Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
by Doyle D. Dewberry
Text: Psalm 110:3
Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.
Psalm 110 is a Messianic Psalm which means it is referring to God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Therefore this is a verse showing one of the principles having to do with the Lord saving men. God is the one who makes willing. To accomplish this, He exerts His power to enable anyone to hear His word before he can respond to it. Effectually hearing the word of God is something man is not capable of doing in his lost, depraved condition. We are told over and again that man needs eyes of seeing, and ears of hearing.
The Effectual Call (some refer to as "Efficacious Grace", others "Irresistible Grace"), being one of the doctrines of grace, naturally follows Total Depravity, where man is said to be dead (spiritually), and thus can not receive the things of the Spirit of God. Man has need of Divine quickening before he can respond to any call that is made. It follows the doctrine of Unconditional Election of God, and so if man has no ability to save himself, that he has not the inherent power to respond even in faith, then he has need of God. The sinner is in the hands and mercy of God. If he has no ability within himself, then man would not be able to persuade him though he preach to him a millennium of years. He must first have power acting within him from God before he can hear. The scriptures tell of a number elected from before the foundation of world, chosen by God.
We then come to our next logical step, and that has to do with the death of Christ upon the cross. We say He died for those that God has chosen, which is for no more or no less than the elect. Now the question is, how shall these who are the elect respond so that they might attain the salvation God has promised to His people? What makes the difference when men preach the gospel, the same message in content, to all men, and some respond and some do not? The preacher calls unto men to come to Christ, some come and some do not come. We say the difference is God, that He is the one who effectually calls since His call is inward and not outward as man's call.
I am not confessional nor credal, but most define the Effectual Call in the following manner.
All those whom God hath predestinated 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 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 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 as they come most freely being made willing by His grace." Westminister Confession.
We intend to show that the Bible teaches there to be two calls, one by man, and one by God. Man's call is ineffectual of itself needing the call of God to be effectual. God's call is effectual because of God's power to enable man through regeneration and new birth, and giving him the faith necessary for salvation. This call whereby God brings the elect to Himself through an experience of grace is certainly testified unto in the scriptures. All those who are thus called come to the Lord. "Thy people shall be made willing in the day of thy power.." And John said this in his gospel, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I shall in no wise cast out John 6:35.
"The merits of Christ's obedience and suffering are sufficient for, adapted to, and freely offered to all men. The question then arises, Why is one saved, and another lost? What causes some men to repent and believe, while others, with the same external privileges, reject the Gospel and continue in impenitence and unbelief? (Those who see sovereign grace) say that it is God who makes this difference, that He efficaciously persuades some to come to Him; but (those who hold to man possessing spiritual ability) ascribe it to the men themselves."
THREE (3) SCRIPTURAL AREAS REVEALING THE EFFECTUAL CALL:
I --- BY DIRECT PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE:
A. -- 1 CORINTHIANS 1:22-24
Paul indicates when you preach to the Jews, they require a sign, and the Greeks wisdom, and when you preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews it is a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness. At this point it is only man's call, the general, or outward call, as it is being rejected by those without the ability to spiritually hear and believe. We are told, But the natural (soulish) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned 1 Cor 2:14.
In the following verse, however, we can see why there are those who receive the word, But unto THEM WHICH ARE CALLED, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God V 24. With regeneration and the effectual call, the power of God is able to overcome the stumblingblock, and dismisses human wisdom as the person sees true wisdom is God's wisdom.
What made the difference? It does not take a great theologian to see that it was the call of God! His call turns the unbelieving man completely around, and for it, God receives the glory. For it is writtten, That no flesh should glory in his presence 1 Cor 1:29, and further, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord 1 Cor 1:31.
The effectual call of God in salvation, through regeneration, changes man from his inability to ability, and given the gift of faith, believing, he leaves his old condition unto a new one. Peter said, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of HIM WHO HATH CALLED YOU out of darkness into his marvelous light 1 Pet 2:9.
B -- ACTS 2:37-41
Peter, preaching on the day of Pentecost, had this reaction. His hearers were pricked in their heart V 37. This word means literally to pierce or stab. The men were asking what they could do, and Peter told them to repent and be baptized every one .. in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ .. ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost V 38. They were told then, "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, EVEN AS MANY AS THE LORD OUR GOD SHALL CALL V 39.
Peter's preaching was a demonstration of the outward call, but he stated the final results would be according to the effectual or inward call of God. His hearers were earlier said to be a multitude, but we are told in verse 41, .. and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. These were the ones, therefore, to whom the effectual call was extended. It says first they gladly received the word indicating the verity of our text, Thy people shall be made willing in the day of thy power. Jesus told the disciples concerning their preaching as He sent them out, ..take no thought for what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you Matt. 10:19-20. Man's message is from the Lord, and the success is also of the Lord.
C -- MATTHEW 22:1-14
Jesus told the parable of a king who had prepared a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding. These guests were those the king had invited to the marriage. We are told, however, that they would not come. The servants were doing the bidding, and people would make excuses, refusing to come. Finally, the servants were sent to bid those they encountered to the feast, and the wedding was furnished with guests. One came without proper dress, and was cast out, and we are told, "..many are called, but few are chosen V 14.
It may appear that the call can be disobeyed, but here we have to see who is doing the calling. It was the servants, not the king. It was a picture of the outward call, not the inward. The many called were called by man's call, while the few chosen are those who receive the effectual call.
II -- BY THE EXAMPLES OF TEACHINGS OF SALVATION:
A --- 1 THESSALONIANS 2:12-13
Paul admonishes the Christians that they should walk worthy of GOD, WHO HATH CALLED YOU unto his kingdom and glory V 12. God called, but how was this call accomplished? We are told first they heard the word that Paul had preached but they, ..received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which EFFECTUALLY WORKETH ALSO IN you that believe V 13. Paul had made the outward call, but God had made the effectual call. The words effectually .. worketh in comes from one Greek word, evergew. We get the word "energy" from it, and it has the idea of working within. It is a combination word of ev, in, and ergew, to work. It explains how the Christians at Thessalonica were called unto salvation.
B --- 2 THESSALONIANS 2:13-14
Paul thanks God for the brethren, because it was God who had chosen them from the beginning. It was through sanctification (a setting apart), and belief of the truth (the gift of faith). He then adds, Whereunto HE CALLED YOU by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ V 14. Remember, it was Paul who preached the gospel, the outward call, but they had been called by God, the inward call. The outward call cannot work without the other. Paul is explaining this in the teaching of how salvation comes to the elect. The Thessalonian Christians had been suffering much persecution, and Paul begins his first epistle with, Knowing, brethren, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance 1 Thess 1:4-5.
C -- 2 TIMOTHY 1:9
Paul reminds Timothy that God has saved us, .. and CALLED US with an holy calling.. He adds that this was not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began. In the following verse he makes mention of the gospel, so again we can see the two calls. This verse. however, gives the basis for His calling and it was not anything we have done, but, according to his own purpose and grace.. We are told by Paul again, For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them WHO ARE THE CALLED according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he did also predestinate .. THEM HE ALSO CALLED Rom 8:28-30.
III -- BY DEMONSTRATIONS OF SALVATION:
A --- John 11 - Lazarus
When Lazarus died and had been in the tomb for four days, it was said of him, he stinketh; He was corrupting. He pictures the condition of man who is dead in trespasses and sins, who is corrupt by nature. Lazarus had no ability to save himself, and Jesus came to Lazarus to raise him from the dead. Lazarus was dead and thus could not believe nor could he come to Christ. Jesus did not command that he rise from the dead, but said, Lazarus, come forth. Now this is a picture of effectually calling. Remember, Lazarus was dead, but we know that he was not dead when Jesus called him. Lazarus first had to be quickened from the dead so that he could hear the call, and having heard, Lazarus came forth. Jesus had called him by name.
"God's power was primary, his (Lazarus) was secondary, and would never been exerted except in response to the divine. It is in this manner that every redeemed soul is brought from spiritual death to spiritual life. And just as the dead Lazarus was first called back into life and then breathed and ate, so the soul dead in sin is first transferred to spiritual life and then exercises faith and repentance and does good works." (L Boettner)
B -- Luke 19 - Zacchaeus
Zacchaeus heard about Jesus, and went to see him as he was passing by. Being small of stature, he climbed up into a tree to see Him more clearly. He thought he was seeking Jesus, but Jesus was seeking him. We are told he looked up and saw him in the tree and said, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house V 5. Jesus told him salvation had come to his house, and concludes with, For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost V 9-10. Jesus had called him by name.
C -- Acts 9 - The Apostle Paul
We are told that Saul (later the Apostle Paul) was committing all kinds of atrocities against the disciples, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against them. As he journeyed near Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly shined around about him. He fell to earth and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? V 4. The men with him heard a voice, but saw no man. Saul asked who he was, and he was told, I am Jesus .. V 5. Saul asked what the Lord wanted him to do, and he was told a man would be sent, and he would tell him what he must do. Jesus had called him by name.
D. John 10 - The Good Shepherd and the sheep
In this parable given by the Lord Himself, Jesus tells the Pharisees He is the Good Shepherd who would give His life for the sheep. He refers to future sheep which He said, He must bring, And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and THEY SHALL HEAR MY VOICE; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd John 10:16.
Consider what our Lord had said earlier about hearing His voice, ..He that HEARETH MY WORD, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. In the effectual call, God's people are given ears of hearing. The following verse tells us, ..The hour is coming, AND NOW IS, when the dead shall HEAR THE VOICE of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live John 5:24-25. Verse 25 is a reference to the effectual call, and we are told in verse 28, the same effectual call will be made to those in the grave.
The effectual call is taught by direct scripture. It is a Bible term. We can see it in the examples taught concerning salvation, and it is also demonstrated when Lazarus was raised from the dead, when Zacchaeus was found in the sycomore tree, where Jesus called him. And what of Saul who was saved on the road to Damascus? It is made to Christ's sheep who are called unto salvation. In all the demonstrations, Jesus called his hearers by name. It was Lazarus come forth; it was Zacchaeus come down; it was Saul, why persecutest thou me? The sheep are called by name (John 10:3).
Man makes an external call, but it is not effectual unless God first quickens. He then, working inwardly, calls His people with an effectual call.
If you are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ; if you have been born from above; if you are assured of your salvation, then know this, you have been called, and that effectually by our great God. It is an irresistable call because, ..it is God who WORKS IN YOU (i.e., effectually) both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Phil 2:14). Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17). Spurgeon said this about our text:
God's people are a willing people. Adam Clarke says, "This verse has been woefully perverted. It has been supposed to point out the irresistible operation of the grace of God on the souls of the elect, thereby making them willing to receive Christ as their Saviour." A doctrine which he utterly discards. Well, my dear Adam Clarke, we are extremely obliged to you for your remark, but at the same time we think that the text has NOT been "woefully perverted." We believe that the text has been very properly used to show that GOD MAKES MEN WILLING. For if we read our Bibles rightly, we understand that men, by nature, are not willing, for there is a text you are extremely fond of which we do not think belongs to you, and which says, Ye will not come unto Me that ye might have life. And there is another text we should like to put you and your brethren in mind of, No man can come unto Me except the Father which has sent Me, draw him. If you would remember that, we think, even though the text does not teach it, you might at least have some respect for the doctrine; but it says, God's people shall be willing in the day of God's power; and if we read it as plain English people, we look upon it as a promise that God will produce a people who shall be willing enough in the day of His power, and from the fact that no man is willing by nature, we infer from this text that there must be A WORK OF HIS GRACE MAKING MEN WILLING in the day of God's power.
Brethren, give diligence to make YOUR CALLING and ELECTION SURE 2 Pet 1:10.
Faithful is HE THAT CALLETH YOU, who also will do it 1 Thess. 5:24.
Jude .. to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, AND CALLED Jude 1:1.
Doyle Dewberry, formerly of Alameda, California, is a retired Pastor and author of Sovereign Grace Baptist Proclaimer, Setting Forth The Doctrines of Grace In Salvation. He can be reached by email at sovereigngrace at 5star-living dot com.