Reading Classics Together - Redemption Accomplished and Applied (VI)
We continue today with our readings in John Murray’s classic book Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Having made our way through the first section with discusses the accomplishment of the atonement, we have now turned to the second part, which discusses its application to the elect. Last week we read the introduction to this section where Murray defended the order of the various acts that together comprise the atonement. This week he turns to effectual calling, the first of these.
The first act of God as he saves a people for himself is the effectual call. Murray first distinguishes between a general call (or non-effectual call) and an effectual call, saying “the overtures of grace in the gospel addressed to all men without distinction are very real and we must maintain that doctrine with all its implications for God’s grace, on the one hand, and for man’s responsibility and privilege, on the other.” Though many are called, few are chosen. Though God’s call to all men to repent is sincere, it is not effectual unless he makes it so.
Murray covers the topic under several headings: the author, the nature, the pattern and the priority.
The Author. Here he shows that God is the author of this effectual call. “Calling is an act of God’s grace and power just as regeneration, justification and adoption are.” No man can call himself out of darkness and into light; it requires an act of God’s sovereign grace. “We may not like this doctrine,” he says, “But, if so, it is because we are averse to the grace of God and wish to arrogate to ourselves the prerogative that belongs to God. And we know where that disposition had its origin.” He takes time to point out that it is the Father specifically who is the agent of the effectual call. “He comes into the most intimate relation to his people in the application of redemption by being the specific and particular actor in the inception of such application.”
The Nature. Murray wants to be sure that we properly understand the strength of the word “call.” It is a word that has more power in the Greek than in its English translation. “If we are to understand the strength of this word, as used in this connection, we must use the word ‘summons.’ The action by which God makes his people the partakers of redemption is that of summons. And since it is God’s summons it is efficacious summons.” We may be summoned to appear in court and, even with the authorities threatening punishment if we fail to appear, we can still ultimately decide not to. But when God summons we are unable and unwilling to resist. “The summons is invested with the efficacy by which we are delivered to the destination intended—we are effectively ushered into the fellowship of Christ.” Showing that this is calling into the kingdom of Christ and out of the kingdom of darkness, Murray offers this important warning: “If we find ourselves at home in the ungodliness, lust, and filth of this present world, it is because we have not been called effectually by God’s grace.”
The Pattern. “When we do something with intelligence and wisdom we do it with design and according to plan. … How preeminently true this is of God himself. Execution with God is the perfect fulfillment of the designed plan.” Murray then uses this section to point out three of the features of this pattern. First, it is a pattern of determinate purpose. God’s calling is not haphazard or sudden, but has occupied him since time eternal. Second, God’s call is eternal and thus beyond our ability to comprehend. Third, the pattern is devised in Christ so that it cannot be understood apart from him. We must see each member of the godhead as involved in this effectual call. “We have here an index to the perfect harmony and conjunction of the persons of the godhead in those operations which are embraced in the economy of salvation. It is coordination that goes back to the fountainhead of salvation.”
The Priority. Here Murray defends effectual calling as an act that takes place prior to regeneration. Although he admits that no great doctrine is lost if we reverse this order, still he believes that this is the most logical and biblical progression. After offering four points in defense he concludes, “There is good warrant for the conclusion that the application of redemption begins with the sovereign and efficacious summons by which the people of God are ushered into the fellowship of Christ and union with him to the end that they may become partakers of all the grace and virtue which reside in him as Redeemer, Savior, and Lord.”
I really enjoyed this chapter, admiring Murray’s ability to pack so much solid, biblical content into so short a chapter. I look forward to continuing through the book.
For next Thursday please read the next chapter—“Regeneration.”
The purpose of this program is to read classics together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. Feel free to post a comment below or to link to your blog if you’ve chosen to write about this on your own site.