“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
The second qualification of the people to whom this privilege in the text belongs, is—they are the called by God. “All things work for good to those who are called.” Though this word called is placed in order after loving of God—yet in reality, it goes before it. Love is first named—but not first wrought; we must be called of God, before we can love God.
Calling is made (Romans 8:30) the middle link of the golden chain of salvation. It is placed between predestination and glorification; and if we have this middle link fast, we are sure of the two other ends of the chain. For the clearer illustration of this, there are six things observable.
1. A DISTINCTION about calling. There is a two-fold call.
(1.) There is an OUTWARD call, which is nothing else but God’s blessed offer of grace in the gospel, His parleying with sinners, when He invites them to come in and accept of mercy. Of this our Savior speaks: “Many are called—but few chosen” (Matt. 20:16). This external call is insufficient to salvation—yet sufficient to leave men without excuse.
(2.) There is an inward call, when God wonderfully overpowers the heart, and draws the will to embrace Christ. This is an effectual call. God, by the outward call, blows a trumpet in the ear; by the inward call, He opens the heart, as He did the heart of Lydia (Acts 16:14). The outward call may bring men to a profession of Christ—the inward call brings them to a possession of Christ. The outward call curbs a sinner—the inward call changes him.
2. Our deplorable CONDITION before we are called.
(1.) We are in a state of BONDAGE. Before God calls a man, he is the devil’s slave. If he says, “Go!” —the man goes. The deluded sinner is like the slave who digs in the mine, hews in the quarry, or tugs at the oar. He is at the command of Satan, as the donkey is at the command of the driver.
(2.) We are in a state of DARKNESS. “You were once darkness” (Ephes. 5:8). Darkness is very disconsolate. A man in the dark is full of fear, he trembles every step he takes. Darkness is dangerous. He who is in the dark may quickly go out of the right way, and fall into rivers or whirlpools. Just so, in the darkness of ignorance, we may quickly fall into the whirlpool of hell.
(3.) We are in a state of IMPOTENCY. “When we were without strength” (Romans 5:6). We had no strength to resist a temptation, or grapple with a corruption. Sin cut the lock where our strength lay (Judg. 16:20). Nay, there is not only impotency—but obstinacy, “You do always resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:51). Besides indisposition to holiness, there is opposition to holiness.
(4.) We are in a state of POLLUTION. “I saw you polluted in your blood” (Ezek. 16:6). The mind coins only earthly thoughts; the heart is the devil’s forge, where the sparks of lust fly.
(5.) We are in a state of DAMNATION. We are born under a curse. The wrath of God abides on us (John 3:36). This is our condition before God is pleased by a merciful call to bring us near to Himself, and free us from that misery in which we were before engulfed.