Without question, “calling” is used in a twofold sense in Scripture. [[Rom. 1, 6 >> Rom 1.6]] “the called of Jesus Christ,” κλητοὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, are the converted of Jesus Christ, those actually received into the kingdom of God, the Christians. Being called is here identical with being converted or [[@Page:124]]becoming a believer. And this is certainly the meaning of the term in the great majority of passages in the epistles. On the other hand, [[Matt. 22, 14 >> Mt 22.14]]: “Many are called, but few are chosen,” πολλοὶ γὰρ εἰσιν κλητοί, ὀλίγοι δὲ ἔλεκτοί, distinguishes the called from the elect. According to the context the called are persons toward whom God has omitted no effort, as regards their being invited, with earnest and urgent pleading, to the kingdom of God. But God has expended His efforts upon them in vain. The great majority of them do not obey the call. They are not translated from the world to the Church; they remain extra ecclesiam. In this passage of Holy Writ “call” and “conversion” are not identical in meaning. The call, in this instance, is a person’s invitation to the kingdom of God, without including his conversion. The same meaning appears in two more passages, [[Matt. 20, 16 >> Mt 20.16]]; [[Luke 14. 24 >> Lk 14.24]].
Hence there is Scriptural warrant for using the term “call” in distinction from “conversion.” Concerning this calling, however, which is not identical with, but must be distinguished from, conversion, two sorts of persons teach error, viz., Calvinists and synergists. According to Calvinism the calling which is not identical with conversion is no call unto the kingdom of God, but a mere pretense of calling. Calvin would determine the character of the call by reference to the result. This argument constantly recurs in his Institutiones: Where no conversion follows God had intended no conversion; for no man can resist the will of God. Now, it is a matter of experience (experientia) that not all to whom the Word is brought, are converted. Hence it is folly to speak of a call to the kingdom of God in the case of such as do not actually become converted. All passages of Scripture which teach universal grace he nullifies by a reference to the ineffectiveness of the call in the case of many who hear the Word. Experientia docet —says Calvin — ita velle resipiscere quos ad se invitat ut non tangat omnium corda. Experience teaches that God desires the repentance of some that He calls in such manner that He does [[@Page:125]]not touch the hearts of all.) This exactly is the argument of Charles Hodge, the American dogmatician of Calvinism: “We must assume that the result is the interpretation of the purposes of God.”) Over against this it should be maintained: The call is a divine quantity in itself, regardless of the result. This is most powerfully exhibited Matt. 22. The king’s benevolence, evidenced by the gracious terms of his invitation to the supper he has prepared, as well as his anger, enkindled by the contempt with which his invitation is received, demonstrate the intense, divine earnestness of the calling even in the case of the ineffectual call. Matt. 22 is in subject-matter a parallel of [[Is. 5, 4 >> Is 5.4]]: “What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it?” and of [[Matt. 23, 37 >> Mt 23.37]]: “I would have gathered you — and ye would not.” Hence it is quite proper to say that all who live under the sound of the Gospel may be converted and saved, as was shown in the preceding chapter. Hence, too, our Confession treats of the call which God directs to all hearers of the Word in such terms as these: “This call of God, which is made through the preaching of the Word, we should not regard as being a mere delusion (non existimemus esse simulatam et fucatam vocationem), but know that God thereby reveals His will, that He would work by His Word, in those called in such manner that they might become enlightened, converted, and saved. For the Word by which we are called is ‘a ministration of the Spirit,’ giving the Spirit, or by means of which the Spirit is given, 2 Cor. 3, and ‘a power of God unto salvation,’ Rom. 1. And since the Holy Spirit would, through the Word, be active, strengthen, and give power and ability, it is God’s will that we should receive and believe the Word and be obedient to it.”) Also the calling which remains ineffectual has behind it the gracious workings of divine omnipotence and [[@Page:126]]the omnipotent workings of divine grace. There are motus inevitabiles. Our Confession says of the called who do not come: Veritati agnitae perseverantes repugnant, they offer constant resistance to the truth which they have recognized.) The reason why men are able to resist the call: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,”) while they cannot resist the call of doom which summons them before the judgment-seat of Christ,) is, because in His call of grace in time God works through means, while on Judgment Day He operates in glory unveiled, ἐν τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ. Not only in the latter, but in the former instance as well, the operative power is a divine and omnipotent power. “We believe according to the working of His mighty power which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.”) But the operations of God through means have the property of being resistible. God working without means, in majesty unveiled, cannot be resisted, as is evident from [[Matt. 25, 31 sqq >> Mt 25.31ff]]., and as is shown at length by Luther in De Servo Arbitrio.) To say that “the result is the interpretation of the purposes of God” is the smart talk of a would-be wise person.
However, also the synergists teach error regarding the call as distinguished from conversion. They distinguish between being called and being converted in such a way as to assert that a stimulating effect results from the call. Through this stimulating effect the good natural energies dormant in man are roused, and by means of these man is now able to use rightly the powers which grace offers to him. The presumption is that previous to conversion a free will in favor of that which is spiritually good, or a freedom of choice in favor of the Gospel, is established through the call. This notion has been expressed thus by the Lutheran [[@Page:127]]Standard: “Certainly, where no grace is offered, no consent can be given. But to him who hears the Gospel this grace is offered, and he may accept and surrender if he will, or he may resist if he will.”) Dr. Schmidt, too, expressly taught a freedom of choice before conversion.) Not all synergists employ such terms as Freedom of choice and Neutrality before conversion. But it is a characteristic feature of synergism or Semi-Pelagianism in every form, to attribute to man, before his conversion, powers quickened by the stimulating (excitans) effect of the call, which renders man able to dispose himself for conversion, decide for conversion, conduct himself rightly for conversion, cease his willful resistance. Against this conception of the call, as distinguished from conversion, the same general argument must be urged which we presented in the chapter on “Preparation for Conversion,” against the notion that man prepares for his conversion, and in the chapter on the “Possibility of Conversion,” against a subjective ability before conversion and in conversion. It positively must be maintained that, if we distinguish the call from conversion in the sense that conversion is subsequent to the call, then a great deal may come to pass outwardly affecting man, but within no change has during the call been wrought in man, i. e., there is not yet a spark of spiritual life in man, his will remains unchanged in its attitude of enmity against God. Not until faith is kindled in a person, or he is converted, does spiritual life enter into him, or is his will changed. The call, as distinguished from conversion, is the laying siege to a fortress determined upon defense. All impressions upon the fortress come merely from without. An aberration, in defectu, from the Scriptural doctrine of original depravity must be charged against all who, in consequence of the call as distinguished from conversion, attribute to man a subjective ability towards the consummation of his conversion, either by his performing aught [[@Page:128]]that is good or by his omitting evil. Natural man is thus credited with a good stock within, an ability to do that which is spiritually good, dormant in man and only roused by the call.) Synergism in every form is reducible to Semi-Pelagianism; it makes conversion and salvation dependent on man’s ability, and since man possesses no ability in this matter, synergism does all it can to render conversion and the attainment of salvation altogether impossible. God be praised that what men practice is, in many cases, better than the positions which they hold inter disputandum!