The Call of God


"By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went."††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† óHebrews 11:8


Whenever we discuss the life of faith, we must begin with the call of God. The first and most important thing in this verse is the call of God by which Abraham was brought to faith in Christ. Genesis 12:1 (compare Acts 7:2-3) gives us the historical account of that to which the Holy Spirit here alludes.


A Divine Gift


Faith is the gift of God. The life of faith begins with the call of God. Salvation does not begin with man, but with God. It is not in any sense of the word caused by man. It is not to any degree or at any point dependent upon man. Salvation is Godís work, and Godís work alone. ďSalvation is of the Lord.Ē Abraham was not seeking the Lord. The Lord sought him. Abraham was not looking for God. God was looking for him. Abraham did not come to God. God came to him. Abrahamís faith was not the cause of Godís grace to him, but the result. Faith in Christ is the gift of God bestowed upon, wrought in, and given to sinners who otherwise could not and would not believe God.


††††† Faith in Christ is given to lost men and women according to Godís eternal purpose of grace in election (Eph. 1:3-4). It is the result of Christís atonement (Heb. 9:12). It is wrought in chosen, redeemed sinners by the power and grace of the Holy Spiritís omnipotent, irresistible, effectual call (Eph. 2:1-10). They and they alone are ďthe calledĒ according to the purpose of God for whom all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28).


Two Calls


There are two distinct calls from God set forth in Holy ScriptureóA General Call and A Particular CallóAn Outward Call and An Inward CallóA Call that Men Resist and Reject and An Effectual, Irresistible, Almighty, Saving Call of Omnipotent Grace. The general, external call is given to all who hear the Gospel, or come under the sound of the Word of God (Pro. 8:4; Matt. 20:16; Luke 14:17, 18; Pro. 1:24-28). All men and women, without exception, stoutly resist this general call.


The special, inward, and efficacious call of God comes only to his elect. This call is always effectual. It is always saving. It always results in faith. It always brings the chosen, redeemed sinner into the arms of his omnipotent Savior. Examples of this omnipotent, irresistible call are scattered throughout the Scriptures. Abraham is here held before us as one of the examples in the Old Testament. In the New Testament era God still works irresistibly in the salvation of his elect (Luke 5:27-28; 19:5-6; Acts 9:4-5; John 5:25; 10:3, 4, 16; Rom. 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:26-31).


This invincible call of God is an act of Godís sovereign grace, accompanied by all-mighty, irresistible power, giving life to men and women who are dead in trespasses and sins. It brings life, eternal, spiritual life. It brings us "out of darkness into Godís marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). No wonder David sang about it as he did óďBlessed is the man whom thou choosest and causest to approach unto theeĒ (Ps. 65:4).


A Call from Death to Life


Like all others, Abraham was a lost man, dead in trespasses and in sins, when the Lord God called him by his grace (Jos. 24:2). He belonged to a heathen family He lived as an idolater in the midst of idolaters until he was seventy years old. Then God called him! Until God stepped into his life, Abraham lived just like everyone else in that massive, pagan land. He was content with the husks of this world upon which the swine feed, without God, without Christ, without hope, without life! Abrahamís experience is repeated and verified by each of Godís elect (Eph. 2:1-4).


A Divine Revelation


This effectual call of God comes with the revelation of Christ (Acts 7:2; Zech. 12:10; 2 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:15-16). What marvelous grace! The God of glory condescends to draw near to and reveal himself to lost sinners, immersed in idolatry, having no concern for his honor and glory! There was nothing in Abraham to deserve Godís notice, nothing to merit his esteem. Yet, God called him!


This call is a work of Godís sovereign, distinguishing grace. Grace singled out one man from the midst of many. God says, "I called him alone, and blessed him" (Isa. 51:2). Why did God call Abraham but not his father and kinsmen? No answer can be given but this: God has mercy on whom he will have mercy (Rom. 9:18). He called Isaac and refused Ishmael. He loved Jacob and hated Esau. He accepted Abel and rejected Cain. Why? Because He would. No other explanation is or can be given (Rom. 9:16).


"The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham" (Acts 7:2). I do not know all that is included in those words, but of two things we may be certain: (1.) For the first time in his life God was real to Abraham. And (2.) Abraham beheld God in his glory as God his Savior. Sooner or later, this is what God does for every chosen, redeemed sinner. In the midst of their worldliness, self-serving, self-seeking and self-pleasing rebellion and death, God steps in and makes himself known! Then, they say with Job, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee."


This is how God saves sinners. He "who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). The chosen, redeemed sinner in whom this miracle of grace is wrought is brought by the power and grace of God out of darkness, bondage and death into the light and life and glorious liberty of the sons of God!