God’s Effectual Call

The next chapter in the confession is titled, “Of Effectual Calling,” and it is a logical sequel to the last chapter on free will. If you remember, we learned in the last chapter that man in his unregenerate state has totally lost, as a result of Adam’s fall in the garden of Eden, the ability to will to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. 

With that in mind, the question then becomes, “Then how are men to be saved, if they cannot come to Christ on their own initiative?” The answer lies in this chapter: God’s effectual call. Not only Has God chosen whom He will save, but He has also appointed the exact moment when He will, by His Word and Spirit, call them to Himself (Rom. 8:29-30). 

When talking about calls, we need to make the distinction between: general call and effectual call. The general call is a call by the ordinary ministry of the Word. In other words, when the Gospel is preached and a call is made to perishing sinners to repent of their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, a general call has been made. 

An effectual call, however, is a work of God in the heart of a sinner when by His Word and Spirit, He regenerates a sinner and makes them willing to come, repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He enlightens their mind (Acts 26: 18; 1 Cor. 2:10), removes their heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26), and renews their mind and will so that they desire to come (Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36:27; Phil. 2:13). 

This effectual call is only by God’s grace alone (Rom. 9:11; Ephesians 2:4-10). There is nothing that we have done that moved God to elect us and draw us to Himself. Also, there is nothing in us that gives us the ability to choose, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is God who must change our hearts before we can come to Him.  

The confession also deals with controversial issues such as the salvation of infants and those who incapable of being called outwardly by the ministry of the Word. How can they be saved if they are unable to be called by the ordinary means of salvation, which is the preaching of the Word of God? We need to keep in mind that God is not bound to these ordinary means, but is free to work as He pleases. John 3:8 makes this clear: 

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Finally, this effectual call is absolutely necessary. Even if one has heard the call of the Gospel and appears to have the evidences of saving grace, if they have not be drawn by the Father to Himself, they are not saved (John 6:44)! They cannot be saved unless the Lord has elected them from before the foundation of the world, and has in the appointed time drawn them to Himself. 

This doctrine has major implications for our lives. What are we to say to someone who has recently had a miscarriage, or their young child has died? Should we be having altar calls and seeking to emotionally push someone towards making a decision for Christ, as is done in modern evangelism today? What about children who are orderly and live in an obedient manner? Can we say that they are saved?

This week, you can download our lecture on chapter 10 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. We hope that this will be a blessing to you, your family, and your church!