The Effectual Call

By Mike Ratliff

1After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: c “Fear not, Abram, I am d your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue [1] childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and e a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; f your very own son [2] shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and g number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, h “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And i he believed the Lord, and j he counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6 ESV)

In Genesis 15:1-6 (above), God gives us through His prophet Moses probably one of the most important truths found in His Word. This truth is all wrapped up in God’s Sovereignty. In v1 we read that through a vision given to him by God, Abram learns that God is his shield and that he will receive a great reward. In vv2-3 we witness Abram’s fear and his plea for an heir from his own loins. His focus is temporal, but he recognizes that unless God ordains it, there will be no child of his own. Here we see that Abram is no different than us. When he is in control then he is dominated by fear and unbelief. However, in vv4-5 God gently deals with Abram’s unbelief and fear by assuring him that he would indeed have a son and that his descendants would be innumerable. From this we learn that God’s promises are eternally focused even if they have temporal elements. We are called to believe based on His character not our circumstances. In these two verses, we have God’s effectual call of Abram. In v6 we read that Abram believed the Lord, and God counted it to him as righteousness. As a result of every effectual call by God, the one called by God believes Him and as a result He justifies them. They are saved by grace through the saving faith that accompanies every effectual call. 

However, Christians are like Abraham in another way. We are living in between the promise and the fulfillment just as He was. Therefore, we live in an environment that is unredeemed and hostile to God’s truth and especially the genuine gospel. We struggle with becoming too focused on the temporal and this results in us becoming all bound up in fear and unbelief. When we attempt to draw closer to God and become the Christians we are called to be, we are attacked and accused by the enemy who attempts to make us believe that we are not saved by grace through faith like Abram, but by our faithfulness instead. If we listen to this then we can become quite discouraged because we are far from perfect. However, God is good to those whom He has called.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For b we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but c the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And d he who searches hearts knows what is e the mind of the Spirit, because [6] the Spirit f intercedes for the saints g according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together h for good, [7] for i those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he j foreknew he also k predestined l to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be m the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also n justified, and those whom he justified he also o glorified. (Romans 8:26-30 ESV)

29οτι ους προεγνω και προωρισεν συμμορφους της εικονος του υιου αυτου εις το ειναι αυτον πρωτοτοκον εν πολλοις αδελφοις  30ους δε προωρισεν τουτους και εκαλεσεν και ους εκαλεσεν τουτους και εδικαιωσεν ους δε εδικαιωσεν τουτους και εδοξασεν (Romans 8:29-30 WHNU)

In vv29-30 of Romans 8 we have the truth of our calling. We see that all those whom God has effectually called were foreknown (προεγνω) by Him. This describes God choosing a people for Himself in advance. He choose them then predestined (προωρισεν) them to be conformed to the image of His Son. This word, προωρισεν, describes the action of determining that those foreknown will be conformed to the image of the Son. However, we must also look a v30 from which we learn that our salvation is something not left to chance. Also, we learn what God does to conform us to the image of the Son. He makes sure that they believe through the effectual call. All those called are justified by faith. All those who are justified are glorified, which is the fulfillment of the promise. This should give us comfort my brethren not divide us. Also, we learn that there is a specific change in all those who are truly called by God.

“Whom He did predestinate, them He also called.”-Romans 8:30

In the second epistle to Timothy, first chapter, and ninth verse, are these words-“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling.” Now, here is a touchstone by which we may try our calling. It is “an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace.” This calling forbids all trust in our own doings, and conducts us to Christ alone for salvation, but it afterwards purges us from dead works to serve the living and true God. As He that hath called you is holy, so must you be holy. If you are living in sin, you are not called, but if you are truly Christ’s, you can say, “Nothing pains me so much as sin; I desire to be rid of it; Lord, help me to be holy.” Is this the panting of thy heart? Is this the tenor of thy life towards God, and His divine will? Again, in Philippians, 3:13, 14, we are told of “The high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Is then your calling a high calling? Has it ennobled your heart, and set it upon heavenly things? Has it elevated your hopes, your tastes, your desires? Has it upraised the constant tenor of your life, so that you spend it with God and for God? Another test we find in Hebrews 3:1-“Partakers of the heavenly calling.” Heavenly calling means a call from heaven. If man alone call thee, thou art uncalled. Is thy calling of God? Is it a call to heaven as well as from heaven? Unless thou art a stranger here, and heaven thy home, thou hast not been called with a heavenly calling; for those who have been so called, declare that they look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God, and they themselves are strangers and pilgrims upon the earth. Is thy calling thus holy, high, heavenly? Then, beloved, thou hast been called of God, for such is the calling wherewith God doth call His people. – C.H. Spurgeon from Spurgeon’s Evening by Evening for October 11.

My brethren, all in Christ are so according to God’s grace not according to anything they have done (Ephesians 2:8,9). Just like Abram, we are justified (declared righteous) by God because we have believed Him in the promise of the Son. We believe because we have been effectually called with a holy call according to the purposes of God, not the purposes of any man. Also, our righteousness before God is that of His Son, not ours.

Our enemy will attempt to accuse us of all sorts of things in order to discourage us in an attack on the conscience. If he can damage it then we become wounded warriors in the good fight. Therefore, it is imperative that we understand that we are in Christ according to the work of God and remain in Him because He preserves us in the Son. Therefore, when we are accused of being not fit to be called Christians because of our weaknesses in the flesh, we should simply agree with the accuser, but then turn to our Lord as we come boldly to the throne of grace in repentance. We will never be perfect in this time between the promise and the fulfillment, but there is a time coming, our glorification, when we will be finally conformed unto the image of the Son in our character. Now, we must understand that we are called to walk the narrow path to the Celestial City, which means we are called to be sold-out disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ in an environment designed to test and try us in the fires of sanctification. This environment is totally hostile to God and His truth and hates the Gospel, that is, the real Gospel not the easy-beleivism one that never mentions sin and the utter spiritual bankruptcy of all outside of His grace.

Soli Deo Gloria!

8 thoughts on “The Effectual Call

  1. Good morning, Mike. This article appeared after our fellowship group met last night to discuss 1Pet 1:13-16.
    We all left with a deep desire for personal holiness.

    You are only the second person that I have heard in 20 years say that when the enemy accuses us before God, we should simply agree with him and then take it to the Lord’s throne in repentance. Amen! Too often we seem to feel the need to “bind” him, or to deny the truth of the accusation, which only leaves us in our sin. Thank you for stating the simple truth, which should lead us to the cross for forgiveness.

    It’s the start of a new week, and these words have encouraged me to walk in holiness and truth!!!!

    God bless.

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  2. Hi Mike,
    Who doesn’t, as a parent, forgive their child a wrong and even more so when the child is tearful and repentant and wants the relationship to be right again? So is our Father quick to forgive us as we are humbly repentant before Him. The enemy does not want us to remember this truth and so will attempt to condemn us. I pray that the Holy spirit would shout out…”Forgiven!” every time the enemy tries to cause us to despair.
    As we delight in His Word and love His truth He will make us holy and will show us our path. May our Lord keep His face ever before us so we may live each moment looking at our circumstances, unexpected trials, and those that hurt us through His eyes. Only He can do that for us and He will.
    God bless you today!

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  3. This goes right along with where we currently are in Romans (same verses, even – yesterday was Part 3 – Justification). Pretty neat! Our verse for last week was I John 1:9. HE is not only faithful, but also *just* to forgive our sins (if we confess them) – because of what Christ has done in our stead. If it were dependent upon us or anything we could do (or not do), we certainly would have no hope.

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  4. This is quite timely, and I really needed to hear this…too many times I get discouraged by the enemy’s accusations against me…whether it be something from my past, or whatever…and someone once told me that if the enemy tries to remind you of your past, just remind him of his future…

    At any rate, wonderful article, and excellent exhortation, as always!!

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