Loved and Called
Updated: Jan 19, 2020
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus…5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I love the fact of God’s “calling.” Correctly understood, it has a huge impact on how we view the gospel and our Christian discipleship.
First, Paul’s reference to calling is not a general term; by it he specifically addresses those who are believers in Christ. They have been “called” by Christ to be His own people. The evidence of their “calling” is their faith in Him. He is writing this letter to a particular group of people in Rome, not to all the citizens of Rome. He is writing to “saints, not in the sense of canonized “super-Christians,” but rather to anyone who has repented of their sins and put their faith in Christ alone for salvation and eternal life. As such, they have been “called to belong to Jesus Christ,” and are those “loved by God and called to be saints.”
It is in one sense accurate to say that anyone within earshot of the gospel is “called” to respond to it, that he is invited to repent and place his faith in Jesus for salvation. It is also correct to say, that for all those who hear the gospel, God actually commands that they respond to it. They will be accountable for having been given the opportunity to repent and believe in Jesus’ substitutionary atonement for their sins.
However, what Paul speaks of here is a calling that has actually produced a response; so it is a calling that is, using a theological term, “effectual.” That is, it is a calling in which God’s word “accomplishes the purpose for which it was sent,” (Isaiah 55:11) in that it brings about repentance and faith in the hearer. This happens only by the power of the Spirit of God through His “quickening.”
“Quickening” is a word in the old King James translation that describes what God does in the heart of a person who is “dead in trespasses and sins” to make that person spiritually “alive” or sensitive and responsive to the truths and calling of God on his life. Without this quickening, or “making alive,” no one has the ability to respond to the gospel call, because we were all spiritually stillborn, as a result of our “first-father” Adam’s disobedience in the garden. In Ephesians 2:1 (KJV) Paul writes,
And you hath he [God] quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.
That is, each of us, though living and breathing, making decisions and living out our lives, is actually dead in a spiritual sense - without life, without sensitivity to the word of God, and unable to raise ourselves to life. But because of God’s love for us, He “quickened us” or made us spiritually alive, able to hear and understand the truth of the gospel, and to respond in repentance and faith.
That God would specifically and effectually “call” me to belong to Jesus Christ, in view of my history of disobedience and rebellion to His rule over my life, is mind-blowing. The realization that my faith was made possible only by His great love for me - as demonstrated through His death in my place - and by the work of His Spirit in “quickening” me - produces in my heart tremendous humility and gratitude. As I contemplate this reality, I am motivated to live a life pleasing to Him, a life that is consistent with His character, a life that represents Him well, and a life that points others to Him in all His majesty, greatness and mercy.
How about you? Can you identify with have been “effectually called” to believe in Jesus? Have you ever thought of God’s effectual calling as His gift of love? Does this produce a sense of deep gratitude in your heart? How can you express that gratitude - to God and to your friends - today?
Dr. Larry Sherbondy directs The Navigators ROTC Ministry. He and his wife, Rita, have been on staff with The Navigators for over 40 years. Larry also served for 25 years as in the US Air Force Reserve, retiring in the rank of Lt Col. He and Rita live in Carlisle, PA, and have two married children and seven grandchildren.