What Does it Mean to be “Called”?
People sometimes say that they have been called, to either a profession or a personal interest or passion; you hear ‘I think I am being called to be this or that’, or ‘I have a calling for this’. Certain people have been launched into noble professions like medicine, or have built personal interests into thriving businesses, on the basis of a calling, but…
What does it mean to be called by God?
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. (Romans 8:28-30)
To be called by God is to be known by God. He foreknew all of us before the world was:
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4)
Ephesians goes on to say this:
In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:4-6)
This passage is many times misunderstood, in that it seems to present God as a capricious, mean-spirited being making arbitrary decisions as to whom are adopted as His sons, in accordance with His pleasure and will. Nothing could be further from what the truth is. God sees every moment: past, present and future, both inside and outside of time, and He knew before ages past who would love Him and choose to believe in Jesus Christ His only Son. Our free will is operative in this: God does not, and God will not, force either His love or His Son Jesus Christ on anyone who makes a willful, conscious decision not to have the love of God, or His Son Jesus Christ, in their lives. Those who, by free will, believe on God and on the One that He has sent, will be conformed over time to the likeness of Jesus Christ: that result is the perfect love and the perfect will of the Father.
Foreknowledge… Predestination… Calling… Justification… Sanctification… Glorification.
To be called by God is to have a personal relationship with Him. By free will, we choose to enter a relationship with God that offers freedoms and privileges not available to those who reject Him and His Son Jesus Christ by that same free will… comfort, hope, shelter, peace, life to the full in accordance with His will and desires, freedom from eternal bondage to sin and death, the free pardon of sin, love, compassion and concern for His people, justification before Him, sanctification by Him through the sacrificial death of His Son Jesus Christ and His blood that covers our transgressions, and eternal life in His Kingdom.
God’s calling on someone is established long before it actually occurs. Here is a witness of this truth:
“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. (Isaiah 42:6-7)
Isaiah spoke in these passages regarding God’s Son Jesus Christ, who was called by God to be the propitiation for all of humanity’s sins, hundreds of years before He was born into the world. Even though Jesus Christ was the subject of this Scripture, it is also applicable to all who are called by God for His purposes. Let’s examine what God does for those He loves, who respond to His call on their lives:
1) He calls us in righteousness.
-Our lives mean something.
-We are being selected for God’s work.
2) He takes hold of our hands.
-We belong to God.
-He touches us in a way that changes us.
3) He keeps us.
-We are His treasured possessions.
-He surrounds us with His presence and love.
-He never leaves us.
4) He makes us a covenant and a light.
-We are bound to Him through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ: the new covenant of grace.
-We are to be light regarding the forgiveness of sins to a lost and dying world.
5) We are His witnesses.
-We are to tell the world the truth of the Holy Scriptures, and the life that is Jesus Christ.
-We are to tell the world of the freedom His Son Jesus Christ offers from sin and death.
Isn’t it wondrous (almost beyond words) to understand that the Creator of everything seen and unseen, the holder of all power and righteousness, the One who is perfect in every way, loves us so much that He has freely given us the right to be called His children, His treasured possessions, and His witnesses of hope and salvation to a lost and dying world? What greater privilege could anyone have than to be known by God, beloved by God, and called to His purpose?
Holy Scripture attests to God’s calling; Jesus Christ explicitly called His Apostles:
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22)
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:27-28)
What may not be readily noticed in the above passages is that when Jesus called these men… they immediately followed Him, leaving everything behind. Something about Jesus was so striking and so singular that His call to them could not be ignored. Think of what happened: these men abandoned a way of life they had known for years, with absolutely no guarantees regarding how they would earn a living, and with no understanding at all as to what they would be doing. In doing what they did, the fishermen and tax collectors that would become the Apostles echoed what Abram had done centuries before them:
The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12:1-7)
After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6)
Abram, who would become Abraham, the father of many nations, by faith believed the LORD, and was declared righteous in God’s sight for so doing. Abram, being a man of wealth already before God’s call on his life, had no reason other than faith to believe what God had said to him, yet he trusted God and by faith obeyed and followed Him.
Faith in God… and trust in God… are the hallmarks of the ones God calls.
The Apostle Paul wrote about the calling of God in Romans:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1-7)
Those who are called by God obey by faith, are loved by God, and are His saints. To respond to the call of God is an action that can take place only because one has discerned that the Holy Scriptures, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, are the truth: discernment like this comes only through the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul speaks of what God does for those called by Him; we are prepared through our relationship with Jesus Christ to enrich and then use our spiritual gifts to witness to the world the truth of the Holy Scriptures and to the One whom they reveal:
I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all your knowledge – because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9)
The Apostle Paul expands upon what the believer understands to be truth as opposed to what a lost and dying world understands to be truth:
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25)
One must come to God through a heart open to His truth; God does not see the wisdom of the world as we see the wisdom of the world, and He has given those He has called spiritual discernment to understand that the wisdom of the world is foolishness. Being called by God means that one has a different lens through which to see the world for what it is, and Holy Scripture gives a stark assessment of this… which is “spiritual discernment”:
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14)
Being called is not enslavement… it is freedom:
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13)
Freedom, in turn, is power… power that is literally unmeasurable, when exercised according to the will of the God who has made His call on your life:
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:18-23)
The freedom and power of a life that Jesus Christ has made a call upon is available to ALL PEOPLE:
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)
When one is called, Jesus Christ takes hold of that life, and the destination of that person is the Kingdom of heaven:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philppians 3:12-14)
To be called by God is to live a life worthy of that call, by the grace of the Holy Spirit:
For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8)
When God calls you, He has a plan for your life:
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
We who are called are mandated to live in a right manner:
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:11-12)
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)
When people are called, they must never be ashamed that they have been set apart from the world for the work to which God has called them:
So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:8-10)
People called by God inherit an eternal reward because Jesus Christ is the mediator of the new covenant (forgiveness by grace and the blood of Jesus) that has done away with the (first, Mosaic) old covenant (forgiveness by the law and works):
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15)
The Apostle Peter details what those called by God are to do to keep their election sure:
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-11)
Jude has perhaps the last word:
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. (Jude 1-2)
To be called by God for His purposes is the highest honor that can be bestowed on anyone. To know in your heart and soul that the Magnificent Creator, God the Father Almighty, the Ancient of Days, KING of kings and LORD of lords, the Great I AM, Faithful and True, Prince of Peace, Messiah, Savior loved you before the world was, keeps you forever in the constancy of His love, seals you with the Holy Spirit and commends you to His only Son Jesus Christ for safe-keeping against the Day of Judgment until the day you enter the Kingdom of heaven under the shadow of wings should give you pause to stop and thank Him!
Thank God Almighty that you are among His elect, and that you bear the name of His precious Son Jesus.
If you are a non-believer, please consider what you are doing before your death seals your eternal destination in the raging lake of fire that has been reserved for the devil and his angels.
Turn to God, confess your sins before Him, acknowledge your need of a savior in His only Son Jesus Christ, repent of your sins, ask to be covered with the blood of the Lamb who was slain so that you might stand blameless before a just God, and receive the seal of the Holy Spirit marking you as His child.