Thus far we have discussed the Surety of the covenant and the partakers of this covenant, the church. We shall now proceed to consider the ways in which the Lord brings these partakers of the covenant into the covenant, and how He leads them to the ultimate goal of eternal felicity. The first aspect of this way is the calling.The Calling: God’s Declaration of the Gospel to Sinners
The calling is a gracious work of God, whereby He invites the sinner by means of the gospel to exchange the state of sin and wrath for Christ, in order that through Him he may be reconciled to God and obtain godliness and salvation. By means of this calling He also, by the Holy Spirit, efficaciously translates His elect into this state.
The calling is a gracious work of God: “And (the king) sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:3, 14); “…Him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3); “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).
God calls neither by the law of nature nor by the works of nature , whereby, in doing good, He nevertheless does not leave Himself without witness to the heathen (Acts 14:17). “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him” (Acts 17:27). For in all this Christ is neither proclaimed to them nor are they exhorted to believe in Him. The heathen are subject to the covenant of works, and whatever God does in and toward them has reference to that covenant. They are thus obligated to live according to this rule, “Do this and thou shalt live.” Therefore neither the law of nature, nor God’s works belong to the calling; the heathen are not called.
This call also does not occur by way of the moral law of Scripture . The moral law must be viewed in a twofold sense: It must be viewed either in its demands, whereby it reveals the perfect conditions of the covenant of works, or in its purpose, as having been given to the church as a rule of life and as the standard for true holiness. In its first sense the law is preached to convict man of sin (Rom. 3:20), thus bringing man to despair of being saved by his works. Here the function of the law ends. If, however, Christ is simultaneously preached by means of the gospel, man, being rejected by the law, is allured by the gospel. Thus, wherever Christ is preached, the law functions as a schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ (Gal. 3:24). The law, however, neither teaches about Christ nor calls to Him, and thus the moral law is not a functional element of the calling. This is different as far as the ceremonial law is concerned, which belongs to the gospel.
The true means whereby we are called, however, is the gospel. “Whereunto He called you by our gospel” (2 Th. 2:14). The word “gospel” means a good tiding , the content of which is as follows: “Poor man, you are subject to sin and to the wrath of God. You are traversing upon the way which will end in eternal perdition. God, however, has sent His Son Jesus Christ to be a Surety; in His suffering and death there is the perfect satisfaction of the justice of God, and thus acquittal from guilt and punishment. In His obedience to the law there is perfect holiness, so that He can completely save all who go unto God through Him. Christ offers you all His merits, and therefore eternal salvation.” He calls and invites everyone: “Turn unto Me and be saved, receive Me, surrender to Me, enter into a covenant with Me and you will not perish but have everlasting life.” This declaration is recorded in the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. The first gospel declaration is found in Genesis 3:15, where we read that the Seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent . Since then, God has frequently and in various ways caused the gospel to be proclaimed (Heb. 1:1). “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them” (Heb. 4:2). Prior to the coming of Christ it was called the gospel of promises . “…separated unto the gospel of God, (which He had promised afore by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures)” (Rom. 1:1–2). Subsequent to Christ’s coming it is called the gospel of fulfillment . “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled” (Mark 1:14–15).
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