The Believer’s Calling
J. M. Davies, Canada
The English word "call" is virtually the anglicized form of the Greek word kaleb, and a glance at the concordance reveals the prolific number of references to it in its verb and noun forms, and also its Old Testament equivalent. Of the variety of its shades of meaning, five may be listed.
1. It is used in the ordinary or customary sense of naming a place or person. "Thou shalt call his name Jesus", "they shall call his name Emmanuel", Matt. 1. 21-23.
2. It is also used of a general, and bona fide invitation to a feast or a marriage supper, Matt. 22. 3. Men may give ear to it, or they may heedlessly reject it. Hence the statement, "many are called, but few are chosen", Matt. 20. 16; 22. 14.
3. One of its several compounds, epikaleo, is used of invoking the name of the Lord in prayer, as "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord", and "if ye call on the Father", Acts 2. 21 ; 1 Pet. 1.17.
4. It is used in the sense of a sum mons as in Luke 19. 13, "he called his ten servants", and in Matthew 20. 8, "Call the labourers". These refer to a call to a responsible service on the one hand and to receive their reward on the other.
5. In the Epistles it is used as des criptive of true believers, those who have responded to the call of God in the gospel, e.g., Rom. 8. 28; 1 Cor. 1. 24. Hence it is referred to as the effectual call in contrast to the general call given whenever the gospel is proclaimed. And it is with this aspect of it that we are specially concerned.
Its importance becomes very evident when it is seen that it is one of the five links in the golden chain of blessings tabulated in Romans 8. 29-30. In order to focus attention on its importance, it would be well to consider the blessings enumerated in an introverted way.
A. Fore-knowledge or fore-ordination.
B. Pre-destination. C. Called.
B. Justified. A. Glorified.
Of these five, the word "called" is the only one in which the Christian has any active part by giving heed to the message by the hearing of faith, or by responding to the invitation by the obedience of faith, as did the blind man recorded in John 9. 6-7. In view of its tremendous importance it is not surprising that Peter emphasizes the necessity of giving "diligence to make your calling and election sure", 2. Pet. 1.10. This they were to do by giving "all diligence" that their faith was not just a mental assent to truth, but rather a true and living faith which worked itself out in their personal, social and church life, vv. 5-7.
By virtue of the call being an effectual one, Paul addresses the believers in Rome as saints by calling and as the "called of Christ Jesus". Just as the apostle was an apostle by virtue of the call of God, so they were saints by calling, and by their calling they belonged to Jesus Christ. They were His; He had called them.
In connection with the future restoration of Israel the apostle states that the "gifts and calling of God are without repentance", Rom. 11. 29. He will not cancel or abrogate or retract His promises or gifts, which is a source of great assurance to every Christian.
What are we called to? It is instructive to note some scriptures relative to this.
1. The Christian has been called "out of darkness into his marvellous light", 1 Pet. 2. 9. Just as Israel had been called out of Egypt to enjoy the blessings of the promised land, so the Christian has been called out of the darkness of nature, from his ignorance as to sin and its consequences, of salvation and its realities, and of God, into the full-orbed light of the know ledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ glorified, 2 Cor. 4. 6.
2. He is called to belong to Jesus Christ. Having been bought with a price, he is not his own. He is to regard himself as the purchased possession of the Lord, His bondslave, Exod. 21. 1-6.
3. He is called into the "fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord", 1 Cor. 1. 9. The believers in Jerusalem continued "in fellowship" or in "the fellowship” and this "fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son", 1 John 1. 3. Christian fellowship is of great importance. A truly Christian fellowship will recognize the four facts indicated in the full title of the Lord. It will recognize His Sonship— His deity. It will recognize Him as the Saviour—Jesus, and as the Anointed, the Messiah, and as Lord.
4. The Christian is called "unto his kingdom and glory", 1 Thess. 2. 12. This embraces the kingdom in its present and future forms. He is called into liberty, Gal. 5.13, i.e., liberty from the law, but that does not allow the Christian to be a libertine, for God has not "called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness", 1 Thess. 4. 7. And this is the message of Peter, "Be ye holy; for I am holy", 1 Pet. 1.16.
5. The Christian is called to a path of suffering, 1 Pet. 2. 21. Peter draws attention to many aspects of suffering, but in this passage it is the Lord before Pilate that is the "example", so the suffering envisaged would likely be at the hands of the authorities before whom they would be called to give their witness in a court. The Christian is exhorted to sanctify Christ as Lord, to recognize His lordship and be ready to give and answer at such a tribunal, 4. 14-15.
6. Before he ends his Epistle, Peter reminds his readers that "the God of all grace, has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ", 5. 10.
As to the character of our calling it is described as a "high calling" or an upward calling, Phil. 3. 14. The goal that the apostle ever kept before him, and that which he pursued with the same relentless zeal as when he persecuted the church, was true Christian perfection of character-conformity to Christ. Hence in his letter to Timothy he calls it a "holy calling", a call to holiness of life and service. In the Epistle to the Hebrews it is referred to as "a heavenly calling", 3. 1r that is, the destiny of the Christian, and hence the many references to heaven in that Epistle.
In the Epistle to the Ephesians the apostle prays that the recipients of the letter might know the hope of their calling, and exhorts them to walk worthy of the calling by personal lowliness, meekness, and mutual forbearance, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit even as they had been called in one hope of their calling —as Jews and Gentiles. In his psalm of praise at the opening, he had drawn attention to this hope. It was that we should be holy, free from any defilement, and without blame, free from any charge of guilt, before him in the full enjoyment of his love; and also that we should be to the praise of the glory of his grace, and eventually, in wondrous grace, to the praise of his glory, 1. 4, 6, 12. This is the purpose according to which God has called us, and everything is co-ordinated to work together for its fulfilment, Rom. 8.28.