When, therefore, we speak of the calling in the saving sense of the word as a link in the chain of salvation, it is important that we remember and place on the foreground that this is the work of God’s grace in the absolute sense of the word. God accomplishes this work only in the elect. We are so easily tempted to confuse the calling as a step on. the way of salvation with the preaching of the gospel as such, as it is proclaimed by men. The calling as a work of salvation in that case becomes general, comes on the part of God to all men, and is gradually changed into an offer, a well-meaning offer of salvation on the part of God to all men, the acceptance of which depends on the free will of man. Thus we come on the track of Pelagius and Arminius. And therefore, although we certainly do not deny that the proclamation of the gospel comes to many, and, according to the good pleasure of the Lord, is brought also to many that are not saved, we must never forget that after all many are called, but few are chosen. And the calling as we are treating it under the head of salvation as applied to the sinner, as a work of grace of God, never must be confused with the external preaching of the gospel to all. The calling in its saving sense, through which the sinner is translated from darkness into God’s marvelous light, is a work of God’s grace and is wrought in the heart of the elect alone. It is, like all the work of God’s grace, strictly particular. Even as election is strictly particular and dependent on God’s sovereign grace alone, even as the blood of Christ and His atonement is particular and is shed only for the elect, even as the work of regeneration does not at all depend on the free will of man, but is wrought efficaciously by God’s sovereign grace only in the elect, thus also is the calling in the saving sense of the word never general, but always particular. This calling of God does not come to all men, not even to all men that are under the preaching of the gospel, but only to the elect.
That this is true is clearly evident from all Scripture. More than once the, Holy Scriptures speak of this calling. And always it is very plain that it is the work of the Lord which He works only in the elect. The Good Shepherd calls His own sheep by name and leads them out to follow Him. When they hear the voice of the Good Shepherd as He calls them, they surely come to Him. They do not become His sheep only at the moment that He calls them, still less because they hear His voice and follow Him. On the contrary, they are His sheep from before the foundation of the world. The Father gave them to Him. Cf. John 10:3, 27. And because they are His sheep, therefore He calls them by name. And because He calls them efficaciously, therefore they hear His voice and follow Him. They that are not of His sheep and for whom the Good Shepherd did not give His life do not hear His voice either, are not called by Him by name, and do not believe on Him. “Ye believe not,” says the Savior, “because ye are not of my sheep.”
The same is true of the epistle to the Romans, chapter 8, vss. 29 and 30, the well-known passage to which we have already referred. In vs. 25 the apostle wrote that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose. And in the verses that follow he gives of this marvelous fact an explanation by pointing to the deepest cause of it all. They are called according to the good pleasure and purpose of God. And this calling constitutes only a link in the unbreakable chain of salvation, the last link of which reaches into the glorification of the people of God: “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.” Hence, it is inevitable that one who is truly called may also be absolutely sure of the eternal glory that is set before him. For that calling is rooted in the eternal love-knowledge of God and proceeds from predestination unto eternal glory. That is the reason why all things work together for good to those whom God hath called according to His purpose. But also here it is very evident that the calling is just as particular as the predestination unto everlasting glory and salvation. It is a work of God which He accomplishes only in the elect.
The same is presented in the beautiful first chapter of Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians. He writes to the congregation, to the church of God which is in Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, to them that are called to be saints, that is, to them who through the calling have become saints of God in Christ Jesus. He further attributes this calling entirely to God, the Lord, Who is faithful, and who called them unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Cf. I Cor. 1:9. That is the reason why He can also confirm them unto the end, that they may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Cf. I Cor. 1:8. If the calling were in part or entirely dependent upon the free will and choice of man, this could never be sure. But now it is God Who is faithful; and the faithful God has called them according to His purpose. He shall surely preserve them and finish His own work in them until the day of Christ. From thence is explained the fact that the preaching of the gospel is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, but is the power and wisdom of God to them that are called. I Cor. 1:23, 24. The calling of God is the sole determining factor. It does not make any difference whatever whether one is a Jew or a Greek. By nature we all lie under the power of sin and darkness.