Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Effectual Call of God

Q. 31: What is effectual calling?
Answer: Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel. (WSC)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism has already stated that the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ by working faith in us. It goes on in this question to explain how the Spirit works faith in us in our effectual calling. Effectual calling is distinguished from ineffectual calling. Ineffectual calling is where the free call of the gospel is proclaimed without producing an effect. Effectual calling is the call of God through the gospel which produces a change in the person such that the person chooses to receive what is freely offered. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit which he uses to pierce the soul and heart of man (Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12). In effectual calling, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, the imperishable seed by which we are born again (1 Cor. 1:18, Rom. 1:16, 1 Peter 1:23).

In our effectual calling, the Spirit persuades and enables us to embrace Christ. In the end, we choose to trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior with a free will and convinced mind. But we do this as a consequence of the Spirit’s work. He works upon our minds and our wills. Both need to be renewed for us to receive Christ.

The Holy Spirit works on our minds by convincing us of the truth about our fallen estate (sin and misery) and enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, thereby persuading us to embrace Christ. He pricks our hearts with a true sense of our sin and misery and builds them up with an understanding of the gospel. Apart from the Spirit, we tend to minimize our fallen condition and trust in false hopes. In our fallen condition we suppress the truth and are spiritually blind to the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4, 1 Cor. 2:14, Rom. 1:18). But with the Spirit of the Lord, we are freed of this blindness and with an unveiled face behold the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:14-18). “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

The Holy Spirit works on our wills by renewing them, enabling us to embrace Christ. Apart from the Spirit, our wills are corrupt, in rebellion against God, but this is changed when the Spirit comes to dwell in us (Rom. 8:7-9). The Spirit gives us a new heart and a new spirit, so that we begin to be disposed unto faith and obedience (Ezek. 36:26-27). All those and only those whom God draws in this way will freely come to Christ (John 6:44). Notice that God does not destroy man’s will, but renews it. Having a strong will is bad when it is opposed to God, but not when it is aligned with his will. In his work of redemption, God does not create people with broken wills, grudgingly doing the inevitable, but people who offer themselves to Christ freely, who force their way into the kingdom of God, and who run in the way of his commandments (Luke 16:16, Ps. 110:3, 119:32).

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