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Galatians 1:15 by Robert Dean
Series:Galatians (1998)
Duration:1 hr 3 mins 12 secs

Doctrine of the Divine Call; Gal. 1:15

 

Galatians 1:15 NASB But when God, who had set me apart {even} from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased [16] to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, [17] nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus."

 

We have to understand the doctrine that lies behind these words. The point that Paul is making is that he didn't consult anybody; he got his authority and spiritual gift of apostle and the commission to be an apostle directly from Jesus Christ. They think that is a point of criticism but that is a point of honour, is what he is saying. He is answering the Judaizers who were saying he didn't have anything to do with Jerusalem so he is not an apostle. Paul says that is exactly right, he didn't have anything to do with Jerusalem, he got his apostleship directly from Jesus Christ because men cannot give spiritual gifts. It was not up to the apostles in Jerusalem to distribute the spiritual gifts, it is up to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

 

The phrase "set me apart from my mother's womb" is an issue of separation—"out from."

 

The doctrine of the divine call

 

1.  The word "call" comes from the Greek word kaleo [kalew] which means to call, to summon, to invite. Theologically the concept of the divine call has been broken down (not Scripturally but theologically) into two sub-categories: a general call, when we talk about the public proclamation of Scripture, when God through the Scriptures invites everyone to accept the free gift of Jesus Christ as their saviour—but that is not the subject we are talking about here; the more technical meaning of the divine call has to do with the ministry of God the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation in making the gospel clear to the unbeliever so that they will respond by faith alone in Christ alone.

2.  Definition: This is the work of God the Holy Spirit toward believers only—unbelievers are never recipients of this call; He never performs this to anyone who stays an unbeliever—prior to their to their salvation to make the gospel clear so that they will believe in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Calling always refers to those who do believe and God the Holy Spirit will never call an unbeliever who does not believe. Romans 8:29, 30 NASB "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined {to become} conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified." This is the "chain of predestination." What we find in these two verses is a complete chain of events that culminate in the believer's glorification. It begins with foreknowledge, then moves to predestination, to calling, justification and then glorification. Foreknowledge and predestination take place in eternity past. Calling and justification take place in time, during the believer's life. Glorification takes place in eternity future. The final goal is that there is a group of people who are glorified. Who does God glorify? Those whom He justified—previous phrase. So God glorifies every single person He justifies; they will all receive a resurrection body in heaven. Who does God justify? Whom He called. In justification he justifies everyone He calls. So that means there are people He does not call; those people are not justified. So the group that is justified is everybody who is called; the same group that is called are those that are predestined. So this refers to a set group of people back in eternity past—these are called. He never calls those who are not predestined. Those He predestined are those whom He foreknew. This is the chain. He predestines a group of x-number of people. That same group of people in time He is going to call; no more, no less. That means that God the Holy Spirit is going to work specifically in the lives of this group to make sure they understand the gospel, so that at gospel hearing they will respond by faith alone in Christ alone.

3.  This means that the divine call is the work of God the Holy Spirit in applying the elective decree of God to the individual at the moment of salvation.

4.  Calling is not some independent doctrine that you can divorce from everything else in Scripture teaches about human volition, divine sovereignty and the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Calling in itself does not limit the application of the gospel. That is done by God the Father on the basis of three things: omniscience, foreknowledge and foreordination. Remember that the council of divine decrees—time began at point x, at the creation of the universe—took place in eternity past, and at that point one of the decrees was that divine sovereignty and human volition would co-exist together in human history. God's sovereignty is not going to violate human volition but neither does human volition dictate divine sovereignty. Human volition is never autonomous or independent from divine sovereignty but divine sovereignty will never dictate or arbitrarily control or violate human volition. We always have to maintain that principle. (If we don't we will get into problems) Omniscience describes all of God's knowledge; the word means all-knowing. It literally means that God knows all the knowable; He has complete, simultaneous and eternal knowledge of all things. There never was a time when God did not know all the knowable simultaneously. All the knowable includes all the actual and all the possible. Foreknowledge is a sub-category of God's omniscience, so we are narrowing the focus. Omniscience covers all the actuals and all the possibles, everything that could, everything that would, everything that will happen. In foreknowledge we see that this is a specialised sub-category of God's omniscience related to His eternal knowledge about the thoughts, motives, decisions and actions of believers. So foreknowledge has as its object the thoughts, motives, actions of believers—so it is restricted. Divine omniscience knows all things actual and potential. If we set up a time line—there is no time with God, this just describes the logical relation between these things—there is first the omniscience of God, then there is the eternal decree of God related to human history, then there is His foreknowledge, then His election, then predestination. This is the logical relationship of these terms. Foreknowledge only confirms what has been decreed, it does not predetermine those events in human history or violate human volition. In His omniscience God knows the actual and the possible and he decrees that course of actuals that will bring Him the highest and greatest glory in relation to the angelic conflict. That decree includes the principle that divine sovereignty co-exists in human history with human volition. Foreknowledge, then, confirms what has been decreed and does not predetermine those events or violate human volition. Election is then the expression of God's selection of different groups for different purposes throughout the course of human history. There are three elections given in the Scriptures. Israel is elected under the Old Testament plan of God. Christ is elect under the plan of God in relation to salvation. The church is elected by God in relationship to His plan in fulfilling the angelic conflict. Basically what we are saying is that God elects and chooses believers, not in violation of their volition, on the basis of understanding what will actually happen in human history, in other words, understanding that you at the point of gospel hearing will respond positively to the gospel and that others will never under any circumstance respond positively to the gospel. God decrees that those who respond positively to the gospel will be saved; they are elect.

5.  Calling is therefore related to God's election based on His foreordination. Those who are foreordained are those the Holy Spirit calls. Because of His omniscience God knows that all others would reject Christ at gospel hearing. So that means God just doesn't waste effort—it's called economy of force in terms of military principle.

6.  Calling is therefore related to the operation of efficacious grace. At the point of gospel hearing the individual expresses faith alone in Christ alone, yet that is the faith of a spiritually dead unbeliever and God the Holy Spirit makes that faith count because the object is Christ alone. Christ did all the work, we do nothing; not ever our faith is a work. It is not because of faith, it is through faith.

7.  All of this is consistent with the principle that God decreed in eternity past that divine sovereignty and human volition would co-exist in human history, and the divine call always operates through two means. God the Holy Spirit isn't going to call somebody unless everything happens together. The two things that are always there: a) the grace of God, Galatians 1:15; b) the gospel of faith alone in Christ alone, 2 Thessalonians 2:14. They are not separated. Nobody will ever express faith alone in Christ alone without God the Holy Spirit calling them personally.

8.  The divine call is the third step in the order that we find in Romans 8:28-30. This happens in time, in the believer's life. At the time of gospel hearing God the Holy Spirit makes the gospel clear to them, then they believe and are justified for eternity.

9.  There are six purposes to the divine call:  a) We are called into fellowship with God, 1 Corinthians 1:9. We are to have personal rapport with Him. That is what we need to be thinking about every day; b) He calls us for freedom; c) Eternal life. Eternal life is not simply eternal existence; it is a quality, a significance to life, a depth of life. It comes only from learning doctrine. We learn it so that we can develop capacity for life. Jesus said He came to give us life, and to give it abundantly. That doesn't just happen by being saved; that is only the starting point, 1 Timothy 6:12; c) Spiritual growth. God saved us to grow spiritually, Ephesians 4:1—calling is to walk worthy, that is our spiritual life; e) To suffer, 1 Peter 2:20; f) WE are called to glorify God in the angelic conflict, Ephesians 4:1.

 

So what we have seen is that our salvation was no accident. There is a plan and a purpose there. God has a plan and a purpose for our life and that is why we have been brought into this remarkable, incredible relationship with Him. It is to go forward, to grow, to reach spiritual maturity so that we can have this rich relationship with Him. Only then can we have the capacity to enjoy all that God gives us. God is not going to bless us beyond our capacity because that would destroy us. God will only bless us to the degree that we have the capacity to enjoy it, appreciate it, and not let it destroy us and destroy our relationship with Him.