When we look at Scripture there are two kinds of calls: the external call (universal /resistible), and the internal call (limited / effectual).
Today I’ll describe the external call. This is addressed to all, “To you, O men, I call; and my cry is to the children of man” (Prov. 8:4). Christ calls all mankind to repentance, faith and holiness. As Michael Horton puts it, “Scripture proclaims the gospel to everyone. In this outward call, Christ delivers Himself to all as the only Savior. Yet only when the Spirit inwardly and effectually draws sinners to Christ do they actually receive the gift announced to them in the gospel.”
Jesus states, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). This speaks of a call much wider than the elect. It is addressed to many, to millions across the world, across every age. It is the call of the gospel: repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. The prophet Isaiah says, “Turn to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is no one else” (Isa. 45:22). Revelation also speaks of this when it ends with, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Rev. 22:17).
The Holy Spirit says to all, come and drink of salvation. This first call is the universal call of the gospel from God through men to every human being to come for salvation. Because this call it is external only, it may be resisted and refused. For example Acts 7:51 “You stiffed necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.” 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 also, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ and Him crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” When Paul preached he found that some of his hearers accepted and some rejected his message. It is only through the Spirit that makes the gospel irresistible.
The great commission demands we proclaim the gospel. The gospel call is universal but it is resistible until the power of the Holy Spirit makes it Irresistible. The Holy Spirit is what makes it sweet. To be frank there is nothing we can contribute that is effectual. God is the author and He has the power, so He gets the glory always.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
We may get discouraged and impatient not seeing the fruit of faithfully proclaiming the Gospel to our friends and family, but it shouldn’t make us ashamed. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith'” (Romans 1:16-17).
It should give us encouragement and passion to proclaim it even more knowing God is the one to make it effective.
“Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.” (The Canons of Dort, Head of Doctrine 2, article 5)
On my next blog I’ll be looking at the internal call, that is limited but effectual.