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Effectual Calling


The work of the Father and Son, election and redemption, do not complete the work of salvation. The work of Christ has to be applied to the elect. The work of applying salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit. This is called the work of Effectual Calling or Efficacious Grace. The doctrine of Effectual Calling or Efficacious Grace means that the Holy Spirit effectively brings to salvation all the elect. When we learned earlier about human depravity we saw that God has to change a person’s heart. This work of regeneration or being born again is the work of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit is called effectual calling. What this means is that the Holy Spirit makes the external call of the gospel effective for salvation. Every choice flows from the heart. If the heart is evil, every choice will be evil by God’s standards (Rom 3:10-18). After being born again the elect sinner can and will come to Christ. Let’s look at some Scriptures:

John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.” (NASB)

The Spirit gives life.

Ezekiel 36:25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. (NASB)

The Spirit changes the heart.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (NASB)

God makes you alive, you are not able on your own; the Holy Spirit changes your heart and makes you alive.

John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (NASB)

You were born of God, not of your own will. It says NOT of the will of man, but of God. God changes your heart.

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (NASB)

Vs.6 – Being born of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit changes our hearts causing us to be born again.
Vs. 8 – You hear the wind blowing, you didn’t choose for it to blow; you just know its blowing because you feel it or hear it.

Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, (NASB)

Renewing of the Holy Spirit, changes our hearts.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (NASB)

God causes us by the Holy Spirit to have a spiritually changed heart.

Let’s look at some Scriptures that explain how the internal call of the Holy Spirit is always effectual for salvation. This is important because some say all are called and some resist the call.

Romans 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (NASB)

All people whom God foreknew will be glorified.

John 6:37 “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. (NASB)

All the elect will be raised to life on the last day.

Galatians 1:15 But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother’s womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, (NASB)

Paul was set apart (called) to preach even though he persecuted the Church.

1 Corinthians 1:22 For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, 29 that no man should boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (NASB)

The gospel, is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Presenting the gospel is the external call of the gospel but it is the Holy Spirit that makes it effective in the hearts of the elect (the called). Verse 24 says: “but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Verses 30-31 summarize this idea: “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”” Salvation is God’s doing not ours. All glory and honor belong to God. We can’t boast about any part of our salvation because it’s by His doing not ours. God alone receives all the glory.

2 Timothy 1:9 who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, (NASB)

Called from all eternity.

John 17:2 even as Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He may give eternal life. (NASB)

He gives eternal life to all the Father has given to Him.

Revelation 17:14 “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” (NASB)

Not all people are with Him because not all are called.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (NASB)

He called His elect, not all people.

2 Peter 1:3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. (NASB)

Called us (Christians), not all people.

The Holy Spirit works with the external call of the gospel and through regeneration makes the external call effective. Everyone who is regenerated by the Holy Spirit believes and repents. Faith and repentance are the natural inclinations and dispositions of the regenerate heart.

Next article in this series: Perseverance of the Saints

About the author

Buddy Woods

Buddy Woods is an elder in good standing at Covenant of Grace Church.