In the letter to the early Christians at Rome, Paul addressed them as the called of Jesus Christ.
Among whom are you also the called of Jesus Christ: To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Rom 1:6,7
"Called" here, is a very strong word with a meaning of great significance. Those whom he addressed in this way, were reminded of the way in which they had been brought into the community of God’s people. They had been called by God.
Calling may be thought of as one link in an unbreakable chain of events by which God saves His people.
"And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified." Rom 8:30
To be glorified, means to be conformed to the image of Christ in the life to come.
It is clear that some of the justified have not yet been glorified, but this passage describes each of the events as having already taken place. This way of speaking in the past tense, of things yet to take place, is appropriate to God alone. It stresses the certainty of fulfilment of His eternal purposes.
"…God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;" Rom 4:17
His word cannot be broken. Should one of the called not be justified, or one of the justified not be finally glorified, the word of God would be broken. This passage therefore, proclaims the certain preservation of God's people resulting in eternal life. Those who are called are loved by God, and will be preserved.
Jude’s letter is addressed:
"…to those who are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called. Jude 1:1
It involves the security of God’s eternal, unchangeable, love and motivates to practical godliness and sanctification.
"That those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." Heb 9:15
Calling is not something the Christian can ignore or treat lightly, for it is a holy calling, a high and heavenly calling. It should therefore be viewed with a sense of awe, thanksgiving and responsibility.
Invitation and Calling
One aspect of the gospel proclaims the free and bona fide invitation "whoever will may come." Jesus came to call sinners to repentance.
"… for I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Matt 9:13 28
"Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matt 11:28
"If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." John 7:37
The invitation is to all, and is sometimes spoken of as the general call of the gospel. This calling may be resisted and the majority do so.
There is another calling of the gospel which Jesus described in John 6:37
"All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me, I will by no means cast out."
There is nothing in God’s purposes to hinder anyone from coming to Jesus. This is shown by the second part of the above verse. The hindrance lies in fallen human nature.
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him..." John 6:44
"There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God." Rom 3:11
See Rom 3:10-18
Prior to his conversion Paul had a brilliant mind and the best religious education available. He knew the Scriptures well, but did not understand God’s way of redemption. Some people earn higher degrees in theology, and become ordained clergy who are accredited and authorized to preach the message of their church. Some may think they have a more sophisticated and enlightened understanding of religion, yet the message of the cross remains foolishness to them.
Both in Paul’s day and in modern times the message of the cross is foolishness to the natural mind. 1 Cor 2:14
The factor which brings enlightenment and alters the whole situation is described in 1 Cor 1:23,24
"… but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."
This is the calling which is more than an invitation, and is always effective. It brings about that which is impossible for us because of our state by nature.
"No man can come to me, except the Father who sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, "And they shall be all taught of God." Every man therefore who has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes to me." John 6:44,45
Jesus described this distinction:
"For many are invited but few are chosen." Matt 22:14
The practical and experimental fact is that no one has ever failed to respond to this special and effective call of the gospel. The absolute certainty of this result is seen in the statement, "I will raise him up at the last day."
God’s calling is irrevocable, Rom 11:29, nevertheless it is our responsibility to listen.
Christ the Centre
In considering this subject, it is important to realize that God’s purposes are centred in His Son and not in man. He acts "according to His own purpose and grace" 2 Tim 1:9. It is His purpose to bring into being a vast company of people who will be conformed to the image of His Son and glorify Him.
For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Rom 8:29
Perfect Love Casts out fear
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..." 1 John 4:18
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom 8:38,39
Understanding and knowledge of calling in the above sense brings assurance, and draws out praise to God for such eternal and unchangeable love.
Motivation to Godliness
The truth of calling motivates those who are in Christ to godliness:
"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 Thes 5:23,24
"who has saved us and called us with a holy calling..." 2 Tim 1:9
"Therefore holy (set apart) brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling…" Heb 3:1
Believers are urged to live up to that for which they are called:
"have a walk worthy of the of the calling with which you were called." Eph 4:1
"that you would have a walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory." Eph 2:12
"encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory." 1 Thes 2:12
"…to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be holy…." 1 Cor 1:2
"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness." 2 Peter 1:3
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace." Col 3:15
"…that you may declare the praise of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light…" 1 Peter 2:9
"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you." 1 Peter 2:21 1 Peter 3:9
Steadfastness in the faith
"And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10
"Therefore, holy brethren, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus…" Heb 3:1,6
"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 over all, …" Eph 4:3-5
Grace and Works
The truth of calling provides and sustains the essential difference between grace and works, because if we leave it out of our thinking we fall into the error described as works.
"... not of works but of Him who calls ..." Rom 9:11
"Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace…" 2 Tim 1:9
How calling takes place
God’s people are called:
- of God. 1 Cor 1:9 Rom 1:6,7
- by the grace of Christ. Gal 1:6
- by the gospel. 2 Thes 2:14
- through the Holy Spirit. Thes 2:13
We should never presume on calling and election.
"Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure." 2 Peter 1:10
See 2 Peter 1:5-11
Peter is not suggesting that we can do anything to bring about our election or calling for both are by His grace. (Grace is both unmerited and unconditional, or it simply would not be grace at all. Rom 11:6) Rather we are to check up to see whether we are truly among the called of Jesus Christ.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Ps 139:23,24
"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; prove yourselves..." 2 Cor 13:5
We do this by checking to see whether we have "the things that accompany salvation" (Heb 6:9,10)
See also 2 Peter 1:5-11 and Evidences of the New Birth
Regeneration or 'the birth from above' results from effective calling. This gives us a new nature which enables us to see and enter the kingdom of God and live as members of that kingdom. See the booklet "Born of the Spirit."