In Part 1, we explored what the Bible teaches about coming to Jesus Christ. If you have not read Part 1, I recommend that you do so before reading this installment. Obviously, Part 1 provides context for this Bible study. In this installment, we will go over what it looks like when God is calling.
The Meaning of Church
Every student of the Bible should familiarize themselves with the definition of the word church. Some people fall into the belief that church is a place or an event that happens on Sunday. If you investigate the meaning of the Greek word translated into church, you will come to a far different conclusion. According the Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word means a calling out which stresses a group of people called out for a special purpose. Many other sources agree with this understanding. Even without the Strong’s concordance and other sources, you can develop this understanding by observing the way God works as recorded in the Bible. God calls people out for special purposes. The Old and New Testaments are filled with examples of this fact.
God’s Call in the Old Testament
We cannot possibly explore all the examples of God’s call in the Bible; however, we can focus in on some key events to give us more insight. Beyond this study, you should continue to study this topic independently for more understanding.
Let’s start our journey with the most famous calling in the Bible, the calling of Abram. In Genesis chapter 12, God calls Abram.
“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:1-3)
Out of all the descendants of Noah, Abram was called out by God for a special purpose. In this case, God called him to leave his nation, family, and father. God planned to make Abram a great nation and to bless all the families of earth through him. God didn’t tell Abram that he could stay where he was. God called him out for this very special purpose and then changed his name to suit God’s purpose (Gen. 17:1-5). Notice that God talked to Abraham. There was no mistaking whether or not God was calling him.
A very similar event took place in the calling of his grandson. Read Gen. 28:10-19. While Jacob was sleeping, the Lord appeared to him and spoke directly to him through the dream. Just like He did with Abraham, God revealed to Jacob the plan He had in place for Jacob’s life (verses 13-15). There would be not doubt that God was communicating with him. A miracle took place. Multiple stones became one stone and Jacob set it up as a pillar. Later, Jacob’s name was also changed just like his grandfather’s (Gen. 32:28). God had already predetermined that Jacob would have a special role before He called him (See Gen. 25:21-23). So far, we can see that during the Old Testament, God called people directly or through dreams. Two other examples of this are Joseph and Moses. Joseph was shown beforehand via dreams what God called him to accomplish (Gen. 37:5-11) and Moses was called directly (Ex. 3:1-10).
Let’s look a less well-known example of God calling someone out for a special purpose. If you read through Ezekiel chapter one and two, you’ll read an awesome example of God’s calling. Ezek. 1:1 tells us Ezekiel “saw visions of God” while captive near the river of Chebar. The rest of the chapter describes an inspiring vision of God and four cherubim. Verse 28 says Ezekiel saw the “appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” and was spoken to by Him. What was spoken comes in chapter two.
“And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me. And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day.” (Ezek. 2:1-3)
According to these verses, Ezekiel was being called out to send a message to the children of Israel. God revealed this plan to Ezekiel through visions. These visions actually continue through chapter three. Notice that Ezekiel was among other captives, but God chose him to be the bearer of His message. From the examples discussed, we can see that God calls through visions, dreams, and directly.
The last example of the Old Testament that we will look at is how Samuel the prophet was called. Read the 3rd chapter of first Samuel. The calling of Samuel is quite unique compared to many other examples. Samuel was laying in bed when God called him three separate times. Samuel was awakened out of his sleep. The voice had to be audible because it woke Samuel up. He wasn’t just hearing things in his sleep or dreaming. Samuel initially believed the one calling him was Eli the high priest, but it was actually God. God predetermined this and told Eli before He called Samuel to Himself (I. Sam. 2:35). This appears to be the pattern God follows. Typically, there is a prophecy concerning individuals and groups to be called. You can see this with the calling of Israel, Moses, David, Samson, and many others.
Some will argue that these examples only apply to the Old Testament, but let’s see if that belief holds up to scrutiny.
God’s Call in the New Testament
Obviously, the most unique way to be called by God was being brought the message of God by the Lord Jesus Christ. Only a relatively small number of people were ever called in this way. You can read about this in Luke 5:27-29, Mark 1:14-20, Matt. 4:18-22, and John 1:35-42. For the purpose of this study we will not explore theses verses in detail. We will focus on the book of Acts.
In Acts chapter 10, a centurion named Cornelius is called by God. The Bible says he was a devout man who feared God (verse 2). In verse 3, we can see exactly how he was called into the service of God.
“He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.” (Acts 10:3-6)
In the case of Cornelius, a vision was given to him which provided him with instructions. He was told to send men to receive Peter and listen to what Peter would tell him. God showed Cornelius these things through a vision. This is consistent with the Old Testament. The only difference is Cornelius was given a vision that he needed to hear the message of God from someone else called out by God. It would appear the reason for this was so the circumcised believers could see that God was expanding the outpouring of the Holy Spirit unto the Gentiles (verses 44-45).
Let’s look back at Acts chapter two. On the day of Pentecost, all the disciples were gathered together in Jerusalem. On this day, a great miracle took place. The Holy Spirit was poured out on them and they were given cloven tongues (Acts 2:2-4, 17-18). This means they were given the ability to speak in other languages that they didn’t know previously. This miracle appears to have happened to get the attention of the people who were gathered to Jerusalem for the celebration of Pentecost (verses 7-8). This miracle opened the door for Peter’s speech in verses 14-36.
After Peter’s speech, the people “were pricked in their heart.” (verse 37). This phrase means to pierce thoroughly i.e. figuratively agitate violently. It wasn’t the miracle that touched the hearts of the people; it was the words that Peter said. Peter’s presentation of the gospel message convicted the people so much that they asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). These people were receiving God’s call via Peter. Notice what Peter says in verse 39:
“For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
Peter declares that the promises are to those who God will call. The reason why some in the crowd were pricked in their hearts is because God was drawing them near. The whole crowd did not believe what Peter was saying because it was not given to them as Christ has said (verse 41). Remember, the Father calls whomever He chooses. The conviction in someone is evidence that God is drawing the recipient in. God used Peter as the vehicle by which He was calling others. This is consistent with the way God used the prophets of the Old Testament. God uses other people who are drawn near unto Him to spread His messages to others He will call. God also uses people to spread His message as a witness against others as well. Whether or not someone is pricked in the heart (convicted to change) is a way to tell if he/she is being called by God. Only God can truly know if someone is truly converted because He knows the hearts of men (Ps. 44:20-21).
Of course, the most well-known account of God calling someone is found in Acts chapter 9. In this chapter, you can read about how Saul was called. Read verses 1 through 9. Similar to what happened when Moses was called, Saul saw a great light from heaven and heard Jesus speaking to him out of the light (verses 3-4). Neither Saul nor his companions were able to physically see the Lord Jesus Christ. Typically seeing an image or form of God only happens through a vision or dreams as seen in the Old Testament examples. The same fact is true about the visions of the book of Revelations.
From these examples, we can see that God calls people in the New Testament in very similar ways as He did the Old Testament. Typically, God allows an event that would be considered as a phenomenon to get the attention of those He is calling. This phenomenon could be a dream, vision, or some other visual stimuli. If God is calling you, He will get your attention and then His message will be given to you.
What about Predestination?
As previously discussed in Part One, God the Father does the calling of individuals. The Old Testament shows us that many of the people called by God were predetermined to be called into the service of God. Does the New Testament support this teaching?
Read what Paul says regarding this topic in Eph 1:3-12. Be sure to read these verse several times as you read this portion of the study.
In verse 4 of the passage, Paul declares that the Father has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. These words are not written to the world. This message is transmitted through Paul to the saints at Ephesus (verse 1). Despite what many may teach, the Bible is not written to the world. Paul makes it plain that he is writing to those who are called of God that were in the city of Ephesus. The very next verse uses the word predestinated. Predestinated is translated from a Greek word meaning to limit in advance i.e. predetermine. Paul was telling the saints at Ephesus that the Father has predetermined (predestinated) us into the adoption of children by Jesus Christ. God is building a family. He has limited in advance whom He will choose to fulfill His purpose. By the way, the adoption that Paul is talking about is far greater than sitting in heaven.
The purpose of God is a mystery to the world, but God has made this mystery known to those He has called (verse 9). This mystery is about an inheritance, what we may obtain through Christ (verse 11). Verses 11-12 explained that God the Father has determined some to be the first that trusted in Christ to be the praise of His glory. The same Greek word is translated into predestinated again in verse 11. Why would Paul be inspired to use this word twice? Obviously, he meant what he wrote. God inspired him to explain that some are called now to trust in Jesus Christ first.
This does not mean that those who are not chosen now will not believe in the future. It is commonly taught that if people do not believe now they will be sentenced to hell, but the Bible does not teach this at all. In fact, there are many verses that explain how humans on earth, after the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, will come before Him at Jerusalem. (Read Zech. 14:16-19; Ezek. 37; Isa. 19:19-25; and Rev. 20 for more understanding.) The previously mentioned verses show how there will be humans on earth at the time of Jesus Christ’s millennial reign. These humans will be those who aren’t called by the Father in this age. God wants to give everyone an opportunity to obtain eternal life. He will resurrect many to give them an opportunity to repent after learning what life is like separated from Him, but many are not called right now. This is what most churches do not teach. Some are called now to be the first to trust in Jesus Christ and others are called later, after the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth.
To further understand predestination, we must read Rom. 8:28-30. Serious students of the Bible should read the entire eighth chapter of Romans. It is one of the most inspiring chapters in the Bible that should be read often to keep your mind filled with the vision Paul presents in it.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)
This is another frequently quoted verse where those who quote it ignore obvious elements of the text. In this verse, we can see the that God makes things work out for good for those who love Him. The Holy Scriptures explain in several places that loving God is keeping His commandments (Ex. 20:6; John 14:15, 21-24; and 1 John 5:1-3). Notice the second half of the verse. All things work together for good to those “who are called according to His purpose.” This fact is repeated throughout the New Testament. Those who love God have been called, selected, chosen according to God’s purpose.
Verse 29 tells us that this selection was a preselection. This is indicated by the words foreknow and predestinate. These verses tell us that God the Father has predetermined some to be conformed to the image of His Son. Again, this is a hard teaching. Many do not want to believe that God has not called the whole of humanity, but your Bible proclaims this fact. This does not mean God the Father is unfair; it simply means He has determined an order to bringing humanity into the family of God. Some have been preselected and the invitation will be extended to all others during the rule of God. Remember, every sin will be forgiven expect for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31-32). This sin will not be forgiven in the world to come, indicating there will be humans receiving the forgiveness of sins in the Kingdom of God. Therefore, we can see that another group for men will be called into salvation after the return of Jesus Christ. This is what your Bible teaches.
When Your Choice Becomes Important
If you believe God the Father is drawing you near, you should examine the events through the lens of the Bible. Remember, satan can and will masquerade himself as an angel of light and he will work through false apostles of Christ (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Satan’s ministers will proclaim a false (or incomplete) gospel to deceive you (Matt. 24:4-5,11; Gal. 1:6-7).
Once you confirm that the Father is drawing you, you must make a choice. Will you believe the Father’s message through Christ or will you remain in your sin? This is why Jesus and the apostles taught people to repent (Matt. 4:17; Acts 2:38; Acts 11:18; Acts 20:21). According to Heb. 6:4-6, if the Father has drawn you in, given you His Spirit, and has let you taste of the powers of the world to come, then you must fight not to be someone who falls away from the truth. If you do, it is impossible for you to be renewed unto repentance. (By the way, falling away from the truth is different than falling into sin.) Consequently, the calling of the Father requires you to yield yourself unto Him as an instrument of righteous (Rom. 6:12-18). You must allow God to work through you. This is your part and your choice. You can either choose to yield to God to be used to His pleasure or you can choose to reject God’s calling and lose access to eternal life. The choice is yours!!!
I pray that whether God the Father is drawing you now or will do so in the world to come, that you humble yourself and accept His calling. God bless you all.
“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” (Deut. 30:19)