God calls every normal human being. He does this through the vocatio realis—realis because this general call comes not through words but through res (things), namely nature, history (of individuals and nations) and conscience (cf. Rom. 1:20; 2:14, 15; Job 37:14; 38:1–42:6; Ps. 8:2, 4; 19:1–4; 46:11; 104).
However great and important the influence of this vocatio realis is, no one can ever come to a saving knowledge of the triune God through this general, external call. Through the vocatio realis man is rendered without excuse (Rom. 1:20) if he does not worship and obey Him whose majesty, eternal power, and divinity speak to all through his mighty works in nature, in history, and in human life and conscience. But the vocatio realis does not proclaim the good tidings of great joy (Luke 2:10) for all who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as the divine Saviour.
For the salvation of sinners there is an urgent need for much more than the vocatio realis can offer. And now it is the glory of the Christian faith that it unequivocally proclaims that almighty God, who through the vocatio realis has called and is continually calling all to a realization of his divine majesty and omnipotence, through his Word calls sinners to repentance and to salvation. This calling to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord, through the authoritative Word of God is designated the vocatio verbalis. This external calling through the Gospel is to be proclaimed to all nations (Matt. 28:19; 24:14; Mark 16:15) as an earnest invitation and urgent summons that everyone should repent and believe in Him who is the all-sufficient Saviour.
But to have practical effect in the life of man, the vocatio verbalis must, as it were, break through into the mind, ...1
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