“Many teach that before a person can be saved, he must be ‘called’ by God. Can you explain how this happens?”
God calls every person who is saved. Not only does God pardon the sinner (cf. Rom. 3:26), but he also teaches him of the need and means of forgiveness. The Lord Jesus said,
“No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day” (Jn. 6:44).
On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached that many “afar off” would be saved, God having called them (Acts 2:39).
The question is this. How does God call a person to salvation?
How Does God Call You?
Paul writes to Christians at Thessalonica that God “called you through our gospel” (2 Thes. 2:14). The gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-3) is communicated by “the word of truth” (Eph. 1:13), which God designed to produce faith in sincere hearts (Rom. 10:17; Jn. 20:30,31).
To say that a person is saved without God’s “calling” would be equivalent to saying that a person is saved without the gospel.
It is just as erroneous, however, to contend that God calls people directly by some means other than the written (or spoken) gospel message (e.g., a “phone call” from heaven, a voice in the night, or the direct illumination by the Holy Spirit).
The “word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” is the New Testament, and faithful servants preach this wonderful message (2 Tim. 3:15-17; 4:2).
God teaches us about his beloved son in this way. And it is in this divinely prescribed manner that God calls men and women to obey his son (1 Cor. 1:21; Heb. 5:9).
The Lord explained in John 6.
“It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, comes unto me” (v. 45).
When the gospel of God (Mk. 1:14; 1 Pet. 4:17), concerning the son of God (Rom. 1:9), who reconciles us to God (Rom. 5:10), is preached by a servant of God (Tit. 1:1; cf. Col. 1:7; 4:12), God is calling.
Consider Paul’s discussion in Romans 10 of how “calling” relates to salvation.
“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things! But they did not all hearken to the glad tidings. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:13-17).
God calls every person who is saved through the word of Christ exclusively — that is, through the gospel. In fact, God desires the salvation of all people, through their knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).
Sadly, many reject his calling (Matt. 7:13-14; Acts 13:46; 1 Pet. 4:17).