Those Whom He Predestined, He Called
The term “called” is used in the Bible in a variety of ways, with the usage in the New Testament closely following its use in the Old. Consider the following summary of some of the major categories of the use of the term “call” in both the Old and the New Testaments.
(1) To call into existence, to create (Isaiah 41:4). Certain events are said to be called into existence by God, such as weeping (Isaiah 22:12); drought (Haggai 1:11); famine (2 Kings 8:1; Psalm 105:16); rain (Amos 5:8); and the sword (Jeremiah 25:29).
(2) To give a name.213 In the first chapter of Genesis, God named day and night (1:5, 8). In the next chapter Adam, who was created in God’s image, named the animals (2:19) and his wife (2:23). The one who gives the name is greater than the person or thing named. God names that which He has created (see Isaiah 40:26).
(3) To give a new name. God not only names, He renames. God changed the names of Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:5, 15). The Lord Jesus changed Simon’s name to Cephas or Peter (John 1:21). The new name given is indicative of a new destiny, brought about by God who controls men’s destiny (seeIsaiah 56:5; 62:2, 4; 65:13-15; Jeremiah 19:6; Daniel 1:7; Revelation 2:17).
(6) There is a more general call which is a broad invitation. This “call” may be rejected by men (seeProverbs 8:1, 4; 9:3, 15; Isaiah 66:4; Jeremiah 7:13; 35:17; Matthew 22:14). The use of “call” as a general invitation is rare in the Bible, Old Testament and New.
(7) To sovereignly summon. Most often in the Bible, the “call” of God is one that is sovereign. When God calls, that which is called responds:
Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together (Isaiah 48:13).
(9) God sovereignly calls men individually to salvation (Romans 1:6-7; 8:28, 30; 9:11, 24-25) and to service (Exodus 31:2; 25:30; Acts 13:1; Romans 1:1). The sovereign call of God is rooted in His choice (Isaiah 41:9; 45:4).
(11) God’s call is always an expression and outworking of His righteousness (Isaiah 41:2; 42:6).
Having considered the broad range of meanings the term “called” can have in the Bible, what meaning did Paul intend for his reader to understand here in Romans 8? From Paul’s use of the three terms related to calling in his epistles,214 we see that Paul consistently used this term to refer to the sovereign call of God. In particular, he used this term in the sense outlined in category nine above.
In the Book of Romans, not one instance of the term can be found which is inconsistent with the overwhelming sense of God’s sovereignty that prevails throughout the Bible. Note these references, for example:
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God (Romans 1:1).
Among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called assaints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:6-7).
As it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you” in the sight of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist (Romans 4:17).
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
For though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls (Romans 9:11).
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).
It could not be any other way than for the sovereign God to summon sinners to faith in Jesus Christ. We were not righteous. We were not seeking Him. We did not understand (see Roman 3:10-18). God chose us in eternity past (“whom He foreknew,” Romans 8:29). For all those whom He chose, He predetermined a plan which would result in our good and His glory (“predestined,” Romans 8:29, 30). How could a sovereign God leave our salvation to us when we would never choose Him? How could He leave our salvation to chance (if there was such a thing)? The salvation which God sovereignly purposed in eternity past for those He chose, He started in motion in time by calling men to faith in Himself. God’s call is not merely an invitation; it is an irresistible summons. When He speaks thus (“calls”), His creation responds—in such a way as to do His will.
Do you find this kind of sovereignty troubling? It should not be. Apart from this kind of sovereignty, you would never have become a child of God. Apart from it, all the events which touch your life would not work for your ultimate good and for His ultimate purpose. If God’s purposes are to be fulfilled, He must be in charge at every step. And so He is. The calling of God is God’s sovereignty at work in drawing men to faith. Our salvation is not only the result of His work of redemption in Jesus; it is also the result of His sovereign calling.