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How sinners are saved

How sinners are saved: Effectual calling

Below is a question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism with answers and supporting Scripture proofs. Explanatory notes follow.

Q: What is effectual calling?

A: Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit1, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery2, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ3, and renewing our wills4, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel5.

1 2 Timothy 1:92 Timothy 1:9
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,  

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— Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling

2 Acts 2:37Acts 2:37
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  

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— Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

3 Acts 26:18Acts 26:18
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.  

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— To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.

4 Ezekiel 36:26Ezekiel 36:26
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.  

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— I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

5 John 6:44, 45John 6:44, 45
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.  

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— No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. (v45) Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

 

The application of redemption and its varied benefits to sinners requires the work of the Holy Spirit. This work in a sense revolves around the effectual call by which the elect sinner is irresistibly drawn by Divine grace into a saving union with Christ through regeneration and the exercise of implanted faith.

The effectual call is simply, the call of God to the individual sinner that effects or accomplishes his salvation. There is a gospel call that may be described as “ineffectual” or general. This is the gospel offer that is proclaimed to all men without exception, which in and of itself cannot save and which may be and often is, resisted by sinners. Cp Matthew 20:16Matthew 20:16
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.  

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, John 5:40John 5:40
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.  

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. In contrast to this the effectual call is the internal call of the Spirit that accompanies the external general call of the gospel and by this call the sinner is not only invited to Christ but is enabled and persuaded to embrace Christ as He is freely offered in the gospel. Cp John 6:45John 6:45
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.  

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[a hearing that is accompanied by enlightenment which in turn produces a believing coming to Christ.

The work of the Holy Spirit in effectual calling is seen to affect two areas in the sinner’s life — his mind and his will.

 

I  THE SPIRIT’S WORK IN THE MIND OF THE SINNER.

The work of the Spirit in the mind of sinners involves:

1. Conviction of sin and the misery of the sinful state. This involves the sinner coming to see clearly and fully personal guilt for sin and a personal understanding and fear of the imminent, deserved, righteous, eternal wrath and judgment of God. This involves the conscience which is awakened to be the implacable accuser of the sinner. This in turn leads to an anxiety over what to do to be saved. Cp John 16:8, Acts 2:37Acts 2:37
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  

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. This conviction is produced by the application of the Law of God to the heart. Cp Romans 3:20Romans 3:20
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.  

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, Gal 3:10Gal 3:10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.  

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.

2. Enlightening the sinner’s mind in the knowledge of Christ. This follows on from a work of conviction. It is the remedy to the work of ploughing up the heart and awakening the conscience for it sets before the alarmed sinner the only means of safety. It is the work of the Spirit to enlighten awakened sinners to the gospel truth that Christ can save, Hebrews 7:25Hebrews 7:25
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. to the...: or, evermore  

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; that He is the only one able to do so, Acts 4:12Acts 4:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.  

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; and that He will save all who come to Him, John 6:37John 6:37
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.  

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. This enlightenment occurs as the Spirit reveals Christ in the gospel. He opens the eyes of the sinner to see the Saviour Who is revealed there.

 

II  THE SPIRIT’S WORK IN THE WILL.

The Holy Spirit does a renewing work in the will of the sinner God saves. The renewal of the will is simply the implanting of a new inclination or disposition. Cp Ezekiel 36:26Ezekiel 36:26
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.  

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. The evidence of this new disposition is the sinner coming to embrace the Christ Who is presented in the gospel. This involves a complete change of heart! Such change cannot be effected by the energy of man — it is the almighty power of the Spirit alone that can effect it. Cp Ephesians 1:19-20Ephesians 1:19-20
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, his mighty power: Gr. the might of his power 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,  

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.

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