Saved by Grace: Called Efficaciously

Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called. Romans 8:30

In the previous chapter we discussed regeneration, or the new birth.
We explained that regeneration is that marvelous work of God through the Spirit of Christ whereby the sinner is translated from death into life. The new birth is a spiritual resurrection. It is the implanting of a principle of new life. That new life is different from the old life of sin not only in that it is holy but also in that it is heavenly. The new birth is a birth from above. Through it we become spiritual citizens of the New Jerusalem and, in principle, strangers in the earth.

But suppose now that no other operations of grace followed that of regeneration: would such a regenerated sinner of himself develop into a conscious and living believer in Christ? In the new birth the sinner receives new spiritual powers or faculties, the power of faith, and the power to repent, the power to embrace Christ and all His benefits. But if nothing else is done to that reborn sinner, will those powers of themselves spring into activity, so that the sinner now actually believes and repents, enters into the state of reconciliation, and receives the forgiveness of sins? Perhaps you reply: of course not, such a regenerated man must be brought into contact with the gospel! Well, suppose then, that you give him a Bible to read, or that some preacher instructs him and makes him acquainted with the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, will he merely through that contact with the Scriptures come to conscious saving faith, so that he actually repents and believes? Not at all. The wonderful work of regeneration as we discussed it in the previous chapter must be followed by another stage in the great work of salvation, a work, too, which is accomplished by the same Spirit Who regenerated the sinner. The seed of the new life that was implanted into his heart must be quickened into activity if it is to bear fruit, by the calling. The sinner must be called by grace.

Very often we read in the Bible of this calling of the sinner. The apostle Paul writes that “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Romans 11 :29) To the Corinthians he writes: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (I Corinthians 1:26) And in Hebrews 3: 1 the “holy brethren” are called “partakers of the heavenly calling.” The apostle Peter admonishes us: “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” (II Peter 1: 10) The Lord Jesus tells us that He is “not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Matthew 9:13) The saints are named “the called of Christ Jesus,” and they are “called to be saints,” and “the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 1 :6, 7; 8:28) In I Corinthians 1: 23, 24 the apostle states that the preaching of Christ crucified is a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks, “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” God’s people are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that they “should shew forth the praises of him who hath called (them) out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (I Peter 2:9) And they are called unto glory and virtue. (II Peter 1: 3) And not only do the Scriptures thus directly speak of the calling, but they also furnish us with concrete illustrations of what this calling should be. They call the sinner to repent and believe, the thirsty to drink, the hungry to eat, the weary to rest, the wicked to turn from his evil way.


“Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1) “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 45:22) “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, a house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33: 11) “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11 :28) “Repent ye therefore, and be converted.” (Acts 3: 19) “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” (Acts 16: 31)

You see from all this how important is the calling as a part of the work of salvation by grace. It is through this calling that the sinner comes to true repentance, so that he is filled with sorrow after God, that he comes to the water of life to drink, and to the bread of life to eat, that he is translated from darkness into light, from the state of enmity into that of reconciliation with God, and that he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and is saved. Without and apart from this calling, the gospel of the crucified Christ is a stumblingblock to him, foolishness, and a savor of death unto death; but through the saving efficacy of this calling all this is changed, so that Christ becomes the power and the wisdom of God, and the gospel is a savor of life unto life unto the smner.

The calling, then, is that work of God’s mighty grace in Christ, through the Spirit, and by the preaching of the gospel, whereby the sinner is changed from darkness into light, so that he repents and consciously embraces Christ and all His benefits.

Finally, this divine calling is always effectual. This does not mean that the preacher may expect that all who come under the external preaching of the Word are also called unto salvation. Always there is a twofold effect; the preaching is a savor of death unto death, as well as a savor of life unto life. But the elect are surely called. They receive the hearing ear, the seeing eye, the willing heart. They hear the Word of God, and they tremble. They are sorry for their sins, and repent. They cry out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” and receive forgiveness. They hear the voice of Jesus say to them personally, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest!” And they come to Him and do find rest. They hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and know that they are of His sheep. And they follow Him, and He gives them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of His hand. For the gifts of God and the calling are without repentance. For “whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30)

We are called by irresistible grace unto virtue and eternal glory!

wonderofgrace-hhTaken from chapter 6, “Called by Grace,” in The Wonder of Grace by Herman Hoeksema (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1944), pp.50-57. This work has now been republished by the Reformed Free Publishing Association.