Yesterday I shared on the two kinds of calls that we find in Scripture. The general call, we learned, is the call to repent from sins, turn to Jesus, and be saved. This is the invitation that flows from every true Christian pulpit, and every Christian who bears witness to Christ. Then there is the internal call. This includes the general call and the effectual call of God who makes sinners willing and able to respond.
The best illustration of the internal or effectual call is recorded in John Chapter 11. Here we are told that Jesus arrives in Bethany where Lazarus has already been dead for four days. It is a grotesque but terribly accurate picture of our own spiritual and moral decay.
“But Lord,” said Martha, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there for four days.”
In John 11:43 Jesus calls, “Lazarus, come forth!”
Then we read, “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:44).
One of the greatest misconceptions regarding the doctrines of grace or Calvinism is that is undermines zeal for evangelism. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, the doctrines of grace, rightly understood, will actually produce a holy boldness because the truth of salvation has been settled in eternity past. It does not rest in the hands of man. Once again, I’d like to share something from Boice and Ryken’s, The Doctrines of Grace. Here they explain how the raising of Lazarus from the dead is a picture of the Triune God at work raising a spiritually dead sinner to eternal life in Christ.
“That is what the Holy Spirit does today. The Holy Spirit operates through the preaching and teaching of the Word to call to faith those whom God previously has elected to salvation and for whom Jesus specifically died. Apart from those three actions – the act of God in electing, the work of Christ in atoning, and the power of the Holy Spirit in calling – there would be no hope for anyone. No one could be saved. But because of those actions – because of God’s sovereign grace – even the worst of blaspheming rebels may be turned from his or her folly to the Savior.”1
If you are praying for the salvation of someone who looks very far gone, I pray that you would take heart in the truth of this doctrine. The miracle work of conversion belongs to God and God alone. It is His sovereign work and no plan of His can be thwarted (Job 42:2). What is impossible with man is possible with God! (Matthew 19:26)
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:10-11
1 James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken, The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel, Illinois:Crossway, 2009, page 139