Catechism Insight – Doctrinal Standard WSC #31

Doctrinal Standard #31

  • Q. What is effective calling?
  • A. Effective calling is the work of God’s Spirit, Who convinces us that we are sinful and miserable, Who enlightens our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and Who renews our wills. This is how He persuades and makes us able to receive Jesus Christ, Who is freely offered to us in the gospel.

Memory Verses

  • “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:29–30, ESV).


  • Study Passage: Ephesians 2:1-10
    • Support Passages: Acts 26:14, Romans 8:28-30, John 3:5-8, Acts 28:23-28, Ezekiel 36:25-28, I Corinthians 1:22-25, II Thessalonians 2:13&14
  • Bible Story: Acts 10


  • Below is taken from Chapter thirty-three of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology on the Gospel Call and Effective Calling (pg. 692-693).

“When Paul says, ‘Those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified’ (Rom. 8:30), he indicates that calling is an act of God. In fact, it is specifically an act of God the Father, for he is the one who predestines people ‘to be conformed to the image of his son’ (Rom. 8:29). Other verses describe more fully what this calling is. When God calls people in this powerful way, he calls them ‘out of darkness into his marvelous light’ (1 Peter 2:9); he calls them ‘into the fellowship of his Son’ (1 Cor 1:9; cf. Acts 2:39) and ‘into his own kingdom and glory’ (1 Thess. 2:12; cf. 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 1:3). People who have been called by God ‘belong to Jesus Christ’ (Rom. 1:6). They are called to ‘be saints’ (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:2), and have come into a realm of peace (1 Cor. 7:15; Col 3:15), freedom (Gal 5:13), hope (Eph. 1:18; 4:4), holiness (1 Thess. 4:7), patient endurance suffering (1 Peter 2:20-21; 3:9), and eternal life (1 Tim. 6:12).

These verses indicate that no powerless, merely human calling is in view. This calling is rather a kind of ‘summons’ from the King of the universe and it has such power that is brings about the response that it asks for in people’s hearts. It is an act of God that guarantees a response, because Paul specifies in Romans 8:30 that all who were ‘called’ were ‘justified.’ This calling has the capacity to draw us out of the kingdom of darkness and bring us into God’s kingdom so we can join in full fellowship with him: ‘God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his son, Jesus Christ our Lord’ (1 Cor. 1:9).

This powerful act of God is often referred to as effective calling to distinguish it from the general gospel invitation that goes to all people and which some people reject. This is not to say that human gospel proclamation is not involved. In fact, God’s effective calling comes through the human preaching of the gospel, because Paul says, ‘to this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Thess. 2:14). Of course, there are many who hear the general call of the gospel message and do not respond. But in some cases the gospel call is made so effective by the working of the Holy Spirit in people’s hearts that they do respond; we can say that they have received ‘effective calling.’

We may define effective calling as follows: Effective calling is an act of God the Father speaking through the human proclamation of the gospel, in which he summons people to himself in such a way that they respond in saving faith.

It is important that we not give the impression that people will be saved by the power of his call apart from their own willing response to the gospel (see chapter 35 on the personal faith and repentance that are necessary for conversion). Although it is true that effective calling awakens and brings forth a response from us, we must always insists that this response still has to be a voluntary, willing response in which the individual person puts his or her trust in Christ.

This is why prayer is so important to effective evangelism. Unless God works in people’s hearts to make the proclamation of the gospel effective, there will be no genuine saving response. Jesus said, ‘no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him’ (John 6:44).

An example of the gospel call working effectively is seen in Paul’s first visit to Philippi. When Lydia hearf the gospel message, ‘the Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul’ (Acts 16:14).

In distinction from effective calling, which entirely an act of God, we may talk about the gospel call in general which comes through human speech. This gospel call is referred to all people, even those who do not accept it. Sometimes this gospel call is referred to as external calling or general calling. By contrast, the effective calling of God that actually brings about a willing response from the person who hears it is sometimes called internal calling. The gospel call is general and external and often rejected, while the effective call is particular, internal, and always effective. However, this is not to diminish the importance of the gospel call – it is the means God has appointed through which effective calling will come. Without the gospel call, no one could respond and be saved! ‘How are they to believe in him whom they have never heard?’ (Rom. 10:14). Therefore it is important to understand exactly what the gospel call is.”[1]

Discussion Questions

  • Why do we need the work of the Holy Spirit in order to receive Jesus Christ and please God?
  • Why does God need to enlighten our minds in the knowledge of Christ?
  •  Why does God need to renew our wills?
  • The catechism says He “persuades and makes us able to receive Jesus Christ.” What does the catechism mean when it says persuades?
  • What part does God’s word and prayer play in people receiving Jesus Christ?
  • How does it make you feel that God is in control of our salvation?

[1] Grudem, Wayne (1994). Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA; Zondervan Publishing House.

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