Whatever God desires he calls it into existence. John says in the beginning all things were made by the word of God; without the word nothing was made that has been made (John 1:3). Moses says then the “earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky darkness” (Genesis 1:2). God’s way of creating light and order was simply to call it forth. Paul confirms that God simply said, “Let light shine out of darkness” (2 Corinthians 4:6) “and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). Light and darkness do not coexist; the presence of one is the absence of the other. Yet God called forth light out of darkness as though the light was contained or housed in the darkness. Whereas you and I call forth what is already existing and what is animate can decide not to respond to our call, it is not so when God calls. He calls into existence “those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17). When Jesus arrived at the tomb of Lazarus, he called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” and the dead man came out. The call created life in the dead and brought him back to life (John 11:43-44). His call, “talitha koum!” was enough to bring back a dead girl to life (Mark 5:41). In Nain, the only son of a widow was being carried in a funeral procession. “Get up” was the call that created life in him (Luke 7:14-15).
God’s call is creative. When he calls, his word has the ability to out of nothing pre-existing, create that which God wants. And depending on what is in His heart, what is called can appear in an instant.
The Call of God in Salvation
Man was created a sinless being but he sinned and separated from God. That fate of being separated from God has befallen the whole human race since. Paul says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God has provided a way to restore man to himself by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Yet no one is of themselves able to believe in Christ’s finished work and be saved. How can a dead man save himself? Every one born of a woman is dead in their transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and is incapable of self-salvation.
The Bible refers to the miracle of believing in Jesus and receiving his free gift of forgiveness and eternal life as an act of God by which he calls the sinner out of death into life. God’s tool for calling men to salvation is the gospel: “He called you to this through our gospel” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). In 1 Corinthians 1:26 and 7:22, 24, Paul refers to the moment the Corinthian believers were saved as when they were called. For anyone who believes, Peter says it is God who “called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). The promise of the Holy Spirit, Peter said is for the saved, what he termed “all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). The call here creates the faith in Jesus that qualifies the called to receive the promise of the Spirit.
Someone has said that a calling from God is not a take it or leave it invitation to his kingdom. It is a creation of the acceptance of the invitation. That was what happened to the first disciples who immediately left everything they had and did and followed Jesus. The sons of Zebedee were preparing their nets when he called them and they immediately left everything and followed after his call (Matthew 4:21). The call created in them the acceptance of the invitation. Paul says “those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). Those whom he called, he justified; those whom he justified arrive at the glory. There is no question that this call is a mere invitation. It is a sovereign work of the merciful God that secures our yes to the promise of God. Through the gospel he brings us out of our spiritual darkness and makes us Christians. Paul says “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” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). When Christ is preached, to some who seek signs, he is a stumbling block; to some who seek wisdom, he is folly. But to those who are called, both sign-seekers and wisdom-seekers, Jews and Greeks, there is a group among them that Christ crucified is experienced as the power and wisdom of God. Therefore, the calling is not a general preaching but it is the act of God by which in and through the preaching, Jews and Greeks are awakened out of darkness into the light and see the cross not as folly or a stumbling block but as power and are converted and given eyes to see Christ as who he is: the power and the wisdom of God for salvation. The calling creates the faith.
What We Have Been Called Into
- The Fellowship of His Son: The first thing that God calls us into is not some service but into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. Christians are those who have been “called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Roman 1:6; Jude 1:1). In 1 Corinthians 1:11, Paul says God “has called you into fellowship with Jesus Christ our Lord”. As we move out of darkness into light, we have fellowship with his Son and as Peter says, we see marvels in the gospel (1 Peter 2:9), in God. Christ no longer appears as foolishness or a stumbling block but as the most precious possession.
- Freedom: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). God’s call creates our experience of freedom from the tyranny of sin and the devil and his cohorts. God’s call frees us “from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2), “from the law so that we can serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:6). The call of God frees us from the wrath of God. It frees us from the world system.
- Holiness: “For God has not called us for impurity, but for holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7). The Church of God has been “called to be holy” (1 Corinthians 1:2). The call of God creates the power in us to be holy: the ongoing and increasing abhorrence and avoidance of evil. Elsewhere, Paul says we have been “loved by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:7): holy ones, separated from the world and consecrated to God by covenant and profession.
- Hope: “I pray 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” (Ephesians 1:18). The hope to which we have been called is a heavenly calling (Hebrews 3:1). It is to a rich and glorious inheritance in the kingdom and glory of God (1 Thessalonians 2:12), the hope of eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12; Hebrews 9:15). Peter also says we have been called to share in God’s eternal glory in union with Christ (1 Peter 5:10); “called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9). Our call doesn’t end in just being freed from sin and its consequences, it secures our participation in the glory of God, the highest end of all things.
- Service: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2). While the primal call of God to anyone is onto salvation, He also calls us to serve Him here on the earth. That can, as was the case here for Barnabas and Saul, be in Christian ministry, or in various fields of human endeavour, all for his glory. The writer to the Hebrews says, “No one takes this honour upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was” (Hebrews 5:4). Any service must be as a call from God.
- Peaceful Living: “God has called us to live in peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15). One of the greatest sources of turmoil on earth is conflict in human relationships. It manifests among friends, siblings, couples, brethren and between communities and nations. It is revealing to note that when God calls a person, that package includes the invitation to live in peace with others.
Living Worthy of the Call
The call of God is a call to separation from the world; it is a call to live in a certain way, in newness of life. Ephesians 4:1 urges that the called “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” This is not the doctrine of works, to make you worthy of being called by God. It is an appeal that follows conversion. It means to walk worthily, agreeably, suitably and congruously to the new life in Christ that God’s call has brought you into. For example, Paul told the Thessalonians to flee certain heathen ways, “for God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thessalonians 4:7). Their former ways of life did not correspond with the life of Jesus so they had to give up such ways and put on Christ. Speaking in a similar vein, Peter said to add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love to one’s virtues. “Be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure”, he adds.
Even today, you who has been called have the same mandate: to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. The exciting thing about living this worthy life is that we have not been left to ourselves to create the character that is worthy of the call, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). The call creates the willingness and the ability to live a call-worthy life.
The Call Is Irrevocable
I’m thrilled about this part. God is not going to one day wake up and change his mind or terminate this call. Why? “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). That you can live a life worthy of this call, that you can make your calling or election sure, pale in significance to this truth: God’s call over your life is irrevocable. It is this truth that underpins the others. Paul also says, “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it”. ‘Calls’ in the present continuous tense is indicative of the ongoing work of God. Every day he calls you as part of this call to live it out. He will do it till we arrive at the glory, for those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Hallelujah!
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