Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Steven Hitchcock explains: “…when the Scriptures refer to Christians as ‘The Called,’ it is a way of referring to those who have identified with the call of the gospel. ‘The Called’ is another way of referring to the people of faith. When the Scriptures use the term generally, such as ‘many are called’, it is simply a way of referring to those who have heard the gospel.” (Recanting Calvinism, p.269)
John Calvin comments: “He means that they were partakers of Christ by His calling. Those who are to be heirs of eternal life are not only chosen, are committed also to His care and trustworthiness as their Shepherd.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.18, emphasis mine)
The key is “to be,” which is what every Calvinist also reads into Ephesians 1:4. It’s a fundamental principle to Calvinism, in which God gives His own to His Son. What is the basis for these being the Father’s own? That, according to Calvinists, is left to an unknowable mystery. In contrast, to an Arminian, the only reason why we are the Father’s is because we are the Son’s. That’s a fundamental distinction. According to Arminianism, Jesus is the way to the Father, while according to Calvinism, the Father is the way to Jesus.
Calvin adds: “Let them clamour who will--we shall always equip the doctrine of gratuitous election as we teach it with this maxim, for without it the faithful cannot adequately apprehend how great is the goodness of God by which they are effectually called to salvation.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.57-58, emphasis mine)
Here is the problem with the in the Father “gratuitous election” theory: Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) When you envision an election in the Father apart from the path through Christ by faith in Him, then you have circumvented and undermined John 14:6.
Calvin adds: “Our salvation does not, according to Paul, depend on our own power, but is entirely derived from the fountain of God’s free and fatherly love towards us. The primary fact is this--God loves us. There is no other reason for His love than His own sheer goodness. On this, too, depends His calling, by which in His own time He seals His adoption in those whom He had freely chosen before.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.19, emphasis mine)
What is the basis for these having been “chosen before”? Does it having anything to do with Jesus? That’s what distinguishes Arminianism from Calvinism. One is Christocentric; the other is Father-centric. According to Arminianism, the Father’s eternal election is of those in Christ. According to Calvinism, the Father’s eternal election is based upon those who are His own by a mysterious decree. In other words, according to Calvin, God picks which ones He wants to save, and passes by the rest. This is not an easy thing to reconcile with 1st Timothy 2:3-4 and 2nd Peter 3:9, and many have written off Calvinism based upon those two verses alone. Nevertheless, when Calvin concludes with “freely chosen before,” notice that it’s made without reference to in Christ, as per Ephesians 1:4. Calvinists simply do not think in terms of what is in Christ, but rather what’s eternally in the Father by decree.
Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
1st Corinthians 7:17-18: “Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches. Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised.”
Galatians 1:6: “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel.”
Galatians 5:13: “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
Ephesians 4:1: “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.”
1st Thessalonians 4:7: “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.”
1st Thessalonians 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.”
2nd Timothy 1:8-9: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”
Hebrews 11:8: “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.”
1st Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
1st Peter 2:21: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.”
1st Peter 3:9: “Not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”
1st Peter 5:10: “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”
Jude 1:1: “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called,beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.”