RR Season 2 006

Effectual Calling (The Doctrine of Salvation)

• Jun, 25 2024

Join R.J. Rushdoony for another sermon in his lecture series, " The Doctrine of Salvation!"

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Effectual Calling

R.J. Rushdoony

Our subject is ‘effectual calling.’ Paul declares in Romans 8:28-30:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” 1

Now, the word ‘call’ in the New Testament is the Greek ‘kaleō.’ Our very word call comes from that word, which means to call, to summon, or to invite. Now, an important thing about this word which is generally neglected is this. The force of the word depends upon the caller. Let me repeat that. The force of the word depends upon the caller. Thus, if I issue a call, it is an invitation. If a judge issues a call, the force of the word then is a summons, an order. When a king issues a call, again, it has the same force, it is a summons, a command, it cannot be resisted. Thus, God’s calling is a command.

Moreover, depending again upon the caller, the Greek word can mean to be called or destined, appointed, chosen. Now, God’s calling is effectual, because God is absolutely effectual. God’s calling is sovereign because God is the absolute sovereign. So that when God calls, His calling is a summons and a command, and it determines, and predestines as well. Hence, when Paul speaks of calling, he says:

“Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

There is no halting. There is no slip-up. Nothing anywhere along the line. What God does is done.

Now, the Westminster Confession in the tenth chapter, the second section, identifies regeneration and effectual calling. It declares:

“This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man, (2 Tim. 1:9, Tit. 3:4–5, Eph. 2:4–5, 8–9) who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, (1 Cor. 2:14, Rom. 8:7, Eph. 2:5) he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it. (John 6:37, John 5:25)” 2

Very clearly, there is this identification between regeneration and effectual calling in Romans 8:30. But in other passages, and with Reformed scholars generally, a distinction is made. Regeneration is the begetting again, the being born again, the beginning of the call, whereas, the calling is more inclusive.

However, at this point, there is a serious problem, and there is a very, very serious error in a great deal of Reformed thinking. The error is in restricting the calling to being chosen. Now, this is an important point to recognize. Because so many of the traditional Reformed and/or Presbyterian churches have been prone to this error on calling, that is, they restrict it to being chosen, it leads to a spiritual pride. “We are the elect, we are the chosen of God.” And thus it is, there is a stagnation in so many of the Presbyterian and Reformed churches, a deadness, an inability to see any good outside of their circle, an inability to be ablaze with a concern for God’s work.

The point of effectual calling is that we are not the focus, and when effectual calling is limited to being chosen, what it says is that effectual calling means that I am the elect, and so man makes himself the goal and the be-all of God’s predestination and his calling, but we are not the focus. The purpose of God goes beyond our being chosen, and our being chosen is merely an instrument for God’s purposes. Our Lord makes this abundantly clear in the verse in which the writers of the Westminster Confession stressed. John 15:16, one of the great texts on calling.

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” 3

Now, what does this tell us about calling? First of all, our Lord here, very definitely declares that the calling, the choosing is entirely of God. He is the Lord. He is the sovereign. He alone can summon man into his presence, and there is no entering until invited. It is not man that chooses the Lord, but the Lord who chooses man.

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.”

But second, the purpose of our calling is not to be chosen but to bear fruit, to be productive to the Lord and his kingdom.

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit…”

Now, do you see the error and evil in seeing effectual calling as being chosen? That’s not the focus. The focus is not on man, it is on going forth and bearing fruit for the kingdom, for the Lord:

“I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit…”

This is extremely important.

Last Sunday, June 3, 1979, as I was driving home from Los Angeles, I heard, well, one of the more important radio Bible broadcasts in this country, and the title looked very promising. It was Kingdom Builders. But the sermon was very disappointing, because who are the kingdom builders and what is kingdom building? The pastor went on to define them. They are those who are ministers and missionaries, who are church officers, and Sunday School teachers, and work in the women’s work, and those who pray for the pastor and all the missionaries, and the church workers, and are active in the support of the church.

In other words, kingdom building was limited to the institutional church! Nothing said about going out into all the vocations. The doctor who is a Christian doctor who works to roll back the power of sin and death in his domain is kingdom-building. A plumber who advances progress and better living in terms of God’s kingdom, and in terms of his law is a kingdom-builder. In fact, a lot of plumbers in the recent years have been better kingdom builders than most pastors. Our calling in Christ is in every area, in every kind of vocation. We cannot limit it to the institutional church. After all, the original calling of man was of Adam in the Garden of Eden to be a farmer. The first calling God gave a man, to be a farmer, and secondarily, a cattleman. Adam was not called to be the Rev. Dr. Adam of the First Church of Eden.

And how is man called? The Westminster Confession, Chapter 10, section one states it very beautifully.

“All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, (Rom. 8:30, Rom. 11:7, Eph. 1:10–11) by His word and Spirit, (2 Thess. 2:13–14, 2 Cor. 3:3,6) out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; (Rom. 8:2, Eph. 2:1–5, 2 Tim. 1:9–10) enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, (Acts 26:18, 1 Cor. 2:10,12, Eph. 1:17–18) taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; (Ezek. 36:26) renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, (Ezek. 11:19, Phil. 2:13, Deut. 30:6, Ezek. 36:27) and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: (Eph. 1:19, John 6:44–45) yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. (Cant. 1:4, Ps. 110:3, John 6:37, Rom. 6:16–18)” 4

Effectual calling, in other words, is an act of God, which whether gradual or sudden, is at one and the same time both completely supernatural and natural, and is at every point, the work of the Lord. After all, God’s power is as total in the natural realm as in the supernatural. And God uses everything in our lives providentially to bring us to that point and to call us in terms of his purpose, and everything in our lives up to that point has been for the purpose of his calling, so that we might serve Him as He purposes.

Now, when man is called, whether to be a pastor or a doctor, or a dentist, or a cattleman or a farmer, or a plumber, or a scientist, and when he is saved, the beginning of his call, his regeneration, God doesn’t come and tap him on the shoulder and say, “Look, you’re now saved, and this is the spot I’ve picked for you, and the vocation (or calling) I have picked for you.” No. Rather God guides us step by step, so that we move naturally now, being the Lord’s to do what we do for him. So that whatever we do, wherever we are, if we are faithful to him and his word, we manifest his effectual calling. Our calling to our salvation and service are alike natural and supernatural, and everything that we do serves his kingdom. After all, even the work of the Gentiles, the ungodly, will serve him. Isaiah 61:6 declares:

Ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles,

And in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. 5

Thus, we are called that we may go forth and bear fruit.

But then, third, our Lord says something further:

“...that your fruit should remain.”

That’s a magnificent promise. Outwardly, it may disappear. My father, in his lifetime, helped as pastor, three times building projects, to get churches built. Now, as the years have passed, I believe all three churches are gone, that is, the buildings, but the work remains. What God intended was accomplished. Paul says:

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” 6

There is no futility in our calling. Troubles, yes, but no futility. Our calling is a royal summons, a command, a decree, and because it is ordained and decreed by God, it is an effectual calling. God determines the call and he determines the effectualness of it.

Now, a command from the throne requires diligence. Our Lord in more than one parable, stresses the necessity of diligence, when God, when the Lord, issues a command. He also stresses the certainty when we move by faith and in obedience to him of conquest and of triumph.

To cite again Joshua 1:3 and 5:

“Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you.”

“I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

Verses which Paul quoted in Hebrews 13, I believe verse 6.

Then finally, as our Lord speaks:

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” 7

We have a fact of prayer. We have been chosen, not for our purpose, and we are to pray not for our purpose, but in His Name. In terms of His power and His kingdom, and His purpose, and our place in it, and our service to Him, and we are to pray in terms of confidence in His effectual calling, and in His sovereign purpose. We are to pray in terms of His grace and His kingdom, in terms of the guarantee of our productivity and of our rule in Him. So, we pray, not in terms of ourselves as the focus, but in terms of His calling, His kingdom, and our productivity in terms of it.

Effectual calling, thus, does not make us the center. We are not chosen and that’s the end of our effectual calling. It’s the beginning. Regeneration means that we have been called and chosen, but only for God’s purpose, not so we can sit back and say, “well, I’ve got the issue of Heaven settled. God chose me, he did it, and now I can relax, I am safe for eternity, I’ve got life and fire insurance, and nothing to worry about.” No. When we are called by the Lord, we are commissioned to go forth into that area of life and though which is our place under his purpose, and there to bear fruit under him, and there to be diligent in service and in prayer, that His will be done. And we are told to pray, and our Lord himself gives the model of the prayer saying.

“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (and then we come into the prayer) Give us this day our daily bread.” 8

Have you ever considered the implication of that? Not: “Give me security for the rest of my life so that, give me for the rest of my life my daily bread, a guaranteed insurance policy, Lord, and then it will be safer, easier for me to serve you. If I’m really your chosen, give me that policy. I want it signed, sealed, and delivered.” No. “thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” and where do I come in?

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

We definitely come in a very poor second, because we are not called, we are not chosen for ourselves, but for His purpose. And today, too many people go to church in terms of what can the church do for my needs? Our needs, whether they be material or spiritual, are a very poor second to God’s purpose, God’s requirement, and we are saved, regenerated, and called to bear fruit to him. This is the purpose and the meaning of our life. But if we try to find the purpose in terms of our security, our will being done, then we have turned our back on the Lord and we have created an idol, using the words of the Bible, and it is not the living God whom we serve.

Are there any questions now?

* * *

No questions?


[Audience] Well, Rush, how can a minister, in just a matter of three or four sentences, say that God called you by his Holy Spirit. He called you and you shouldn’t reject the Holy Spirit, but the very next sentence is will say that God will not force himself upon you. Isn’t that kind of contradictory?

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Audience] I’ve heard that cliché a number of times from these gentlemen.

[Rushdoony] Yes, it is. God does not do violence to our will, but he completely determines our will.

[Audience] The problem is that when people speak of free will, they think of man as being independent or autonomous. And you have pointed out previously, that man makes it almost as if man makes decisions without any reference to his dependency as creature, and that’s just not the case. As Herman Bavinck, a great Dutch Reformed theologian, pointed out, free will in the Bible is simply the fact that God has given us minds to think with, to make wise decisions and we act, and we exercise dominion, but all of that is within God’s plan.

[Rushdoony] The Bible never even uses the term ‘free will.’ It only uses the terms of responsibility and accountability, that we must stand before the Lord as judge, in other words. God alone has absolute free will. Ours is the freedom of a creature, which is a very different thing.


[Audience] It seems to me really the issue between God’s sovereignty and the sovereignty of man in saying that man has a free will to determine his own destiny.

[Rushdoony] It’s saying that man is God.


[Audience] Besides, they don’t realize they’re saying two things in the same, what, three minutes?

[Rushdoony] They do, yes. They’re halting between two opinions.

[Audience] I had a friend who wrote a letter to the president of a very well-known seminary in this country about this very issue, and he wrote back and said, “Well, I believe in a sovereign work of God in salvation. That’s very true, but there’s also a sovereign work of man.” And then when he was confronted with this and accused of being a synergist, that is, that it’s just not God working, but that man works, too, he said, “Oh, I’m not a synergist. I don’t believe that.”

[Rushdoony] Well, if there are no further questions or comments, let’s bow our heads now in prayer.

* * *

Our Lord and our God, we thank thee for our fellowship in thee. Dismiss us with thy blessing. Give all traveling mercies as they journey homeward, a blessed night’s rest, and joy in thee day by day. In Jesus name. Amen.

1 Ro 8:28–30.

2 The Westminster Confession Of Faith. (1996). Logos Research Systems, Inc.

3 Jn 15:16.

4 The Westminster Confession Of Faith. (1996). Logos Research Systems, Inc.

5 Is 61:6.

6 1 Co 15:58.

7 Jn 15:16.

8 Mt 6:9–11.

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