In times of suffering and celebration, it is the LORD who works all things for our good (Rom. 8:28)! We already looked at the first of two qualifications attached to this glorious truth. We saw that it is for those who love God. Thomas Watson then takes his tour of this comforting verse down into the core of those that love God. He explains how those who love God are also known as those who are called according to God’s purpose. It is in this second qualification where we find that the rock it is all built on is God Himself.
The distinction, condition, means, method, properties, and end of God’s effectual calling:
Watson beautifully explains a distinction between two different callings. The first includes an outward general call inviting all to Him. This is a call that leaves man no excuse. The second call is an inward effectual one that overpowers the heart and brings a sinner to embrace Christ for salvation.
Before this call, sinners are at the devil’s call. They are hopeless and helpless in complete darkness, pollution (Ezek. 16:6), damnation ( John 3:16,36), and impotency (Rom. 5:6).
The Means of the effectual call are powerful. They are God’s word and His Spirit. While these two means are always the case for salvation, the Lord doesn’t always do this in a particular order. He sometimes arrives quietly like morning dew. God’s Spirit and word may come in a still small voice where God gradually and secretly changes a person. He may also come in rough winds and storms. Either way, it is His call that we are dependent on. The method may be different, but the effect is the same and God gets the glory.
There are some key properties of this call. First, it is a sweet call. This is seen as the stubbornness of the will is taken away and conquered. It is also a holy call as God calls men out from sin. It is an irresistible call. Watson points out that you may resist the preacher’s call but you cannot resist the Spirit’s (Acts 26:19; Rom. 9:19; Ps. 107:16; 114:5). It is a high call (Phil. 3:14), a gracious call (1 Cor. 1:26), a glorious call (1 Pet. 5:10) a rare call (Matt. 22:14), and an unchangeable call (Rom. 11:29). The natural result of this is that the whole purpose and end of God’s call is to the praise of His glorious grace (Eph. 1:12).
Diligent to make our calling sure.
How do we know we are called? There will be a change of qualities and heart. Watson stirs us up by reminding us to NOT be content with just Christ being preached, satisfied with an empty profession, or only rest in baptism. After stirring up those with a false confidence, he settles us with three things we may look towards to see if there has been a true effectual calling being made sure in us. First, there will be a change in understanding as ignorance is driven from the deep with light (2 Pet. 2:9). This is a penetrating light that enlightens and quickens. Second, there will be a change in the will from being opposed to Christ to a warm embrace of Him (Acts 9:6). Third, there is a change in conduct. A person that is called of God is one who is called out of the way of the World and they esteem this call as the highest blessing. There will be diligence in these areas as a believer must not be lazy (Prov.24:30-32).
We must be called of God before we can love God (1 Jn. 4:19). Calling is made the middle link in the golden chain of salvation. It is placed between predestination and the glorification of every believer (Rom. 8:30). If we have this middle link fast, we can be sure of the two other ends of the chain. May these observable things help bring us assurance in what Christ has done and is doing in us.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood
Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior, am happy and blessed
Watching and waiting, looking above
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love