The Christian’s identity is bound up in these two words: “called” and “beloved.” The believer has received a special, sovereign call, and is the recipient of eternal, sovereign, almighty love from God!
Called and Loved
We began our study of this greatest of all letters last Sunday, by focusing on Paul and his gospel. Paul identifies himself as a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. Paul sees himself as bought, called, and set apart. He focuses all his time on mentioning what God has done for him, rather than what he has done for God. Then he immediately directs his attention to the Gospel. Paul tells us that the gospel concerns God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ was fully man, as seen in the fact that he was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, and he was fully God, as seen in the fact that he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, and as such was declared the Son of God.
Not only is Jesus Christ, fully man and God in one Person, He is also the One through whom God’s grace flows. Paul received grace and apostleship from Christ. Sometimes grace refers to God’s unmerited favor by which He forgives and saves us. However, that is not what Paul is referring to here. Paul is referring to the grace by which ministry was bestowed upon him. This is not saving grace, but serving grace. And it is not just Paul who has received this kind of grace, but all of you! God has gifted and graced you to be involved in ministry for His glory. What a high honor and privilege that is! The goal of Paul’s ministry was to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake. And, in reality, that is the goal of all of our ministry as well. We are to seek to bring others to faith in Christ, which produces the fruit of obedience, and it is all to spread the fame of Christ’s glory everywhere!
Well, this morning we want to turn our attention to verses 6 and 7. In these two verses, Paul uses two adjectives to describe the believers in Rome, and by extension to describe all true believers everywhere for all time. Those two adjectives are “called” and “beloved.” These two words are massively important. They are so important that I’m going to devote this entire sermon to them. They provide the key to our identity as Christians. These words do not point to what we do, but what God does. Being called and beloved of God is what makes us Christians. We need to ponder these two words to the point where they thrill our hearts and cause us to rejoice in God.
Who Does The Calling?
Our text says “among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.” You are among those who are the Gentiles brought to the obedience of faith for His name’s sake. But what does “the called of Jesus Christ” mean? It probably does not mean that we are called by Jesus Christ. Most modern translations render it, “called to belong to Jesus Christ.” That meaning would harmonize with 1 Corinthians 1:9 where Paul writes, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” So, the one doing the calling is God, the Father. And He calls us into fellowship with Christ to belong to Him.
Folks, we do not call ourselves! The same One that does the calling is the One who does the loving. In verse 7 it says, “to all who are beloved of God in Rome.” We are loved by God and we are called by God. God is the active worker here, and we are the passive recipients. I say we are passive, because when He calls us, we are dead in our trespasses and sins.
Who Does God Call?
This can be confusing, because there are two kinds of calls in the Bible. There are a few examples where the Bible speaks of a Gospel Call. By that I mean that every person who hears the gospel is “called” or “invited” to come to Christ. Take a look at Matthew 22:1-14. Here we have the parable of the Marriage Feast. Jesus said in Mt. 22:2-3, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.” Now, notice a couple things about this call. First, notice that the same people were called as those who were invited. So, this call is linked with God’s invitation to come to His marriage feast. Then, notice that this call can be refused. These people were unwilling to come. They turned the call down. At the very end of this parable in verse 14 Jesus says, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” The call Jesus is speaking of here is broader than the ones who are chosen. Jesus is speaking about the invitation or call that is extended to every person who hears the gospel when the missionary, or evangelist, or preacher preaches the gospel. Sometimes we refer to this as the Universal Call. It’s not truly universal, because there are millions of people around the world that never hear this call, because the gospel is never preached to them. But every person who hears the gospel receives a Gospel Call. However, that is not what Paul is referring to in Romans 1:6-7.
Paul is referring to the effectual call. Except for just a few cases in the gospels where the call refers to a Gospel Call, it is speaking about an effectual call. In the epistles the word “call” refers to a call that is effective in bringing a person into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe that is what Paul is referring to here, because of how he uses the word “call” in the rest of this letter. Let’s take a look
In Romans 8:28-30, Paul writes, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 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.” Now notice that God’s call is according to His purpose. It is not according to our purpose. God has a purpose in this world, and He calls according to it. Then Paul tells us that in verse 30 that every person that is called is also justified. Now, we know that not every person who hears the gospel is justified. So, this call must be different from the Gospel Call that Jesus talked about in Matthew 22:1-14. This call must be an effective call. Notice also, that this call is issued only to those who are predestined and foreknown. The word “foreknew” does not simply mean that God knows in advance what is going to happen. It refers to people He has chosen to be saved. It has the sense of being “foreloved.” If God foreknows someone, that means that He has determined ahead of time to enter into a saving, covenant relationship with them. So, the call that Paul is talking about is issued to those God has chosen, and predestined. Furthermore, every single person He calls is also justified, and will be glorified.
And, just to make sure we are on the right track, let’s go to Romans 9:21-24 to see how Paul uses the word “call” there. “Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.” In this passage Paul says that God is the potter, and we are the clay, and it is His right to make all His creatures into vessels for honorable use or vessels for common use. In verse 23 He refers to vessels of mercy which He prepared beforehand for glory. There we have divine election. Then in verse 24 Paul writes, “even us, whom He also called.” In other words, those people who are called are among the vessels of mercy which God prepared beforehand for glory. Election leads to calling. Who does God call? His elect. Those He has chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world.
Well, isn’t that unjust to the rest? We have to be careful here? To say that God must do for everyone what He does for anyone implies that all people have a right to be called, or deserve to be called. Is that true? No, it is categorically untrue. The human race is so rebellious and corrupt and undeserving, that none of us has a right to be called to salvation. If God calls anyone, it will only be an act of His free sovereign grace. God is not obliged to call everyone if He calls anyone, because God does not call on the basis of human merit, or performance, or achievement. God calls on the basis of grace. Paul writes in Galatians 1:15, “But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me.” Paul puts it like this in 2 Timothy 1:9, “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” This calling flows from God’s grace, which means it flows from His undeserved kindness. All men have sinned away any rights to God’s favor. So, God is free to bestow His favor on any He chooses to. If someone does not receive God’s call, they can’t blame God for being unjust. God would be completely just to not call anyone. The fact that He calls anyone, merely shows how loving and merciful He is!
What Is God’s Call?
It is not merely an invitation like the Gospel Call. Rather, it is a divine summons which comes with divine power, enabling us to repent and turn to Christ. I’ve often told the illustration of the Dad who is trying to watch television, while his three boys are horsing around and making a racket in the same room. The Dad says, “boys, stop horsing around.” Well, the boys go on playing as usual, ignoring their Dad. So he says a little louder, “Boys, be quiet and stop horsing around.” The boys just continue playing as usual. Finally, the Dad says, “BOYS, STOP HORSING AROUND!!!” Well, that gets their attention and stops them in their tracks, because they know Dad really means business. The effectual call is like that. God works so powerfully, that He gets our attention and brings us to repentance and faith in Christ. The effectual call of God is synonymous with regeneration. In the new birth, God changes our hearts and enables us to see the glory of Christ, so that we turn from the old life, and embrace Christ as our life.
What Does God’s Call Result In?
Becoming Saints. Paul answers this question in verse 7 – “called as saints.” The meaning here is “called to be saints.” I grew up in the Roman Catholic tradition, and in my understanding a “saint” was an especially holy person who had died and gone to heaven who could hear and answer your prayers. What a shock it was when I came to Christ and started to read my Bible to find out that a saint was any and every Christian throughout the world! I was a saint! But, what is a saint? The word literally means “a holy one.” Every Christian is holy, because they have been set apart from sin and the world, unto God. In fact, the Greek word for church is “ekklesia” which means “called out ones.” The church is comprised of all who have been called out of the world and sin, to be Christ’s own people. We are saints because we have been justified by faith. God has imputed to us the very righteousness of Jesus Christ. Further, we are becoming more and more holy as we learn to walk by the spirit and not by the flesh.
Beholding the Glory of Christ. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Now, notice in this passage that Paul preached Christ crucified to two groups of people – Greeks and Jews. Both of them rejected the message. The Greeks thought the message was foolish, and the Jews saw it as a stumbling block. So, does that mean no one will believe the gospel? No! Look at verse 24. “BUT to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Some Jews and Greeks believed. Some saw Christ as the power of God or the wisdom of God instead of foolishness or a stumbling block. Who were they? The called! When God called them, they saw the glory of Christ. They saw Christ as all-powerful, and all-wise! God’s call is what made all the difference. That’s exactly what Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
My friends, if you see the glory and beauty and value in the person of Jesus Christ, it is because God has called you! When God calls a man He awakens the dead, opens the blind eyes, unstops the deaf ears, softens the hard heart, humbles the proud, and brings forth a living faith in Christ!
Does God Love Everyone The Same?
That question might surprise you. You might think, “Of course God loves everyone the same!” However, let’s look at our text. It says, “to all who are beloved of God in Rome.” I believe what Paul is saying is that among all those people who live in Rome, he was writing to those who were loved by God. Now you may be thinking, “But Brian, doesn’t God love everyone?” My answer is, “Yes, God does love everyone in one sense, but He has a special love for His elect in another sense.”
God Loves The World. First, let’s establish from Scripture that God loves all people. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” I believe the “world” means all who live in the world. In Matthew 5:44-45 Jesus said, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” God loves evil and unrighteous people, and demonstrates it by causing His sun to rise on them, and sending rain to them so that their crops will grow and they will have food to eat. God loves all the world, so He gave His Son to provide eternal salvation and then sends out missionaries and preachers to invite all to come to Him for life. All that is gloriously true. But that’s not all the Bible has to say about the love of God.
God has a Special Love for the Elect. What does the Scripture say in this regard? Well, take a look at several texts.
Romans 9:13, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” So, what does it mean that God hated Esau? If God loves all people the same, how could He hate Esau? I think the answer lies in the fact that God doesn’t love all people the same. He loved Jacob with such a special love, that not extending that same love to Esau looked like hatred. Jacob and Esau were twins. In fact, Esau was born first. However, God bypassed normal Jewish protocol, and selected Jacob to be the one through whom Messiah would come. This choice on God’s part was not because of him who works, but because of Him who calls. God chose Jacob over Esau before either one had done anything good or bad, while they were still in their mother’s womb.
Ephesians 1:5, “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” It was because of God’s love for us that He predestined us to adoption as sons. Now, the expression “adoption as sons” is talking about our eternal salvation. We are born into the family of Satan, spiritually dead, and enemies of God, under His wrath. In order to be reconciled to God, we have to be taken out of Satan’s family, and adopted into God’s as His own children. And the Scripture tells us we were predestined for this!
Ephesians 2:1-5, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ…” Paul tells us here that we were exactly as the rest – dead in sins, dominated by the world, the flesh and the devil, and were under the wrath of God. BUT GOD!!! Even when we were in that hopeless and helpless condition, God stepped in. But why? Because of His great love with which He loved us. This was not God’s ordinary love. It was His great love. It was this love that caused us to be made alive together with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions. Christian, you are loved by God with His special, covenant, saving, great love!
Colossians 3:12, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…” What I want you to see in this passage is that Paul links being chosen with being beloved. Those who are chosen by God are loved by God in a special and unique way.
1 Thess. 1:4, “knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you.”
2 Thess. 2:13-14, “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.”
Jude 1, “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.”
In all of these passages, we see that the love of God is linked with election and calling. If you are elect and called by God, then you can know that God loves you in a special and unique way. I can truthfully say that in one sense I love all women. However, there is another sense in which I have a special, covenant love with only one woman – my wife! You can truthfully say that you love all the children in your neighborhood. However, it is also true that you love your own children in a special way. God loves all people, but He has a special saving love for His elect.
Why Does God Love The Elect?
Is there some character quality within them that attracts the love of God? Is there something about them that causes God to love them in a special way? Absolutely not. God set His love upon the elect before the foundation of the world. He knew the awful sins they would commit. But He set His love upon them anyway. So, why?
Perhaps the best we can do to answer this question is go back to Deuteronomy 7:6-8, “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” Here were told specifically why God did not choose Israel or set His love upon her. It was not because they were more in number than any of the peoples. Rather, Israel was the fewest of all peoples. In other words, God did not set His love on Israel because of something within Israel. Well, why then? Because the Lord loved Israel and kept His oath to their forefathers. Here is God’s answer – “I set my love on you, because I loved you.” Period. God does not tell us why He chose some and set His love on them. He just tells us it had nothing to do with us being more lovable than others.
What Does God’s Electing Love Include?
Romans 8:37 says, “But in all these things (tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword) we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. The reason we conquer is through Him who loved us. So, how does God love His elect? Let’s go back to the context of Romans 8:28-39 and notice some of them.
He works all things together for your good. Romans 8:28. What the enemy means for evil, God means for good. Folks, in the life of every Christian, God is up to something good! Count on it.
He conforms you to the image of Christ. Romans 8:29. Your being conformed to the image of Christ was predestined by God. That means, you can’t change it. It’s going to happen. God loved you so much He determined to make you like His Son.
He called you. Romans 8:30. Do you realize the greatness of the blessing you have received if you have been called?! This blessing can’t be calculated. Without it you will perish. With it, you receive eternal glory!
He justified you. Romans 8:30. That means that God has put His own perfect righteousness to your account. He loved you enough to remove your guilt and sin and put His spotless robe of righteousness over you.
He is going to glorify you. Romans 8:30. He’s going to bring you to heaven. You are going to live with God for all eternity. That’s how much He loved you!
He is for you. Romans 8:31. In fact, because He is for you, no one can successfully be against you!
He delivered up Jesus Christ for you. Romans 8:32. God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). There is no greater demonstration of love than that!
He will freely give you all things. Romans 8:32. What do the “all things” include? All things! Everything that you will ever need to get from here to glory. Do you need perseverance, comfort, courage, faith, boldness, holiness? It’s included. God went to the expense of giving His most valuable possession – His Son. He will not withhold whatever else you need to make it safely to the heavenly shore.
He Will Not Allow You To Be Separated from His love. You believe God set His love upon you, and called you. But how do you know that all of your Christianity might not blow up in smoke? God has promised that He won’t let anything separate you from His love. God’s love is not “He loves me… He loves me not.” It is “He loves me forever. Period.” But what if I commit some horrible sin? Don’t you think you’ve already committed some horrible sins? Did that stop Him from loving you? If you didn’t do anything to get God to love you, how do you think you’re going to be able to do something to get God to stop loving you? Impossible!
Christian, this is who you are. You are called. You are loved. You and I need to feed on these solid, deep truths every day! How are we going to fight our temptations and our flesh and the world and the devil, and overcome and be victorious? It’s only going to be by knowing that God has called us by His grace, and He loves us and will continue to love us to the end. What a wonderful comfort it is to meditate on God’s wonderful love and His gracious call! Don’t allow these truths to make you presumptuous. But do allow them to fill you with His strength to resist sin, and serve God with all your heart. Saints, God has called you and loved you. Give Him glory!
Bottom of page:
© The Bridge
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by The Bridge.