How Did God Call Me to Himself?
From an Interview with John Piper, Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org
Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:22–24)
Call That Creates
When the called look at Christ crucified, they don’t see a stumbling block; they don’t see folly. They see power. So, there are three groups in those verses: (1) Jews, (2) Gentiles, (3) called. That’s not quite accurate, is it? Let me say it a little more carefully. There are: (1) Jews who are not called, (2) Gentiles who are not called, and (3) Jews and Gentiles who are called.
Those are the three groups. Are you with me? We’re considering our calling. We’re obeying 1 Corinthians 1:26. There are Jews not called, Gentiles not called, and Jews and Gentiles, some of whom are called. And then he describes the response of each to the cross.
Jews: “Yeah, stumbling block. A crucified Messiah? Never heard of such a thing.”
Gentiles: “Foolishness. A dying God? Silly — mythological.”
Called: “Power — my God!”
What kind of call is that? I’ll tell you what kind of call it is: it’s the kind of call that creates what it commands. The call gives light. The call creates sight. The call raises the dead. “Lazarus, come forth” (see John 11:43). He didn’t decide to. The call raised him from the dead.
Let me give you an analogy that could be misleading. It helps me. Just to get your hand around it, because lots of you have never been taught about the call of God: the mighty, effectual, irresistible, powerful, saving, awakening, life-giving call of God that saved you. You’ve never been taught about this, so you need a little analogy to help you, instead of saying, “What is he talking about? I’ve never heard anything like this. I thought I just believed in Jesus.”
Suppose somebody is asleep, and you want to wake them up. What do you do? They’re sound asleep. You bend over them and you say, “Wake up!” And they bolt right upright. Now, what are the dynamics of that moment? They were sound asleep, and then they were awake. Did they hear the call and say, “I’ll think about that before I wake up, and then I’ll decide if I want to wake up”? That is a good analogy. When God issues a call to your dead heart and says, “Wake up!” you wake up. You did not make yourself a Christian. Just face it: you didn’t make yourself a Christian, which is why you should feel so incredibly loved.
In fact, if you need a text to say that, just go to Ephesians 2:4, where Paul says just as clearly as can be that, because of his “great love,” he made you alive when you were dead. It’s the only place he uses that phrase — “great love” — in all the New Testament. So, if you have any spiritual life in you at all, you have been greatly loved. It’s called regeneration; it’s called calling. You have been called, and you are greatly loved in this calling.
God Put You in Christ
God loved you by putting you in Christ. First Corinthians 1:30: “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus.” That’s pretty clear. In the original, very, very literally it would go, “From him are you in Christ Jesus,” or, “Of him are you in Christ Jesus.” “Because of him” is probably a pretty good translation: because of his doing, because of his work, you are in Christ Jesus.
So, he chose you “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). He, through Billy Graham, or a preacher, or your mom’s testimony, or reading the Bible, or hearing a worship song, or however he wanted to do it as far as human agency goes, he spoke the word, “Wake up!” or “Come!” or “Live!” And you suddenly stopped seeing the cross as folly. You stopped seeing the cross as boring. You stopped seeing the cross as mythological. You stopped seeing the cross as a stumbling block. Suddenly, it was what you needed, and true. And you embraced it. You embraced it. Because God woke you up, changed your heart. And in that, you were united to Christ.
When we were talking about the doctrine of regeneration or the new birth, I tried to explain how calling, regeneration, faith, and union with Christ are simultaneous. There are causal connections here, but there aren’t temporal gaps. In an instant — in an instant — he awakened you from the dead. Your eyes were opened, and what you saw was a glorious Christ. And in seeing him as glorious, you were a believer; you were. That’s what being a believer means: “He’s glorious. He’s Savior. He’s Lord. He is mine.” That’s what it is to see him for what he really is. And in that moment, you were united to Jesus, which means God loved you by making Christ your wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
So, God awakened you, united you to Christ so that you have a vital union with Jesus. You’re connected with him — maybe like a vine and a branch?
All He Is, You Are
Look at verse 30 again:
And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
So, when you unite with Christ, all that he is, now you are — without making you God. All the benefits that are in him, all the inheritance that is in him, all that he ever purchased, all the obedience he ever performed, all the forgiveness he ever purchased, you now have by virtue of union with him, which you feel by faith and which God worked sovereignly. He has become, through God’s loving you this way, everything for you.
When I walked in tonight and heard the worship team rehearsing, “Hallelujah, all I have is Christ. Hallelujah, Jesus is my life,” I said to Chuck, “Okay, I’m doing an audible here.” I had a hymn picked out for the end. But we’re going to do that: “All I Have Is Christ.” This is verse 30, right? If I need wisdom, he’s my wisdom. If I need righteousness, he’s my righteousness. If I need sanctification, redemption . .
You are loved. You are loved sons and daughters of God because God chose you for himself. You are loved because he called you to himself. You are loved because he united you to Christ. And by making you one with Christ, Christ becomes everything you need.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Coronavirus and Christ.