and enabled this new nature comes freely to Christ without any coercion whatsoever. In Psalms, we can see this work of the Spirit which enables his people to freely offer themselves to God: “Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours” (Ps. 110:3 ESV). It is a grace that God changes the elect so that they come freely to Christ. It is grace because it is undeserved, and it is grace because without it we would never be able or desire to embrace Christ and receive salvation.

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2. This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power, or agency in the Creature, co-working with his special Grace, the Creature being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit; he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power, than that which raised up Christ from the dead. (2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:5; John 5:25; Ephesians 1:19, 20)

This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone. The word “alone” at the end of this clause indicates the only reason for effectual calling is God’s particular gracious act, a gracious act which has two aspects: free and special. God’s free… grace means he is free to give this grace or not. We could say instead of “God’s free grace,” “God’s sovereign grace.” It is “free” in that it is given at God’s sole initiative without regard to any condition or action in the creature. Thus it is a sovereign grace. God’s…special grace is a specific or particular grace given only to the elect, a grace which acts to regenerate. It differs from common grace, which God gives in varying degrees to all his creatures, to the wicked and just—despite the fact that they deserve immediate judgment (Mt. 5:45). Common grace is not a grace which saves. It is not the so-called prevenient grace that the Arminian believes God gives equally to all men, but which is not effective to salvation unless man co-operates with it by his faith. But instead, special grace is that grace which is effective to salvation given particularly to the elect alone, and it enables the elect to come to Christ. It is effectual grace. Thus, without God’s “free and special grace” there would be no such thing as the effective call.

God’s free (i.e. sovereign) and special (i.e. particular) grace in effectual calling is monergistic. This is the view that God alone acts to regenerate the elect bringing them to faith. The elect person has no co-operative role whatsoever. We can see this in Scripture: “[God] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ(Eph. 2:5a ESV). In contrast to this, Synergism is the view that man must co-operate with God’s grace, by their faith, in order for God to regenerate them. Thus in Monergism, God regenerates the elect to create faith, while in Synergism man must act in faith to be regenerated. It is not hard to see that Synergism is man-centered, whereas Monergism is a God-centered.

The Confession adds two denials which remove any loophole which might allow man to interpolate himself into God’s sovereign and monergistic grace. The first denial: Effectual calling is not from anything at all foreseen in man. The Confession denies that the cause of this free and special grace is rooted in man. Scripture affirms: “[God] who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim 1:9 ESV). It is by God’s own purpose that he effectually calls, a purpose rooted in his decree of election. There is nothing in man that causes God to effectual call someone. “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ESV; see also Duet. 7:7).

The second denial: effectual calling is not from any power or agency in the creature, co-working with his special Grace, the Creature being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit.   It is best to keep this whole section together since it forms one thought unit. This portion is about man’s free agency as it relates to effectual calling. We know from chapter 9:1 that while man does indeed have free agency and maintains it even after the fall, yet as to salvation “man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation” (9:3a). Thus as it relates to salvation, man has no power or agency (i.e. free will) to co-work with God in effectual calling. John Murray states: “It has often been said that we are passive in regeneration. This is a true and proper statement…. But blessed be God that the gospel of Christ is one of sovereign, efficacious, irresistible regeneration. If it were not the case that in regeneration we are passive, the subjects of the action of which God alone is the agent, there would be no gospel at all.”[8] It is not until man is “quickened [i.e. made alive] and renewed [i.e. regenerated] by the Holy Spirit” that he is no longer remains “dead in sins and trespasses.”

By being “quickened and renewed” by the Holy Spirit—thus no longer being dead in sin and trespasses, man is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead. By this inward work of the Spirit, man’s nature is so changed that he is able to answer the gospel call. His will is empowered by the desire to embrace the grace “offered” in the gospel. In effectual calling, grace is not merely “offered” in the gospel call, but it is actually conveyed. This happens by the supernatural power of God; the very same resurrection power that raised Christ up from the dead (see Eph. 1:19).

To conclude this paragraph, effectual calling is a free and a special grace. Man is powerless to respond to the gospel call in his state of sin. By the Spirit’s work, the gospel call is made effectual; by it the elect are translated into the state of grace, and by that new nature and renewed will they embrace Christ. It is supernatural, resurrection power which enables the elect person to answer the gospel call. Thus that sovereign, monergistic grace is truly effective unto salvation.

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  1. Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who worketh when, and where, and how he pleases; so also are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word. (John 3:3, 5, 6; John 3:8)

Paragraph 3 is critically important for chapter 10, because paragraphs 1 and 2 show that effectual calling is by means of “his Word and Spirit.” It would follow, then, since both are necessary to effectual calling that only those elect who are capable of the outward call of the Word—could be saved. This would exclude the possibility of salvation for all infants who die in infancy[9] and all severely mentally disabled persons incapable of the gospel call from salvation. And so, this paragraph provides a needed solution to that implausible scenario that is biblically responsible, pastorally helpful, and theologically satisfying: the elect who are incapable of the outward call of the gospel may still be regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit without that outward call of the Word.

What Scriptural support exists for such an exception clause? In John 3:5, “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (ESV). Jesus indicates that regeneration (i.e. “born of the Spirit”) is universally necessary for salvation. Therefore, several key inferences follow: 1) No infant may go to heaven unless he or she is first regenerated, and 2) no infant dying in infancy is regenerated, unless he or she is elect. 3) It then also follows that any other elect person, incapable of being outwardly called, will also be regenerated and thus saved. With these three biblically oriented inferences in mind, let’s explore the confessional wording of this paragraph phrase by phrase.

The Confession begins by stating: Elect infants dying in infancy. The paragraph restricts the topic to a particular group of people: “elect infants.” Of this group of elect infants, there is a further restriction: those who die in the state of infancy. Thus we are restricted from applying this paragraph to anyone else. For example, we cannot apply it to infants who do not die in infancy (i.e. those infants who grow up and reach an age where they can grasp the gospel content), and so use this paragraph to say that an infant can be regenerated in infancy, and then later in life respond in faith to the gospel. That is denied in paragraphs 1 and 2 which indicates that both the “Word and Spirit” are part of effectual calling. And so we must pay close attention to the parameters of this paragraph, lest we make unwarranted inferences and application.

The Confession indicates that elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit. Since 1) all mankind from conception (ordinary generation, 6:3) are guilty before God due to our first parent’s sin imputed to us, and 2) their corruption is conveyed to all mankind from conception, then the doctrine of original sin applies even to infants. Just because infants have not yet committed actual sins, does not mean they are guiltless before God. Infants must be not only “innocent” of “actual sins,” but also innocent of legal guilt, and corruption. And so, because all infants are guilty and corrupt before God, as members of Adam’s race, under Adam’s headship, then even infants must be “born of the Spirit” in order to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5). While elect infants who die in infancy are regenerated and saved, nonetheless, this regeneration and salvation is only “by Christ.” Christ’s atoning work is applied to these elect infants “through the Spirit.”

The Confession states: who worketh when, and where, and how he pleases. God’s sovereignty in salvation extends to all the elect, and this is powerfully and gloriously observed by the fact that God will even save those elect incapable of the outward call. In this context, the Confession points out that God can work, when…he pleases even if an elect infant is dying, or even if the elect person of any age is incapable of being outwardly called by severe mental disability. He can save the elect infant or any elect person incapable of the outward call wherehe pleases since God has no geographical limitations—within or outside the womb. And God will regenerate and save the elect how he pleases. This reminds us of God’s sovereign “free and special grace” mentioned in 10:2. Again, these phrases apply specifically to elect persons incapable of the outward calling.

As with infants dying in infancy, so also are all elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word. “Incapable” refers to those who are so disabled physically or mentally as to be unable to comprehend the gospel message. This category includes those “incapable” presumably from birth, but who grow up even into old age, but who remain mentally incapacitated their whole life.[10] This is a very limited category of people. It does not include those capable of the ministry of the Word, but who merely lack the opportunity to hear it. Those who seek to include in this clause those in dark, evangelized lands, or persons who never hear the gospel are applying this beyond the limited focus of this paragraph. Only the elect who are in anyway incapable, as defined above, fall into this category.

Paragraph 3 is biblically and theologically responsible, making reasonable inferences based on the whole of Scripture. If this paragraph is rejected and exempted from full subscription to the Confession, and some do exempt this paragraph, it leaves a theological and pastoral gap in the doctrine of effectual calling. As such, paragraph 3 ought not to be quickly rejected, especially if there is no other responsible doctrine to take its place.

And finally, the Confession offers here great help in a multitude of ways. It offers tremendous comfort to the parents of those incapable of the outward call of the gospel. It is a helpful tool for the pastor who assists those grieving the loss of an infant or mentally disabled person. It is also an encouragement to those who presently care for the severely mentally disabled. That can be a difficult ministry, but the Confession reminds us that these may be the very elect of God, “the least of these.” And if properly understood and presented, this paragraph can be useful to the pastor at funeral services, since it can publically encourage those grieving the loss of an infant or mentally disabled person—providing words of hope that are doctrinally sound, biblically realistic, and pastorally responsible.

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  1. Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet not being effectually drawn by the Father, they neither will nor can truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men that receive not the Christian religion be saved; be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law of that religion they do profess. (Matthew 22:14; Matthew 13:20, 21; Hebrews 6:4, 5; John 6:44, 45, 65; 1 John 2:24, 25; Acts 4:12; John 4:22; John 17:3)

The Confession states: Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit…. This paragraph contrasts the prior paragraph with just the opposite situation: those who are not elected, and yet are outwardly called by the ministry of the Word. These “others” are: 1) not-elected, 2) receive the ministry of the word, and 3) have some common operations of the Spirit. Let’s break these down.

The first is easy to understand; these are not among the elect, and so will never be saved. The second are people who hear the gospel message, but are not effectually called by it. Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Mat. 22:14 ESV). They are generally called, thus are still accountable, but they are not effectually called. And in John 6:65: “And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father’” (ESV). These Jesus speaks of may be outwardly called, are being not effectually called, it is not granted to them by the Father’s special grace to come to Christ. Thirdly, these have some common operations of the Spirit. What does this mean? The phrase “common operations of the Spirit” mean the general working of the Spirit; it is that work which is attributed to the non-saving work of the Spirit, but nonetheless, a preserving work of restraining evil even in the non-elect. Louis Berkhof explains it this way:

“There is a certain similarity between the general and the special operations of the Holy Spirit. By His general operations He originates, maintains, strengthens, and guides all life, organic, intellectual, and moral. He does this in different ways and in harmony with the objects concerned. Something similar may be said of his special operation. In the redemptive sphere He also originates the new life, fructifies it, guides it in its development, and leads it to its destiny. But in spite of the similarity, there is nevertheless an essential difference between the operations of the Holy Spirit in the sphere of creation and those in the sphere of redemption or re-creation.”[11]

And so, some people who have been called by the gospel may exhibit attributes which appear to come from regeneration, but rather come only from the common graces of the Spirit given in varying degrees to mankind. And so a person may seem to have responded to the gospel with faith and repentance, showing fruit: attending church, behaving morally, and in other ways fitting into the life of the church. But in this case the “fruit” is not the result of effectual calling; rather, merely the general non-saving work of the Spirit in those who are outside of Christ.

Many of us know those who responded to the gospel, and even stopped practicing former sins, and certainly appeared to be true followers of Christ. But as time went on, they left the church and denied the faith they once professed. We might find ourselves genuinely confused by such things, if we do not understand such potential situations. Jesus explained: “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 Yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matthew 13:20-21 ESV). Or, in Hebrews 6:4-5 we read: “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (ESV). Or, John said: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19 ESV).

And so, not being effectually drawn by the Father, they neither will nor can truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved. These seeming saints, who are not effectually drawn or called by the Father, are still in the state of sin. And so they do not come to Christ, for they are unable to do so, and remain unsaved. It is important to understand this important truth, so that in our personal ministry to others and in our churches, we keep the gospel front- and-center, knowing that the mere appearance of calling and fruit is not the same as true effectual calling, and true gospel fruit. It may be that some in our churches have not truly embraced Christ through the gospel, and so we must constantly preach the gospel from the pulpit. And we must constantly center on the gospel in our own lives that we may be certain we are constantly resting and receiving Christ in the gospel.

The Confession adds to this: much less can men that receive not the Christian religion be saved; be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law of that religion they do profess. Hodge understands this portion of the Confession this way: “That the non-elect will certainly fail of salvation, not because a free salvation is not made available to them if they accept Christ, but because they never accept Christ; and they all refuse to accept him, because, although they may be persuaded by some common influences of the Holy Ghost, their radical aversion to God is never overcome by effectual calling. It has already been proved under sections 1 and 2 that the grace of effectual calling extends to all the elect, and only to the elect; hence the truth of this proposition follows.”[12] And so, mankind is never so diligent as to live their lives according to that general revelation which God has placed in the heart of man: the existence of God, and his law written on their heart. And not only that, but man does not even live up the law of his professed religion, which presumably reflects God’s law to some degree. Thus, without the grace of God offered alone in the gospel of Christ, these are unable to justify themselves by their pitiful attempts to obey the law.

We have now completed our study of chapter 10, Of Effectual Calling: God’s free and special grace—we might say his sovereign grace—whereby God calls his elect to himself by his Word and Spirit. It is the first of God’s mighty acts in the logical order of salvation.   From the effectual calling of God, then follows more of God’s acts in salvation—the very next act being justification. Following the Romans 8:30 golden chain of redemption, we now turn from calling to that tremendously important doctrine of justification in the next chapter.

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[1] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1955), 89-90.

[2] Baptist Catechism 27: Q. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet? A. Christ executeth the office of prophet in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.

[3] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Containing the full text of Systematic theology (1932) and the original Introductory volume to systematic theology (1938), and new preface by Richard a. Muller (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1996), 469.

[4] The exception is those elect incapable of being externally called by the gospel, which is addressed later in paragraph 3 of this chapter.

[5] A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (1869; reprinted, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 173.

[6] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1955), 96.

[7] Berkhof indicates that the old Reformed confessions took a broad view of effectual calling, included regeneration within it; whereas, modern Reformed Theology regards regeneration as a separate action related to effectual calling. See Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Containing the full text of Systematic theology (1932) and the original Introductory volume to systematic theology (1938), and new preface by Richard a. Muller (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1996), 465-479.

[8] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1955), 99-100.

[9] In the seventeenth century, when the Confession was framed, infant mortality was quite high.

[10] We may be able to think of other very unique situations, such as child who was very capable in childhood, but who received a brain injury in childhood and remained incapacitated mentally the rest of their life. The general point is simply stated in the Confession, and it may become unhelpful to propose theoretical “what if” scenarios.

[11] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Containing the full text of Systematic theology (1932) and the original Introductory volume to systematic theology (1938), and new preface by Richard a. Muller (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1996), 426.

[12] A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (1869; reprinted, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 175.

 

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