Monday, August 30, 2010

Effectual Calling and Communion with Christ

The "Golden Chain of Salvation" is developed by Paul. "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified," (Romans 8:29-30, New King James Version). God foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified His people. Calvin begins focusing on being called. The call that Paul lists here is an internal call by the Spirit, not the external call heard through preaching. Calvin explains, "Even though the preaching of the gospel streams forth from the wellspring of election, because such preaching is shared also with the wicked, it cannot of itself be a full proof of election." The apostle John wrote, "Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me," (John 6:45b, New King James Version). Those who hear and learn from the Father are the Father's choosing, not ours. In the movie "White Men Can't Jump", Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson have a discussion about the ability to really "hear" Jimi Hendrix. Snipes says, "Look man, you can listen to Jimi but you can't hear him. There's a difference man. Just because you're listening to him doesn't mean you're hearing him." Just because there is an outward call through the preaching of the Gospel, does not mean that the listener of the Gospel truly hears the message. It is only through the Holy Spirit working in our hearts that we are able to hear God calling.

Calvin writes, "Therefore, God designates as his children those whom he has chosen, and appoints himself their Father." It is God alone who chooses us. We do not choose Him. There is no working together in order for us to achieve salvation. Paul is clear over and over that there is nothing we do in earning our salvation, not one bit. Augustine wrote, "If the apostle meant nothing else than that is not a matter of man's willing or running unless the merciful Lord be present, then it will be permissible to turn the statement around: that it is not a matter of mercy alone unless willing and running be present. But if this is manifestly impious, let us not doubt that the apostle credits everything to the Lord's mercy, leaving nothing to our will or effort."

God's call consists of two parts: an external call and an internal call, or "the preaching of the Word but also in the illumination of the Spirit." Some receive an external call only. Calvin writes, "for a heavier judgment remains upon the wicked because they reject the testimony of God's love. And God also, to show forth his glory, withdraws the effectual working of his Spirit from them. This inner call, then, is a pledge of salvation that cannot deceive us." This inner call is from God alone. There is no way that we can demand this change in our own hearts, only God through His love and mercy for us can open our hearts to receive His Word.

This does not mean that we are "God's co-worker, to ratify election by his consent." It is God's will alone. If we had to ratify this election somehow, then "man's will is superior to God's plan." One of my biggest problems with Arminianism is that it gives man "veto power" over God. God wants for someone to receive His mercy, but that person can still deny God's will and refuse His mercy. If man has power like that over God, then God is not sovereign over His own creation! Calvin also points out that some people "led by some reason or other, make election depend upon faith, as if it were doubtful and also ineffectual until confirmed by faith." Once again, we are not co-laborers with God but the recipients of His unmerited grace. It is wrong for us to think that "election takes effect only after we have embraced the gospel." Election took effect the instant that God chose us before the beginning of time.

Some want surer signs of their election. There are many wrong ways to go about it, but according to Calvin only one right way. What he calls "seeking outside the way" is this: "when mere man attempts to break into the inner recesses of divine wisdom, and tries to penetrate even to highest eternity, in order to find out what decision has been made concerning himself at God's judgment seat." Calvin then tells the right way, "Let this, therefore, be the way of our inquiry: to begin with God's call, and to end with it." We must have faith that we are called. Calvin references Bernard of Clairvaux. There is a peace, joy, and rest that comes from the assurance of our calling. It is from this that we can know that we have been called. Bernard wrote, "The God of peace renders all things peaceful, and to behold him at rest is to be at rest."

Assurance of our salvation also comes from true communion with Christ. In our 21st century vernacular, we often say that we have a relationship with Christ. We even sing the hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus". The Christian "religion" is more than just a religion, but it is about having a right relationship with God. A preacher-friend of mine used to say that God is in the relationship business. A professor of mine when teaching about the Trinity explained that so much about the Trinity deals with the relationship between the members of the Godhead. We can go to God directly in prayer because of our relationship with Him. We can be open and honest with Him about all things. It is not a religion of strict rules and regulations which must be followed to a T or else we will suffer punishment. A relationship with Christ is our ultimate goal in this life. To go beyond that and seek other means of salvation is "insane" according to Calvin.

Tomorrow's reading: 3.24.6-3.24.11

1 comment:

  1. Hi George, would you say that Calvin places union with Christ prior to the exercise of faith? That what he seems to be saying in that quote you mentioned: some people "led by some reason or other, make election depend upon faith, as if it were doubtful and also ineffectual until confirmed by faith."


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