The content of this page is from Bible Doctrine: A Reference for Teens & Adults (Book Two, page 129-147)
Browse and read chapters from this book at http://www.holybible.com/resources/doctrine1/index.shtm
God's willingness to call sinners to repentance and salvation is an indescribable wonder. Fallen sinners do not call or seek after God, but God yet calls and seeks sinners. No sinner deserves this; God's call is a purely gracious call.
When studying Genesis 3, a teacher asked his tenth grade class to read verses 8 and 9:
And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
He then asked them the following questions. Can you answer them?
And I will put enniity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.?
- Why would verse 9 not be possible without verse 15?"
While God's external and internal calls have the same source - the Triune God; the same Applier - God the Holy Spirit; and the same instrument - the holy gospel; yet there are clear and significant differences which make these two callings distinct. God's internal call is not simply an extension of His external call, but it is a distinct calling.
Study the following chart carefully; it presents important distinctions between God's external and internal calls.
Denying the necessity of the Holy Spirit's internal calling results in an Arminian, free-will gospel. Denying the value and responsibility attached to the Holy Spirit's external calling leads to fatalism. Both deny truths of Scripture. The one makes man the cause of his salvation; the other makes God the cause of man's damnation, apart from justice. God's Word requires a clear and balanced presentation of both the Holy Spirit's external and internal calls.
While God calls sinners to the knowledge of His existence through creation, providence, and man's conscience, these do not proclaim the way of salvation in Jesus Christ - the gospel.
The word "gospel" means "good news" or "glad tidings." The gospel declares the way in which God can manifest His love to sinners and in which sinners can be restored into communion with God. It testifies of Jesus Christ and His substitutionary and mediatorial work. Through Jesus Christ a way is opened for sinful people to again approach, and be received in favor by, a holy God; a God who opened a way where fallen man could not. This is "good news" for sinners - this is the gospel message.
The calling work of the Holy Spirit, God's external and internal calls, refers to the call of the gospel - God's calling of sinners to salvation in Jesus Christ. Therefore, God's external and internal calls do not come to every person. God's external call is heard by those who are brought in contact with His Word - the gospel. God's internal call is the application of the gospel message to the hearts of all His elect - all those who are and will be saved. While God's law is necessary to work conviction of a person's sin and lost condition, it is the gospel which proclaims and offers God's plan of redemption in Jesus Christ. God's call to salvation is the gospel call.
GOD'S EXTERNAL CALL
God's external call is His declaration of the gospel to all people wherever His Word is brought. It includes the following three elements:
1. A declaration of the plan of salvation - the content of the gospel
The content of the gospel refers to the presentation of God's plan of salvation in Jesus Christ and His redemptive work. The gospel is to be indiscriminately proclaimed to all. It is to be preached to all ages, ranks, nationalities, and classes of people; to both the just and the wicked.
The invitation of the gospel is the serious, sincere, well-meant offer of salvation in Jesus Christ proclaimed to sinners in the preaching of the gospel. All are invited to come to Christ for salvation through a way of repentance and faith. That fallen sinners refuse God's sincere invitation and do not desire to repent and believe is not the fault of the gospel nor its offer, but the fault lies in the recipients of the invitation.
The promise of the gospel is that all those who come unto Jesus Christ will in no wise be cast out. All those coming to Christ, repenting of their sins and believing in Him, shall receive complete forgiveness and salvation. Again, it is neither the fault of the gospel nor of its promise that sinful man ignores and despises these rich and gracious promises.
To be placed by God under His external call - to hear the content, invitation, and promise of His gospel proclaimed - is a tremendous privilege, but also a great reponsibility. Left to himself, natural man ignores, rejects, and despises God's outward call. This, however, does not make the contents, invitation, and promise of God to be faulty or insincere. The problem lies with the self-centered, rebellious sinner who hates God and does not desire reconciliation and communion with Him.
Our forefathers explained the sincerity of the gospel's content, invitation, and promise; and man's guilt of its rejection, in the Canons of Dordt, as follows:
The following stories help illustrate the truth that sinful man's rejection of the gospel does not make its content, invitation, and promise insincere.
A department manager at Sears placed an ad in the local paper selling a certain snowblower for $425.00 that normally sold for $549.00.
However, hardly any snow had fallen that winter, and now that it was March, people reading his ad did not feel they needed a snowblower. No one responded to the manager's ad.
That no one was interested or responded, did not make the content, invitation, and promise of the manager's ad insincere, however. Anyone interested could have received a snowblower for the stated price.
God's external call is His "advertisement," His proclamation, of His gospel. Its content, invitation, and promise are sincere even when sinful people are not in- terested in, and do not respond to it. What is offered in the external call of the gospel? What is the price? Why does fallen man despise this offer?
Some years ago, a rich gentleman sent an envelope addressed to "Any Sinner" to a village post office. The post office clerk jokingly drew different persons' attention to the strange address, but no one claimed the envelope.
After leaving it for thirty days in the "Unclaimed Mail" bin, the clerk returned it to its sender stamped, "No such address."
The unclaimed envelope contained a treasury note worth $1,000.
The gentleman's gift and offer were sincere. Everyone's despising and mocking of it, did not remove the validity of its value.
What comparisons can you make from this story to God's external call?
Rejecting God's external call - despising God's gospel invitation - is very serious. It is a personal rejection of God Himself; it is an insult to God and His gracious invitation.
Imagine planning for a family wedding. As the time draws near, you mail personal invitations to those you wish to invite to the wedding and reception.
Would you not be insulted if no one responded; if all were too busy with other things to attend; if all despised your invitations?
Imagine the President or Prime Minister inviting you to a special dinner with him. Would he not be justly insulted if you ignored his invitation or made yourself too busy with other things?
Who can describe the depth of insult when a sinner ignores the personal invitation from the God of the entire universe, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords?
Rejecting God's gospel invitation not only deeply insults God's condescending goodness, it also insults the deep expression of His love in Jesus Christ. In the sending, humiliation, and death of His Son, God opens His "Holy of holies," He bares His heart of love, revealing His wonderful, gracious desire to restore, and again commune with, man. To despise and reject the gospel invitation is to crucify the Son of God afresh, to count His blood as an unholy and worthless thing, and to despise the calling work of the Holy Spirit. Is it any wonder that Scripture speaks of the rejection of the gospel as a most frightening sin with most fearful consequences?
If non-elect, unbelieving sinners will not believe or respond to the external call, why should the gospel be preached to them? Why preach the gospel to all people indiscriminately? Why not preach only to the elect? The gospel must be preached, the external call must be brought, to all people for the following five reasons:
1. The gospel must be preached to all because it is God's command to do so. God's revealed will, His express command, is to "preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:9). In His secret will and decree, God knows who His elect are, but we do not. God instructs us to obey His revealed will and commands: "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the works of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29).
We may not strive to be wiser than God nor attempt to place contradictions between God's revealed and secret will. We are commanded to sow the seed of the gospel everywhere, but to leave the increase of it to the Lord.
In the vision recorded in Ezekiel 37, we read that God sent Ezekiel into a valley which was full of very dry, dead bones. God commanded him to preach to these dead bones and say, "O ye dry bones, hear the Word of the LORD" (Ezekiel 37:4).
Does this make sense? Can dead, dry bones respond to the Word of the LORD?
God asked Ezekiel, "Son of man, can these bones live?" What did Ezekiel answer? "O Lord God, Thou knowest" (Ezekiel 37:3).
How does this example illustrate God's command to preach the gospel to every creature - including those dead in sin - because it is His command to do so?
2. The gospel must be preached to all because it is precisely that which every sinner needs. The gospel contains the perfect remedy for every sinner's disease; therefore, it is to be proclaimed and promoted.
A minister was once walking and speaking with a non-believing soap manufacturer. The soapmaker stated, "The gospel you preach has not done much good in the world. I see lots of wickedness and all types of wicked people yet!"
Just then they passed several children busily making "mud pies." They were covered with dirt from head to feet.
The minister stopped. Staring at the children, he replied, "Sir, the soap you sell has not done much good in the world. I see lots of dirt and all types of dirty people yet."
"Oh, yes," the soapmaker responded, quite surprised by this reply, "but if my soap were applied to these children, it would certainly clean them up!"
"That is precisely the same with the gospel I preach," the minister added. "The gospel cleans when it is applied. But may I ask you one question? If you saw many dirty people would you decide to quit making soap or would it give you a desire to sell it all the more?"
How does this story illustrate the necessity of preaching the gospel to all people because it is precisely that which every sinner needs?
3. The gospel must be preached to all because it proclaims God's concern for, and claim upon, every person. Preaching the invitation of salvation to every person proclaims that deliverance is still possible for sinners; the day of salvation is not past. As the invitations of Noah to enter the ark testified to every hearer that the door of the ark was not yet closed, so the preaching of the gospel proclaims that salvation can yet be found in the great Ark of Refuge, Jesus Christ.
God's commanding all sinners to repent and believe also testifies of His Creator's right upon each individual. Although man sinned and turned from God, God has not given up His rightful claim upon man. Man is still required to obey his Creator and His call. If a person does not, he slights God and increases his guilt.
One morning, a teacher greeted his class and asked, "What are the three most important letters in the English language?"
Seeing the puzzled looks on his students' faces, he said, "I will show you."
With large clear letters, he wrote on the chalkboard, "N - 0 - W"!
"'Behold now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation' (II Corinthians 6:2). Tomorrow the door might be eternally shut for you."
How does this example illustrate the necessity of preaching the invitation of the gospel to every creature because it proclaims God's concern for, and claim upon, every person?
4. The gospel must be preached to all because it glorifies both God's grace and righteousness. Proclaiming the content, invitation, and promise of God's gospel to all, richly testifies of His wonderful grace. What king has ever displayed such grace toward rebels as God has in His gospel offer?
God's righteousness will also be glorified, however, in the condemnation of those who despise such a gracious forbearance and offer of salvation. God's righteousness will stand out in clearest light against their grievous sins of rejection.
Imagine a king who fought against and conquered a city of rebels - citizens who had revolted from under his reign and had declared war against him. In the war, the rebels caught, mocked, tortured, and killed the king's son.
Would you not expect the king to command that all the rebels be killed?
But what if the king offered full pardon to all who came forward to confess their wrongdoing and to ask for his forgiveness? Would this offer not glorify the king's graciousness and his desire to save instead of destroy?
But imagine that many of the rebels refuse his offer. They will not repent or ask him for forgiveness. Would not his righteousness be glorified in the destruction of these ungrateful rebels?
How does this example illustrate the necessity of preaching the gospel to all people because it glorifies God's graciousness and righteousness?
5. The gospel must be preached to all because it is the means through which God has chosen to work. God will bless the preaching of the Word both outwardly and inwardly.
Outwardly, God's call will produce gifts of morality, restraint of sin, historical belief, impressions of the truth, a speaking conscience, an awareness of God and His truth, and other improved, external behaviors.
Inwardly, God will irresistibly and savingly apply the gospel to the hearts of His children as will be discussed in the next section entitled "God's Internal Call."
When discussing the necessity of mission work, a student mentioned that bringing God's Word produced outward as well as inward fruits. The class then formed an extensive list of outward benefits from the teaching of God's Word on a new mission field. How many benefits can you name?
Regarding inward fruits, their teacher pointed them to Romans 10: 14-17.
How does this example illustrate the necessity of preaching the gospel to all people because it is the means through which God has chosen to work?
If God's external call - the proclamation of the content, invitation, and promise of the gospel - is not saving, if it does not cause sinners to respond in repentance and faith, this is not due to a lack of graciousness in the gospel call. In the gospel call, no one is excluded because his sins are too great, or because he has sinned too long, or because he was not invited.
What effect has the gospel call produced in your life? Are you still resisting, or have you, by grace, surrendered to its call?
Despite the graciousness and wonderfulness of God's external call, sinful man consistently refuses to respond to its invitation. Due to our total depravity - our sinful enniity, pride, and blindness - we will not turn to God. We refuse to repent from our sins and to beg Him for forgiveness.
The despising and rejecting of God's gospel call is fallen man's natural, insulting, and deadly response - one which greatly adds to his guilt and condemnation. The terrible truth of sinful man's rejection of the external call is stated in the scriptural references below.
After man rejected God and chose sin in Paradise, it would be most understandable if God would have sentenced all mankind to eternal death. However, God chose to reveal His wonderful grace; He proclaimed His rich offer of salvation in Jesus Christ - His external call.
When totally-depraved man only chooses to reject God's gracious invitation of salvation, however, one could justly conclude that all is certainly lost for all mankind. Yet this is not so! The gracious depths of God's love transcend the depths of man's sin. God will conquer sin and redeem chosen sinners. He will restore communion with His lost people. God will irresistibly and savingly apply His external call in the hearts of His elect, and they shall be saved. They will graciously be restored into communion with God. Who can comprehend the depth of God's gracious heart of love? This leads us into the doctrine of God's internal call.
The following story provides a faint human example of the difference between God's sincere, external call and His saving, restoring, internal call.
A son was stationed in a remote village in Africa, separated by a considerable distance from his father who remained behind. Father and son communicated regularly by means of shortwave transmitter units.
However, after a serious disagreement with his father, the son became angry with his father and smashed his transmitter. Every day the father faithfully called his son, sending him messages which offered forgiveness and expressed his desire to communicate again. Due to his rebellious destruction, however, the son never heard the loving invitations of his father.
Finally, the father traveled to his son's village, found his home, restored their friendship, and repaired his transmitter. Father and son again enjoyed communicating together.
How does this story illustrate man's spiritual deadness and lack of response to God's sincere, external call? What pictures God's internal, saving call and man's restoration into communion with Him?
God's internal call can also be named His inward, irresistible, effectual, or efficacious call.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines the Holy Spirit's internal calling in the following manner in Question and Answer 31:
Q. What is effectual calling?
The godly minister, Rev. T. Doolittle, when preaching to his congregation on the Holy Spirit's internal call, asked if any of his catechism students could answer the Shorter Catechism's question, "What is effectual calling?" using the pronouns "me" and "my" for "us" and "our."
A solemn silence followed; many realized the seriousness of the question. A young man stood up which heightened the felt importance and anticipation of the moment. By grace, with deep conviction, he clearly stated, "Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing me of my sin and misery, enlightening my mind in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing my will, He doth persuade and enable me to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to me in the gospel."
The resulting effect was deeply moving on the entire congregation and many eyes were bathed in tears.
Can you, by grace, personally answer this question as this young man did?
God's internal call is not simply an extension of His external call. God's internal call has the following distinctives:
1. It refers to the Holy Spirit's almighty, efficacious, saving work.
2. It flows from the Father's electing grace, the Son's redeeming grace, and the Holy Spirit's applying grace.
3. It results in an eternal change of states in the elect; it is a calling which will never be taken back or lost.
The Holy Spirit's internal, saving calling is spoken of frequently in Scripture. The verses on the following page provide some examples.
Believers in man's free will deny the truth of God's internal call. They believe that there is only one call of God - an external call. According to them, man freely chooses whether to accept or reject the gospel invitation; he has the ability to do either. Some believers in free will (the Pelagians) teach that man is born neutral; he can freely choose the gospel's or Satan's call, God or self, salvation or damnation, heaven or hell. Other believers in free will (the Semi-Pelagians) teach that the death of Christ removed original sin from all people on earth, and therefore every person has the ability to freely choose Christ or Satan, God's will or self will, life or death. The result in both cases is the same - the doctrines of man's total depravity and God's limited atonement, unconditional election, internal calling, irresistible grace, and regeneration are denied.
Our church forefathers expressed this truth very clearly in the following statement:
For additional information regarding the errors and dangers of teaching free will, refer to Chapter 25 on the Five Points of Calvinism.
Late one evening, two people were finishing a lengthy debate regarding God's salvation - whether it took place by the free will of man or by the free grace of God.
"If that which you say is true," the one woman concluded, "then I would like you to tell God in your prayers tonight that you spiritually began with Him, before He began with you."
This remark stunned the other woman. "I do not dare to say that," she replied.
"Then why do you dare to say to others what you do not dare to say to God?" the first lady asked.
Which is first in the salvation of a sinner, God's work or man's work? Who first enlivens and turns a sinner's heart - the Holy Spirit or the sinner? Why?
Some churches teach that the internal call always accompanies the external call; that God's saving call always attends the proclamation of the gospel. This is also not true. God's internal call is irresistible and saving. If it always accompanied the external call, people would be saved every time the preaching of the gospel took place. God is sovereign. He has blessed the preaching of His Word that three thousand were savingly called under one sermon, but there are also times in which no one is saved. God's external and internal callings are separate.
Emphasizing the truth of God's one-sided grace and work in election, atonement, regeneration, and His internal, irresistible, saving call, however, must not produce carelessness or inactivity on man's part. The Holy Spirit's normal manner of accomplishing His inward call is to work through His external call - through God's means of grace.
In exceptional circumstances, the Holy Spirit will accomplish His internal, saving work without using His external call. This happens in cases of infants, young children, mentally-handicapped persons, and others who cannot be meaningfully reached by means of the external call. However, the Holy Spirit's normal manner of working is to savingly apply the external call in the hearts of those who are saved. Therefore, placing ourselves under, and actively using, God's Word is very important. Never ignore, despise, or put off God's gospel call.
What is your response to God's outward call? Have you experienced your deep need for the Holy Spirit's inward call?
Debra's mother meditated upon her conversation with her fourteen-year-old daughter. After asking her daughter if she desired and prayed for a new heart to love and serve God, Debra had replied, "Yes, someday I want that, Mother; but first I want to have a good time in the world with my friends. But when I'm old - yes, I know - I will need to be born again and serve God."
Several days later, a box of flowers was delivered to Debra's home. Its attached card read, "To my dear daughter. With love, Mom."
Excitedly, Debra tore off the wrapping and opened the box. To her shock and disappointment, she found twelve old, wilted roses - the leaves were all drooping and shrivelled and several petals had already fallen off.
"Mom!" Debra called, running into the kitchen and showing her mom the box. "Thanks for the roses ... but, look! The flower shop must have forgotten to deliver them for a few days!"
"No, dear, I wanted to give them to you this way. I thought you would like them like this," her mother calmly replied as she continued cutting her carrots.
Debra was stunned. She felt insulted and angry. "That's nonsense, Mom," she finally blurted. "How could you ever think I would like this gift!"
Her mother turned and seriously said, "Debra, when we talked together a few days ago, wasn't this the type of gift that you felt the Lord would like, that you told me you wanted to give Him? If God would be pleased with this type of gift, you should be, too, don't you think?"
"I understand," Debra seriously replied.
Delaying, despising, and rejecting God's gospel call is most serious. Why?
1. For what purpose was Christ exalted?
To apply His benefits to His people.
2. How may Christ's benefits for His people be distinguished?
Into two types: (1) benefits in this life and (2) benefits in the life to come.
3. What benefits does Christ bestow upon His people in this life?
Effectual calling, justification, and sanctification are three of Christ's main benefits.
4. What benefits does Christ confer upon His people after this life?
Resurrection, final judgment, and eternal life.
5. How many types of callings does God exercise?
Two: (1) an external calling and (2) an internal calling.
6. How does God send forth His external calling?
Through the hearing or reading of His Word (Prov. 9:3-6).
7. How does God send forth His internal calling?
Through the Spirit of God who effectually applies the Word of God (Jer. 31:33).
8. Who are externally called by God?
All who come in contact with God's Word, including those who are not elected. "Many are called, but few chosen" (Mt. 20:16).
9. Is the external calling universal?
In Christendom, but not through the whole world.
10. Is the external call more widespread now than under the Old Testament?
Yes, in the Old Testament dispensation the external call was sent to the Jews only, but it is now sent also to the Gentiles.
11. Is there a calling from nature that leads to salvation?
No, nature reveals nothing of Christ, outside of whom there is no salvation.
12. Is the external calling sufficient for conversion?
No. "So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase" (I Cor. 3:7).
13. What must accompany the external call to make it effectual in the heart?
The internal calling of God, as we see in Lydia. "Whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken by Paul" (Acts 16:14).
14. Who are internally called?
Only the elect. "Whom He did predestinate, them He also called" (Rom. 8:30).
15. What is the internal calling?
A powerful changing of the whole man.
16. Is there anything to be changed in man?
Yes, his heart, understanding, will, affections, and walk of life.
17. In what condition are these faculties by nature?
The heart is totally depraved; the understanding, darkened; the will, perverse; the affections, irregular; and the walk of life, sinful (Eph. 4:18; Rom. 8:7).
18. What do they become by effectual calling?
The understanding is enlightened to know God in His all-sufficiency (I Cor. 2:12-13a). The will is changed to serve and glorify God (Rom. 7:15). The affections are purified to hate sin, to love God as the supreme good, and to desire holiness (Rom. 6:19). The walk of life is sanctified.
19. Is this internal calling efficacious?
Yes, it has an irresistible power (Eph. 1:19-20).
20. Is there more in the internal call than external persuasion?
Yes, an inward inclining of the will of God's elect
21. Does God compel the will of the elect?
No, He makes His elect willing (Song of Solomon 1:4).
22. How is the efficacy of the internal calling expressed in Scripture?
It is called a creating. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Eph. 2:10). It is also termed a drawing; "No man can come unto Me, except the Father, which hath sent Me draw him " (John 6:44).
The content of this page is from Bible Doctrine: A Reference for Teens & Adults (Book Two, page 129-147)
Browse and read chapters from this book at http://www.holybible.com/resources/doctrine1/index.shtml
Please email comments, suggestions, and/or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
©2006 Christian Missions