A. There is a general or external call or invitation of the gospel.
B. There is a special or effective call to salvation.
Charles Ryrie observes: The vast majority of occurrences concern the effectual call which leads to salvation. From such verses as Romans 1:1; 8:28; I Timothy 6:12; II Peter 1:3, 10 it is clear that the calling is not merely a general invitation but that mysterious yet effectual work of God through the Holy Spirit which brings man to saving faith in Jesus Christ. To those who are not called in this effectual sense, the gospel remains foolishness (I Cor. 1:21-25) (Ryrie, The Holy Spirit, page 62).
1. Who calls the sinner to salvation?
a. God the Father “God is faithful, by whom you were called” (1 Corinthians 1:9).
b. The Father called through the Son, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke. 5:32).
c. The Son uses the Word and the Spirit (“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
2. Why does God call sinners to salvation? Because sinners are totally depraved.
Unregenerate men are not able to take one step, apart from the enabling power of the Spirit, in the direction of their salvation. The Arminian error which avers that a general and universal grace is given to all men by which they, if they will, may turn to God is exposed and reproved by a large body of Scripture, and no Scripture is found which sustains this error. Several of these vital passages may well be considered at this point (Chafer, Systematic Theology, pages 212, 213).
Richard Watson is an Arminian theologian who wrote of this sufficient or universal grace: “As all men are required to do those things which have a saving tendency, we contend that the grace to do them has been bestowed upon all” (Richard Watson, Theological Institutes, New York: Carlton & Porter, n.d. II, pp. 61-80). What is wrong with this position?
a. Sinners do not seek God for salvation (Romans 3:10-18).
b. Sinners are totally unable on their own to understand the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:14).
c. Sinners are satanically blinded (2 Corinthians 4:3-6) and controlled (1 John 5:19). “Those in Satan’s power will turn to God only as One who is greater in power than Satan moves them so to turn” (Chafer, p. 215).
d. Sinners are dead (Ephesians 2:1).
Three Views on The Sinner’s Condition
The sinner is well The sinner is sick The sinner is dead
Peligianism Arminianism Calvinism and Modified
3. How does God call sinners to salvation effectively?
a. Through the gospel which is the external call (2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14).
b. Through the Holy Spirit which is the effective call.
c. Through Faith (Romans 10:17).
d. Through Regeneration (Titus 3:5) or the new birth (John 3:5).
a. Through regeneration which is done without the sinner’s knowledge.
As Grudem writes, “regeneration comes before saving faith” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994, p. 702).
Or as Berkhof defended: Regeneration is a creative work of God, and is therefore a work in which man is purely passive, and in which there is no place for human co-operation . . . ‘created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them’ Eph. 2:10 (Berkhof, p.465).
Berkhof also believed that in the case of children regeneration can take place years before they are effectively called.
The new life is often implanted in the hearts of children long before they are able to hear the call of the gospel . . . In the case of those who live under the administration of the gospel the possibility exists that they receive the seed of regeneration long before they come to years of discretion and therefore also long before the effectual calling penetrates to their consciousness (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941, pages, 471, 472).
Wayne Grudem is not as extreme: “When we say that regeneration comes ‘before’ saving faith, it is important to remember that they usually come so close together that it will ordinarily seem to us that they are happening at the same time” (p. 702).
b. Through the Word which is the external call.
c. Through the Holy Spirit which is the effective call.
d. Through faith which is the result of regeneration. Some Reformed theologians say that faith is a gift from God using Ephesians 2:8, 9 to support this view.
Robert Lightner addresses this issue. In all fairness it should be said that most limited redemptionists do not rule out the necessity of faith. Nevertheless, their strong emphasis upon Christ securing the salvation and even saving the elect in His death and at the time of His death makes the condition of faith for salvation seem rather unnecessary. This difficulty is frequently answered by limited redemptionists by their further insistence that Christ not only died for the elect, securing their salvation and saving them, but that He also procured at the same time the means whereby this salvation would be applied. That is, He purchased the necessary faith of the elect also, giving it to them as a gift which they in turn are to give back to Him at the point of salvation. Very seldom is an attempt made to prove from Scripture that this is true; it is rather a very widespread assumption on the part of strict Calvinists. Even though Calvinistic arguments defending this matter of faith as a special gift to the elect are wanting, reference is usually made to Ephesians 2:8, 9 as a proof text (Robert Lightner, The Death He Died, p.49).
Reformed theologian Wayne Grudem, however, breaks the mold and gives the same answer as Lightner on why Ephesians 2:8, 9 can not mean that faith is the gift referred to the passage, but rather the entire act of salvation is the gift:
The word translated “this” is the neuter pronoun touto, which refers not to “faith” or to “grace” specifically in the previous clause (for they are both feminine nouns in Greek, and would require feminine pronouns), but to the entire idea expressed in the preceding phrase, the idea that you have been saved by grace through faith (Grudem, p.730). See Harold W. Hoehner for the same exegetical argument (Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, pages 342—344).
But Grudem does use John 3:5 to say that regeneration precedes conversion and faith is the result of regeneration. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
When Nicodemus did not understand this example, Jesus used the story from Numbers 21 of Moses and the brass serpent. If a dying Israelite looked, he lived. He did not first receive life and then look. To Nicodemus Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
John Walvoord, in discussing regeneration states that eternal life is received by faith . . . This fact must be kept free from all confusion of thought arising from the concept of regeneration which makes it merely an antecedent of salvation, or a preliminary quickening to enable the soul to believe (Walvoord, The Holy Spirit, p.132).
The various appeals to respond to the gospel imply that conversion results in regeneration: “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38;38). “And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).
This is not the position of Piper: So what verse 8 is teaching is this: We don’t cause the Spirit to bring about the new birth any more than we make the wind blow. Or to be more specific, the decisive act of will in the new birth is not ours. The Spirit’s will is decisive. To be sure, our will moves in the moment of the new birth. Change happens in us. There are perceptible effects of the wind—“ you hear its sound.”