Prince Albert in a Can

When I was a kid (and not a little kid mind you, but old enough to know better), my friends and I would make prank calls to people randomly chosen from the phone book. I won’t ask if you did that too, because I’m sure we were the only kids in the country who were that bored.

The best part about this mindless pastime was you didn’t know who you had called until they answered. Would it be a cantankerous old man? Would it be an frantic mom with a screaming child in the background? Or maybe it would it be a business! The climax of the prank came at the moment they anwered and you heard, “Hello? Hello?”

I was reminded of my youthful indescretion recently as I was studying the book of Romans trying to decide who the called are, exactly. In Romans 1:6 Paul addresses his letter to all in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be saints. Later in Romans 8:28-30 comes this thorny passage:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Theologians have begged to differ over the proper interpretation of these words, and the debate has divided denominations doctrinally since the Reformation. It is still nearly impossible for me, a simple person, to understand these verses, especially when we compare those verses to the words of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

We generally interpret this verse in Matthew to mean we should spread the gospel to convert unbelievers to Christianity (though I tend to dispute that interpretatoin – a subject for a different day), yet it does beg the question: why do we work to spread the gospel if God has already decided who He will call to hear it?

I mean, if there are certain people whom God has called but He has not called everyone, then why doesn't He sift the wheat from the chaff for us so we can spread the Gospel more easily? If I knew I was preaching to the future Sunday choir, I could preach the Lord’s praises like Billy Graham. On the other hand, just the thought of presenting the Good News to a defensive rebel who will resist the message until Jesus comes again strikes dread in my heart.

How do I resolve this dilemma?

Well, the memory of my childhood prank brought me an answer of sorts. I think the reason we continue to go into all the world preaching the Gospel is because we don’t know what number God will dial, and therefore we won’t know who He is calling until someone says, “Hello? Hello?” I also know God doesn't call random numbers like I did. He dials His numbers with a divine purpose, so I can be sure that when His call prompts a "Hello?", it will lead to a fruitful conversation.

We are, therefore, Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. - 2Corinthians 5:20

What are you waiting for? Grab the white pages and get dialing!