Believers or Christians are the “called”
We’re talking about a call that is an absolute effective call. Whom He called, He justified and glorified. Now let’s talk about the word “call.” Simple word in the English language. Kaleo; it even sounds like the English word, kaleo. It means “to summon someone” to oneself, to one’s presence, “to call someone” to come to you. The word is descriptive, so descriptive that believers are identified as the called. We are literally “the called”; so that you take the verb and turn it into a noun. All of us have been called and we are, according to Romans 8:28, “the called.” In fact, that’s what a church is. The true church is the gathering together of the called.
The word for Church
The word for “church”–we love the word “church”–it doesn’t tell us anything about who we are, the English word “church.” But the English word “church” is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia. Ekklesia is from ekkaleo, it means “the called.” Kaleo with a preposition at the front–ek, meaning “out of”; we are “the called out.” We have been called out of the grave. We’ve been called out of death, called out of ignorance, called out of blindness. We are the called. The church is ekklesia. It is “the called out,” “the called out.”
Explanation of “many are called but few are chosen”
There is an external call. When I preach the gospel, when an evangelist preaches the gospel, when you give the gospel to a friend, when you witness to somebody and call them to come to Christ and to respond to Him and embrace Him and His gospel, that’s an external call that humans make.
And in that sense, you can take the language of Matthew 22:14 and the parable that Jesus gave where He said, “Many are called, few are chosen.” You remember that the ones initially called to the banquet didn’t come. That’s an external call. The call of the gospel externally goes out and people reject that call. Many are called, few are chosen. That refers to the general call, the outward call, the external call.
But when you come into the New Testament and you start with Romans, and you go through the rest of the New Testament, every time the word “call” appears in the category of the gospel, it is an internal, efficacious call from God that brings the dead sinner to life. That’s how the New Testament writers refer to it. It is an unyielding subpoena from God to come into His court, to be made alive, to be brought into His court, not to be condemned, not to be judged, but to be declared forgiven and righteous and set free. And to be then adopted as a son and reconciled fully. It is God’s sovereign, saving call as He exercises His own will and through His own magnificent grace takes the elect sinner into His presence to declare His forgiveness of that sinner and grant that sinner the very righteousness of Christ. Make Him a Son and promise him eternal riches in glory.
God is not an autocrat (Re: our calling)
As wonderful as this is, it bothers some people. It does. They say, “Come on, God’s not going to bring sinners to Himself kicking and screaming. He’s not going to overpower them against their will and violate their choice.” Some say God can’t do that. He can’t do it because He’s given us freedom and we have freedom and free will and God can’t violate that.
“Oh,” they say, “God can crack the lid of the casket so the dead person can get a little bit of glimpse of enough light and truth to believe. God can kind of open the mind just a little bit. But He can’t force them. They have to have the opportunity, that’s all, just the opportunity.”
There’s a book written, popular book written in recent times by a well-known theologian called Chosen But Free. And it presents the reality of the calling of God as really an unacceptable doctrine. He says it makes God into a dictator with power that crushes our freedom and drags us into His kingdom. Is that how you felt when you were saved? I don’t think so. I think you couldn’t get there quick enough. I don’t think you now feel like the worst thing that ever happened to you was your salvation. Why in the world did God drag you kicking and screaming into this? That’s completely an alien idea. You’re so grateful every day of your life for the salvation that God gave you.
Why are they willing?
Because God makes them willing. Psalm 110:3, “Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power.” “Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power.” When the Lord lets out the call, “Come forth,” and life surges into your dead soul, that life activates your will. That life produces repentance. That life produces faith. And you come not kicking and screaming, but you come weeping with joy.
How does the sinner become willing?
So the question is, How does the sinner become willing? No sinner has what it takes to be willing. When I teach on the doctrine of human depravity, the nature of fallen man, I talk about man’s problem in two ways. He is unable to be saved on his own and unwilling to be saved. Okay?
Unable/unwilling–that’s the essence of depravity. Not only can’t he, he doesn’t want to. That’s Romans 3. “No man seeks after God, there’s none righteous, no, not one.” Ephesians 2, “Dead in trespasses and sins, walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the children of disobedience.” Romans 5:6, “Helpless” is the word used. Helpless, hopeless, can’t understand the things of God; they’re foolishness to him as we saw in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. Second Corinthians 4, “Blinded by Satan, the god of this world who has blinded their minds.”
“No sinner left to himself is either willing or able to come to God.” Corruption is too profound, too far reaching, too comprehensive. God must come then in His sovereign power and summon us to believe. He must on the day of His power make us willing. It’s not a kicking and screaming work which we resist; it’s a gracious, powerful, supernatural, heavenly regeneration of our whole inner being that makes us willing in the day of that power.
Choose your sin
….you might be restrained a little bit because you don’t want to go to prison for the rest of your life. Or you might be restrained a little bit because you don’t want to crash your car, so you limit how much you drink. You might be restrained a little bit ’cause you don’t want to lose your wife and your children, so you hide your immorality. But you can choose your sin. You just can’t choose anything else. You can’t choose not to sin. You can’t choose what pleases God.
The mind and the will
Jonathan Edwards dug a little deeper on that and Jonathan Edwards, certainly in my mind, the greatest theologian America’s ever known and maybe the most brilliant thinker. He wrote this, “What we choose is not really determined by the will. What we choose is not really determined by the will. It is determined by the mind.
What the mind thinks is what makes the choice and the mind is not neutral. The mind is not neutral. The mind,” and I’m paraphrasing Edwards at this point, “the mind is corrupt, the mind, to borrow Jeremiah’s word, the mind of man is deceitful above all things and exceedingly wicked.” So the mind isn’t neutral. It thinks some things are best and it’s free to choose. “When confronted with God,” Edwards goes on, “the mind of the sinner never thinks that following or obeying God is a good choice.” Never thinks that. His will is free to choose God. Nothing stops him from choosing God but his mind will not allow him to submit to God because that’s not desirable to him. “Therefore,” says Edwards, “unless God changes the way we think, our minds will always tell us to turn from God, which is precisely what we do.”
The sinner is in a position where he can’t do anything else. So if he is to will to repent and will to believe, God has to change his mind. Change how he thinks. Change what he desires, what he loves, what he hates, what he longs for. This is often called irresistible grace, and that’s okay.