The Blessing of Effectual Calling in the Grace of the Redeemer
This week as we look at the catechism questions as the Divines usually do they take one subject from the previous section and expand on it. When it comes to salvation and how men are saved, and thereby shown to be members of the invisible church, well it needs to be clarified how all that works. As with all questions of doctrine and life the answer that every preacher normally wants when he asks a question is: Jesus. The situation is no different here. Men are dead in sin by the use of their free will and they maintain their place in perdition through the act of that same desire. What changes them to want by nature to no longer be aliens, but friends of the Most High God? Again, the answer is no different: Jesus. For today’s Larger Catechism help we’ll be examining what it is about the second person of the Trinity that makes all the difference when it comes to men and their faith. Here are today’s Q/A’s:
Q. 66: What is that union which the elect have with Christ?
A. The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.
Q. 67: What is effectual calling?
A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he does, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his word and Spirit; savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.
Q. 68: Are the elect only effectually called?
A. All the elect, and they only, are effectually called; although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the word, and have some common operations of the Spirit; who, for their willful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.
Q. 69: What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
A. The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.
Unfortunately to really get into all the depths of these questions would take more than the two years we have allotted for our walk through the Larger Catechism…I mean it is the Larger Catechism for a reason. Yet that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t spend the time we have wisely. The last Q/A given this week will largely be answered as we move up the ordo salutis ladder. So let’s focus on questions 66-68 and see what it is about Effectual Calling that we can benefit from.
We know that our God is a God of keeping promises. He has said repeatedly in the Bible (see Ezekiel 34:11-16, Psalm 37:39, Jonah 2:9, Isaiah 12:2, etc…) that the LORD alone is the hope of our salvation. We understand that this means not only that He provides the means of redemption in His Son, but that through the Holy Spirit and the Sovereign Decree of the Father that those who are His are indubitably assured of the certainty of their place in the eternal kingdom. That is accomplished, as Q. 67, “…in His accepted time” through the right preaching of the gospel.
Many of us who came to faith later in life can attest that we heard the good news proclaimed a lot before the time when it clicked. What made the day of our being made right different from any other moment? The preacher was better? Clearer? More succinct? Well, the good news for ministers across the land is that none of that is the direct cause, even if it may be true. Our eyes being opened by grace through faith alone is only way we righteously responded to the free offer of the gospel. Now, it must be said that some people react to this idea with a “if God forced you to believe in Him where is the love?” and that would be a wrong way to understand what we mean when we talk about effectual calling. Notice what the rest of Q.67 says, “He does…invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his word and Spirit…”. There is a “wooing” done by God in this work of grace. There is similar language found in Song of Songs 4:8 where the bridegroom says, “Come with me from Lebanon, my bride. Come with me from Lebanon, from the top of Mount Amana, from the tops of Mount Senir and Mount Hermon. Come from the lions’ dens and from the leopards’ hills.” But it’s actually something from even before this call that can help us even better understand what is happening. Solomon writes in v.7, “My darling, everything about you is beautiful, and there is nothing at all wrong with you.” These seraphic words describe the nature of our union with Christ and the grace shed on us that moves both the love of Jesus to be willing to lay down His life for our sin, and why we come to Him when He calls us in the gospel.
Our mystical betrothal to our Savior is pictured for us in the consummation at the end of days in Revelation 21 and 22. There is a mighty mercy at work in the eternal plan of God that has its application in the way we are brought out of darkness and into the marvelous light of His truth.
But what about those in Q.68 who hear, but do not hear? I am sure there are stories you could tell of the seeds that fall on the rocky ground or in the midst of the thorns that grows and seems to flourish for a season, but soon falls away. Why does this take place? According to the catechism (and the Bible from which it summarizes these truths) it comes from a willful neglect of the means of grace and a refusal for whatever reason to grasp fully the blessings offered in Christ. We must be in prayer for those who are wandering, witnessing to them the hope alone presented in the Redeemer, wishing that none would go to perdition.
Here’s a word more:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church