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February 4, 2018 Effectual Grace

 

Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. (I Cor 12:3, ESV)

 

            For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. (John 5:21, ESV)

 

When God extends his grace to a person in order to bring them to his Son, is it always effective? Does God’s grace accomplish what it is intended to accomplish? There are other expressions of God’s grace. Even something as simple as a meal is an expression of God’s grace. Some expressions of God’s grace an be rejected. However, I am speaking only of God’s grace in salvation. Jesus and the apostles affirmed that God’s grace always brings about its desired effect with respect to bringing spiritually dead persons to life.

 

The good news of salvation from sin and its consequences goes out to everyone who either hears or reads it. It invites all people without distinction to drink freely of the water of life and live. It promises salvation to all who will repent and believe. This is known as the outward call of the gospel. But we have recently seen that man has been radically corrupted. His mind, emotion, and will are opposed to God and the Lord Jesus. His mind thinks thoughts that are contrary to God’s thoughts. His emotional outlook is such that he desires things that are sinful and he has little or no desire for truly good things. His human will makes bad choices. His will is so depraved that the unregenerate person will never choose Christ because, in the core of their being, they despise God and love sin. Therefore, the lost are, in themselves, unable and unwilling to forsake their evil ways and turn to Christ for mercy. Left to themselves, the unregenerate will never respond to a call for repentance and faith.

 

The outward call of the gospel can be rejected and often is. But there is an inward call upon the heart that is effective. In I Cor 12:3 we see that no one is able to say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. Man, left to himself, does not have the ability to believe that Jesus is Lord because he loves his sin more than Jesus. But the Holy Spirit comes to the elect at some point in time and stirs up a desire for Jesus in their hearts and they are then able to say, “Jesus is Lord!” This is the inward call of God and it is an effectual call. It always accomplishes what it is intended to do and that is to bring life to spiritually dead persons!

 

The Scriptures have much to say about this calling. In Romans 1, as Paul addresses the Roman believers, he writes in verse 6:

 

“…including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,”

 

Paul is not writing to just any dwellers in Rome. He is wiring to those who already belong to Jesus Christ. They belong to Jesus Christ because they were called by God to be. This is the inward call.

 

In Romans 8 we have what has come to be known as the “golden chain” because each designation in the series is a link that cannot be separated from the others. The first link leads to the second, then the third, and then the final link – glorification.

 

            And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29             For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30     And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. [1]

 

In verse 30 we see that those whom he predestined he called. Is this the outward call or the inward call? It must be the inward call because those whom he called he justified. Not all who receive the outward call are justified. Only those who receive the inward call are justified. This is a blessed reality! All those whom God calls he justifies! To be called is to be justified! Hallelujah! It depends on God’s calling not on my fallen, depraved human will!

 

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23           in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24             even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? [2]

 

There are certain ones, vessels of mercy, who have been prepared beforehand for glory! This is our destiny! Glory! Verse 24 shows us that these vessels of mercy are those whom God has called.

 

This call of God creates spiritual life within us. When God call something into being , it comes into being. I like the way R C Sproul has characterized this powerful, life-giving, effective call of God to His elect.

 

The inward call of God is as powerful and effective as his call to create the world. God did not invite the world into existence. By divine mandate he called out, “Let there be light!” And there was light. It could not have been otherwise. The light had to begin to shine. Could Lazarus have stayed in the tomb when Jesus called him out?[3]

 

When you consider this matter, it could not be otherwise. Especially when one understands that man has no ability to choose Christ. John the Baptist said,

 

“A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” [4]

 

There is not one thing that a person can receive, that includes choosing Christ, unless God gives it.

 

The truth of God’s effectual call, an expression of his effectual grace, is well said in that great creedal confession known as The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. This Confession, besides being an accurate and eloquent summary of Scriptural truth, has copious citations from the Bible proving its correctness. Here is how the Confession states this truth:

 

Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, 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.[5]

 

In this one paragraph thirteen Scriptural proofs are provided.[6]

 

The truth of effectual grace is established by the Holy Scriptures. It is buttressed by the Baptist Confession of Faith. And, it is further supported by the “prince of Preachers,” the epithet given to the great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, who many consider the greatest preacher after the completion of the Scriptures.

 

Here is what he has to say about himself:

 

“I feel that I should have been a very king of sinners, if God had let me alone. I cannot understand the reason why I am saved, except upon the ground that God would have it so. I cannot, if I look ever so earnestly, discover any kind of reason in myself why I should be a partaker of divine grace. If I am not at this moment without Christ, it is only because Christ Jesus would have his will with me, and that will was that I should be with Him where He is, and should share his glory.”[7]

 

And,

 

“But, sure I am, I can say now, speaking on behalf of myself, ‘He only is my salvation.’ It was he who turned my heart, and brought me down on my knees before Him.”[8]

 

These sentiments of Spurgeon’s are mine exactly. I could express my own thoughts on this matter, regarding myself, no better than his very words. I have found that those who are keenly aware of their own condition and inability prior to being made alive have similar thoughts.

 

Contrary to Spurgeon, some who wish to preserve the golden calf of human autonomy believe that their coming to Christ is partly due to themselves. What is it about them that makes them choose Christ and others not? There are only two possible answers. Either they are smarter than other people or they are better than other people. There can be no other explanation…if it partly depends upon them. Their conscience will seldom allow them to admit this. They might say, “I’m not smarter. I just recognized my sin more than others.” Why did you recognize your sin and other did not? It must be because you are smarter! “No, no,” they might reply, “I am not smarter. I just had a little more humility to see my condition and my need.” Well, humility is better than not having humility. Right? So, if a person says that they simply had “a little more humility” then this is the same as saying that they were a little better than those who did not repent and have faith. There is no escape. Either it is all of God’s grace or you are either a little smarter or a little better than the one who does not have faith.

 

What are the implications of this beloved doctrine? If you are a child of God, this informs you that Christ has brought you out of death and into life with no help from you. It was all His doing. As Jesus, in our passage from the gospel of John, said,

 

            For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. (John 5:21, ESV)

 

It was the Son who willed to give you life! He willed it and He effected it! It was neither your will nor your efforts. Your will, of course, came along to choose Him; but only because He chose you first. Only because He willed to give you life. Only because His grace towards you is efficacious. To say His grace towards you is efficacious is another way of saying that His favor towards you will inevitably, certainly, assuredly, and invincibly accomplish its intended purpose – the salvation of your soul!

 

You were an enemy of God, dead in your sins, and the death of Christ was applied to you, reconciling you to the Father. How much more, now that you belong to Him, will you be saved by His life!

 

We still need to be saved from the world, from our own flesh, and from the powers of darkness. Christ’s life will do that. Efficacious grace teaches us that we will be saved from these three things.

 

If you have not yet come to Christ for salvation this beloved doctrine tells you that your sense of inability is not misplaced. God is not asking you to muster strength because, until one belongs to Christ, they have none. Is your lack of motivation and lack of strength provided for in the God’s salvation? It is. The Lord’s work begins where you are. When the good Samaritan found the traveller lying wounded and half dead, he did not ask him to rise, mount the donkey, and ride to the inn.  No. “He came where he was” and ministered to him, and lifted him upon the beast and took him to the inn. This is the way the Lord Jesus deals with all the elect in their low and wretched condition.

 

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6, NKJV)

 

This verse does not say, “when we were somewhat weak Christ died for us.” It doesn’t say, “when we had only a little strength Christ died for us.” It says when we were “without strength!”

 

Do you believe that you are without strength and that you are ungodly? If you do then your inability will disappear and you will be infused with life. You will love Jesus and forsake sin. Believe now and see the salvation of our God!

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:28–30). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 9:22–24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Sproul, R C, Chosen by God, (Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, IL; 1986) 95-96.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 3:27). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Chapter 10, paragraph 1

[6] Rom 8:30; 11:7, Eph 1:10, 11, II Thes 2:13, 14, Eph 2:1-6, Acts 26:18, Eph 1:17, 18, Ezek 26:36, Deut. 30:6, Ezek 36:27, Eph 1:19, Psalm 110:3, Cant 1:4.

[7] C.H. Spurgeon, Autobiography: Volume 1, The Early Years: 1834-1859. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1962, pp 163-75; cited in Steele & Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism, P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 1963; p 171.

[8] Ibid.