By Mike Willis
“Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ” (Jude 1). So begins the next to last book of our New Testament, Notice that the Christians are addressed as “those who are the called.” Several other passages describe God’s people in a similar manner (Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 1:24; Rev. 17:14). Thus, in our study of the descriptive terms by which Christians are called, we must include a study of the term “called of God.”
The term translated “called” is kletos; it is a term used to describe those who have obeyed the gospel. Klesis is another cognate word sometimes used to describe Christians; it is generally translated by the gerund “calling.” Both are derived from kaleo “to call.” Sometimes kaleo is used in a special sense meaning “to invite.” Because it is used for God’s invitation through the preaching of the gospel, the word takes on a technical sense to mean those who have accepted God’s invitation which was addressed to them in the gospel. Closely related to this word is the Greek word for church, ekklesia. Thus, the church is composed of the “called out” ones.
Even as we value invitations today on the basis of from whom we received them (e.g. an invitation from the President of the United States is more valuable than an invitation from me), we should also notice the source from which our invitation comes. Our invitation or calling comes from no one less than God Himself (Eph. 1:18; Phil. 3:14; 2 Tim. 1:9). God has invited us to the benefits which this calling brings not on the basis of the fact that we are somewhat but on the basis of His grace (2 Tim. 1:9). We do not deserve the salvation which He has invited us to enjoy. Access to this salvation has been made possible for us through Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:6).
Inasmuch as the word “calling” is used in another sense in contemporary usage, we need to be sure that we distinguish it from this special usage. We sometimes use the word “calling” to refer to one’s station in life. Too, we sometimes use the word to refer to one’s vocation. Neither of these usages has any bearing upon this discussion.
Characteristics of Our Calling
Noting to what we have been invited is worth our time. I am obviously more interested in attending the World Series than in watching someone slop the hogs. We have been called to enjoy fellowship with Christ (1 Cor. 1:9), to attain peace with God and ourselves (1 Cor. 7:15; Col. 3:14-15; Phil. 4:7), to inherit eternal life (1 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 6:12; 1 Pet. 5:10), to participate in His kingdom (1 Thess. 2:12), and to liberty (Gal. 5:13). These are not things to be sneezed at! God has prepared quite a series of blessings for those of us who accept His invitation. Because the calling originates with God and terminates in heaven, it can be called a high calling (Phil. 3:14), a holy calling (2 Tim. 1:9), a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1), and a calling of hope (Eph. 1:18, 4:4).
How We Are Called
Inasmuch as each of us is interested in answering such an invitation, we need to know how we shall be invited by God. While Jesus was on earth, He personally encountered men with His invitation for them to become His disciples, saying “Come, follow Me” (cf. Mt. 4:18-22). However, even then, the teaching process was employed. Jesus taught, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught of God.’ Every one who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me” (Jn. 6:44-45). Today, we are called through the teaching of God’s word. Paul wrote, “And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:14).
Inasmuch as the Corinthians are described as the “called” (1 Cor. 1:24), we can study how they were called and learn the method by which men are called. In Acts 18:8, we read of how they were called: “And Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.” The men who were styled the “called” were simply those who had heard the Gospel preached, believed it, and obeyed it. The manner in which the Corinthians were called is exactly the same manner in which all others are called out. We need not wait for an angelic visitation, a still small voice in the middle of the night, or any other type of miraculous experience (e.g. glossolalia-Tongue-speaking). God has called us through the preaching of the Gospel. The invitation is already out; He is waiting for our response.
The High Calling Demands High Living
Paul wrote, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1). Thus, God, who has extended to us such a high calling, expects us to conduct ourselves in accordance with it. Even as I would be expected to dress appropriately and act accordingly should I receive an invitation to attend a White House dinner, so also those who have been called out by God are expected to act in a certain fashion in keeping with their calling. Peter said that we had been “called … out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9); “God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:7). Therefore, God expects those whom he has called to maintain ethical purity, to walk above the world.
Some of our songs emphasize the fact that God is calling us. One says, “God is calling yet;” another says, “Jesus is tenderly calling thee home;” still another says, “I can hear my Savior calling.” Listen to Him call: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and My load is light” (Mt. 11:28-30). “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). “And the Spirit and the bride say, `Come.’ And let the one who hears say, `Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (Rev. 22:17).
This invitation will not be extended indefinitely; if you want to partake of the benefits resulting from it, you must respond before you die or before Jesus comes again. When and if you accept the invitation, you will become a part of all of the others who have accepted it-a part of the called of God, the church.
Truth Magazine, XX:18, p. 12-13
May 6, 1976