Called to be saints. Romans 1:7
In the NT, there are two different types of calling. There is the general call of the gospel, which is the call that goes out to all men to repent and believe the gospel. This is what is being referred to, for example, in Matthew 22:14, when our Lord says that “many are called, but few are chosen.”
However, there is also what theologians have called the effectual call, because, unlike the general call, this call leads inevitably to repentance and faith (cf. Rom. 8:29-30; 2 These. 2:13-14). This is the way Paul is using the term here in this text. Note the comparison to Paul’s description of himself in verse 1: a “called apostle.” Though this is not the same thing, in that this calling is a divine summons to a particular vocation, yet we all understand that the summons of Christ to Paul to be his apostle to the Gentiles was effectual. In fact, in some sense, Paul’s call to faith in Christ and his call to be an apostle was one and the same event, so that there is a connection between the two.
Now how is it that God calls us to him? It is by opening our eyes to the beauty of the gospel, to see our need for Christ, and his sufficiency to save. It is a giving of spiritual eyes to see and spiritual taste buds to taste. Jonathan Edwards put it this way: he said that this is “a true sense of the divine and superlative excellency of the things of religion; a real sense of the excellency of God and Jesus Christ, and of the work of redemption, and the ways and works of God revealed in the gospel. There is a divine and superlative glory in these things, an excellency that is of a vastly higher kind, and more sublime nature, than in other things . . . He that is spiritually enlightened truly apprehends and sees it. Or has a sense of it. He does not merely rationally believe that God is glorious, but he has a sense of the gloriousness of God in his heart.”
God loves you and he has called you. Let the magnitude of what Paul is describing to sink in. Paul is not saying that God loves us from afar, but that God has invaded our hearts to take away the blindness and the hardness so that we will come to Christ in faith and receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in his name. He is not only at work for you but at work in you. The work of salvation in your heart began with a work of God and is sustained by the power of God. You are not on your own. God is with you and in you empowering you so that despite all your weakness and failures you will persevere to the end and be saved.
Also, consider what an honor it is if God has summoned you to himself. The King of the universe has called you! What greater honor or privilege is there in this age or the age to come? If the President called you to the White House, you would probably consider this one of the greatest honors of your life. But our President is nothing compared to God. And it is a call of grace, so that God does not call us because we are honorable - it is his call that makes us honorable!
You can see this in what God has called us to. He has called us to belong to his Son, Jesus Christ (6). He has called us to be saints, to be set apart for himself, for his glory. We are like the blind man who received his sight and then followed Jesus in the way.
Consider what grace it is that God has bestowed on those whom he loves and calls. When we look back on our past and consider how we came to Christ, we must ascribe all our salvation, from first to last, to the sovereign grace of our Lord. He loved us and he called us (cf. 1 Cor. 1:26-31). He is the one who made us to differ. We should love him for it and give him all the praise. We should give our lives to him. He has called you to belong to him, to be set apart for him. Don’t let the world cause you to be conformed to its ways. Don’t allow the hostile environment of this world to turn your hearts away from God’s Son. Be like that spider who builds nests of air-bubbles in the water; even so, learn how to live in a hostile world with the resources of God’s grace that come to us from his love and through his call.