“Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you”
The called is a common way the New Testament describes Christians. In Romans 1:7 Paul, describes his audience:
“To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7).
In 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, Paul states: “[W]e preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
The word for called in our texts is derived from klētois, and means “to be called, summoned, or appointed.” Understanding why this description is applied to Christians within a soteriological context is imperative for understanding the Christian faith, for within this term lies a concise summary of Gospel truth. How?
First, because it is in the past tense. This indicates not what is currently happening or what will happen, but what has happened. Second, to be called is an action that is not performed by the Christian. The term implies that the Christian is the object (the receiver) and not the subject (the doer). It consolidates Isaiah’s description of man’s status before God – “And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isa. 64:6) – and Jesus’ description of mankind’s requirements when He says, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
But how can one be perfect if even all his righteous deeds are like a filthy garment? How can one with dirty hands become clean by scrubbing himself with those same hands? There is only one solution: he must be the object of cleansing, and not the worker of cleansing. Consequently, to be called identifies the Christian as the object of God’s affections, mercy, and saving grace – to be chosen to be part of the royal priesthood, someone for Christ’s own possession (1 Pet. 2:9).
To elaborate further, the type of call in view is what is known as the effectual call. In theology, we make a distinction between two types of calls: a general call and an effectual call. The general call refers to the command for all people to repent and believe in Christ. After all, it is not merely the elect who are commanded to believe, but all people. Support for this reality is gleaned from Matthew 11:28 in which Jesus commands “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Our Lord does not make this statement from a proximity in which only those who believe in Him will hear Him. Instead, He provides this statement to all who can hear Him. Further, the prophets illustrate this concept of a general call repeatedly in their writings, calling all of Israel and Judah to repentance. A call to repentance was not made to just the few who believed in God during that time. Rather, it was given to everyone.
On the other hand, as stated earlier, the effectual call is what Jude mentions in our text. It is also what Paul references in Romans 10:17: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” It refers to God drawing man to himself through the power of the Spirit, subduing his base desires, and overcoming his carnal reluctance. In the instance of the effectual call, the loving Heavenly Father tells His prodigal son or daughter “It is time to come home,” and they leave their old life and put on the robes of Christ’s righteousness.
We know there are many instances of hearing the Gospel that do not actually result in faith in Jesus Christ. But we do know that, based on passages such as Romans 8:28-30, there will be instances of hearing the Gospel that will result in faith in Jesus Christ. That faith may not occur immediately upon hearing it, and it may not occur in the same week or even in the same decade. But if the person has been elected to salvation, that gospel message will implant itself in his mind, and it will replay constantly until it makes its way into his soul.
To summarize these points: the general call, without the effectual call, does not lead to salvation. After all, man cannot turn himself to God. It is only when God effectually calls man to Himself does he repent, believe, and become an heir of God’s kingdom. Consequently, this is also good news for pastors, teachers, and those who evangelize! It places the cause of salvation not upon the one who proclaims the Gospel (providing the general call), but on God who calls through the proclamation of the gospel (providing the effectual call).
With all of this said, what are the actual effects of God’s effectual calling? Paul answers this for us in Romans 8:28-30. Those who are called have all things worked together for their good. They are conformed to the image of Christ, they are justified and glorified, and they inherit the kingdom of God. This is why the term called is a concise summary of Gospel truth. Next time you come across this word in Scripture, remember all this glorious truth that exists within this one word. To be called means to be acted upon by God. It means to be chosen by Him before the foundations of the earth before time began. It means to be loved by God before the foundations of the world. This love for you was fully manifested at the death and resurrection of Christ. And it was practically manifested when He effectually called you to Himself.
Author’s Note: Unfortunately, some have argued that the existence of general calls throughout Scripture minimizes the sovereignty of God in salvation, contending that God would not command someone to believe in Him if they could not believe in Him. To that point, we must be careful to draw a distinction between what is indicative and what is imperative. A command is not the same as a description. In the context of a general call, a command is not synonymous with a description of one’s ability to believe. Indicative (declarative) and imperative are unique syntactic categories. As such, a general call does not minimize God’s sovereignty in salvation.
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Elijah is a member of Faith Baptist Church in Longview, Texas, where he teaches Sunday school. He and his wife, Taylor, have one son, Ezra, and two cats, Calvin and Luther. Elijah graduated summa cum laude from Liberty School of Divinity with a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies and Theology with a minor in psychology. He currently works in the mortgage industry and has a passion for systematic theology and historical theology.
December 22, 2023
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