Distinguishing between these various aspects of our redemption is a high delight of the soul, whereby we are moved and induced to joyfully praise God for the glorious salvation as we behold the beauty of the salvation He has wrought and conveyed to us in Christ. Thus, the purpose of this short article is to distinguish between three intimately related concepts in Reformed Theology – the effectual call, regeneration, and definitive sanctification.
The argument is as follows – (1) the effectual call, regeneration, and definitive sanctification are all parts of the same substantial act of God wherein He, effectually and without a mediator, turns the soul of man from sin to Himself in conversion. (2) Though each of these aspects of conversion happen at the same time chronologically, they do admit of a logical order – i.e. the effectual call precedes regeneration which precedes definitive sanctification. In a word, the elect soul is called to life by God in God’s good timing (effectual call), and so necessarily comes to life (regeneration), and is thereby definitively freed from sin in an irrevocable fashion (definitive sanctification).
The Effectual Call: The effectual call is the converting act of God in the soul considered from the perspective of God’s own evoking power. Evoke comes from the latin evocare which means to call out of. Evoke, therefore, as I use it, refers to God’s powerful calling forth of the individual soul to life and to trust in His Son thereby. As God called forth the world by His own power, so too He calls forth life in the elect soul by the Spirit through the Word of His power (John 11:42-44; Westminster Confession of Faith Ch. 10).
Regeneration: Regeneration is the converting act of God in the soul, considering the result of the effectual call on the soul itself, wherein it is moved by God from a state of death to that of life. The Bible repeatedly refers to the human soul as born dead in sin; regeneration refers to the fact that said soul has been made alive by God alone and so disposed to see Christ for all that He actually is – in short, glorious and desirable. (Ephesians 2:4-5; Westminster Confession of Faith Ch. 13, 1).
Definitive Sanctification: Definitive Sanctification is the converting act of God viewed from the perspective of the now regenerated man’s relationship with sin. He is now definitively set free from the sin which formerly enslaved him. Sanctification is derived from the Latin sanctus “Holy.” Sanctification means to “make holy,” or to consecrate as holy. Though progressive sanctification is a lifelong process of being transformed more and more into Christ’s likeness, definitive sanctification refers to the freedom from sin’s dominion that all believers share in definitively being effectually called and regenerated by God. (Romans 6:18).
He has called us with the powerful preaching of the Gospel, not only outwardly but also inwardly, according to His own will and pleasure (effectual calling). Through His call, our souls have been made alive. Christ, who was formerly repugnant to us, has become to us the pearl of great price (regeneration). And sin, which formerly reigned over us in such a way that we could never overcome it, nor wanted to overcome it, has been laid to rest by the serpent crushing, bond breaking power of the risen Lord Jesus (definitive sanctification). May His name be praised.