"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
In these two verses, God the Holy Spirit tells us that the only reason anyone believes the gospel, the only reason any fallen, depraved child of Adam worships our great and glorious, almighty, sovereign God, rather than a stump or a frog, the only reason any are not deceived with the rest of the world by the idolatrous, free-will, works religion of antichrist is the fact that they have been chosen by God the Father, redeemed by God the Son, and called by God the Holy Spirit. Let us ever ascribe the whole of this great work to the triune God alone and praise him alone for it. -- "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake."
Always pay close attention to the words of Holy Scripture. Too often we read the Word of God like we would read a newspaper, just scanning for the highlights. In the Book of God the highlights are in the details. Here the Apostle Paul, writing by divine inspiration, tells us five things that go right to the heart of the gospel.
The things here described are words of assurance given to every sinner who trusts Christ alone for redemption, righteousness, grace, salvation, and eternal life. If you have been granted faith in the Son of God, here are five things of which you ought to be assured by the Word of God. As surely as you trust Christ, these five things are true of you.
1. “God hath from the beginning chosen you.” What blessed, good news that is! The holy Lord God chose you as the object of his special love and distinguishing grace in Christ before the worlds were made by his hand. Indeed, the reason why he made this world is that he chose you.
2. God chose “you to salvation.” The Lord did not choose you to have a chance at salvation. He did not choose you to receive an offer of salvation. He did not choose you to hear about salvation. He chose you to save you. Election is unto salvation.
3. God chose “you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit.” The Lord God chose to save his elect in Christ, upon the grounds of justice satisfied, by the irresistible grace and power of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. He has saved you, not only by imputing righteousness to you in justification, but also by imparting righteousness to you in regeneration. The Holy Spirit, in regeneration, sanctifies God’s elect by giving them a new, holy nature, a nature created in the image of Christ in true holiness.
4. God chose “you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Faith in Christ, who is the Truth, is as essential to salvation as election, redemption, and regeneration. And this faith in Christ, who is the Truth, is inseparably connected with believing the truth of God revealed about Christ in the gospel. All who believe on the Son of God believed him “after that we heard the Word of truth, the gospel of our salvation” (Eph. 1:13).
5. God chose “you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, whereunto he called you by our gospel.” We need to understand the teaching of Holy Scripture in this regard. Chosen, redeemed sinners are brought into the blessed experience of God’s grace in salvation only by the effectual call of God the Holy Spirit, which comes only through the preaching of the gospel.
The Word of God clearly teaches that the call by which we are saved has four distinct characteristics.
First, The call by which we are saved is a call from God. -- It is “God who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” – “God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” – It is the Lord God himself “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.” (1 Thess. 2:12; 4:7; 2 Tim. 1:9-10).
As in all other aspects of grace and salvation, all three Persons in the Holy Trinity are engaged in this call of grace. Sometimes the call is ascribed to God the Father. He has called us by his grace and revealed his Son in us. He has called us unto the fellowship of his Son. He called us by his Son, Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:15,16; 1 Cor. 1:9; 1 Pet. 5:10).
Sometimes the call of grace is ascribed to God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is represented to us as Wisdom and as the eternal Logos (God the Word), who calls us to life and faith in himself (Pro. 1:20-33; 8:1-4). God’s saints are described as “The called of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:6).
However, this call of God is set before us in the Scriptures primarily as that which is the office work of God the Holy Spirit, that blessed Comforter sent by the Father and the Son to reveal the things of Christ to the elect. "There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling,” called by the one Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God. It is God the Spirit who gives us life, who illuminates our hearts and minds, reveals Christ in us, and brings us into the liberty of the Sons of God. It is God the Spirit who brings chosen, redeemed sinners to Christ, creates faith in them, and speaks peace to their hearts through the blood of Christ, and teaches believing sinners to live in the blessed hope and expectation of eternal glory with Christ.
The effectual call is a divine work, arising from and accomplished by the will of God alone. It is not in any way or to any degree dependent upon or determined by the works of man (2 Tim. 1:9), or the will of man (Rom. 9:16). This is not a mere fine point of theological orthodoxy. It is vital. If you make the call of God to be dependent upon or determined by the works of man, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth. The flesh profitteth nothing” (John 6:63).
Because this effectual call is God’s work and God’s work alone, it is always an irresistible call. I hope you have learned to love the term “irresistible grace.” Grace that can be resisted is not grace at all. A call that can be resisted will never save anyone. It is only irresistible grace that makes doomed, damned, dead sinners willing in the day of God’s power (Ps. 110:3).
The call of the Spirit is an irresistible call, because when God works none can hinder. When God calls, sinners who are dead in trespasses and sins rise out of their graves and live at his omnipotent, all commanding voice, just as Lazarus came forth out of his grave at the call of Christ. That call cannot be resisted which carries with it life-giving, resurrecting power. This irresistible call of the Holy Spirit is issued to God’s elect with the very same by power that was exerted in raising Christ himself from the dead. If we believe on the Son of God, we believe because the omnipotent God of grace has given us life by “the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead” (Eph. 1:18-20).
Second, the call of God by which we are saved is a call by the gospel. Paul told the Thessalonian believers that God had called them to salvation by the gospel, which he preached to them (2 Thess. 2:13-14). He told the Ephesians believers that they came to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ after that they heard the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation accomplished in Christ (Eph. 1:13).
This is a matter of immense importance. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” God does not by-pass the means that he has ordained for the salvation of his elect. To suggest that he may is utterly ludicrous. If it is God’s pleasure to save his elect by the preaching of the gospel, the only reason he would ever do otherwise would be if he were caught in a bind and could not do things the way he pleases! We never need to be concerned that the Almighty might get caught in a bind.
God saves his elect, gives them life and faith in Christ, by the sovereign power of his Spirit, only through the instrumentality of the preaching of the gospel. Let men say what they will in opposition to that statement, offering example after example of others who have been “saved” without the use of means. That leaves us with two choices. We can either build our doctrine on the shifting sand of human reason and experience, or we can build our doctrine on the plain statements of Holy Scripture. We must build our doctrine on the plain statements of Holy Scripture, no matter how much they may contradict and nullify our thoughts and experiences.
The Scriptures do address this issue plainly and forcibly, setting before us this fact: -- God saves his people by the gospel. He does not save sinners without the gospel, apart from the gospel, or by believing a false gospel. "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." -- "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." -- "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. …Unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men." -- "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." – Chosen, redeemed sinners are “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (Rom. 1:16; 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21-25; James 1:17; 1 Pet. 1:23-25).
This fact places upon the shoulders of every believer, every local church, and every gospel preacher a tremendous burden of responsibility (Ezek. 33:7-9; 1 Cor. 9:16). Our God has left us in this world to preach the gospel to the generation in which we live for the salvation (the ingathering) of his people, the building of his kingdom, and the honor of his name, promising that our labor shall never be in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). His Word will not return void (Isa. 55:11).
It is the great privilege and responsibility of every preacher to seize every opportunity God puts before him to preach the gospel. God has not sent his servants out to defend creeds and reform society. He has sent his servants to preach the gospel. It is not enough merely to preach, or merely to preach the doctrinal facts and moral lessons of Holy Scripture. The Word of God has not been preached until the gospel has been preached.
As it is the responsibility of gospel preachers to preach the gospel, it is the responsibility of every believer and every local church to use everything God puts in their hands and seize every opportunity he gives us for the furtherance of the gospel. If we faithfully meet these responsibilities and sinners refuse to believe the gospel, their blood is forever upon their heads; but we have delivered our souls and are free of their blood. If we refuse to meet these responsibilities, their blood shall forever be upon our heads.
Third, the call by which sinners are saved is a call of grace. The Apostle Paul ascribed his salvation experience on the Damascus road to the fact that God "called him by his grace" (Gal. 1:15). This call of God is a matter of pure, free, undeserved grace.
God, as the God of all grace, calls sinners to grace and glory by Christ. The super-abundance of God’s grace is displayed in this call. The first open display of grace and discovery of love to a sinner is made when he is called. It is then that God brings salvation, life, and immortality to light by the gospel (2 Tim. 1: 9-10). It is by this call that we were drawn with loving kindness, as a fruit and evidence of God’s everlasting love for us. Therefore, the time of our calling is called the time of love (Jer. 31:3; Ezek. 16:8). When we think of the call of God as the work of his grace, let us ever remember three things.
1. The call of God’s grace is the fruit of his everlasting love for us (Jer. 31:3).
2. The call of God is issued to chosen sinners according to his sovereign will and good pleasure (Mk. 3:13; Rom. 9:16).
3. The call of God is without repentance (Rom. 11:29).
Like all God’s operations of grace, the call by which we are saved is unchangeable, irreversible, and irrevocable. Those who are called of God to life and faith in Christ shall be preserved safe to the kingdom and glory of God and shall most certainly enjoy it in all its fulness. It is written “faithful is he that has calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).
Here is the happiness and joy of this doctrine. Those who are called of God are assured by his Word of their election; for "whom he did predestinate, them he also called". Election and calling always go together. The one is the fruit, effect, and evidence of the other (2 Pet. 1:10). Election is revealed and known by the call of the Spirit through the ministry of the Word (1 Thess. 1:4-5).
Being called of God, we are also comfortably assured of our justification in and by Christ. "Whom he called, them he also justified." If the Lord has called me, then I am justified. Therefore, I have every reason to conclude that I am safe from all charges, from all condemnation, and from wrath to come.
Moreover, if the Lord has called me, if he has granted me faith in Christ, I must, believing his Word, conclude that I shall at last enter into and possess eternal glory with Christ. Are we not assured that all who are called of God are justified, and that those who are justified by God, "them he also glorifies"? Mr. Gill rightly tells us, “Between calling grace and eternal happiness, there is a sure and an inseparable connection.”
Fourth, The call of God, by which we are saved, is a call unto glory. It is a call unto a state of happiness and bliss in another world. God "hath called you unto his kingdom and glory" (1 Thess. 2:12). He has called us to possess a kingdom of grace here, which cannot be removed, and to inherit the kingdom of glory hereafter, which is an everlasting one. The Lord God, the God of all grace, has called us "to the obtaining of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 2:14; John 17:22; Col. 3:4), and to eternal glory by Christ Jesus (1 Pet. 5:10). Imagine that! We have been called by God to "lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12) and to obtain an eternal inheritance.
What does this mean? It means that we shall most assuredly enjoy eternal, heavenly glory; having a meetness for it through the grace of God and the blood and righteousness of his dear Son. Indeed, by Christ’s blood and righteousness, we have a right to it (1 Pet. 1:3-4; Heb. 9:15)
All who are born of God are "called in one hope of our calling" (Eph. 4:4) to partake of the same inheritance with the saints in light, and to enjoy the same blessed hope laid up for them in heaven, for which hope of righteousness we wait by faith, through the Holy Spirit, trusting Christ alone as our all-sufficient Savior. That inheritance of the saints for which we wait is the very glory of our Savior (John 17:5, 22). The very glory given to Christ as a man, as our God-man Mediator, shall be ours! Can you grasp that? You and I who are called of God are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ!” It is for this reason that David sang, "Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple" (Ps. 65:4).