A Question I Was Asked:

'Is God Not Calling Some People at the Present Time?'


"...A 'hard saying' or not, we simply have to accept that God allows certain people, upon hearing the gospel, to be snatched away by Satan. If we say that God 'tries His very hardest to prevent this happening but that Satan somehow succeeds anyway,' we make Satan stronger than God..."


Here is the specific question:
'Please explain Acts13:48b, NKJV: "And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed."
NIV: "All who were appointed for eternal life believed."
SRV: "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
I believe you can only come if you are called, so are some not called?'

My Response:
The answer is that God is not calling everybody to become Christians during the present age. This is something we simply have to accept. The mistake is to make the very human, but ultimately unbiblical, leap of logic to decide that these people are simply doomed for hell, or that they are "reprobates" (an unbiblical word).

The New Testament uses the topic and concept of 'the called' and 'calling' in two different ways, and it is essential that we understand this before continuing, in order to avoid confusion.

Firstly, there is a sense in which everybody who has ever heard the name of Christ, or the message of the Gospel, has received a 'call' this is in the most general, or loose sense of 'calling' Matthew 22:14 uses this loose sense of calling when it says, 'Many are called but few are chosen'.
But, secondly, there are times when 'calling' is used in the sense of the Elect of God who alone receive a call. See John 6:44,65 and John 10:14-16, 27-29. As I write in my article on 'the parable of the sower,'

"Matthew 13:4 describes these first seeds as falling on the path where birds soon pounce for it. Now when some people hear the Gospel, God allows Satan to grab it away from them. But why (it might be reasonably asked) does God allow that? Because it is simply not God's will that these people respond in faith to the gospel at the present moment! The sovereign God is in charge of these things and those people for whatever reason are currently shut off from responding to the Gospel. It is simply not God's will that they should respond and become part of the Body of Christ during this age of the Church. Maybe they will find mercy much later on, on the Day of Judgment, but maybe they are simply not of God's Elect and will never come to Christ. In these cases God simply hands those people over to Satan. It's a bit like the man who attends a funeral and hears the Gospel fully outlined, yet he goes home and forgets all about it. He is unresponsive to the Gospel at the present time. He remains part of this ungodly society and don't forget that Paul calls Satan the 'god of this world' (2 Corinthians 4:4) so the man is effectively handed back to Satan. There is a sense in which this man received a 'call' (when he heard the Gospel expounded) but only in the more loose sense of calling this man does not (at least at the present time) belong to Christ, that is, He is not being 'called' (that is, in the more particular John 10 'the shepherd knows His own sheep' sense of that expression).

Some find this a very hard teaching but I am bound to uphold what the Scriptures clearly teach. I do not say (unlike some) that these people are simply doomed to Hell, or 'prepared for destruction' simply that during this church age they are apparently not being called. A few sincere people might find it easier to say that these people simply reject Christ it is just their decision, but I am bound to say that the Scriptures do not teach this. The Scriptures teach that many such people are currently 'closed off' from the message of grace (Matthew 13:10-16; Ephesians 1:3-14). It is going beyond the Scriptures to say that these people are simply fashioned for Hell (as hyper-Calvinism said), all that seems to be clear is that these people do not respond during the age of the Church. A 'hard saying' or not, we simply have to accept that God allows certain people, upon hearing the gospel, to be snatched away by Satan. If we say that God 'tries His very hardest to prevent this happening but that Satan somehow succeeds anyway,' we make Satan stronger than God..."

But the good news is that the New Testament makes it plain that many will find mercy on the Day of Judgment who did not seem to know Christ during their earthly lives so none of these people are necessarily eternally lost. See Matthew 25:34-40 and Romans 2:11-16.

You can read the 'sower and the seed' article in full here. I would also recommend a reading of our article, 'Are Certain People Doomed From Birth Never to Believe in God?'
Robin A. Brace, May, 2008.

UK APOLOGETICS