QUESTION: In Romans 8:28 we read, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." Who are the ones that God has called?
ANSWER: We believe that the Bible teaches that the called ones are those who, having heard the gospel, have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The word "called" does not seem to be used in the Bible for those who have merely heard the gospel. It always refers to those who have been saved.
The next verse (verse 29) tells us that not only did He call us but He knew us before we came into being. William Kelly, a well known commentator, wrote these comments regarding God's foreknowledge: "It is important to observe that the apostle does not speak of a passive or naked foreknowledge, as if God only saw beforehand what some would be, and do, or believe. His foreknowledge is of persons, not of their state or conduct: it is not what, but whom He foreknew." As we would meditate upon this truth it cannot help but cause each believer to praise and worship our Saviour. We can thank Him that His calling reached our hearts. It was not through any merit of our own but His wondrous grace. Then when we further realize that He knew us before we came into this world and called us by His grace we cannot help but bow before Him in humble adoration. "We love Him, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Verse 29 goes on to tell us that those whom He called He knew beforehand and marked them out for blessing.
We need to remember as we think about God's calling that this does not diminish man's responsibility to come to the Saviour. We read: "God is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). This verse tells us that men are responsible to repent and come to the Saviour. We may not fully understand how God's calling and man's responsibility can both be true, but they are. "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).
—John D. McNeil