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The Three Calls | Theology Matters

  • July 2016 Issue
Theology Matters

Believers often wonder whether they are called by God as Abraham was. We usually use the term called in connection with ministry or vocation. We say that we have been called to serve God in a particular location or capacity. But the Bible also uses the language of calling to speak of our experience of salvation and the obligation to live a holy life.

Those who have trusted in Jesus Christ are referred to as God’s “elect” or chosen (Rom. 8:33; Eph. 1:11; 1 Peter 1:1–2). To be chosen is to be called by God into a relationship with Christ (2 Peter 1:10). Those who belong to Christ are also “called to be his holy people” (1 Cor. 1:2). The order of these two calls is important. We must first be made holy by Christ before we can learn to be holy.

Those who know Christ are called to serve Him. The context of this service may change over time. The apostle Paul is a good example. Paul’s initial call to faith came while he was traveling the road to Damascus. A persecutor of the church, Paul saw a light from heaven and heard the voice of Jesus commanding him to enter the city, where he would be told what to do next. After three days, a follower of Jesus named Ananias came to tell Paul that he was God’s chosen instrument to carry the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:1–19).

As this ministry unfolded, Paul experi- enced other calls from God. While Paul was in Antioch, the Holy Spirit told the church to commission him for special missionary journey (Acts 13:1–3). During that journey Paul and his companion Barnabas planted churches and appointed leaders in various locations. On a later mission trip, God used a vision to reveal to Paul that he had been called to preach the gospel in Macedonia. This vision came after he had been kept from entering several other regions (Acts 16:1–10).

Most believers do not experience God’s call in the same extraordinary way that Paul did. We do not see visions or hear the voice of God. But it is the same Holy Spirit who directs our lives. He shows us our need for Christ, calls us to be holy, and guides us in our service.

To learn more about God’s call, read Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God Is Speaking by Priscilla Shirer (Moody Publishers).

BY Dr. John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

Dr. John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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