THE OUTWARD AND THE INWARD CALLS
I. THE OUTWARD CALL
The Scripture clearly speaks of two different calls. The first one in the order of occurrence is known generally as the outward or external call. The following Scriptures refer to this call: Isa. 45:22; 55:6; Matt. 9:13; 11:28; 22:14; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32; Rev. 22:17. There are other Scriptures that evidently refer to both calls. These are reserved until we take up the inward call.
It was by means of the gospel that Jesus called sinners to repentance. Today every presentation of the gospel is a call to men to forsake sin and trust Christ. The preaching of the gospel is also properly attended by a setting forth of man's need of salvation and of his duty and responsibility under God to repent and believe (Acts 17:30). There should also be the earnest entreaty to men to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20) and an invitation to all that labor (Matt. 11:28), and are athirst (Isa. 55:1; John 7:37; Rev. 22:17).
2. THIS CALL IS AN INDIRECT CALL OF THE SPIRIT
See the discussion of the indirect work of the Spirit in the lost in Chapter IX.
3. THIS CALL, THEREFORE, IS GENERAL
By this we mean that it is not confined to the elect (Matt. 22:14). We are commanded to preach the gospel to all. This call is intended for all men, though all do not hear it. This is true just as all men are commanded to repent (Acts 17:30), even though all men do not hear this command.
To Israel God said: "When I called, ye did not answer" (Isa. 65:12). The call referred to here was an outward call similar to the call now under discussion. Because of man's depravity, the preaching of the gospel alone is never sufficient to bring him to Christ. He needs more than an outward call. The gospel "is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16); but "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him, and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged" (1 Cor. 2:14). Man must be enabled to turn from sin and believe on Christ. Jer. 13:23; John 12:39,40; 6:44,65.
Nevertheless it is the immediate duty of all to accept this call. Acts 17:30.
5. THIS CALL IS SINCERE
Arminians object that the Calvinistic system of doctrine makes a general call insincere. Sincere means "being in reality as in appearance. Intending precisely what one says or what one appears to intend." Having defined the term under discussion, we are now prepared to examine into the exact grounds of this objection. Three Calvinistic teachings are pointed out as rendering a general call insincere. They are:
(1) The teaching that man by nature is unable to turn from sin to Christ.
Arminians say if the case with the natural man were such as Calvinists represent it, and this were fully known to God, then God could not be sincere in inviting men to come to Christ. But there is nothing in the general call that makes it appear that all men are able to respond to it. This is nothing more than an unwarranted inference. And it has its foundation, not in the call itself, but in an erroneous conception of man's state by nature. Hence this call is not insincere.
"God's call to all men to repent and to believe the gospel is no more insincere than His command to all men to Love Him with all the heart. There is no obstacle in the way of men's obedience to the gospel, that does not exist to prevent their obedience to the law. If it is proper to publish the commands of the law, it is proper to publish the invitations of the gospel. A human being may be perfectly sincere in giving an invitation which he knows will be refused. He may desire to have the invitation accepted, while yet he may, for certain reasons of justice and personal dignity, be unwilling to put forth special efforts, aside from the invitation itself, to secure the acceptance of it on the part of those to whom it is offered" (Strong).
(2) The teaching as to God's elective purpose to save only a portion of Adam's race.
Arminians say if God has purposed to save only a portion of Adam's race, then He cannot sincerely invite all men to come to Christ for salvation. Let it first be remarked as to this phase of the objection that the objector, to have even the semblance of consistency, must deny the foreknowledge of God. For, if God foreknew everything, then He certainly foreknew that all men would not believe the gospel, since we see that all do not. And certainly no evangelical would say that God purposed to save those who reject the gospel. So, if the foreknowledge of God be true, then God purposed to save only a part of Adam's race, believers. Hence consistency demands that the Arminian surrender either this phase of the objection or else surrender the foreknowledge of God. He cannot be logical and hold both.
(3) The doctrine of a limited atonement.
This was touched on in relation to the sincerity of God's general call through the gospel in the previous chapter. However we give it further brief notice. If one is going before a large number of people to offer to each one of them a ten-dollar bill, and he has inerrant knowledge before hand that only a hundred out of that number will accept his offer, need he in order to make a sincere offer to all have more than one hundred ten-dollar bills? Surely not. Knowing that he has a sufficient number to supply all that will accept the offer, he can most freely and sincerely say, "Let every one of you that desires a ten-dollar bill come to me and I will give you one." Is it not manifest to all who can think logically that, in a case such as is described above, the failure of all the people except the hundred to receive a ten-dollar bill would be due to their refusal of the offer, and not to lack of provision?
God's general call is in appearance no more than it is in reality. And He appears to intend no more than He does actually intend. This does not appear as something that all men can respond to nor as something that will enable men to come to Christ or that will necessarily impel them to come. Nor does this call appear to affirm that God has made a futile provision of salvation for those who persist in unbelief. In this call God appears to intend that all men are welcome if they will come; that all who come will be received. He actually intends just this. It is just as much a Bible truth that all who come to Christ will be saved as it is that only the elect will be saved. We can heartily and gladly subscribe to the New Hampshire Declaration of Faith in saying that "nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth except his own inherent depravity and voluntary refusal to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ." In other words, these are the things that send the sinner to Hell.
II. THE INWARD CALL
The following Scriptures refer to the inward call: Acts 2:39; Rom. 1:6; 8.28,30; 9:11,24; 1 Cor. 1:1,26; 7:15; Gal. 1:15; 5:8; Eph. 4:4; Col. 3:15; 1 Thess. 5:24; 2 Thess. 2:14; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 9:15; 1 Pet. 1.15; 2:9; 3:9; 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:3,10; Jude 1. Some of these Scriptures, as has been indicated already, seem to allude to both the inward and outward call.
1. THIS CALL IS A DIRECT CALL THROUGH THE SPIRIT
The Holy Spirit takes the preached gospel and opening the heart of the sinner (Acts 16:14), applies the word to the heart in regenerating power. It is then, and only then, that man is able to understand and receive the things of the Spirit of God. Thus the inward call is also through the gospel, but it is through the gospel as applied by the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures touching on this work of the Spirit through the word will be given when we study regeneration.
2. THIS CALL IS PARTICULAR
By means of it the chosen objects of God's saving grace are singled out. The difference here between the outward and the inward calls may be imperfectly illustrated by the difference between a general invitation extended by a church to the people of a community to attend its services and the personal invitations that are extended to particular individuals by the membership of the church. Of course, as we have said, this only imperfectly illustrates the difference between God's two calls. Rom. 8:30 shows the particularity of this call.
It is manifest that the Scriptures given at the beginning of the discussion of this call refer to an effective and efficient call. This call is never resisted; yet, in responding to it, man acts voluntarily and freely. See chapter on "The Free Agency of Man." The effectiveness of this call is shown by Rom. 8:28, 30; 1 Cor. 1:24.