The Call of God: An Evangelical Urban Myth

One commonly hears other believers talk about being called by God to do something. This is most often used with regard to the call to be a pastor (sometimes referred to as the “call to the ministry”) or the call to be a missionary.

Let’s survey the various uses of “call” in the New Testament to see how it is used.

CALL as the audible call (Romans 1:1)

This would be the use of call as God telling someone what to do. This is seen in the life of Paul where God called him to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:1-19). This use of call refers to the actual voice of God. This is a unique use of call that we do not see today. If our Father did talk to you you would not miss it.

CALL as offer of the Gospel (Romans 1:5)

Here we have a use of call that refers to the inviting of unbelievers to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is sometimes called the outward or general call.

CALL as the process by which we become a believer (Romans 1:6)

This is the most common use of call in the New Testament. It refers to the process by which the Holy Spirit causes a person to become a believer (John 6:44, John 3:5-8).

CALL as the place in life in which the Lord has put you (1 Corinthians 7:17).

This is the most used definition in our culture. As culturally defined it refers to what you do, your “calling.” As used in 1 Corinthians 7:17 it refers to whether you are married or single. This use of calling reflects the sovereignty of God in all of life

We have just surveyed all the uses of “call.” There is no use of call in terms of God indicating to the believer what he should do. If this is the case then how come the idea of God calling folks to ministry continues to hang around? It can only be through the lack of examining the context of the biblical passages that we use in our public teaching. This does seem to be a problem that stretches across evangelicalism. If you desire to be a pastor or missionary that is a good thing (1 Timothy 3:1), but do not confuse a desire with the work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit does work in all areas of our life, but we must not confuse a desire with the work of the Spirit. A desire to do something must be checked by Scripture. It is only in Scripture, the word of God, that we can know what God wants us to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

So… I appeal to you to examine the context of whatever biblical passage you are using. Check it out before you unwittingly pass on error to others. Remember that biblical error hurts believers.

5 thoughts on “The Call of God: An Evangelical Urban Myth

  1. Amen. This has troubled me for a long time.

    It stems from a mistaken view that the Kingdom is built by Common Grace means. While it’s valid to fill out paperwork, or change tires…those actions in and of themselves don’t build God’s Kingdom.

    We live as Christians, so our callings as Christians shapes how we go about our daily lives, but the tasks aren’t holy…they’re common.

    Though Common, they’re legitimate. We live in Babylon and we are to pray for the peace of the city. We are to build our houses, tend our gardens etc….but our work in Babylon, doesn’t turn Babylon into Zion.

    It’s funny how the realm emphasis on Calling ends up either being a special task….like ministry, or for many Kuyperian/Dominionist types it ends up being something ‘high’ like the arts, politics, or law, things that change society. They don’t really have a lot of use for a garbage man or a factory worker.

    I wish more people would get this. Great post.

  2. Is there a prompting or a motivation that God may give you to do something or to be in a certain place
    Or a discernment not to get into the car or on a flight??

  3. David, Yes I do think that God may indeed prompt us to do something. But, we are never told in Scripture to look to these experiences to sort out the will of God. Only Scripture can reveal the will of God to us.

  4. David, yes you can be prompted by God to do something. My point is that you can never be sure that what you think is a prompting is from the Lord.

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