This article first appeared in the August 1, 1983 issue of the Standard Bearer (vol.59, No.19), part of a special issue devoted to the subject of God's sovereign, irresistible grace.
The Sovereign, Efficacious Call
God calls from the darkness of sin and death to the glorious light of covenant fellowship with Himself. That call is efficacious (powerfully effective); those called do come and assuredly enjoy the communion God promised in Christ.
In speaking of the call according to which God brings His elect people to the consciousness of salvation, we understand that this is the powerful effect of what is called the "irresistible grace" of God. When God calls, His chosen people come; must come.
We must understand of course, what is meant by the "call." It is used in two ways in connection with the wonder of salvation. There is the general call which involved the promiscuous proclamation of the gospel. Wherever the gospel goes, there is also the call to repent from sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Many hear that call of the gospel. It was concerning that call that Jesus said, "For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matt. 22:14). Obviously, Christ here meant that the preaching goes forth; many hear, but will not obey. Yet, God has His people who come—the chosen.
It is clear from Scripture that there is another call, a sovereign, efficacious call, which comes to the elect of God. It is a call so powerful that those called do assuredly come. It is a call in harmony with the very nature of God: His Sovereignty. It is of this that the Canons of Dordt speak in Head III-IV, 12: "And this is the regeneration so highly celebrated in Scripture, and denominated a new creation: a resurrection from the dead, making alive, which God works in us without our aid. But this is in no wise effected merely by the external preaching of the gospel, by moral suasion, or such a mode of operation, that after God has performed His part, it still remains in the power of man to be regenerated or not, to be converted, or to continue unconverted; but it is evidently a supernatural work, most powerful and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable; not inferior in efficacy to creation, or the resurrection from the dead, as the Scripture inspired by the author of this work declares; so that all in whose heart God works in this marvelous manner, are certainly, infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe. . . ."
The same is the clear teaching of Scripture, as, for instance, in Romans 8:29, 30, "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate. . . . 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." Note particularly in this "golden chain of salvation," those called ARE glorified. The calling here refers to that powerful call of God which brings to pass what He determined.
The powerful call of God is seen already when He created the heavens and the earth. God brought into being that which He called. So we read in Psalm 33:9, "For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." The creation was formed at His very Word.
So also is His call unto final salvation. It is God's call which brings regeneration. But that same call goes forth when the Word is proclaimed. God calls dead sinners to new birth—and then to conscious and godly life. Those whom God regenerates, He causes also to hear the preached Word. Such hear not only with their ears nor merely with their minds, but they hear within the inner recesses of their very being. Their very heart is affected. The Word preached falls as rain and sunshine upon the seed of life in the heart—and causes that seed to sprout and flourish. God thus awakens the new life within one and will make that life to develop and grow.
Thus sovereignly the almighty God calls His elect to repentance and confession of sin—and they repent. These obey, and must obey, the powerful call of God. Therefore the Word states in Romans 8:30 that those called shall also be glorified.
This call which brings to repentance and glory is part of what is termed the "irresistible grace" of God. This issue of the Standard Bearer points out how that the irresistible grace of God is involved in every aspect of the salvation of the elect sinner. Here too, we recognize that grace, or the favor of God toward His elect people, is not to be resisted. His favor, directed toward His own people, will assuredly accomplish what he has determined. This is true obviously also with respect to the call as that term is used in Romans 8:30. God calls to repentance and new life, and His irresistible grace will see to it that the elect sinner hears and is converted. He cannot resist that call. He will want to obey even as God requires.
Some claim a contradiction here. A "call" which is obeyed because of "irresistible grace," apparently denies the human element, man's responsibility. If there is no chance for refusal, man is made to appear as a stock or block. Therefore has arisen also that terrible doctrine of the "free-will" of the sinner. The grace of God is said to be resistible; man is able to reject the call. The work of God is reduced to a "gentle advising." So also the Canons of Dordt state in the rejection of errors, Head III-IV, 7: "We reject the errors of those who teach: that the grace whereby we are converted to God is only a gentle advising, or (as others explain it), that this is the noblest manner of working in the conversion of man, and that this manner of working, which consists in advising, is most in harmony with man's nature. . . . But this is altogether Pelagian and contrary to the whole Scripture which, besides this, teaches yet another and far more powerful and divine manner of the Holy Spirit's working in the conversion of man, as in Ezekiel: '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 a heart of flesh,' Ezek. 36:26."
There is not any contradiction between the irresistible grace of God whereby He calls unto salvation—and man's responsibility. It is true that our minds cannot fully grasp the wonder of the work of God—and how could they, since we are but creatures, and He is God? Yet we confess that the Sovereign God so controls all things that He draws those whom He calls. Is not this the teaching too of Philippians 2:12, 13: ". . . Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure"? There is clearly the conscious, willing activity of the child of God in working out his salvation. He applies himself to that cause. He is interested in and concerned with his salvation. Still he knows that God is the One working in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Not man is "willing," but God works a willingness in the elect sinner. Not man "does," but God works the doing within the elect sinner. That is the irresistible grace of God whereby one is called—and comes.
Therefore Jesus could say in John 6:37, "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." And again in verse 44, "No man can come to Me except the Father which hath sent Me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day."
It is this truth which has constantly comforted saints through the ages. God draws—therefore they have come.
Would some yet complain about this glorious truth? Would some still insist upon the free will of the sinner to choose or not? Would some willingly like to maintain that God could give up of His Sovereignty in order to allow for "free will" in the sinner?
The fact is that unless God is entirely Sovereign, unless He calls with almighty power, there should no flesh be saved. It is not a question of "free will" or not "free will." If salvation depended upon the willingness of any sinner, he would in fact never be saved. Man's situation after Adam's fall into sin is such that he cannot hear spiritually. He cannot "will" to be saved. He cannot "see" the kingdom of heaven. To insist on the "responsibility" of man, to insist on man's ability to choose Christ or not, in fact would destroy every possibility of deliverance.
Nor does the irresistible grace of God in His sovereign call render any man without excuse before God. None may ever claim before God that since He did not powerfully call and draw him, that therefore his rebellion is not his own fault. None may ever blame God for his sin. Fact is, God made man, in Adam his representative head, capable of obedience. When Adam sinned, and all we in him, then man became guilty not only, but also incapable of obedience. But the sin of disobedience remains man's.
But every saved child of God can only give God everlasting praise that He calls, draws, and preserves His people to the end. These understand that only because of that irresistible grace of God did they come. There is no other way but the drawing by the Father that accounts for their willing and doing.
This is not to say that any are compelled to come into heaven against their will. None who are drawn by the Father remain rebels. Nor can any, insisting on walking in ways of disobedience and sin, expect that nevertheless the Father will draw him into glory.
But rather, Father in heaven draws in such a way that He works the desire and longing for salvation within the hearts of elect sinners. These hear the sweet sounds of the gospel. These understand the wonderful glory of deliverance from sin and death. These see the wonder of fellowship and communion with God in Christ. In them there is worked such a longing for those things heavenly, that their whole being is filled with desire for that. These would use their time, talents, possessions to God's glory and as those who would dwell in His house. Willingly, these are found at the foot of Christ's cross.
And all these shall be saved. None shall be ashamed at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ who have placed their trust and confidence in Him. He shall deliver from this earth with its present corruptions, to bring to the blessed glory in the new heavens and the new earth. Every child of God is assured that he shall enjoy such blessings—because the Sovereign God called by irresistible grace—and he comes to enjoy what is his for Jesus' sake. So never, never mock with that wonder of irresistible grace and its evidence seen in the call of God's elect from sin to glory. That remains the only sure basis for hope and comfort in a world of uncertainty and doubt. And all the glory be then to God's Name!
Rev. G. Van Baren (Wife: Clara)
Ordained: October, 1956
Pastorates: Doon, IA - 1956; Randolph, WI - 1962; First, Grand Rapids, MI - 1965; Hudsonville, MI - 1977; Loveland, CO - 1994
Emeritus: 1999Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Rev._Gise_Van_Baren
Address4683 Crescent Dr.
State or ProvinceMichigan