This is the fifth in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
While there is a general call to everyone to trust in Christ through the proclamation of the gospel, God also extends an effectual call to those He foreknew, elected, and predestined. For every child of God, there is a time when the Holy Spirit draws him or her personally to faith in Christ, resulting in belief and repentance that lead to everlasting life.
The words “call,” “called,” and “calling” in Scripture are derived from several Hebrew and Greek words and are applied in various ways. Generally speaking, these words mean “to call, summon, invite, appeal, or proclaim.”
Concerning God’s call to salvation, William Mounce writes, “When God calls, it is a call that roots in predestination and ends in glorification (Rom. 8:29-30). God calls us by his grace. But his calling is not only to salvation; it is also to a life of serving him and our fellow believers.”
This call is expressed in two ways in the New Testament: A general call to everyone through creation, conscience, the canon of Scripture, and the gospel of Christ; and an effectual call to those God foreknew, elected, and predestined, resulting in belief and repentance that lead to everlasting life. God chooses His people unconditionally, yet eternal life is conditioned on faith in Christ.
This is not a mechanistic process by which God fatalistically picks some for eternal life and, with equal passion, morbidly chooses others for outer darkness. Rather, it is a mysterious working of the triune God as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit call upon all people to repent, while enabling those who receive the call to enter God’s kingdom.
Rev. 22:17 – Both the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Anyone who hears should say, “Come!” And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift. (HCSB)
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”
This verse is a final call to salvation to all who receive it in faith. The call to eternal life is a call to come to Jesus, for He has come to us throughout human history – revealing Himself in creation and conscience; appearing in the burning bush, the pillar of cloud and fire, the Shekinah glory in the tabernacle and temple; visiting as the Angel of Yahweh, and most importantly as Jesus of Nazareth – the Word becoming flesh and taking up residence among us (John 1:14).
The call to come echoes throughout Scripture as a unified pleading of the Godhead. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit take the initiative to come first to us, and then they bid us to respond in faith to their grace and mercy.
The Father says “come” – come out of the ark for judgment has passed (Gen. 8:16); come up to the mountain to receive the Law (Ex. 24:12); come to the tent of meeting (Num. 12:4); come and reason with the Lord so your sins, though scarlet, may be white as snow (Isa. 1:18).
The Son says “come” – come, all who are weary and burdened, and He will give you rest (Matt. 11:28); come, you who are blessed by the Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matt. 24:34); come away and rest for a while (Mark 6:31); come and follow (Mark 9:21; Luke 18:22); come – those who are thirsty – and drink (John 3:37); come out of the grave (John 11:43).
And the Spirit says “come” (Rev. 22:17), wooing an unbelieving world to trust in the Savior. After Jesus returns to His Father in heaven, the Spirit comes to us and remains with us as we eagerly await Christ’s return. The Spirit regenerates us (John 3:6-7; Titus 3:5); seals us (Eph. 1:13-14); indwells us (1 Cor. 3:16); baptizes us into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13); sets us free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2); sanctifies us (2 Thess. 2:12; 1 Peter 1:2); counsels us (John 14:26); grants us spiritual gifts for service (1 Cor. 12:1-11); enables us to put to death the things of the flesh (Rom. 8:12-13); and reminds us that we belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9).
But the Creator and Sovereign of the universe does not force Himself upon us or into our hearts. He comes to us and beckons us to come to Christ. Thus, the gentle but urgent plea, “Come!”