Wednesday, April 04, 2012

On the Effectual Call of the Gospel

I'm doing a good bit of writing on Reformed issues today as a follow up to some classroom discussions in my Church History class last night. While lecturing on Calvin and his "Ism", one student remarked, "Well, if only the elect will be saved, and all of the elect will be saved, and none of them will be lost, then we might as well not do anything." Ah, that is the famous straw man argument! It beats and destroys a position, but that position is not Reformed Theology (or Calvinism). It beats and destroys Hyper-Calvinism, which is a far different thing. It was Hyper-Calvinism that prompted William Carey's critics to say that he didn't need to go abroad for the Gospel for God would save the elect without our help. Indeed, God does not "need" our help, and preaching the Gospel is not helping Him. It is obeying Him. We preach the Gospel because we were commanded to do so, and because God has determined that it is through the preaching of the Gospel that He will call His elect to Himself. As I mentioned in my previous post, even the Canons of Dort (written by Calvinists who were more Calvinist than Calvin!) urged the necessity of preaching the Gospel to all nations and all people! Typically, we illustrate this by pointing out one example after another of those who, like Carey and others, were robust Calvinists and passionate missionary-evangelists. But, last night in class, I was struck with a sudden urge to share a different illustration. I would credit the Holy Spirit with the idea, for I don't recall ever reading it before.

Suppose there is a large rectangular table covered with shiny, silver-colored objects. Some of those objects are metal, and some are plastic, painted to look like metal. How can we determine which ones are truly metal? One way we can do this is to take a large magnet and hover it just above the table, and watch the metal objects "jump" up from the table and attach to the magnet. All those that are left on the table are not metal. They are plastic. Otherwise, they would have been drawn to the magnet. Now, you might say, "What if there is metal covered by plastic pieces which are hindering it from being drawn to the magnet?" or "What if the portion of the magnet closest to the metal piece is already covered with metal so that the power in that portion of the magnet is not as strong?" Well, we must pass the magnet over time and time again, from every angle and direction to make sure that all the metal pieces have been drawn upward.

This is a parallel with the effectual call of the gospel in drawing forth the elect. Like our table, the world is filled with the elect and the nonelect. They look alike, they act alike, they smell alike, etc. So how do we know who the elect are? The Gospel is our magnet! When we preach the Gospel to all nations and all people, the elect are drawn out by grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. They are drawn to the Gospel like metal to a magnet. But we know some who heard the gospel time and time again, and did not respond, and then much later they did. Yes, they are like those pieces of metal in the later part of the illustration. One factor or another hindered them from being drawn. But eventually, they will be, if they are "metal," if they are elect. We do not know who is elect and who is not, so we keep preaching the gospel, from every angle and every direction, time and time again, so that all of the elect are drawn out by the effectual call of the Gospel.

So, we must preach the Gospel. It is the magnet that draws the elect to Christ. 

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