So far in his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul has addressed the credentials of a minister’s mission, the content of a minister’s message, and the goal of the Gospel. Paul was strengthening the faith of the believers in Rome and preparing them for his proposed visit among them. In essence Paul has dealt with the preacher of the Gospel, the Person of the Gospel, and the purpose of the Gospel. He now turns his attention to the privileges of the Gospel. We are going to look at this section dealing with the privileges of the Gospel as the effectual call of the Gospel. We will see that Paul set forth four divine privileges that belonged to the Christians in Rome:
Among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ (1:6). First, what is to be the called of Jesus Christ? It means much more than to hear the gospel invitation. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14), and in that sense He was speaking of the general call of the gospel which is rejected by many, but of the few that are chosen He was speaking of the effectual call of the gospel where the once unwilling sinner is made willing by gift and power of God. When the New Testament writers of the epistles spoke of those who are the called, they only had in mind those who had listened to and accepted the divine invitation; they only had in mind those for whom the gospel had been effectual.
The believers in Rome to whom Paul was writing were among those who had been brought to the obedience of faith and therefore were also the called of Jesus Christ. The called of Jesus Christ are not only called to salvation but they are also called to loving, loyal obedience. These believers in Rome and every believer today have been the object of the effectual call of God in order that they could be given to Jesus Christ by God the Father as a reward of His suffering. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37). Those who are the called of Jesus Christ are those whom God the Father has drawn to Him for salvation – “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” (John 6:44). So the called of Jesus Christ are those who through the effectual call of the gospel have been given to Jesus Christ by God the Father and who have been drawn to Jesus Christ by God the Father.
To all who are beloved of God in Rome (1:7a) – next Paul tells these believers that they were “beloved of God.” Every believer has been made acceptable to God through Christ “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). Every believer is a child of God by new birth and is loved for the sake of God’s beloved Son. Some one may object and say that all men are beloved of God. However the beloved of God are those whom God has great pleasure in and in that case only those who are in Christ Jesus His Beloved Son are beloved of God.
Called as saints (1:7b) – here the term called is still speaking of the effectual call of God and not His general call. The general call of God goes out to many but doesn’t necessitate, constitute, or guarantee the salvation of all who hear it. The general call of God is His invitation to salvation that He sends out to many through His servants who proclaim the gospel. However, the general call of God can be ignored, shunned, rejected, and even improperly received by those who are invited (Matthew 22:1-14). So we see in the Scriptures that many are called but few are chosen – indicating that the general call of God is not effectual for all who hear it.
The effectual call of God however results in the gospel being the power of God unto salvation for those who believe because they have been chosen by God for salvation. The apostle Paul put it this way after speaking to the Thessalonians about the apostasy and the coming of the Antichrist that must take place before the Lord Jesus gathers His saints to Him – “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). So the general call of God is the effectual call of God only for those who have been chosen by God from the beginning for salvation. So the saved who are referred to as the called are those who were invited through the gospel, made willing by the effectual call of God to receive that which by nature one rejects – namely Jesus Christ as King and his or her self as loyal servants who love and adore the King – and thereby proven to be chosen. Only the chosen are effectually called through the gospel and the gospel is the only way that God calls those whom He chose. God’s choosing and God’s calling go together, for the God who ordains the end (our salvation) also ordains the means to the end (being called through the gospel).
“Called” here is a synonym for the terms “elect” and “predestined.” As Paul explains in chapter 8, those “whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (8:30).
“Saints” is from a word which has the basic meaning of being set apart. As saints we are set apart for God and by God and that necessitates our being made holy and righteous and being separated from or called out from the world. So then the saints are the “holy ones of God.” As saints we have been called and justified. As saints we are being called and sanctified. As saints we will be called and glorified.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:7c) – the only people who can receive the marvelous blessings of grace and peace are those who are the called of Jesus Christ, the beloved of God, and those called as saints. It is God’s grace that grants forgiveness of sin through the Gospel of His Son and brings peace between God and men. Peace, true and lasting peace is based on purity and that is why grace always precedes peace because grace goes to the frontline and removes the impurity of man’s rebellion so that the war between God and the sinner is removed and replaced with a new relationship and sweet fellowship.
What a mighty God we serve!