This Day in Presbyterian History:
A Prayer From the Catechism
With little or no Presbyterian history to find on this May 14 day, we go to the words of Shorter Catechism No. 31. It tells us that Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he does persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.
On the one hand, this is rich theology. It defines for us the biblical doctrine of vocation. It follows catechisms which tells us that we are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ by the effectual application of the Spirit of God who works faith in us and unites us to Christ. It precedes catechisms which define the benefits of vocation as being justification, adoption, and sanctification.
But on the other hand, this is devotional. This is an evangelistic prayer. It can formulate the requests which we make every time we or someone else shares the gospel of eternal life with the lost. We can make each one of the verbal phrases in this catechism a prayer petition for our unsaved loved ones, or our neighbors outside of Christ.
Let’s look at the teaching first. The Spirit first applies the effectual calling upon our minds by convincing us of our sin and misery. This work of God’s Word, and especially His law, as well as His Spirit convinces the heart of the unsaved as to his deserved guilt, the dreadful wrath of God, and endless miseries of hell, if we reject his gospel. Then a second application of the mind by the Word and Spirit is enlightening in the knowledge of Christ. We know with conviction that Christ is the only answer to our sin and misery, that He has undertaken to save us and will be faithful to perform it. We in short discover Christ in the gospel. Our spiritual eyes are opened to His person and work on our behalf.
Second, the Spirit applies the effectual call upon our wills, by renewing them. This is a secret, spiritual. and mysterious work, as Christ compares it to the wind which we hear but don’t know where it comes from or goes to in John 3.
But the full result of all this convicting work upon the mind and will of the sinner will be to persuade and enable him to embrace Jesus Christ as He is freely offered in the gospel.
Christian, recognize that this is your spiritual history. You might not have been aware that all this was happening inside of you. But while others might have been externally called by the Word of God, you were called externally by that same Word and internally persuaded to become a believer. None but the elect of God are thus called and chosen by the Word and the Spirit.
But this is more than mere doctrine, as important as that is. It is also devotional. The next time you present the gospel to someone else, or you hear it presented in a public meeting, like a church service, turn these expressions into prayer requests. Holy Spirit, convince the lost of their sin and misery. Enlighten their minds in the knowledge of Christ. Renew their wills. Persuade and enable them to embrace Jesus Christ this day as He is freely offered in the gospel.
Words to Live By: For the purposes of both doctrine and devotion, it is important to memorize this answer. If you do, and this contributor did so a long time ago, it is a comforting assurance in days of doubt which the old serpent enemy casts towards us, as well as an effective evangelistic tool to use anywhere and everywhere. Your assignment is, memorize Shorter Catechism 31.
Through the Scriptures: Psalms 100 – 102
Through the Standards: Proof texts of saving faith
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (NAS)
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (NAS)
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . .” (NAS)
“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” (NAS)