The Larger Catechism, #66-68

The Larger Catechism

Questions 66-68

66.       Q. What is that union which the elect have with Christ?

A. The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace,[270] whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband;[271] which is done in their effectual calling.[272]

67.       Q. What is effectual calling?

A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace,[273] whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto)[274] he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his Word and Spirit;[275] savingly enlightening their minds,[276] renewing and powerfully determining their wills,[277] so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.[278]

68.       Q. Are the elect only effectually called?

A. All the elect, and they only, are effectually called:[279] although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the Word,[280] and have some common operations of the Spirit;[281] who, for their wilful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.[282]

Scriptural Defense and Commentary

[270] Ephesians 1:22. And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church. Ephesians 2:6-7. And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. [271] 1 Corinthians 6:17. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. John 10:28. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. Ephesians 5:23, 30. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body…. For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. [272] 1 Peter 5:10. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 1 Corinthians 1:9. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. [273] John 5:25. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. Ephesians 1:18-20. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. 2 Timothy 1:8-9. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. [274] Titus 3:4-5. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Ephesians 2:4-5, 7-9. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)…. That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Romans 9:11. For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth. [275] 2 Corinthians 5:20. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 6:1-2. We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) John 6:44. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14. But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. [276] Acts 26:18. To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. 1 Corinthians 2:10, 12. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God…. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. [277] Ezekiel 11:19. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26-27. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. John 6:45. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. [278] Ephesians 2:5. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) Philippians 2:13. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Deuteronomy 30:6. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. [279] Acts 13:48. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. [280] Matthew 22:14. For many are called, but few are chosen. [281] Matthew 7:22. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Hebrews 6:4-6. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. [282] John 12:38-40. That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. Acts 28:25-27. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. John 6:64-65. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. Psalm 81:11-12. But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels.

From Invisible Church to Union with Christ

The last question dealt with the “special benefits” of the invisible church. The short answer is that the church enjoys “union and communion” with Christ. The invisible church is synonymous with the elect of God and for that reason, the ideas of union and election are combined in this question. Since union with Christ is the benefit of the invisible church, what then is that union? “What is that union which the elect have with Christ?”

This question is more significant than it appears. If being part of the invisible church is the most important thing and the special benefits of the invisible church is union, then we definitely need to understand what that union means. This is what actually happens; this is how it happens; this is why it happens. The answers explain the actual secret workings in the elect of God.

Most evangelical believers do not readily use “union” language though many NT scholars highlight its significance on account of their reflections on the NT. For them, it has a central place in NT theology, especially in Pauline theology.[1] How does what Christ did and what He has become mine? Union with Christ explains this concern. William Lyford says that union with Christ “is the ground of our partaking in all that Christ ever did or suffered.”[2]

Union with Christ Defined

Two fundamental foundations guide the definition of union with Christ. One is that it is for the elect and the second is that it is the work of God’s grace: “The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace…” Only the elect of God are united to Christ; they alone have the benefits that come from that union. That is, not everyone is united to Christ. Some Roman Catholic theologians and liberal protestant writers teach that Christ is universally united to everyone on account of his incarnation. Only God’s elect are united to Christ (cf. Eph. 1:3-4). Furthermore, this union with Christ “is the work of God’s grace.” It is not something we do or something we affect — rather we end up “in Christ” because God accomplished it by His grace: “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus” (1Cor. 1:30, e˙x aujtouv de« uJmei√ß e˙ste e˙n Cristwˆ◊ ∆Ihsouv).[3]

The LC defines the union in these terms: “whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband…” The two words “spiritually and mystically” mean that the union is the effect of the Spirit (and is immaterial) and is accomplished in a mysterious way. Our union is not personal (one person with Christ) or corporeal (not a bodily union). “The church is the body of Christ, and Christians are the members of Christ, but only in a spiritual sense, not in a physical or material sense of the word.” (Vos, 144) That is, we are not physical extensions of Christ (not sure if certain groups believed that we were corporeally united to Christ).[4]

This union is real and makes us inseparable (“yet really and inseparably”). 1 Corinthians 6:17 says, “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (oJ de« kollw¿menoß twˆ◊ kuri÷wˆ e≠n pneuvma¿ e˙stin.). A real union exists. Vos notes that we often think “spiritual” is not as real and substantial as the physical — but this union is spiritual and real. They are not mutually exclusive. Socinians apparently believed that this union was nothing more than Christ taking on our common nature.[5] It is more than that.

The catechism states that the elect of God by the His gracious work are “joined to Christ as their head and husband…” This union simply means to be joined to Christ as our spiritual head and husband. The head image speaks of the body; the husband analogy speaks of marriage. Since Jesus is our head and husband, we are correspondingly his body and bride.

In the body, all things are common — Christ is the head of the body. In marriage, each one benefits from the spouse and the two become one flesh so in this spiritual union, we are one with Christ. The fortunes of one affect the fortunes of the other. Paul says in Eph. 2:6, “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” In our union with Christ, His session affects us and that union means that we are seated with Him in the heavenly places. How does this come about? It comes to us through God’s effectual calling.

Effectual Calling

Christ becomes one with us in our union with Him. In our union with Christ, we draw all our benefits from Him. This work of God’s grace in affecting the union is called “effectual calling.” It is first act on us in history and it changes everything — without this, we are lost in our sins and in darkness.

The first thing to note is that “effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace,” — When God calls, it is powerful and effective. The word “called” is used without the word “effectual” in the Bible (e.g., Rom. 1:7; 1Cor. 1:2) but those instances reveal that the call was indeed effectual. Jesus called out Lazarus and he lived. Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” (Jn. 5:25) On this verse, D. A. Carson says, “Here, …the coming hour already is: the resurrection life for the physically dead in the end time is already being manifest as life for the spiritually dead.”[6] Jesus speaks and makes those who are spiritually dead to hear and live. As he called out Lazarus from physical death, so He calls out those who are spiritually dead. It is the work of God’s almighty power and grace (cf. Eph. 1:18-20).

This catechism further states, “whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his Word and Spirit…” God’s powerful call comes from His free and special love to the elect.  Nothing in the elect moved God to love them (it was free and voluntary). His love for them is “special” — that is, though in some qualified sense we can say God loves everyone, we must also say that God loves the elect with a special love. That love comes to historical expression by inviting and drawing sinners to Christ. That invitation comes “in his accepted time.” Though the general call of the gospel may have come to the elect numerous times, the effectual call comes “in his accepted time,” the time of God’s own choosing. It may come to him or her when an infant, a child, a teenager, a young adult, etc. “But in every case it is during the lifetime on earth of each elect person.” (Vos, 147)

This invitation and drawing is His. That is, He is the one inviting the sinner to Jesus Christ. Paul says that the Roman Christians were “called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:6, uJmei√ß klhtoi« ∆Ihsouv Cristouv). Who called them? The text (vv. 1, 2) makes it clear that it was God the Father who called them.[7] It is clearer in 1Cor. 1:9, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (e˙klh/qhte ei˙ß koinwni÷an touv ui˚ouv aujtouv ∆Ihsouv Cristouv touv kuri÷ou hJmw◊n).”

God the Father effectually calls the sinner into fellowship with His Son. This must be remembered. In effectual calling, the preacher or the evangelist is not one “calling” the sinner per se — effectual calling happens when God calls through the preaching of the Word. Notice the following clause — “by his Word and Spirit.” God invites by His Word and Spirit. It is not the bare Word but the Word and the Spirit. The Spirit uses the Word to draw the sinner to Himself — He ordinarily uses the Word to draw the sinner. He is not opposed to His Word (an experience contradicting His Word) — He is also not independent of His Word (a unqualified universal spiritual experience apart from God’s Word). When the Word is preached and the Spirit is not present to impress its truth, then the Word without the Spirit is ineffectual.

As God invites by his Word and Spirit, He draws them by “savingly enlightening their minds…” The mind, we have already studied in our previous lessons, is darkened in its understanding. The preached Gospel will not be truly understood. The person may understand the individual words, the salient points of the message, etc. but cannot “savingly” understand it. All of us have heard many spiritual truths that we could repeat back to the speaker with verbal accuracy. But it does not follow that we’ve understood its significance and relevance. A cavalier response of, “Yea, yea, I know there is a fire in the house, but I don’t care.” indicates he understood the message but did not understand the true significance of it. The will also needs to change but we will deal with that point below.

In savingly enlightening the mind, the divines assumed that the converted sinner is enabled to understand the message of the gospel. It is not merely “a religious experience.” The “lights” come on in the head, as it were. Acts 26:18 says that Paul was sent to “to open their eyes” (the eyes of unbelievers). The Lord must open our hearts to understand the message (cf. Acts 16:14, Lydia — “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said…” NASB has “to respond (prose÷cein) to the things spoken.” The Lord must open the heart to pay attention, notice, respond, etc. to the gospel. Without the work of God, our minds are hardened and a veil lies over our hearts (2Cor. 3:14). Paul says that an unbeliever is “not able to understand” the things of God (1Cor. 2:14) because we need the Spirit to understand them (cf. Mt. 16:17).

When the Spirit works with the Word, he enables them to understand the message of the gospel. It is not a bare religious experience. A knowledge of who God is, what man and sin are, and more importantly, who Christ and His salvation are, etc. are all known in some fashion. Some knowledge must be understood and believed. In Acts 2, a preaching of Christ’s death, resurrection, and exaltation are highlighted. It brought conviction (“they were cut to the heart” 2:37) and prompted them to asked “Brothers, what shall we do?” Some gospel knowledge has to be understood and received. The Spirit enables us to understand what the Scriptures teach. He does not merely give us a spiritual experience.

Effectual calling includes the renewal and directing of man’s will: “renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.” The promise of the New Covenant in Ezekiel was that God would put a new spirit in man (11:19) and will cause us to walk in God’s statutes (Ezek. 36:26-27); he will circumcise our hearts (Deut. 30:6). He renews our will be giving us a new spirit with a heart of flesh. He quickened us to life (Eph. 2:5) and works in us what is pleasing to Him (Phil. 2:13). God powerfully enables us so that we can freely answer His call. He makes us willing to do so. The one effectually called embraces God’s grace offered to them in the gospel. He does not leave them to merely understand the gospel by enlightening them but in fact enables them to respond — actually, enables and compels them to respond — will cause them to walk in His statutes (Ezek. 26:27).

The person who is effectually called delights to respond to the gospel. He understands it for the first time and is desirous of it in a new manner. He truly accepts and embraces God’s offer of grace in Christ Jesus. The believer is not left to chance. God does not make alive and just sit back to see and hope that we will believe and live — He enables us both to will and to do for his good pleasure (Phi. 2:13). The person is not coerced but is truly liberated and is enabled by the Spirit to believe. He has never been freer before. Satan would have unbelievers believe that believers are in bondage and that the unbeliever’s lifestyle of sin and rebellion is freedom. The exact opposite is the truth. The sinner is truly liberated to “accept and embrace” the offer of the gospel – they are “made willing and able freely to answer his call.” No one will be with Christ who does not want to be with him (nor in heaven who does not desire to be there). God enables them to freely desire and embrace Christ offered to them.

The Elect and Effectual Calling

Question 68 asks who are effectually called. The answer is “all the elect, and they only, are effectually called.” The saving effects of God’s calling find their home only in God’s elect. It is effectual only in the elect because God does not apply the effects of redemption on the non-elect. Those for whom Christ died will be effectually called and in turn (and in time), receive (solely by God’s grace) the benefits of Christ’s redemption. Acts 13:48 states the following in response to Paul’s preaching, “and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”[8] This verse is very clear and we must correctly understand it. One commentator interprets it in the following matter: “On their part these Gentiles took an active role in believing, in committing themselves to Christ; but it was in response to God’s Spirit moving in them, convicting them, appointing them for life. All salvation is ultimately only by the grace of God.”[9] This is close to being correct but he seems to suggest that the Spirit is appointing them to eternal life by enabling them to believe. Another interpreter says, “All those who believed “were appointed for eternal life” (v. 48c).”[10] This makes the whole verse man centered. Another commentator (David Williams) also twists the whole meaning of the verse by translating it to say, “…as many as had set themselves [by their response to the Spirit’s prompting] for eternal life became believers.”[11]

They are not faithful to the text. It says, “and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (kai« e˙pi÷steusan o¢soi h™san tetagme÷noi ei˙ß zwhn ai˙w¿nion). The verb “they believed” (e˙pi÷steusan) is explained by the clause “as many as were appointed to eternal life.”[12] The verse is quite clear and unambiguous. Stott notes, “Some commentators, offended by what they regard as an extreme predestinarianism in this phrase, have tried in various ways to soften it.”[13] We have given a few examples of that effort. Acts 13:48 clearly teaches that God effectually calls only those whom He has appointed to eternal life.

Nevertheless, that does not mean that absolutely nothing happens to the non-elect when the gospel is preached. The LC explains how the Word of God affects the non-elect — “although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the Word…” Remember the statement of our Lord, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Mt. 22:14) The catechism talks about being “outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.” Through the general preaching of the Word, everyone is called to repent of his sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. “This call shows men what they ought to do in order to salvation, and renders them inexcusable in case of disobedience.”[14] God sincerely does call them through the preaching of the word. Watson is again correct when he says, “God speaks not by an oracle, he calls by his ministers.” The offer of mercy and pardon, the call to repent of sin, the proclamation of the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ are presented to the unbeliever. God is using His servants to beseech all sinners to repent and believe.  This external call “is nothing else but God’s blessed tender of grace in the gospel, His parleying with sinners, when He invites them to come in and accept of mercy.”[15] But this outward call is not invested with the power to convert though it has the authority to convict and condemn as a witness on judgment day because they did not repent (cf. Rev. 9:20-21). It makes men inexcusable and their judgment inescapable.

God the Spirit may do more with the Word than simply have it proclaimed. The catechism states that “others may… have some common operations of the Spirit.” Vos defines this phrase in this manner: “The common operations of the Spirit may convict of sin, lead to outward reformation of life of greater or lesser degree, restrain sin and evil, lead sinful people to perform acts of kindness or mercy in the human sphere, and the like. But the common operations of the Spirit fall short of salvation; they do not result in the person’s being united to Christ as his Savior in repentance and true faith.” (Vos, 149-150)[16]

Jesus tells a parable of the sower and one of the effects is “the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy” (Mt. 13:20). This “rocky ground” hears and receives the preached word, even with joy! But the person eventually “falls away” (Mt. 13:21).[17] This would be an example of one who had the common operations of the Spirit which did not result in eternal life. Vos notes that the person may in fact feel smitten in their conscience and in turn may change their behavior. They may go to church, stop cursing, drinking, spending their money on sheer vanities, and actually become more tolerably pleasant. Such a person may be convinced to help out in Haiti, at the soup kitchen or simply shovel off the snow of his neighbor’s sidewalk and driveway. All these are good (in so far as being better for all of humanity) but it did not issue in regeneration and unto eternal life. Restraint from sin and reformation of life are found in those who had religious experiences as well as those who did not. Some simply come to their senses and mend their ways because they have grown tired of their old ways (e.g. give up drinking, smoking, drugs, abusing people, harmful activities, etc.).

Hebrews 6:4-6 is perhaps the most common text to substantiate this point. Though good men may differ as how best to interpret this text, it is sufficiently clear that the listed effects of the gospel in their lives did not prevent them from falling away. These people have “tasted the good word of God” and yet are not convincingly converted. Jonathan Edwards has demonstrated that a person may experience many “religious affections” and still remain unconverted.[18] So these people are externally called and externally affected but are strangers to the real abiding effectual call of God.

The catechism states that such people ultimately neglect the grace offered to them. The last clause states: “who, for their wilful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.”  Many men and women, young men and women, and boys and girls, are content with a superficial influence of the gospel. The pleasant affects draw them. The overall terms of the gospel (called to carry the cross, die to self, submit to Christ’s Lordship, etc.) are neglected and in the end they pour contempt on the gospel. They may know much about the gospel, teach at a seminary, serve as a pastor, elder, missionary, etc. and yet they resist its full effects.

In willfully resisting the gospel, God gives them over to their hearts. In Is. 81:11, 12 we read the following: “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.” Israel heard the Word of God preached and declared to them but would not heed it. Calvin on this passage rightly states, “Still the external call alone would be insufficient, did not God effectually draw to himself those whom he has called.” God did not effectually draw His people when He spoke to them. We need God’s Word and God’s gracious inward call to truly benefit from His voice. Watson says, “You may resist the minister’s call, but you cannot the Spirit’s call.”[19] Without the Spirit, men will resist every appeal of every preacher.

Judas had the gospel preached to him and did not believe (Jn. 6:64-65) and many in Israel also had the gospel preached to them (Heb. 4:2) and did not believe. The Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Heb. 3:7, 8). What becomes clear is that the ability to savingly hear the gospel comes from God but our ability to refuse Him who speaks condemns us. Men refuse to heed the gospel; they willfully neglect it — the voice was heard but it was not heeded. John and Luke write about the Jews who refused to believe in Jesus and were subsequently hardened (Jn. 12:37-40; Acts 28:25-27).

To actually come under the influence of the common operations of the Spirit should not make us content. We should earnestly listen to the Word of God so that we might be saved. We should not receive the grace of God in vain: “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2Cor. 6:1, 2) If we simply tolerate or grow comfortable with the gospel without truly receiving, accepting, and embracing the grace offered to us, we will be judicially hardened. Whatever we might think of the “lawless one” in 2Thess. 2:9ff., one thing becomes clear, our self-deception will be our own undoing. “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2Thess. 2:11-12)

People who have heard the gospel for years, covenant children who have heard the gospel all their lives, elderly church people who have always attended church, etc. must not confuse being exposed to the gospel with embracing it.  The common operations of the Spirit they received cannot get them to heaven. They have been externally called all their lives but have they been effectually called?


[1] Cf. James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 390ff.; Udo Schnelle, Apostle Paul: His Life and Theology, trans. M. Eugene Boring (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 479-482; Leonhard Goppelt, Theology of the New Testament, trans. John E. Alsup, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 2:105-6.

[2] William Lyford, The Instructed Christian (1655; Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, nd), 138.

[3] NIV has, “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus…”; NASB has “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus…”

[4] Lyford , The Instructed Christian, 130-1 seems to suggest that it was. He cites Robert Watsfield and Henry Nichols seemed to have believed in some sort of carnal union and indwelling (and also of deifying man through the union), see pp. 125-6.

[5] Thomas Ridgeley, Commentary on the Larger Catechism, 2 vols. (1855; reprint, Edmonton, AB Canada: Still Waters Revival Books, 1993), 2:45.

[6] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (PNTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 256.

[7] John Murray, Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959-1965), 1:14, 15: “It is not probable that “called of Jesus Christ” indicates that Jesus Christ is conceived of as the author of the call. For uniformly God the Father is represented as the author (cf. 8:30; 11:29; 1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:9). They are the called of Jesus Christ in the sense of belonging to Christ inasmuch as they are called by the Father into the fellowship of his Son (1 Cor. 1:9).”

[8] The whole verse reads, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”

[9] John B. Polhill, Acts (NAC 26; ed. E. Ray Clendenen; Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 308.

[10] Ajith Fernando, Acts (NIVAC; ed. Terry C. Muck; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 388.

[11] David J. Williams, Acts, New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1990), 239.

[12] The subject of the third person plural is the nominative plural: “They, that is, as many as were appointed to eternal life, believed.”

[13] John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts (The Bible Speaks Today; Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove.: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 227.

[14] Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity (Grand Rapids: Sovereign Grace Publishers, nd), 153.

[15] Thomas Watson, All Things for Good, Puritan Paperbacks (Carlise: Banner of Truth, 1986), 104.

[16] Ridgeley says something similar: “Their consciences are sometimes awakened, and they bring many charges and accusations against themselves; and from a dread of consequences, they abstain from many enormous crimes, as well as practice several duties of religion. They are also said to be made partakers of some great degrees of restraining grace.” (2:49)

[17] The proof text includes Mt. 7:22, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?”

[18] Cf. Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959).

[19] Watson, All Things for Good, 108.

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