"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” -- Romans 8:28
There are several titles given to God’s saints which appear to be specifically designed to display the fact that they are the objects and beneficiaries of God’s peculiar, distinguishing, discriminating, sovereign grace and love in Christ. Believers are called “the elect,” “the redeemed of the Lord,” and “the called.”
Those who are regenerated, those who are born of God, those who believe on and trust the Lord Jesus Christ are given this peculiar, distinct title, “the called,” to distinguish us from those who are not called. This is clearly the distinction made in Romans 8:28.
Obviously, (at least it is obvious to anyone whose brain has not been pickled by the vinegar of free will religion), the call spoken of here is not the outward, external, general call of the gospel, but the internal, effectual, irresistible call of God the Holy Spirit, by which we have been separated and distinguished from all other people. John Gill describes this effectual, irresistible call of grace, which comes to chosen, redeemed sinners by the sovereign power of God the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel, as follows.
“Christ stands in the gospel-ministry, at the door of men’s hearts, and knocks and calls. Having the key of the house of David, he opens the heart by the power of his grace, and lets himself in. In this way, and by this means, the Spirit and his graces are received. Men are called both to grace and glory by the gospel.”
Those who are the called are called according to the sovereign will and purpose of God. Sinners are not called to life and faith in Christ because of their will, but because of God’s will. We were not given life and faith in Christ because of what we did, or what we might do, but by what God did for us in eternity and in us in time. That which distinguishes God’s elect from other people is the distinguishing grace and purpose of God. What could dead sinners ever do to attract God’s attention and get him to call them?
Do you see how utterly absurd free will religion is? It is the religion of spiritual insanity. It was not our choice of God that caused him to call us, but his choice of us. "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Rom. 8:28; 9:16-18).
Salvation is not man’s work. Salvation is not partially man’s work and partially God’s work. Salvation is not a co-operative effort between God and men. Salvation is God’s work alone. “Salvation is of the Lord!”
God almighty has, in his eternal purpose, determined the particular people whom he will call by his grace. He determined from eternity the time when he will call them; for as there is a time for every purpose, so there is a time for the calling of God’s elect. It is called “the time of love” (Ezek. 16:8). Moreover, our great God determined from eternity the very place where his chosen ones shall be called. And he fixed from eternity the very means and circumstances of their calling, all according to his divine purpose.
Every aspect of our calling shows clearly that the whole thing is the result of the sovereign will and pleasure of God, who does all things after the counsel of his own will. Our wills had nothing to do with it. Our works contributed nothing to it.
“‘Tis not that I did choose Thee, For, Lord, that could not be.
This heart would still refuse Thee, Hadst Thou not chosen
My heart owns none before Thee, For Thy rich grace I thirst,
This knowing - If I love Thee Thou must have loved me first!”
Those who are the called are called by the sovereign, irresistible grace of God. The great, impulsive, moving cause of the effectual call is the grace of God. The Apostle Paul describes the call of God as a call of grace, free, sovereign, undeserved, distinguishing grace. With him, every child of God gladly confesses, “By the grace of God I am what I am,” and that we now believe because “God, who separated me from, my mother’s womb, called me by his grace” (1 Cor. 15:10; Gal. 1:15).
God, as the God of all grace, calls his elect to grace and glory by Christ. The infinite, super abundance of his grace in Christ is displayed to chosen, redeemed sinners in this call. Indeed, the first open display of his grace, the first discovery of his love is made to God’s elect in this call of grace. Then, seeing something of the infinite grace and love of God in Christ, by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, we were “caused,” compelled, and made willing to believe on the Son of God unto life everlasting (Ps. 65:4; 110:3) by the loving kindness of Christ, as the fruit and evidence of God’s everlasting love for us. Therefore the time of calling, is called a time of love (Jer. 31:3; Ezek. 16:8; Zech. 12:10).
The fact that this call is given to some and not to others demonstrates it is the effect of God’s sovereign, distinguishing grace, and of his good will. It is grace alone that distinguishes the believer from the unbeliever; and every believer knows it (1 Cor. 4:7). The fact that this call, as spoken of and illustrated in Holy Scripture always results in the one called having eternal life and faith in Christ, demonstrates the efficacy and irresistibility of it. “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest and causest to approach unto thee.””
Those who are the called are the called of Jesus Christ. This is what we are told in Romans 1:6 and 2 Timothy 1:9-10. -- "Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ." -- "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."
Believers are described as “the called of Jesus Christ,” because the Holy Spirit calls those who were redeemed by Christ, to whom he is sent by Christ. This calling is ours only “in Christ,” in whom are hid all the treasures of God and by whom alone we receive all the blessings of his grace.
Let us never fail to observe the fact that the triune God has arranged everything in the whole scheme of salvation and grace to give all the glory to Christ, our Mediator and Savior. Even the calling of grace was “given us in him before the world began.” All grace is in Christ, comes to us from Christ, and gives all glory to Christ (Ps. 115:1).
“The Called” are called according to the purpose of God, by the grace of God, in the Son of God; but who are “the called”? We are never left to guess about such things as this. These things are plainly revealed in the Word of God. Let’s see what the Book of God says. I will not even comment on this, lest any who read these pages imagine I have twisted the Scriptures to suit our doctrine. Let the Word of God stand alone. It needs no defense from me, or any other man. Read what the Book of God says and rejoice in it.
Those who are “the called” are those who were chosen and predestinated unto salvation in Christ before the world began (Rom. 8:28-31; 9:23-24). "And 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 also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" -- God will "make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles." The objects of election and effectual calling are the same. Those who were chosen in eternity are called in time; and those who are called in time were chosen in eternity.
Those who are “the called” are those who are in Christ (Jude 1). -- "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called." We were from eternity in his hands as our Surety, in his loins as our Representative, in his care as our Shepherd, and in his heart as our Husband.
Those who are “the called” are those who were redeemed and purchased by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary. Throughout the Word of God, election, redemption, and effectual calling are works of grace performed for the same people. We were chosen because God loved us, redeemed because God the Father chose us, and called by the Holy Spirit because the Father chose us, and the Son redeemed us. Is this, or is it not the teaching of Holy Scripture? Read Isaiah 43:1 and Zechariah 10:8, and see for yourself. "But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine." -- "I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them."
Those who are “the called” are those who appear the most unlikely to be called (Matt. 11:25; 1 Cor. 1:26; James 2:5). Publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God, being called of God, while scribes and Pharisees sit around and debate about who is holiest, which church is the true church, where heaven is, when the Lord is going to come again, whether Adam had a navel, or where Cain got his wife! Sinners, real sinners, guilty, helpless, doomed, damned, ungodly, abominable, filthy sinners, are interested in just one thing -- mercy! The people who need mercy, publicans and harlots, not good, religious people, are those who are “the called.”
The testimony of Holy Scripture is crystal clear. -- "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." -- "Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called." -- "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?"
Those who are “the called” are those who ultimately are glorified with Christ (Rom. 8:30). – “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also called.” Those who are irresistibly called are infallibly kept by the grace of God and shall be eternally glorified with Christ. After all, he has called us to glory and honor!
Those who are “the called” are all who trust the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:16; Col. 2:12; Phil. 1:29). If any sinner calls on Christ in faith, it is because he has been called by the effectual, irresistible power and grace of God the Holy Spirit.
“Am I called? And can it be! Has my Savior chosen me?
Guilty wretched as I am, Has He named my worthless name?
Vilest of the vile am I, Dare I raise my hopes so high?
Am I called? I dare not stay, May not, must not disobey;
Here I lay me at Thy feet, Clinging to the mercy-seat:
Thine I am, and Thine alone; Lord with me Thy will be done.
Am I called? What shall I bring, As an offering to my King?
Poor, and blind, and naked I, Trembling at Thy footstool lie;
Nought but sin I call my own, Nor for sin can sin atone.
Am I called? An heir of God! Washed, redeemed by precious blood!
Father, lead me in Thy hand, Guide me to that better land
Where my soul shall be at rest, Pillowed on my Savior’s breast.”