Posts Tagged ‘Calling’

We learn from the opening verses of Romans that this letter is all about the gospel of God, which centers in his Son. It is the good news of God’s saving grace in Jesus for sinners like me and you. And that good news is all about God’s peace. Paul closes his introduction with this promise and blessing: “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7).

These words come to us as more than mere formalities. They declare life-giving hope to seize and believe. The apostle announces God’s stance—his posture of grace and peace toward us in Christ. Just as the words “loved” and “saints” point back to the designation of God’s people in the Hebrew Scriptures, so this promise of peace calls to mind the great Hebrew word shalom and the Old Testament vision of peace, fulfilled in Romans in the person and work of Jesus. It is no wonder that the formal worship liturgy in some Reformed churches frequently begins with an opening salutation, a word of greeting from God through the minister, often taken from texts like Romans 1:7.

Probably the most famous shalom prayer-promise comes from Numbers 6:24-26, the benediction assigned for Aaron and his sons to proclaim to God’s people.

The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.

This peace is more than the absence of war and strife. It is the positive presence of harmony, salvation, joy, blessing, and reconciliation—“the state of perfect well-being created by God’s eschatological intervention and enjoyed by the righteous.” [Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 139.] In the context of Romans, it is the reconciliation of believing Jews and believing Gentiles both with God and with each other—both vertical and horizontal. We taste it now whenever we enjoy the fruits of repentance, confession, and forgiveness with each other. One day we will experience it fully.

Who will experience this final peace? Only those who belong to God. The apostle both promises and warns, “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism” (Romans 1:9-11). Whether Jew or Gentile, the one who knows and follows the Redeemer God will treasure God’s saving gift of shalom. On the other hand, the unbeliever who rejects God’s “way of peace” (Romans 3:17) will only reap God’s judgment.

How does someone gain God’s peace? Romans 5:1-2 replies, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” In this compact summary of gospel blessing, Paul tells us (1) that we now have peace with God; (2) that this peace is built on our justification through faith, God’s grace-work of declaring us righteous in Christ; and (3) that this peace produces deep joy. As hymn writer Francis J. Van Alstyne (1820–1915) exclaimed,

The vilest offender who truly believes,
that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Similar themes emerge in Ephesians 2:11-18, where Christ and his cross form the centerpiece of our peace.

What does this gospel assurance have to do with pursuing peace in our relationships? Everything. It fills us with joy, power, and confidence as we gratefully obey God in our relationships. It provides a model of grace to convey to others. And it reassures us that, even if the other people don’t respond in kind, our relationship with the most important and ultimate Person in the universe remains secure. Thanks be to God for Jesus our Lord!

The saving work of God in the Christian, however, does not merely consist of a right standing with God. In salvation God has done something not only for us, but also in us. Our Christian growth—sanctification in its past, present, and future aspects—began with a decisive act by God of severing the spinal cord of sin and making us new people who are now inclined to love and obey him. The apostle Paul describes this internal transformation: “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Romans 8:6-8). The sinful mind is hostile to God, but the saved mind—the mind captured and controlled by the Holy Spirit—reflects the very life and peace of God’s Spirit, albeit imperfectly.

Isaiah pictures a similar reality with a vivid metaphor in Isaiah 57:18-21 concerning God’s own promise to restore his people.

“I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
I will guide him and restore comfort to him,
creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel.
Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
says the Lord.3 “And I will heal them.”
But the wicked are like the tossing sea,
which cannot rest,
whose waves cast up mire and mud.
“There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

In other words—to join Isaiah and Paul—death marks the unbeliever; life and peace mark the believer.

Relational Peace with Others

The twin gifts of God’s reconciling peace through Christ’s cross and God’s inner peace through his Spirit lead to the third peace blessing, namely, relational peace with others. In one of the Bible’s most realistic texts concerning human relationships, Romans 12:18exhorts us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

We find a fourfold call in this passage and its context. First, we must pursue peace as our Christian duty. The apostle commands us to live at peace. To fail to seek peace with people is to disobey God. We have no option.

Second, we must pursue peace with everyone. The peacemaking charge in this text is comprehensive; we must address all of our relationships. Our Lord does not permit us to ignore even one relationship or dismiss any individual. As the apostle declares in Acts 24:16, “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” While this “with everyone” standard is admittedly high, God’s power makes his commands less daunting.

Third, as we actively pursue peace, the apostle urges us to leave the results to God. “If it is possible,” Paul reminds us, we should live at peace. He acknowledges that a peaceful result may not be possible; we have no guarantee that the other person will follow God’s peacemaking plan. As the old saying goes, “It takes two to tango.”

Fourth, keeping in mind the larger context, we must pursue peace in light of God’s mercy toward us in Christ. The entire twelfth chapter of Romans flows from God’s saving grace expounded in detail in Romans 1–11. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). In other words, we must apply Romans 12:18 against the backdrop of Romans 12:1-2 and the preceding eleven chapters. Peacemaking is but one way we offer ourselves to God in sacrificial worship, and that obedience, like every other command in Romans 12, arises from the gospel of God’s mercy in Christ.


Taken from Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Our Conflicts by Robert D. Jones. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

Stephen Altrogge

We all know that we’re supposed to pray. We all have our own prayer “tactics,” such as prayer lists, prayer apps, prayer walks, prayer meetings, praying out loud, writing down our prayers, writing down the prayers we say out loud, and saying out loud prayers which have been written down.

In spite of all these tactics, I believe prayer is THE MOST underrated spiritual discipline. The simple fact is, I take prayer for granted. Because Christ has opened the way into the Holy Places, I can pray freely at any time of day. I can pray in the car, as I’m working, and while I’m watching my kids. Being able to pray so freely is an incredible, wonderful blessing. I think, however, that the freeness with which I can pray causes me to take prayer for granted.

Think for a moment of all that takes place when I pray.

GOD HEARS

But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. (Psalm 4:3)

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. (Psalm 5:3)

Holy smokes! When I pray, the Lord himself, Yahweh, the King of Kings, the commander of the armies of Heaven, hears me! The God who crushed the Egyptian army and humiliated the prophets of Baal, hears when I call to him. I’m not speaking empty words into a void. I’m not simply talking to myself. This is not the power of positive speaking. When I call, God hears.

GOD STRENGTHENS

O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:17–18)

Not only does God hear me when I pray, but he also strengthens me. In the midst of affliction, when I barely have the strength to call out to God, he hears me and strengthens me. He imparts real spiritual, emotional, and even physical strength to me. Prayer connects me to the infinite strength of God.

GOD BLESSES

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

God is eager to bless me. Just as I am eager to give good gifts to my kids, God is eager to give good gifts to me. When I pray, God unleashes blessings into my life. I realize that sounds terribly Joel Osteen-ish, but it’s not. It’s God’s word. God will give me good things when I pray to him. He will bless me and pour out his incredible riches into my life.

GOD ACTS

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (>James 5:16–18)

This passage is meant to encourage us that God does real, incredible things in response to my prayers. When Elijah prayed, God actually altered weather patterns! When I pray, God does real, amazing, incredible things. He changes circumstances. He softens hearts. He intervenes with financial provision. He brings reconciliation. Prayer brings the Almighty God into the mundane details of my life.

Given all the astonishing things that happen when I pray, why do I treat prayer so lightly? That’s the big question we all need to answer.


Stephen Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church. Find out more at The Blazing Center.

Grady Nutt, the late Christian comedian and preacher, used to have an entire routine that revolved around, ‘the call to the ministry!’ He added to that last word the grunt that many old-timer southern preachers add to almost every sentence. The word came out sounding like ‘ministruh’ with a strong emphasis on the last syllable.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

Somewhere along the way between Paul and Grady many Christians came to the conclusion that ‘the call’ was only for ministers. In fact, ‘the call’ is described in hushed tones, as though it were some sort of divine, communicable disease with which God infected a certain few of His followers. And if one were to ‘get the call,’ it could result in a new big voice, big hair and a big Bible.

It is the conclusion of this writer that the church has misunderstood the words call and calling. The result then, is that the Great Commission that Jesus gave to all of His followers, is only being attempted by a handful.

In Paul’s opening words to the Corinthians in his first letter to them, he describes himself as “called to be an apostle,” then goes on to describe the church as those who are “called to be holy, to gather with all those everywhere who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…”

All three uses of the word call are from the same word in the original language of the Bible. It is the same word in Ephesians 4:1 and it has the general meaning of invite or summons, to call someone.

The question before the church then, is not, ‘Who is called?’ or ‘Have you been called?’ Rather, it is ‘Will you respond to the call of God on your life?’ The Bible teaches that all Christians are called by God to serve in His kingdom. Will we respond like Isaiah with “Here am I, send me,” or will we take the next-boat-to-Tarshish approach of Jonah? To better understand this subject we must see that there are three aspects of ‘call’ in every believers life.

First of all, there is a call to salvation. God sent His Son Jesus to seek and to save those who are lost. Peter explains that God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”(2 Pet. 3:9b) God calls us to salvation and by grace through faith we can call back. Paul wrote, “for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom. 10:13)

Next, that call does not just result in ‘fire assurance’ as some term it, there is also a call to Christlikeness or holiness. “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy. “‘ (1 Pet. 1:15-16) The Christian is called, is summonsed to act like a Christian all the time, to be like Christ.

The word holy has the idea of being set apart. Like mother’s fine china dinnerware, the Christian has a special purpose. Unlike that china however, a Christian’s holy lifestyle is on view every day. God has called us to be Christians, to be set apart. There ought to be something different about us because of our relationship with Jesus. That difference is a Christlikeness that attracts others to what we have.

Third, every believer is called to ministry in God’s kingdom. Ephesians chapter 4 is one of four New Testament passages that list and discuss spiritual gifts. We must notice that none of these are considered exhaustive lists. Who can put a limit on what the Holy Spirit can do with obedient believers?

The Ephesians passage mentions gifts that we normally think of when we hear someone speak of being called to ministry. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers called “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

The clear teaching of scripture is that all Christians are called to ministry. Earlier in Chapter 2, Paul wrote, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph.2:10) The gifts of chapter 4 then, inform us that some Christians are called to a particular ministry of preparing other Christians to do their ministry.

Every Christian has been called by God; called to salvation, called to personal holiness and then called to service or ministry. Some Christians are called to the particular offices mentioned in the fourth chapter of Ephesians. However, there are as many ways to minister as there are ministers!

For the Great Commission to be obeyed, every soldier in God’s army must do his or her assigned task with his or her grace gifts. The question is not, ‘Are you called?’ It is, ‘Will you obey the call?’

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Roy D. Hall is Pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church in Diboll, TX and Professor of Bible at Angelina College in Lufkin, TX.
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