Reading Systematic Theology with Wayne Grudem – What is the gospel message? How does it become effective?

This post is part of a 50+ post series from the classic work by Wayne Grudem (PhD, Cambridge), Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. The aim of each post is to provide an overview of each chapter in the book and related resources for each topic.

Synopsis of Chapter

In his short chapter on The Gospel Call and Effective Calling, Wayne Grudem identifies and defines “effective calling” and the “gospel call”. Both concepts are found in Scripture and serve a separate purpose in the order of salvation. 

Effective Calling

Effective calling is “an act of God the Father, speaking through the human proclamation of the gospel in which he summons people to himself in such a way that they respond in saving faith.” This concept is found in several passages including (emphasis added):

  • “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30)
  • “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)
  • “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

The calling in these passages is one in which God does the calling. Effective calling is particular, internal, and always effective. On the other hand, there is an external calling that often comes through human proclamation in the gospel call.

The Gospel Call

The gospel call “is offered to all people, even those who do not accept it.” It is an external calling or general calling and it includes three elements when presented through preaching the gospel:

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  1. Explanation of the facts concerning salvation.
    Everyone who comes to Christ must believe certain things about sin, themselves and Christ. For instance, everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23), the penalty for our sin is death (Romans 6:23), and Jesus paid the penalty for our sin (Romans 5:8). 
  2. Invitation to respond to Christ personally in repentance and faith.
    Responding to the gospel call is more than believing certain facts. The individual must receive this message personally by turning from their sin in repentance, and putting their faith in Jesus for the salvation of their souls (John 1:11-12).
  3. A promise of forgiveness and eternal life.
    Finally, those who genuinely repent of their sins and believe in Jesus for salvation receive the promise of forgiveness and eternal life (John 3:16). 

Application: The Importance of the Gospel Call

Getting saved doesn’t happen automatically. Each person must personally understand their sinfulness, their need for a savior, and Jesus’s sufficient payment for their sins. They must then turn from their sins, believe Jesus took their sins, and receive a promise of forgiveness and eternal life. All of these elements are externally heard and believed internally. And this is the only way a person will be saved from God’s just wrath to come.   

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Special Terms

  • effective calling
  • external calling
  • the gospel call
  • internal calling

Resources: Wayne Grudem

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