Founders Journal · Spring 2000 · pp. 18-23
Outward and Effectual Calling: A Doctrinal Study
The following article is adapted from Chapter 31 of Boyce’s Abstract of Systematic Theology. This book is based primarily on Boyce’s classroom lectures on systematic theology delivered at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary during the first twenty-five years of its existence.
The atoning work of Christ was not sufficient for the salvation of men. That work was only Godward, and removed only all the obstacles in the way of God’s pardon of the sinner. But the sinner is also at enmity with God, and must be brought to accept salvation, and must learn to love and serve God.
The first step here is to make known to man the gospel, which contains the glad tidings of this salvation, under such influences as ought to lead to its acceptance. The Gospel is, therefore, commanded to be proclaimed to every creature, inasmuch as there is in the work of Christ a means of redemption for every one.
This is the external call of the Gospel. This proclamation, however, meets with no success because of the willful sinfulness of man, although, in itself, it has all the elements which should secure its acceptance.
God knowing that this is true, not only of all mankind in general, but even of the elect whom he purposes to save in Christ, gives to these such influences of the Spirit as will lead to their acceptance of the call. This is called Effectual Calling.
1. The Gospel is commanded to be preached to all. This is proved.
1) By such passages as show that the outward privileges of God’s word are no longer to be confined to Israel, but are to be extended to the Gentiles also. This had been foretold in prophecy (Gen. 18:18; 26:4; Psalm 2:8; Isa. 42:1-4; 49:6, 7, 8; 55:5; 60:3; 65:1-12; Jer. 16:19; Mal. 1:11). It is also taught in the New Testament in various ways (Matt. 8:11-13; 12:18-21; 21:33-41; 22:1; 28:19; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 4:20-27; 14:16-24; 20:9-16; John 3:16; 4:20, 21, 39).
2) By the history of the extension of this gospel to the Gentiles by the Apostles and their contemporaries, who so preached it, as to show that the Gentiles were not first to become Jews in order to be made partakers of that gospel.
Acts 10th Chapter. Peter sent to Cornelius.
Acts 11:1-18. Peter’s report of that visit.
Acts 11:19-30. The gospel sent to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch.
Acts 13th Chapter. The labors of Paul and his companions.
Acts 15th Chapter. The conference at Jerusalem.
Rom. 1:13-16, and generally the whole of the epistle and of Paul’s other epistles to the churches, especially Galatians.
The above two classes of passages serve to show how the universal preaching of the gospel was impressed upon the early Christians, and consequently that they would be led to give full meaning to other unlimited expressions.
3) By such passages as directed the gospel to be preached to all (Mark 16:15; Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13).
4) By such as show the freeness with which salvation was offered to all as individuals (Acts 2:39; 11:14; 16:31; 2 Cor. 5:19-21; 1 Tim. 1:15; Tit. 2:11; Rev. 22:17).
5) [The fact that] [t]he restrictions which separated the Jews and the Gentiles being removed, the universal offers of salvation made previously to the Jews, may now be applied to all men in general (Isaiah 1:18; 55:1-7; Ezek. 18:21, 32; 33:11).
6) ) [The fact that] [t]he language of Christ to those to whom he spoke may also be thus applied (Matt. 11:28; John 7:37).
The above classes of passages show that this call of the gospel is made indiscriminately to all men. No differences of nation, or class, or condition; no question as to election, or non-election, nor as to the purpose to make it effectual, enters into this call. It is made to every one. Nothing is known to those who are to proclaim the gospel which can make its offer to one any more sincere than to another. Whatever differences men may make from personal feeling, or national sympathy, or local attachment, are not only not commanded by it, but are often inconsistent with it.
2. This offer of the gospel meets of itself with no success.
1) The testimony of all who have preached it has been that, without special influence of grace from God, the preaching has been in vain. The prayers made to God constantly for such aid furnish universal evidence of such convictions.
2) The same testimony is as universally given by those who have received the gospel. Each one ascribes his salvation to the special influences of God.
3) This also is the teaching of the Scriptures which declare this fact. Eph. 2:8 is only a specimen of the universal teaching, which will appear more fully elsewhere.
3. This failure is not due to any deficiency in the gospel.
1) None can doubt the fullness of the scheme of redemption contained.
2) None can question the facts as to personal sin and need of Christ which are made known.
3) None can deny the freeness with which it is offered.
4) No one can deny that he is one of those to whom it is offered.
5) All persons admit that God will give it to any who will forsake sin and strive to lead a new life trusting him for help.
6) Every one is convinced that he can turn away from all acts of sin and live the contrary life of holiness and obedience, if he will.
7) It is universally acknowledged that God is worthy to be believed in every statement he makes.
It is because of the above and kindred facts that our Lord says, [in] John 12:48, “The word that I spoke, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
4. The Scriptures teach us why this word is rejected. It is not from want of evidence, nor from intellectual doubt, but always because of something sinful, either in the heart or will.
Some of the reasons which the Scriptures thus give are presented in Hill’s Bible Readings, p. 99, as follows:
1) Pride, which may be national, Matt. 3:9; John 8:33; Acts 13:45; 17:5; 22:21, 22; intellectual, Matt. 11:25; John 9:39-41; Rom. 1: 21, 22; 1 Cor. 1:19-21; or social, John 7:48.
2) Self-righteousness (Mark 2:16; Luke 7:39; 18:10-14; Rom. 10:3).
3) Love of praise (John 5:44; 12:43).
4) Love of the world (2 Tim. 4:10; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15).
5) Love of money (Mark 10:17-24; Luke 16:13, 14; 1 Tim. 6:9, 10).
6) Cares of the world (Matt. 13:7-22; Luke 10:40).
7) Fear of man (John 7:13; 9:22; 12:42).
8) Worldly self-interest (Mark 5:16, 17; John 11:48).
9) Unwillingness to separate from impenitent friends (Luke 9:59-62).
10) Unwillingness to believe what they cannot understand (John 3:9; 6:52-60; Acts 17:32; 1 Cor. 2:14).
11) Unwillingness to have their sins exposed (John 3:19-20).
12) Unwillingness to submit to God’s authority (Luke 19:14; 20:9-18).
13) Prejudice against the messenger (Matt. 12:24; 13:57; John 1:46; 6:42; 7:52; 9:29).
14) Spiritual blindness (Matt. 13:15; 1 Cor. 2:14).
15) Unfaithfulness to the light which they had (John 12:36).
16) Waiting for a convenient season (Acts 24:25).
17) Frivolous excuses (Luke 14:18).
18) Lack of deep convictions (Matt. 13:5; 22:5).
19) Lack of earnestness (Luke 13:24).
20) Neglect of the Bible (Luke 24:25; John 5:39; 7:27; Acts 17:11-12).
21) Neglect of religious meetings (John 20:24).
22) Blindness to special opportunities (Luke 19:44).
23) Desire for special signs (Matt. 12:38, 39; 16:1-4; John 6:30; 1 Cor. 1:22).
24) Regard for human traditions (Matt. 15:9; Mark 2:23-28).
25) Insincerity (Matt. 15:7-8; 21:25-31; Acts 24:26).
26) A controversial spirit (Matt. 22:15-40).
27) A murmuring spirit (Matt. 25:24).
28) Having no desire for God (John 5:42; Rom. 1:28).
29) Hatred of God and of Christ (John 15:22-25).
30) Hatred of the truth (Acts 7:51-54; 2 Thess. 2:10-12; 2 Tim. 4:3).
31) The power of the devil (Matt. 13:4-19; John 8:44; 2 Cor. 4:3, 4).
5. The offer of the gospel thus referred to is denominated the External Call.
It is made to man through the senses, and consists in a declaration of the nature of salvation and an offer of it upon the conditions of faith and repentance. It is enforced by statements as to the sinful condition of man and his need of a Saviour; by the command of God to repent and believe; and by exhortations and threats, as inducements to the acceptance of salvation through it. It is spoken of in the Scriptures, as a call, in passages which have no reference to its becoming effectual, and in some which contrast it with the effectual calling of others (Prov. 1:24; Isa. 65:12; Matt. 9:13).
6. But, in contrast with this usage, is the more common one, by which the called in the Scriptures are those who are actually brought to the reception of the truth and participation in salvation.
1) In those passages which speak to church members of their calling as something different from the mere outward call (Rom. 8:30; 9:11-24; 1 Cor. 1:9-26; Gal. 1:6-15; 1 Thess. 2:12; 5:24; 2 Thess. 2:14; Eph. 1:18; 4:1-4, 5; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:9; 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:3-10).
2) Christian believers are spoken of as the called (Rom. 1:6; 8:28; 1 Cor. 1:24; Heb. 9:15; Rev. 17:14).
7. The effectual call of these is due to the purpose and act of God (Matt. 11:25; Rom. 8:29, 30; Rom. 9:15, 16; 1 Cor. 1:26-31).
8. The agent by which this is accomplished is the Holy Spirit by whose influences the saved are led to the exercise of repentance and faith (John 6:44, 46; 1 Thess. 1:5, 6).
9. Such an agency is necessary to overcome the moral condition of man as “blind” and “dead in trespasses and sins” (1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:1, 5).
10. In connection with this doctrine of the Effectual Calling of some, has arisen a question as to the sincerity of God in making the outward call to those who do not accept. It is said that the fact that it is made by him, knowing that men will not accept it without his efficient grace, and yet not purposing to give that grace, argues insincerity in the offer.
To this the following replies may be made:
1) If it be true that he does make the outward call, and does not give to all, but to some only, the efficient grace, the very character of God is an assurance of his sincerity. The real question here, then, is an inquiry into these two facts. If they be taught in the Scriptures, it is impious and blasphemous to doubt God’s sincerity.
2) This inquiry would never have arisen, had God only made the general offer and left all men to perish in its rejection. But, if so, his additional grace to some does not in any respect argue his insincerity in the partial grace thus shown to others.
3) The very nature of the gospel offer, as before stated, shows God’s sincerity. It is one which has all the inducements for its acceptance which one can imagine, and that acceptance depends simply upon the willingness of each man to take it.
4) Lest any should doubt the sincerity of God, he assures us of that fact in his word. Paul describes him, 1 Tim. 2:4, as one “who willeth that all men should be saved.” God himself says, Ezek. 33:10, 11: “And thou, son of man, say unto the house of Israel: Thus ye speak, saying, Our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we pine away in them; how then should we live? Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
Compare this with Heb. 6:13-18: “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And thus, having patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men swear by the greater; and in every dispute of theirs the oath is final for confirmation. Wherein God, being minded to show more abundantly unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, interposed with an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”
11. The attempt has been made by Lutheran theologians, and adopted by some others, to harmonize the sincerity of God’s External Call with the salvation of some only, by supposing that God gives equally to all his Spirit, which makes salvation effectual in some, but that those who reject the gospel resist the Spirit given to them, and thus refuse, while the others yield to it, and thus are saved. They say, therefore, that it is thus true that all have the Spirit equally, and yet that the salvation of the saved may be said to be by the grace of God.
The natural objection to this explanation is that not only is the salvation of men ascribed to grace, but to grace alone, to the exclusion of all merit and work. See Rom. 3:27 to 4:25; 9:11 and Gal. 2:16. But if some do not resist and others do, however much of grace there is, there is certainly some merit in those not resisting by which they can boast over others who resisted. Notice especially Rom. 4:16, “For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to grace; to the end that the promise may be sure to all the seed.”
Another objection is that the salvation of the saved is distinctly based in the word of God on the Election of some: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:4, 5, 6).