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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
a term in theology, which is taken in a different sense by the advocates and the impugners of the Calvinistic doctrine of grace. By the former it is thus stated: In the golden chain of spiritual blessings which the Apostle enumerates in Romans 8:30 , originating in the divine predestination, and terminating in the bestowment of eternal glory on the heirs of salvation, that of calling forms an important link. "Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also glorified." Hence we read of "the called according to his purpose,"
Romans 8:28 . There is indeed a universal call of the Gospel to all men; for wherever it comes it is the voice of God to those who hear it, calling them to repent and believe the divine testimony unto the salvation of their souls; and it leaves them inexcusable in rejecting it, John 3:14-19; but this universal call is not inseparably connected with salvation; for it is in reference to it that Christ says, "Many are called, but few are chosen,"
Matthew 22:14 . But the Scripture also speaks of a calling which is effectual, and which consequently is more than the outward ministry of the world; yea, more than some of its partial and temporary effects upon many who hear it, for it is always ascribed to God's making his word effectual through the enlightening and sanctifying influences of his Holy Spirit. Thus it is said, "Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but God giveth the increase," 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 . Again, he is said to have "opened the heart of Lydia, that she attended to the doctrine of Paul," Acts 16:14 . "No man can come unto Christ, except the Father draw him," John 6:44 . Hence faith is said to be the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8; Php_1:29 . The Spirit takes of the things of Christ and shows them to men, John 16:14; and thus opens their eyes, turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, Acts 26:18 . And so God saves his people, not by works of righteousness which they have done, but according to his mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5 . Thus they are saved, and called with a holy calling, not according to their works, but according to the divine purpose and grace which was given them in Christ Jesus before the world began, 2 Timothy 1:9 .
2. To this it is replied, that this whole statement respecting a believer's calling is without any support from the Scriptures, and is either a misunderstanding, or a misapplication of their sense. "To call" signifies to invite to the blessings of the Gospel, to offer salvation through Christ, either by God himself, or, under his appointment, by his servants; and in the parable of the marriage of the king's son, Matthew 22:1-14 , which appears to have given rise, in many instances, to the use of this term in the Epistles, we have three descriptions of "called" or invited persons. First, the disobedient, who would not come in at the call, but made light of it. Second, the class of persons represented by the man who, when the king came in to see his guests, had not on the wedding garment; and with respect to whom our Lord makes the general remark. "For many are called, but few are chosen;" so that the persons thus represented by this individual culprit were not only "called," but actually came into the company. Third, the approved guests; those who were both called and chosen. As far as the simple calling or invitation is concerned, all these three classes stood upon equal ground—all were invited; and it depended upon their choice and conduct whether they embraced the invitation, and were admitted as guests. We have nothing here to countenance the notion of what is termed "effectual calling." This implies an irresistible influence exerted upon all the approved guests, but withheld from the disobedient, who could not, therefore, be otherwise than disobedient; or at most could only come in without that wedding garment, which it was never put into their power to take out of the king's wardrobe; and the want of which would necessarily exclude them, if not from the church on earth, yet from the church in heaven. The doctrine of Christ's parables is in entire contradiction to this notion of irresistible influence; for they who refused, and they who complied but partially with the calling, are represented, not merely as being left without the benefit of the feast, but as incurring additional guilt and condemnation for refusing the invitation. It is to this offer of salvation by the Gospel, this invitation to spiritual and eternal benefits, that St. Peter appears to refer, when he says, "For the PROMISE is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall CALL," Acts 2:39; a passage which declares "the promise" to be as extensive as the "calling;" in other words, as the offer or invitation. To this also St. Paul refers, Romans 1:5-6 : "By whom we have received grace and Apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name;" that is, to publish his Gospel, in order to bring all nations to the obedience of faith; "among whom ye are also the CALLED of Jesus Christ;" you at Rome have heard the Gospel, and have been invited to salvation in consequence of this design. This promulgation of the Gospel, by the personal ministry of the Apostle, under the name of calling, is also referred to in Galatians 1:6 : "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ," obviously meaning, that it was he himself who had called them, by his preaching, to embrace the grace of Christ. So also in Galatians 5:13 : "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty." Again: 1 Thessalonians 2:12 : "That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath CALLED you," invited you "to his kingdom and glory."
3. In our Lord's parable it will also be observed, that the persons called are not invited as separate individuals to partake of solitary blessings; but they are called to "a feast," into a company or society, before whom the banquet is spread. The full revelation of the transfer of the visible church of Christ from Jews by birth, to believers of all nations, was not, however, then made. When this branch of the evangelic system was fully revealed to the Apostles, and taught by them to others, that part of the meaning of our Lord's parable which was not at first developed was more particularly discovered to his inspired followers. The calling of guests to the evangelical feast, we then more fully learn, was not the mere calling of men to partake of spiritual benefits; but calling them also to form a spiritual society composed of Jews and Gentiles, the believing men of all nations; to have a common fellowship in these blessings, and to be formed into this fellowship for the purpose of increasing their number, and diffusing the benefits of salvation among the people or nation to which they respectively belonged. The invitation, "the calling," of the first preachers was to all who heard them in Rome, in Ephesus, in Corinth, and other places; and those who embraced it, and joined themselves to the church by faith, baptism, and continued public profession, were named, especially and eminently, "the called," because of their obedience to the invitation. They not only put in their claim to the blessings of Christianity individually, but became members of the new church, that spiritual society of believers which God now visibly owned as his people. As they were thus called into a common fellowship by the Gospel, this is sometimes termed their "vocation;" as the object of this church state was to promote "holiness," it is termed a "holy vocation;" as sanctity was required of the members, they are said to have been "called to be saints;" as the final result was, through the mercy of God, to be eternal life, we hear of "the hope of their calling," and of their being "called to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus."
4. These views will abundantly explain the various passages in which the term calling occurs in the Epistles: "Even us whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles,"
Romans 9:24; that is, whom he hath made members of his church through faith. "But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God;" the wisdom and efficacy of the Gospel being, of course, acknowledged in their very profession of Christ, in opposition to those to whom the preaching of "Christ crucified" was "a stumbling block," and "foolishness," 1 Corinthians 1:24 . "Is any man called," (brought to acknowledge Christ, and to become a member of his church,) "being, circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised," 1 Corinthians 7:18 . "That ye walk worthy of the vocation, wherewith ye are called. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling,"
Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 4:4 . "That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you to his kingdom and glory," 1 Thessalonians 2:12 . "Through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, whereunto he called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,"
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 . "Who hath saved us and called us with a holy calling; not according to our works, but according to ms own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began; but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ," 2 Timothy 1:9-10 . On this passage we may remark, that the "calling" and the "purpose" mentioned in it, must of necessity be interpreted to refer to the establishment of the church on the principle of faith, so that it might include men of all nations; and not, as formerly, be restricted to natural descent. For personal election, and a purpose of effectual personal calling, could not have been hidden till manifested by the "appearing of Christ;" since every instance of true conversion to God in any age prior to the appearing of Christ, would be as much a manifestation of eternal election, and an instance of personal effectual calling, according to the Calvinistic scheme, as it was after the appearance of Christ. The Apostle is speaking of a purpose of God, which was kept secret till revealed by the Christian system; and, from various other parallel passages, we learn that this secret, this "mystery," as he often calls it, was the union of the Jews and Gentiles in "one body," or church, by faith.
5. In none of these passages is the doctrine of the exclusive calling of a set number of men contained; and the synod of Dort, as though they felt this, only attempt to infer the doctrine from a text already quoted; but which we will now more fully notice: "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 . This is the text on which the Calvinists chiefly rest their doctrine of effectual calling; and tracing it, as they say, through its steps and links, they conclude, that a set and determinate number of persons having been predestinated unto salvation, this set number only are called effectually, then justified, and finally glorified. But this passage was evidently nothing to the purpose, unless it had spoken of a set and determinate number of men as predestinated and called, independent of any consideration of their faith and obedience; which number as being determinate, would, by consequence, exclude the rest.
The context declares that those who are foreknown, and predestinated to eternal glory, are true believers, those who "love God," as stated in a subsequent verse; for of such only the Apostle speaks; and when he adds, "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;" he shows in particular how the divine purpose to glorify believers is carried into effect, through all its stages. The great instrument of bringing men to "love God" is the Gospel; they are, therefore, called, invited by it, to this state and benefit; the calling being obeyed, they are justified; and being justified, and continuing in that state of grace, they are glorified. Nothing, however, is here said to favour the conclusion, that many others who were called by the Gospel, but refused, might not have been justified and glorified as well as they; nothing to distinguish this calling into common and effectual: and the very guilt which those are every where represented as contracting who despised the Gospel calling, shows that they reject a grace which is sufficient, and sincerely intended, to save them.
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Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Calling'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/c/calling.html. 1831-2.