Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Are the non-elect called?

We've been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in the 17th Century. Recently we've been answering questions about effectual calling. We've seen that to be effectually called means your mind is enlightened and your will is renewed so that you embrace Christ. Last time, we learnt that only those God elects are effectually called. But what about the non-elect? Are they not called too?
Although it is only the elect that are effectually called, the Bible does speak of the non-elect being 'called' too. This is particularly evident in one of Jesus' parables. We read: 'Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. "Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' "But they paid no attention and went off-one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. "But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, 'How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?' The man was speechless. "Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw  him  outside,  into  the  darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' "For many are invited, but few are chosen."' (Matthew 22:1-14). In that last sentence, the NIV translation has used the word 'invited'. But it is the same Greek word that is translated 'called' in other parts of the Bible. But if only the 'chosen' are 'called', how can many be 'called' but not actually be 'chosen'?
When reading the Bible, we have to be careful of thinking that just because one person uses a word in a particular way, it is always used in that way. The truth is, Jesus is using the word 'calling' differently from the way Paul usually uses it. When Paul speaks of being called, he means an internal call that is effectual in bringing someone to believe in Christ. Whereas Jesus is speaking of the external call to believe in him that goes out to all humans. The elect respond to the external call with faith (as they have an internal call as well). But the non-elect reject the offer and stay outside God's kingdom.
In Acts we see Paul giving the external call first to the Jews, then giving that same external call to the Gentiles. We read: 'When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles' (Acts 13:45-46).
Now we don't know who is internally called. But we do know that everyone is externally called and it is therefore everyone's responsibility to respond in faith. So will you respond to the external call to repent and believe in Jesus? You only have yourself to blame if you do not. God invites you to come into his kingdom. Why don't you?

Joel Radford

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