Within the church, God has brought together through His effectual calling peoples who were once enemies but are now one in Christ. The call of God is humbling when one realizes that God summons to Himself those who were once His enemies, a humility which shows itself by our being reconciled to others who the world sees as our enemies.
Of all the particular doctrines which fall within the realm of the ordo salutis of salvation, perhaps none are less understood than the doctrine of effectual calling. This seems ironic since the doctrine is referenced many times in the New Testament alone. Because of its common usage then, this doctrine should be one which every believer is not only familiarized with but understood and embraced. Yet before we delve into the importance, we must understand precisely what it means. The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (2LCF) states the following in Chapter 10 on Effectual Calling:
Those whom God hath predestined unto life, He is pleased in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ, enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh, renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.[i]
Perhaps more succinctly, John Murray in his preeminent book on the ordo salutis, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, states, “If we are to understand the strength of this word [call]…we must use the word ‘summons.’ The action by which God makes his people the partakers of redemption is that of summons. And since it is God’s summons it is efficacious summons.”[ii] Acknowledging that we don’t often associate a summons with the power to force compliance with that summons, he elaborates. “It is wholly otherwise with God’s summons. The summons is invested with the efficacy by which we are delivered to the destination intended – we are effectively ushered into the fellowship of Christ. There is something determinate about God’s call; by his sovereign power and grace it cannot fail of accomplishment. God calls the things that be not as though they were (cf. Rom. 4:17).”[iii] Thus “Effectual Calling” is the action of God by which sinners are brought by the work of the Holy Spirit to understand the truth of the Gospel and its demands upon their lives of repentance of sin and faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ.