top of page

Effectual Call, Regeneration, and Adoption

Still working through STII, and specifically the doctrine of salvation.

Last time we talked about the election, and today we want to talk about Effectual Call, Regeneration, and Adoption.

Now each one of these are rather large topics in their own right, and they are wonderful doctrines, but we are going to talk about them together in one episode; and give a basic synopsis of them.

Effectual Call:

When it comes to the idea of “the call” or “being called,” in terms of salvation, Reformed theology typically makes a distinction:

General Call:

This is that general call in which all people are called to repent from their sin, and turn toward faith in Jesus Christ.

“We may properly speak of a call which is not in itself effectual. That is often spoken of as the universal call of the gospel. The overtures of grace in the gospel addressed to all men without distinction are very real and we must maintain that doctrine with all its implications for God’s grace, on the one hand, and for man’s responsibility and privilege on the other” (Murry, Redemption).


Isa. 55:1"Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost."

Matt. 11:18 - "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

Matt. 22:14 - "For many are called, but few are chosen."

Effectual Call:

This is a unique call that actually and always draws people to Christ.

“It is striking that in the NT the terms for calling when used specifically with reference to salvation, are almost uniformly applied, not the universal call of the gospel, but to the call that ushers men into a state of salvation and is therefore effectual. There is scarcely an instance where the terms are used to designate the indiscriminate overture of grace in the gospel of Christ” (Murry).


"Kaleo" group


Romans 1:1 - “Paul, a bonde-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…”

1 Tim. 6:12 - “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

2 Pet. 1:10 - “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.”

“Paul uses this word group almost always with the sense of divine calling… Paul understands calling as the process by which God calls those, whom he has already elected and appointed, out of their bondage to this world, so that he may justify and sanctify them (Rom. 8:29), and bring them into his service…. When Paul says that God’s decision is not dependent on works but solely on him who calls (Rom. 9:11), he is stressing the unfettered choice of God, which is not influenced by human preconditions. It alone brings men to faith and is able to preserve them in it” (NIDNTT).

"Helkuo" in John 6:44:

"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”

This word means to tug, draw, drag; literally; (1) of a sword draw, or unsheathing (Jn. 18:10); (2) of a person, forcibly led, or dragged (Acts 21:30); (3) of a net hual,or drag (Jn. 21:6); (4) as a legal technical term, to be lead by force, dragged into court (Jas 2:6); figuratively, of a strong pull in the mental or moral life, where a person is drawn or attracted.

Some additional concepts related to the effectual call is the language of being divinely enabled to see, understand, and respond.

Luke 8:10 - “And He said, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that SEEING THEY MAY NOT SEE, AND HEARING THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND.”

John 6:65 - “And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

 Acts 16:14 - “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”

1 Thess. 1:5 - “for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”

The effectual call ultimately climaxes in two concurrent events:

- Regeneration

- Faith

In the reformed view, regeneration, logically, precedes faith, whereas in a non-reformed view, faith precedes regeneration (e.g., Arminianism)


In the OT:

There is little discussion on this topic in the OT.

This has led some to conclude that regeneration is a uniquely NT concept-- which leads to a mixing of the New Birth and the Indwelling of the Spirit. However, due to the realities of sin, regeneration is a theological necessity throughout time.

Consider Jn. 3:3-10 is the definitive passage on regeneration.

Jn. 3:3 - “Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Jesus, then, rebukes him in v. 10, which assumes this concept can be known from the OT.

Jn. 3:10 - "Jesus answered and said to him, 'Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?'"

The implication, here, is that regeneration, though dimly present, can be understood from the OT, thus making regeneration an OT reality as well.

In the NT:


"Palingenesia" - often translated as regeneration.

"Palin" = again, genesis = birth, origin.

Examples (Matt. 19:29; Titus 3:5).

Titus 3:5 - “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”

This is used for setting up a new order in the person. It is a work performed by God on  man, no indication of cooperation here.

"Gannao" word group - often translated as “born.”

When it is used by John it almost exclusively is connected with a point of origin.

“of God.”

Jn. 1:13 - “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

(1 Jn. 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 28)

These are the strongest of the passages to indicate that regeneration is a work of God, and that it precedes faith. 

As an example) 1 Jn. 5:1, commonly is shown to teach that faith results in the New Birth. However, just the opposite is shown

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.”

"Anagennao" - often translated as being born.

Used by Peter. In both cases it is in the passive voice, where God is the one causing the “birth” or “new birth.”

"Apokueo" - translated as “being brought forth” (Jas. 1:18). 

In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”

Again, God is the one doing the work.

συζωοποιέω - Translated as “being made alive.”

Eph. 2:5 - “even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

Again, God is doing the work of making us alive. A dead person can’t make themself live.

"Kaina, kitisis" - translated as “new, or new creature”

2 Cor. 5:17 - “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

This speaks of a transference of a person out of one “age” or “kingdom” and into a new one. This speaks of the great work that Christ has done and how those in Christ become partakers of this new kingdom that is now/not yet.

There is a close connection between what some would call an “initial renewal” (meaning regeneration and “progressive renewal” (meaning sanctification).

“In the Gospel of John, Christ assures Nicodemus that there are no spiritual activities-- no seeing or entering God’s kingdom without regeneration… Conversely, in the Epistle of 1John, John insists that there is no regeneration that does not issue in spiritual activities” (Baker’s Dictionary of Theology).

“With Paul, the processes of renewal, which follow from regeneration, are progressive and may be summed up as sanctification… Renewal cannot precede regeneration, but it does accompany it.” (Guthrie, NT Theology).

Examples: Eph. 4:23, Rom. 6:4; 2Cor. 4:16.


There is both a similarity and dissimilarity between the idea of adoption and regeneration. 

The point of similarity is the familial concepts (being “born” and “sonship”). 

Vine gives the key point of dissimilarity when he says, “Adoption is a term involving the dignity of relationship of believers as sons; it is not a putting into the family by spiritual birth, but a putting into the position of son” (Vine, Expository Dictionary).

“Too frequently adoption has been regarded as simply an aspect of justification, or as another way of stating the privilege conferred by regeneration. It is much more likely these acts of grace--- these blessings themselves, however precious they are [justification and regeneration], do not indicate what is conferred by the act of adoption. By adoption the redeemed become sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty. They are introduced into, and given the privileges, of God’s family. Neither justification, nor regeneration, expresses precisely that. A text which sets forth the special character of adoption is John 1:12: ‘But as many as received him, to them he gave the right (the authority) to become children of God, to those who believe on his name’” (Murry, Redemption).

The primary word for this blessing is "huiothesia."

Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4


So, these are just some of the sub doctrines that fall under the greater doctrine of salvation. There is so much more that could be said about them, but this is perhaps sufficient for a podcast like this.

There are a lot of major doctrines that we want to address (e..g, justification, Faith, Union with Christ, etc.), that we will spend more time on.

Having said that, because we gave less time to these, that does not mean they are not as important. However, the other doctrines (e.g., justification, faith) just require more explanation.

So that will be our plan, starting next time.


bottom of page