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SCRIPTURE REFERENCES » 1 Corinthians 1:18–31

Evening Sermon: What Is Effectual Calling?: Baptist Catechism 34: 1 Corinthians 1:18–31

Baptist Catechism 34

Question: What is effectual calling?

Answer: Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the Gospel. (2 Tim. 1:9; John 16:8-11; Acts 2:37; 26:18; Ezekiel 36:26; John 6:44,45; 1 Cor. 12:3)

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18–31

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ 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. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Corinthians 1:18–31, ESV)

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[Please excuse any and all typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church, but without the benefit of proofreading.] 

Introduction

The question that we have been considering over the past couple of weeks, and with the help of the last couple of questions in our catechism, is “how are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?” That is Baptist Catechism question 32, which is the leading question in a series of questions having to do with the application of redemption to the elect of God. 

You have probably noticed that I have referred to the “elect of God” a few times in the past couple of weeks in the sermons on the Lord’s Day evenings. I have mentioned the “elect of God”, but I have not taken the time to explain what that means. That is because I dealt with the subject some time ago when this teaching was being delivered in audio form only, and not through preaching as it is now being delivered. Those previous lessons are archived for you on our website under Learn>Catechesis. 

But I think now would be a good time for us to remember what we learned back in Baptist Catechism 23. After teaching about sin and its devastating effects, our catechism then asked, “Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?” And the answer given was that “God having out of His mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation, by a Redeemer.” This is the first mention of the gospel in our catechism. This good news is properly set against the backdrop of the bad news of our sin and misery. There in Baptist Catechism 23 the doctrine of election is introduced to us. There we learn what the scriptures so clearly teach, that God, in his mercy did elect (or we may say choose or predestine) some to everlasting life. This he did being moved “by his good pleasure”. This he did in eternity past. This he did by entering into a covenant of grace. And this he would accomplish through a Redeemer. Questions 24 — 31 identify this “Redeemer of God’s elect” as the Lord Jesus Christ”. They tell us all about his person and the work of salvation that he accomplished. And now in questions 32 — 34, we are considering how it is that the redemption purchased by Christ is applied to us. 

Why have I bothered to trace the teaching of our Catechism all the way back to question 23 today? I have done this so that we might see clearly that when Christ accomplished redemption, he did it for the elect of God. And when the Spirit applies the redemption that Christ has earned, he applies it to the elect of God. This is the clear teaching of scripture. And so our Catechism is right to speak first of election, then of the person and work of the “Redeemer of God elect”, and then of the application of this redemption to the elect of God by the Spirit through what has been called “effectual calling”.

I’m sure you have noticed the presence of the word “effectual” in questions 32, 33, and 34. Q. 32: How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ? A: We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us, by His Holy Spirit. Q: 33. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ? A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling. And now Q. 34: What is effectual calling?

We will learn about what “effectual calling” is in just a moment. But before we go there let us simply define the term “effectual”. When we say that someone or something is “effectual” we mean that it was successful in bringing about an intended result. In our common language, we might use the word “effective” instead. This work of the Spirit that we are now considering — this work wherein he applies the redemption purchased by Christ by working faith in us and thereby uniting us to Christ — is called an “effectual calling” because it is a calling that is always effective. Just as Christ got the job done in accomplishing the redemption of God’s elect, so too the Spirit gets the job done in applying redemption to God’s elect. In other words, not one of God elect will be lost. They will all be brought to glory, just as Paul teaches in that famous Romans 8 passage: “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. 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).

For those of you still struggling to understand or accept the Bible’s teaching on election or predestination, I would recommend that you go back and listen to that teaching that I produced on Baptist Catechism 23. There are also other teachings on that subject on our website archived under Learn>Podcast. In fact, I think you can access that serries by going to emmausrbc.org/tulip. These teachings would be a good place to start. 

But today we are considering this thing called “effectual calling”. What is it? How does it work? How is this calling always effective?

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Effectual Calling Is The Work Of God’s Spirit

First of all, we must remember that “effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit.” 

Our salvation is the work of the Triune God, as I have said many times now. “For God [the Father] so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…” (John 3:16), and God the Son so loved the Father that he accomplished the work that the Father gave him to do, namely, to earn eternal life for all whom the Father had given to him in eternity past. This is the clear teaching of scripture. Read John 17 for yourself to see. Read John 10 and see that Christ laid his life down for the sheep. Read Ephesians 5:25 and learn that Christ died for his bride, the church. Christ atoned for the sins of the elect. He died for the world in this sense — he is the savior of all peoples, not only of the Jews but also the Gentiles. The Son of God accomplished redemption, and the Holy Spirit applies it. It should not surprise us in the least to see that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work in unison. And it should not surprise us in the least that the Father’swill will certainly be accomplished with precision. All those given to the Son by the Father will certainly be brought to glory by the Spirit. 

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Convincing Us Of Our Sin And Misery

So how does the Spirit do it? The word “whereby” in answer 34 signals that we are about to learn how the Spirit gets the job done.

First of all, the Spirit gets the job done by “convincing us of our sin and misery…”

In just a moment we will learn that the Spirit works with and through the preaching of the gospel. The gospel must be preached, friends, if man and women are to be saved. There must be that external call, wherein men and women call other men and women to repentance and faith in Christ. And if we pay careful attention to how the gospel was preached in the pages of the New Testament, and particularly the book of Acts, we will see both law and gospel were proclaimed together. God’s law reveals what God requires of us, and the gospel reveals what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. One of the functions of the law is to condemn us — that is, to make us aware of our sin and misery. And so the law and gospel work together. The law is, among other things, the dark backdrop for the light of the gospel. The law reveals our need, the gospel holds out the solution. The law shows us that we are sick, the gospel provides the cure. When the law says, “thou shall not bear false witness”, for example, is does not only reveal how we ought to live, it also reveals that we are lawbreakers and sinners, for who among us has kept this law perfectly? And we know that the wages of sin is death. The law reveals shows us our sin and misery. 

But what do sinful and unregenerate men and women do when they hear the law and gospel? They reject them both! In their self-righteous pride, they deny their need, and they reject the Savior. The gospel is foolish to them, just as that passage in 1 Corinthians 1 has said. But this is not so with the elect of God. The elect of God will, in due time, be convinced of their sin and misery by the Holy Spirit, and thereby recognize their need for a Savior.

If you are in Christ today, this happened to you at some time in the past. At some point, you became aware of your tremendous need. You came to understand that you were a lawbreaker, that you stood under God’s wrath, and, like the Philippian jailer, you asked, “what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30, ESV). Or, like some of those who listened to Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost, you “were cut to the heart, and said… what shall [I] do?” (Acts 2:37, ESV). How did that happen? What moved you to respond in this way? Well, it was the work of the Holy Spirit. Not only were you called externally by the preached gospel, but you were also called inwardly and effectually by the Spirit of God. He convinced you of your sin and misery, for this is his work. 

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Enlightening Our Minds In The Knowledge Of Christ 

Secondly, the Spirit draws the elect to salvation by “enlightening [their] minds in the knowledge of Christ.”

What does this mean to have your mind enlightened in the knowledge of Christ? It means that the Spirit of God opens your spiritual eyes to see Christ as the wonderful Savior that he is. It means that the Holy Spirit moves you to comprehend the wisdom of God in the gospel. It means that the Holy Spirit moves you to say, it is true, and, I believe, when presented with the good news of Jesus the Christ. 

Perhaps you are beginning to see that the Holy Spirit effectually calls the elect to faith in Christ by renewing the various faculties of man’s soul that were twisted and distorted by his fall into sin to make him averse to God and unable to draw near to God on his own, to the salvation of his soul.

Man’s heart is not naturally soft to the things of God, but hard and stone-like. The Spirit can break a heart of stone, and this he does for the elect, as we have already seen.   

Man’s mind is not naturally filled with light and open to the things of God but is dark and twisted. But the Spirit can enlighten the mind, and this he does for the elect in due time in our effectual calling.  

Listen to the way that Paul describes the unregenerate in Ephesians 4:17: “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” And now listen to what he says to those who have been redeemed: “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17–24, ESV)

The Holy Spirit effectually calls God’s elect by convincing them of their sin and misery, and by enlightening their minds in the knowledge of Christ.

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Renewing Our Wills 

Thirdly, we see that the Holy Spirit renews another aspect of man’s being that has been distorted by his fall into sin when he effectually calls him: he renewing our wills.

To be human is to have a will. The will is that part of man that makes choices. We choose to do things and not others all the time. The condition of our heart and mind will affect the will. We act according to our desires and affections. When man fell into sin he did not lose his will, that is to say, the ability to make real and free choices. But the will of man did also fall into sin so that he does not will that which is good pleasing to God, but that which is evil. This is now our natural condition apart from Christ. We have a will. We might even say that we have a free will (if by that we mean that we make real choices from the heart, not being controlled by something external to us). But apart from Christ, the will of man is in bondage to sin. 

We do not by nature choose to live for the glory of God, but the glory of self. We do not choose to live for his pleasure, but our own. We do not choose righteousness and holiness, but sin. We will not choose Christ but will reject him if left to ourselves, for we are born in sin and in bondage to it. This is what Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Romans, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed…” (Romans 6:17, ESV).

How did this transformation of which Paul speaks take place within these Roman Christians? By the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit. They were once slaves to sin. Their wills were in bondage to it. But the Spirit set them free. He renewed their wills so that they might be obedient from the heart. And this he has done for you, if you are in Christ Jesus.

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He Doth Persuade And Enable Us To Embrace Jesus Christ Freely Offered To Us In The Gospel 

Fourthly, notice the end result of this work of the Spirit. By convincing us of our sin and misery, by enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and by renewing our wills, the Holy Spirit does persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel.  

I appreciate the words “persuade” and “enable”. To be persuaded is to be convinced. The Spirit persuades us to come to Christ by convincing us of our sin and misery and by enlightening our minds to the glories of Christ. To “enable” is to make it possible for someone to do something. The Spirit enables us to come to Christ by freeing us from our natural bondage to sin, by the renewal of our wills. Do not forget what Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day”. In our fallen condition, no one can come to Christ. No one is able to come unless the Father draws him. And this he does by his word and Spirit. When the Spirit effectually calls the elect to Christ, he “enables” them to come. 

And I also appreciate the word “embrace” — the Spirit does “persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ”, the catechism says. “Embrace” is clearly being used here as a synonym for “believe upon”, or have “faith in”. Question 33 has already taught that the Holy Spirit works “faith” in those he effectually calls. But the word “embrace” is a beautiful word, I think. It is a very warm word. It communicates love, adoration, and appreciation for Christ. It communicates that faith is not a distant and cold trusting in the work of Christ, but a trusting that leads to fellowship, friendship and companionship. Remember that through faith we are united to Christ in our effectual calling! When I read that word “embrace” I am reminded of how Jesus wept for Lazarus, how Martha sat at his feet, how tender Christ was to Peter when he restored him, and his words to his disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant, does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15, ESV). To have faith in Christ is to embrace him, to fall into his strong arms, and to be comforted by his love.

The last thing that must be said, is that Spirit persuades and enables us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel. 

I have said it once, but it must be said again. We must preach the gospel, friends. The external call is essential! No one will be saved apart from the gospel call, for it is the gospel that the Spirit persuades and enables men and women to belive when he effectually calls them. Stated differently, the Spirit does not effectually call sinners apart from the word, but through the word of God, the gospel of truth. 

And this why Paul has said, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10:13–15, ESV). 

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Conclusion

Perhaps you can go back and read that 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 passage that was read at the beginning of this sermon with this teaching on effectual calling in mind. The term “effectual calling” is not used, but the idea is certainly there. Paul makes a distinction between those who are perishing and those who are being saved. Those who are perishing hear the gospel and think it is foolish. But those who are being saved see it as the wisdom of God. And in conclusion, the Apostle said, “consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

What a wonderful thought to conclude with. If we are Christ it is because we were chosen in eternity past, and effectually call by the word of God and by his Holy Spirit at the appointed time. It is all by his grace. Therefore, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Question: What is effectual calling?

Answer: Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the Gospel. 

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, 1 Corinthians 1:18–31, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Evening Sermon: What Is Effectual Calling?: Baptist Catechism 34: 1 Corinthians 1:18–31


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warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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