This article introduces the student of scripture to the subject of the callings of God. It is a first pass through this deep subject.
To know God's general and specific callings on our lives is an important issue. At the time of our initial conversion we may have had some notion of what God requires and expects of us from an increased awareness and sensibility to the gospel and general biblical teaching of right and wrong. However we may also be bombarded with many voices claiming special knowledge and light into God's will and this is not only talking of the voices of men and women on the radio, TV, books and articles, blogs and texts but also what we obtain ourselves from the reading of scripture.
What we all need is clear direction, a filter that removes the noise and amplifies the true signal. What has God called us to? How do we know and by what principle do we locate His calling on us?
The new testament uses a number of words in relation to this subject including, καλέω which means "to call", this is used in 138 verses, κλητός which means "called or invited" and is used in 11 verses κλῆσις meaning "a calling to" also used 11 times. The verb "to call" is used first in the gospel of Matthew where Joseph was instructed of the angel to call the name of the babe in Mary's womb "JESUS"
Mt 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call <2564> his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Mt 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call <2564> his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Mt 1:25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called <2564> his name JESUS.
With a name comes a reputation and a calling, "for he shall save his people from their sins." we should take note of the fact that stamped on the Lord's very name is a calling. Much of the Bible relates to this calling and special callings related to the Kingdom of God pertaining to Israel.
It is instructive to look at how this word JESUS is used without modifiers (Lord and Christ). There are 610 verses where the word appears alone, solely as "Jesus", mostly in the gospels (559 verses). This is very instructive and is totally predictable for here the scriptures deal almost exclusively with Israel in the land. 28 verses in Acts, 9 times in Hebrews. In the epistles of Paul during the time of the Acts we find the following verses
Ro 3:26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
2Co 4:11 For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
2Co 11:4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
1Th 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
1Th 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
After Acts 28 (the last passage does not refer to the Lord)
Eph 4:21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
Php 2:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
Col 4:11 And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.
In the age covered by the Acts period, Paul's epistles reflect the callings and hopes associated with Israel. Justification in all of Paul's ministries was by Grace, the promise of life comes through the prophetic cross, the types and pictures of redemption are confirmed in Israel's oracles, but as Paul points out this goes back before Israel to the original garden and beyond. It is no surprise therefore to see JESUS used in Romans, 2Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians, especially in relation to the hope of a resurrection at the second coming of Christ. These passages are in complete conformity to the name of JESUS and the commissioning call that the Lord gave Paul on the road to Damascus and confirmed later to preach "none other things" than what Moses and the prophets said should come.
How about the Prison epistles? In Eph 4, PAul discusses the practical application of living as a Christian in this age and uses Christ vs 20 as the example of how we should walk, as the truth is in Jesus. The earthly life of the Lord can be studied and much applied to us in terms of deportment and the putting off of the old man. Paul gives us the truth in Jesus in this practical and balanced way, that a worthy walk would ensue. But when PAul talks of Jesus coming to the gentiles to call us it is only through a revelation hid in God and hid from generations in a context where a new man was created after the defection of Israel.
Eph 2:17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
Who came? It was Christ or Christ Jesus Eph 1:13, and he came to the "afar off" (mentioned before Israel) , that is He came to the Gentiles, how? Through His apostle PAul. It is the anointed one who comes to us through the called apostle who fills up the sufferings of Christ in his flesh for His body's sake which is the church (Col. 1:24).
Philippians 2, discusses the work of the son in leaving behind his glory and taking on the form of a man and dying as a slave. This happened to JESUS, and at the name of this same JESUS shall every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This will glorify God the Father. Again the life of the Lord as a servant is put forward as an example of how we should run our race, it is not an example of our unique calling but rather how we should go about and approach our calling. Col 4.11 pertains to Justus a fellow worker (one of the few) and comforter to Paul. It is at least interesting that this same Justus was of the circumcision.
A Concordance Study
The last two words I will tabulate in full in the table below:
|κλῆσις (f. noun)||κλητός (adjective)|
|Ro 11:29 For the gifts and calling <2821> of God are without repentance.||Mt 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called <2822>, but few chosen.|
|1Co 1:26 For ye see your calling <2821>, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:||Mt 22:14 For many are called <2822>, but few are chosen.|
|1Co 7:20 Let every man abide in the same calling <2821> wherein he was called.||Ro 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called <2822> to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,|
|Eph 1:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling <2821>, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,||Ro 1:6 Among whom are ye also the called <2822> of Jesus Christ:|
|Eph 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation <2821> wherewith ye are called,||Ro 1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called <2822> to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.|
|Eph 4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling <2821>;||Ro 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called <2822> according to his purpose.|
|Php 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling <2821> of God in Christ Jesus.||1Co 1:1 Paul, called <2822> to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,|
|2Th 1:11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling <2821>, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:||1Co 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called <2822> to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:|
|2Ti 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling <2821>, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,||1Co 1:24 But unto them which are called <2822>, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.|
|Heb 3:1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling <2821>, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;||Jude 1:1 Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called <2822>:|
|2Pe 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling <2821> and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:||Re 17:14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called <2822>, and chosen, and faithful.|
The table is massively instructive, look at the noun (first column of the table). What is a calling -- 1 Cor.7:20-23 tell us that earthly callings include being a servant or a freeman. There could be many stations and vocations that we might be busy with. Paul says therein abide with God. In verse 20 there is also a calling of God, clearly we should all be God's servants, this is a general calling but what of the specifics? Look at verse 29 pertaining to married men:
1Co 7:29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;
1Co 7:38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.
While not a sin to marry in the acts, it was a disadvantage since the time was short (not 2000 years). The calling is specifically different to ours today!
1Ti 4:3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
1Ti 5:14 I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
Those that would forbid to marry seek a doctrine opposed to God and further it is Paul's will and consequently that of the Lord that marriage should happen.
PAul prays that the Ephesians might know what is the hope of his calling and that the Ephesians walk worthy of the calling wherewith they were called. Callings are real and so is our walk. How can we walk worthy of a calling we are ignorant of? The calling here is post Acts 28 after Israel was judged. The calling comes directly out of the "Mystery" Col 1, Eph 3, and is impossible to clarify while the secret is still mysterious.
PAul says to the Ephesians and consequently to us in this age, there is one of hope of our calling. How many? ONE! This is a part of the unity of the Spirit we must keep. It has been made and we MUST keep it in a practical and doctrinal way. This must have a context, is it possible that prior to this age there was a calling and more than one hope? What is our hope?
1. Is it far above all heavens in the heavenly places where Christ dwells? Eph. 2:4-6, Col. 3:3-4.
2. Is it leaving the earth's surface and then meeting with Him in the air, after which a returning to earth to judge the world? 1 Thess. 4:17, 1 Cor. 6:2
3. Is it to welcome His return as King at the Mount of Olives upon the earth, Zech. 14:4-5.
In the teaching method that was typically the Lord's after Israel began to reject His ministry on earth, Jesus teaches through paraboles his elective purposes using a) The vineyard workers and late comers who were paid the same wage as others and b) wedding invitation and a friend with no wedding garment. The conclusion (Math 20;22) was many called but few chosen.