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Calling is described as God’s fervent invitation or urgent exhortation to unbelievers to receive the wonderful blessings of salvation that have resulted from Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Calling is the gracious act of God in which He as King of the Universe summons people to Himself through Jesus Christ, His Spirit and His Word.


Calling explained


God’s calling of unbelievers to Himself is spoken of in Matthew 9:13, 22:14, Luke 14:16-24, John 7:37, Acts 2:39, Romans 8:30, 9:11-12, 9:24, 11:29, Galatians 1:6, 1:15, Ephesians 4:1, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, 2 Timothy 1:9, Hebrews 3:1, 2 Peter 1:10 and many other verses. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 says: “…God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel…” Here we see God calls us to Himself through our hearing the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


The call includes God’s power


God’s calling of unbelievers involves more than just Words from Him. It also involves the Father by His Holy Spirit supernaturally drawing unbelievers to Himself and opening up their hearts to receive the Gospel. In John 6:44, Jesus said: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” Acts 16:14 records that the Lord opened the heart of a woman named Lydia to Paul’s preaching. Without God supernaturally doing these above things by grace, no human could be saved. 1 Thessalonians 1:5 expresses how the Holy Spirit works behind the scenes when the Gospel is preached: “…For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit…”


The crucial work of God the Holy Spirit


Unless the Holy Spirit moves on their hearts before they are converted to Jesus Christ, no one would ever become a new creation in Christ through faith. This is because sinful human nature (see 1 Corinthians 2:14) and Satan (see 2 Corinthians 4:4) have blinded fallen humans to their absolute need of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

Romans 3:10-11 shows no human by themselves really seeks God in a right way: “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.’” These words are spoken about every human, including the millions who follow various religions but who do not have Jesus Christ as their one and only Lord and Saviour. So in God’s eyes, those people who follow non-Christian religions are not really fully seeking Him. They are following their own man-made substitutes for a true seeking of Him through Jesus Christ.

In John 12:32, Jesus revealed that after He died, He would draw all men to Himself: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” John 16:8-11 demonstrates the crucial work of the Holy Spirit in showing humans their sinful fallen state, their lack of righteousness, their absolute need of righteousness through Jesus Christ and their sentence of eternal condemnation if they reject Jesus’ rightful claims over them: “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgement, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

The Holy Spirit moves on a human heart, partly freeing the human will from its total bondage to sin for this time of decision and also offering it Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. The Spirit also provides the accompanying power needed to repent, turn to God and believe. But if the person rejects the Holy Spirit’s call, He will not force the person to believe and repent. This is why Acts 19:9 speaks of some people to whom Paul had preached the kingdom of God, refusing to believe. Acts 19:9 records: “… some were hardened [1] and did not believe…”


The parable of the wedding banquet


Matthew 22:1-14 and Luke 14:16-24 record Jesus telling the parable of the wedding banquet. In this parable, the king (representative of God the Father) had his servants (symbolic of witnessing believers) invite guests to come to the wedding banquet of his son (representative of Jesus Christ). Many of those who were called, refused to come (symbolic of refusing to have faith in the Lord Jesus and to repent and convert). Luke 14:24 says these non-attenders were not allowed to have a taste of the banquet (symbolic of eternal salvation).

In this parable, God’s call is shown to be more than an invitation. It is a command as well. This is understandable since the call here is made by a Person infinitely greater than those He calls.

God does not just invite people to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. He commands them to do these things. Mark 1:15 records Jesus declared: “…The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Acts 17:30 states God commands all people everywhere to repent: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” God does not just ask the unconverted to repent. Romans 10:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:8 and 1 Peter 4:17 mention people not obeying the Gospel.

The parable of the wedding banquet also shows people can reject God’s call on their lives. Matthew 22:14 reveals many are called but only a minority accept God’s invitation. Other verses which refer to called individuals rejecting the Gospel invitation are John 5:40 and Acts 13:46. Such people are guilty of resisting the Holy Spirit. Acts 7:51 refers to similar types of people: “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.”

The usage of “called” in the Epistles


The word “called” is mostly used in the New Testament Epistles to refer to those who have already accepted God’s call on their lives and as a result are fully converted and saved. They are not people in the process of deciding whether to accept God’s calling. Therefore the Epistles mostly use the word “called” differently from Jesus’ mention of calling in Matthew 22:14. In this latter verse, Jesus included among the called, many who rejected God’s invitation.


Other aspects of our calling by God


Our calling by God:


·         is based purely on His unmerited grace. Galatians 1:6 says: “Him who called you in the grace of God…” There was nothing good about us which made God regard us as worthy enough for Him to call us to Himself. He called us on the basis of His undeserved grace expressed through Jesus’ death. Galatians 1:15 refers to Paul being called by God through grace. Romans 9:11 demonstrates God’s calling is not based on the relative goodness or badness of a person: “(for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls).”

·         is a work of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 1:9, Luke 5:32 and Matthew 10:18-20).

·         is a call to freedom from legalism, eternal condemnation, being ruled by sin and Satan (see Galatians 5:13).

·         is a call to begin to have intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 1:9).

·         is a call to living a holy life after conversion. 1 Thessalonians 4:7 says: “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” 2 Timothy 1:9 and 1 Peter 1:15 speak similarly.

·         Is a call to various ministries and functions within His body. In 1 Corinthians 1:1, Paul said God had called him to be an apostle. Ephesians 4:11 reveals God calls certain Christians to any of the five ascension ministries: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” Acts 13:2 records the setting apart by God of individuals to specific ministries: “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” 1 Corinthians 12:14-18 reveals every person in the body of Christ is called to a specific function within it. God’s calling is especially seen in verse 18 when it says “God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” Any Christian, who does not seek to know their ministry calling in Christ in His body, is probably resisting the Holy Spirit’s work in his life.

·         is a call to various jobs, places to live and other specific things God has pre-planned for our lives. The fact He has a specific calling in our lives can be seen in verses such as Proverbs 20:24: “A man’s steps are of the Lord; How then can a man understand his own way?” and James 4:13-16: “Come now, you who will say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’, whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’. But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” Refer also to Psalm 37:23.


The means God uses


There are a number of means by which God calls humans to Himself. He calls them through:


1.       His Word. Romans 10:16-17 says: “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 states similar things.

2.       His Holy Spirit. John 16:8 declares: “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement”. Genesis 6:3 refers to a similar thing.

3.       Human instruments. Romans 10:14 states: “…And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?…” Matthew 22:1-14 makes similar comments.

4.       His kindness and goodness towards them before their conversion. Romans 2:4 says: “…the goodness of God leads you to repentance.”

5.       His judgements and associated punishments. Isaiah 26:9 relates partly to this: “…for when Your judgements are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”


God’s more general calling


Romans 1:19-20 shows God has a more general call on all humans through the manifestation of His power in what He has created: “because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” Psalm 11:1-4 confirms the above.

Romans 2:15 shows God-given human consciences also have the requirements of God’s Law written on them: “who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness…” God’s commands about loving Him and loving others are written on human consciences. So human consciences call their owners to love God and others.


The relevant Greek words


There are four main words used in the Greek New Testament which relate to our calling by God. These are “kaleo”, “proskaleo”, “klesis” and “kletos”. “Kaleo” means “to call anyone, invite, summons”. [2] “Proskaleo” means  “figuratively of a divine call – call to  God or Christ, to


faith; call to a special task or office”. [3] “Klesis” means “call, calling, invitation…vocation”. [4] Louw and Nida say “kaleo”, “klesis” and “proskaleo” all in some contexts mean “to urgently invite someone to accept responsibilities for a particular task, implying a new relationship to the one who does the calling”. [5] “Kletos” means “called, invited”. [6]


Bible Study Questions


  1. Describe God’s calling on unbelievers’ lives.
  2. What verses refer to this calling?
  3. Explain what John 6:44, Acts 16:14 and 1 Thessalonians 1:5 reveal about God’s calling.
  4. Why is it so important that the Holy Spirit moves on unbelievers’ hearts prior to their conversion to Jesus Christ? Give verses to support your answer.
  5. Explain the meaning of Jesus’ Parable of the Wedding Banquet.
  6. Is God’s call more than an invitation? Provide verses to support your answer.
  7. What are some other aspects of our calling by God? Also provide verses for each of your answers.
  8. What are the means by which God calls people to Himself? Give verses to support your answer.
  9. Does God also call people to Himself through them observing His creation and through the workings of their conscience?


[1] In Greek, the phrase “were hardened” in Acts 19:9 is a form of the word “skleruno” and is in the passive voice. One view wrongly regards the passive voice here as meaning God hardened their hearts. But note Hebrews 3:12-13 uses a passive form of the same word “skleruno” when referring to people turning from the faith through being heardened by sin. I believe Acts 19:9 is also referring to being hardened by sin and not by God.

[2] Vine, page 86.

[3] Bauer, page 715.

[4] Ibid, page 436.

[5] Louw and Nida, page 424.

[6] Vine, page 87.

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