Fridays with Packer- EFFECTUAL CALLING

Posted: April 30, 2010 by doulos tou Theou in Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, Christianity, Reformed Theology, Uncategorized


…. From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Effectual calling is a sixteenth-century English phrase that became the title of chapter X of the 1647 Westminster Confession. The chapter begins thus:

All those whom God hath predestined unto life, and those only, 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.

What is being spoken of here is the many-sided reality of Christian conversion, involving illumination, regeneration, faith, and repentance. It is being analyzed as a sovereign work of God, “effectually” (i.e., effectively) performed by the power of the Holy Spirit. The concept corresponds to Paul’s use of the verb call (meaning “bring to faith”) and called (meaning “converted”) in Romans 1:6; 8:28, 30; 9:24; 1 Corinthians 1:24, 26; 7:18, 21; Galatians 1:15; Ephesians 4:1, 4; and 2 Thessalonians 2:14, and contrasts with the idea of a merely external and ineffective invitation, as found in Matthew 22:14.

Original sin renders all human beings naturally dead (unresponsive) to God, but in effectual calling God quickens the dead. As the outward call of God to faith in Christ is communicated through the reading, preaching, and explaining of the contents of the Bible, the Holy Spirit enlightens and renews the heart of elect sinners so that they understand the gospel and embrace it as truth from God, and God in Christ becomes to them an object of desire and affection. Being now regenerate and able by the use of their freed will to choose God and the good, they turn away from their former pattern of living to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to start a new life with him.

  1. It seems to me that Packer in his Evangelism and The Sovereignty of God along with the works of others and more than adequate summaries of the Faith like the Westminster Confession on the issues of Man’s fall and ruin and God’s plan to recover man out of such terrible condition are the needed remedy for our society’s murderous malaise. Sooner or later those who think they are in control are going to find themselves involved in a monstrous catasrophe from which they wll not be able to escape any more than the masses whom they wish to exterminate. It is true that we are facing a huge population increase, but the answer to it is not in what was put to my son at the tender age of 11. On a computer in a school for the really bright children, there was this question put to him: “If you were an official in a world government and had an overpopulation with a country in Africa, what would you do?” The answers offered: “a) Have a war and kill them off. b) Use an infectious germ, agent or disease and kill them off. c) Let them starve.” Our son did not want to go back, and we felt the same way. Years later, a friend told me he faced the same question on an exam for the State Dept. He said he got up an walked out. The answer to the population problem does not lie in the continuation of murderous agendas; it lies in what most people detest today, namely, faith in that which so many say cannot be, the God who created Heaven and earth and who still intervenes, His intervention is in the form of the supreme paradox, God in human flesh in the most ludicrous and ridiculous form possible, well-illustrated by the drawing (was it from Pompeeii?) of the crucified Ass on the Cross. O the irony, the awful satire of the Divine commentary on man’s arrogance and presumption, the open, crucified hand bearing healing, health, hopes, and help in the most touching manner – even the Heavenly Humility of condescending compassion that is at the same time uplifting, exalting, ennobling, magnetic, creative, tranforming the sordid of carbon into the diamond of rarest beauty, the rarest pearl of greatest beauty wrapped the misery of pain and sin. How glorious! And all the more as it is done with an open hand, freely, offering the utmost liberty and enjoyment possible.

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