Christians have misused the words “called” and “calling” so much that today it often is difficult to understand to whom exactly believers have been “called,” and it is difficult to understand just what people actually mean when they refer to their “calling.” Even though from century to century mankind has continued to change God’s meanings for “called” and “calling,” the Holy Bible faithfully provides much wisdom and understanding about what God means when these terms are used. Indeed, in God’s economy, the “called” and “calling” still mean the same thing today.
For example, in the Old Testament, “called” refers to a summons or a request for someone’s attention. “Called” in the Old Testament also refers to naming something or someone, and to speaking something into existence.
In the New Testament, “called” is synonymous with salvation, because the Greek word ecclesia, which wrongly is translated into English as “church,” refers to the “called out ones.” “Called” in the New Testament also refers to various roles, responsibilities, values, attitudes, positions, and places. Even though these spiritual “callings” could involve a career (a trained profession or occupation … livelihood), or a job (work that is done out of necessity), the truth is that a person’s vocation and work do not fit the biblical meaning of a spiritual “calling” (cf. Romans 1:1, 6, 7; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, 9, 24, 26; 1 Corinthians 7:17, 20-21, 24; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 3:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 5:4; 1 Peter 2:9, 21; 1 Peter 3:9; and 1 Peter 5:10, KJV).
Furthermore, in the King James Version of the New Testament, the English word “called” = klhtovß in the Greek, and this Greek word is transliterated as Kletos, which, according to Strong’s Number 2822, means: “called, invited (to a banquet); invited (by God in the proclamation of the Gospel) to obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom through Christ; called to (the discharge of) some office; and divinely selected and appointed.” According to Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon, this “called,” with its denotations and connotations, is found in Matthew 20:16, 22:14; Romans 1:1, 6-7, and 8:28; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, and 24; Jude 1:1; and Revelation 17:14.
Also, in the King James Version of the New Testament, the English word “called” = kalevw in the Greek, and this Greek word is transliterated as Kaleo, which, according to Strong’s Number 2564, means: “to call; to call aloud, utter in a loud voice; to invite; to call, i.e. to name, by name; to give a name to; to receive the name of, receive as a name; to give some name to one, call his name; to be called, i.e. to bear a name or title (among men); and to salute one by name.” According to Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon, this “called,” with its denotations and connotations, is found 138 times in the New Testament: 25 times in Matthew; 3 times in Mark; 39 times in Luke; 3 times in John; 16 times in Acts; 7 times in Romans; 10 times in 1 Corinthians; 4 times in Galatians; 2 times in Ephesians; 1 time in Colossians; 3 times in 1 Thessalonians; 1 time in 2 Thessalonians; 1 time in 1 Timothy; 1 time in 2 Timothy; 6 times in Hebrews; 1 time in James; 6 times in 1 Peter; 1 time in 2 Peter; 1 time in 1 John, and 7 times in Revelation.
This aforementioned information supports this biblical truth, which is the people in the Holy Bible who are “called” or who have a “calling” are: (1) responding to God who FIRST has “called” (summoned) them TO Himself so that they, through God’s Grace, the power of His Holy Spirit, and the atoning sacrifice of Jesus the Christ, could be regenerated (born again/restored), saved, reconciled, and justified. God calls them to come out of darkness and into His Son’s marvelous Light so that they can have a personal relationship and communion with God; and (2) responding to God who has “called” (summoned) them FOR Himself. God calls them to work in the Lord’s vineyards while they live out their God-appointed roles, responsibilities, values, attitudes, and positions in the places Father God wants them to live.
This spiritual “calling” (the receiving of God’s summons or directive to live life entirely to His Glory) means that believers FIRST MUST surrender to Jesus the Christ’s Lordship and Leadership while, simultaneously, purposing in their own hearts that they will live the God-kind of Christian lifestyle that allows God to use them to His Glory as they serve Him in the Army of the Lord. In other words, human beings mainly are spiritually “called” TO God, and secondly they are spiritually “called” FOR God’s Glory, the latter of which is accomplished when believers recognize, understand, and participate in their secondary callings.
The primary spiritual “calling” pertains to the Caller (God) summoning the “called” (believers) TO Him. The secondary or specific spiritual “callings” refer to EVERYTHING the “called” do in response to that primary calling—everything they do for the Lord in response to being “called” into a relationship and communion with God.
The bottom line is this: A spiritual “calling” is not a vocation … is not a livelihood! Therefore, no one can choose to become a pastor, prophet, apostle, evangelist, Bible teacher, and so forth! That’s right. Even though numerous people have chosen, and continue to choose, to attend a Bible College, Divinity School, or Theological Seminary, to earn degrees in various religious studies so that they can make a good living off of serving the Lord, according to the Holy Bible, pastor, apostle, prophet, evangelist, Bible teacher, and so on, are NOT vocations … they are NOT CAREERS, but rather they are special spiritual gifts!
Now, while a person might train to be a lawyer, doctor, teacher, school administrator, Army general, firefighter, police officer, life coach, and so on, and while God certainly can provide justice through the courts; healing through surgery and medicine; teaching through educators, trainers, and self-help gurus; protection through the government, military, and police forces; and so forth, biblically speaking, being “called” and having a “calling” pertain ONLY to the Caller deciding that purpose for which He uniquely creates the “called,” which is to glorify ONLY Him! In other words, from before the foundation of the world, the Caller chose the roles, responsibilities, values, attitudes, and positions for the “called out ones,” and He chose the places (where) He wanted them to put into practice their predestined roles, responsibilities, values, attitudes, and positions.
It does not matter to God if a believer has trained for a career in business, law, medicine, or whatever, because biblically speaking EVERY believer is “called” to be an evangelist! Moreover, many of Jesus the Christ’s believers, even those who might hold various academic degrees, are “called” to function in multiple spiritual positions, for example, as prophet, teacher, and evangelist; or as pastor, apostle, evangelist; and so forth.
Please note here that Jesus the Christ’s vocation, no doubt, was that of a carpenter, and He, no doubt, also knew much about fishing. However, these vocations were not what God had “called” the Lord to do—these vocations were not Jesus the Christ’s spiritual “callings.” God “called” the Lord to be the Sacrificial Lamb who would take away the sins of the entire world. He “called” the Lord to be the One who would die on the Cross so that He would become the First Fruit of the risen dead and the resurrected Savior of the world. Likewise, every believer has specific “callings” that God has predestined for him or her.
For this last reason, no church’s governing body, or boards, or authorized individuals should be entirely responsible for choosing who will pastor their church, or who will lead worship services, or who will teach Sunday school, etcetera. These are spiritual decisions, and they should be spiritually discerned through the Holy Spirit’s leading and prompting. In other words, these are theocratic selections and not democratic elections.
Along these lines, Jesus the Christ confirms that the selecting (choosing) of those who will plant the Gospel seeds that He has planted in them is a theocratic selection rather than a democratic election. Christ Himself speaks in John 15:16, saying:
You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed you [I have planted you], that you might go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit may be lasting [that it may remain, abide], so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name [as presenting all that I AM], He may give it to you. (Amplified Bible)
Therefore, if a person truly has been summoned by God to accept His Son so that he or she can receive the gifts of salvation and eternal life, and if this same individual truly has been spiritually summoned by God not only to trust Him and His Word but also to follow His Son as he or she serves in the Army of the Lord, then this person must continue to press “…forward to the mark, even the reward of the high purpose of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14, BBE). Moreover, just as the Lord Jesus lived an unselfish and sacrificial life, unselfishness and sacrifice also must be the benchmarks of every “called” Christian’s life.
Certainly, just as a ready and willing Jesus the Christ left His home in Heaven for the “calling” He had to fulfill on Earth (left that which was familiar for that which was unfamiliar), every believer must be ready and willing to step out of his or her comfort zone and face the unknown. In spite of what a soldier in the Army of the Lord fears, and in spite of how unconfident and inadequate he or she might feel about what God has “called” him or her to do FOR Him, this Christian soldier must remember that God is the One doing the summoning.
Ultimately, every Christian soldier not only must trust and obey the Commanding Officer, who is Jesus the Christ, but also every Christian soldier must obey the Caller’s established Code of Conduct, which is the Holy Bible. The Caller also has given every Christian soldier some weapons of warfare: faith, prayer, and a two-edged sword. Lastly, the Caller has given every Christian soldier the Holy Spirit, and He is the One who is teaching the Lord’s spiritual warriors how to accept with joy the reality of a “called” life. That reality is Christian soldiers will be trained by experience, tried by adversity, and tested by fire!
For more information about “called” and the ecclesia, check out my blog entries: Being “Called” into God’s Ministry Is a Theocratic Selection and Not a Democratic Election and Church is the Globally Recognized Spiritual Body of Christ