Monday, August 8, 2016

Called of God

Studies in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Called of God

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God . . . (Romans 1:1).

Paul was a man “called” of God for a specific task.  He reminds all Christians that they are called to minister the truth and evangelize the lost.  “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” (Ephesians 4:1).
This concept of calling to service or ministry is a universal truth taught throughout Scripture.  Abram was called of God.  “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” (Genesis 12:1).  Moses was called of God.  “Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).  To be called means simply to be given specific directions by God for a particular ministry.  Therefore, all believers have a vocational calling in the Great Commission as believer-priests before God.
Paul was specifically called of God and given specific instructions from God to do the work of the ministry.  “But rise, and stand upon thy feet:  for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee” (Acts 26:16).  Every Christian has a calling or “vocation” in the body of Christ. 
As individual Christians within a local church fulfill their vocational calling in the “work of the ministry” a synergy is created.  A synergy is defined as the working together of two or more things, people, or organizations, especially when the result is greater than the sum of their individual effects or capabilities.  However, the central factor defining a biblical synergy is when individual Christians are divinely empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.  When all the members of a local church habitually live in this state of empowerment, a spiritual synergism is created and true spiritual revival takes place. 
Synergism is absolutely worthless if it is not the direct outcome of fellowship with God.  In other words, a local church can experience an outward show of unity with everyone getting along, and not experience a truly spiritual synergism where all the members of the local body are living Spirit-filled lives.  Therefore, “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) is not the same as everyone in a local church just getting along with one another and tolerating each other. 

“Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) is supernaturally produced through the filling of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).  Such unity includes unity in doctrine (right doctrine), unity in a missional vision (purpose), and unity in biblical methodology (practice).  Therefore, a biblical calling is a calling is intended to create a spiritual synergism with other believers within the context of a local church of like-minded believers (the Body Principle). 
No one is being called by God today as was Paul or Moses, where God spoke directly to the person called.  When God called me to preach, I did not hear a voice in my head telling what to do or where to do it.  God burdened me to reach souls and teach/explain the Word of God to them.  In order to do that well, God burdened me to in-depth study of His Word.  Reaching souls and leading Bible studies became the preoccupation of most of my free time.  It became very obvious to me very early in my ministry that new believers did not survive long if they did not learn the Word of God and did not align themselves with a faithful accountability group that the Bible calls a local church. 
We often hear Christians make statements such as God told me to do this or to do that.  God communicates to us through His Word and through the leading of the Spirit today.  The leading of the Spirit is usually through opened doors of ministry opportunity.  However, every opened door of ministry opportunity will also be accompanied by a person meeting the qualifications for that ministry opportunity.  If God leads a person into a ministry of which a person is not prepared to do, God is actually leading that person to first to get prepared.  Novices do not belong in leadership positions in and through a local church until they have been tested and proven both capable and faithful (I Timothy 3:1-13).  Faithful in most case simply means knowledgeable, teachable, consistent, and dependable.  These things defined themselves as Christian character with convictions.

We have two major Scripture texts teaching the synergism of the “body of Christ” (local church).  When we learn the Body Principle of Scripture, we learn that every believer was formally united to a local body of believers through the ordinance of water baptism.  It would have been foreign to early New Testament Christians not to be united together with a formal assembly of believers through which they were being perfected for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). 

The purpose of all ministry was to grow the body.  The word “edifying” in Ephesians 4:12 is from the Greek word oikodome (oy-kod-om-ay’), which means to build a home or family.  The building blocks of this spiritual structure are born again Christians, who are “living stones” have been shaped by discipleship.  I Peter 2:5 speaks of this with the words “are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”  Therefore, this “holy priesthood” calling is common to all believers and is the ministry of all believers.  Every believer is called to be involved in building the “spiritual house” of his local assembly. 

“12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23 And those members of the body {dealing with positions that seem less important and are given little acknowledgement}, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts {the parts of the body that are concealed rather than exposed} more abundant comeliness {these parts are extremely important to the body’s functions}. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (I Corinthians 12:12-31).

The “more excellent way” of which Paul speaks is elaborated upon in great detail in I Corinthians chapter thirteen in the principle of biblical love defined by extreme self-sacrifice to the benefit of others.  The general purpose of the argument of I Corinthians chapter twelve in the Body Principle is that most people want to be in charge.  They do not consider the enormous responsibilities of being a leader of people who often do not want to do what God commands.  These wannabes are simply enamored with being looked up to by others.  This reveals a great ignorance about leadership.  Leaders are often mistrusted, criticized, abused, slandered, and maligned for no other reason than someone does not want to be a follower.  The point of I Corinthians chapter twelve is do not covet leadership.  Covet love!

“1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being m any, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:1-8).

Paul pleads with believers in Ephesians 4:1 to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.”

“1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-4).

When we read what Paul says in Ephesians 4:1-3 in conjunction with what he says in Romans 12:1-8, we know that all believers have a vocational calling according to the gifts of ministry that God has given them.  It is their responsibility to perfect those gifts as they begin to minister.  Every believer is a priest before God and each person as a priest before God is expected to evangelize and make disciples. 
Some vocational callings, like Abram, Moses, and Paul, were special callings for specific purposes.  Other specific callings, like those of a Pastor\teacher or Evangelist (Ephesians 4:11), are defined by a specific function and qualifications.  These callings do not come because a person wants them or because he has some special personality.  They do not come because they might be a good profession or because someone enjoys working with people.  These people hold their positions for one reason, they have been called of God and they know they have been called.
Gideon was such a man.  “And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee” (Judges 6:14).  Isaiah was such a man.  “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?  Then said I, Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
Paul was called of God to be an Apostle as defined by Romans 1:1.  In other words, Paul’s calling was defined by the word “servant” with a specific ministry.  He was “separated unto the gospel of God.”  The only higher authority over him in the whole world was God, yet he was called and commissioned to be a servant.  Every person called to leadership in a local church understands this critical definition of ministry– SERVANTHOOD.  Paul considered being an ambassador for Christ the highest honor in this world (II Corinthians 5:17-21).  Being an ambassador for Christ is common to all believer-priests in the New Covenant. 

“17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made {to cause to be; to generate} the righteousness of God in him {in the New Creation}” (II Corinthians 5:17-21).

Paul demanded obedience to the Word of God for all believer-priests.  He commanded (by apostolic authority) that believers follow the leadership of the pastor God that calls to shepherd them.

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).

Men like Moses and Gideon were remarkable men of God.  They were not remarkable because of their abilities, but because of what God did with them in spite of their weaknesses.  God used them so that God could be magnified through the weaknesses of men.  God wants to magnify Himself through the life of every Christian in this way.  These men were not great in themselves.  They both tried to argue with God because they both had disabilities and weaknesses of which they thought God must have overlooked when He chose them.  These are the kinds of people God delights in using. 

Most people have aspirations of being great in the eyes of men.  True Christians are people who understand their overwhelming spiritual weaknesses and frailties and who simply what to be used by God to help others see the greatness of God and His grace.  Any Christian that can escape the foolishness of his own ambitions for a greatness in the eyes of men can be used of God.  This quality of character is the primary qualification for anyone to be used of God.  This character quality has the attitude, I cannot do what God asks of me.  If a Christian has this character quality, he will never take credit for what God has done through him.

“26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:26-31).

Most Christians are not called to be a Pastor\Teacher or an itinerant Evangelist.  However, every Christian is called to be a servant of God with two primary purposes – to minister and bring forth fruit to God’s glory.

Ministry or Servanthood

“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28).

Here is where everyone’s Christianity either succeeds or fails.  Individual Christians must accept their calling of God in Jesus Christ and then do it.

“Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves.  And he said, Be that shewed mercy on him.  Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10: 36-37).

The whole significance in becoming a servant means giving yourself to meet another person’s needs without expecting anything in return.  Such a desire is a complete sociological abstract.  Yet it was how God intended His children to function in His society.  This attitude defines a biblical local church both when it is present and when it is absent.  Great spiritual church leaders are capable in modeling servanthood and in teaching others to have the spirit of servanthood. 

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ {law of love}” (Galatians 6:2).

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

The second primary purpose of every servant of God is to bring forth fruit.

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you {vocational calling as believer-priests}, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain:  that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give if you” (John 15:16).

“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Romans. 7:4).

Our individual vocational calling of God as believer-priests should be taken very seriously (whatever our spiritual gifts might be).  To be a believer-priest is to be the voice of God in this world.  Believer-priests represent God to the world.  This is the emphasis in the word “ambassador” in II Corinthians 5:17-21.  All believer-priests are commissioned to speak the Word of God.  In other words, we are to be the voice of righteousness and the voice of appeal in calling the world to repent.  

“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure:  for if ye do these things, ye shall never fail” (II Peter 1:10).

II Peter 1:10 is not referring to salvation, but to ministry.  Your “calling” is God’s invitation to minister on His behalf.  Your “election” is God choosing you to do that ministry.  When God commands us “give diligence to make your calling and election sure,” He is telling us to hurry up in our efforts to insure that our ministry has good footings, or solid theological foundations.  The insurance of never failing as God’s ambassador is making sure we speak to others what God has spoken in His Word.  We must sow the right spiritual seed if we are to reap the spiritual fruit that God wants produced. 

“12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out {work on to the finish} your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you {through the indwelling Holy Spirit} both to will and to do of his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights {as stars in outer space} in the world {the greater the darkness, the greater the need for light}; 16 Holding forth the word of life {as a lamp; this is what creates the light}; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain” (Philippians 2:12-16).
The eternal destinies of millions of souls depend upon our faithfulness to our calling as priestly ambassadors of Jesus Christ.  Messengers are useless if they never proclaim the Message that they are sent to give.  People cannot respond to a message that is never delivered.  Even God cannot bless something you never do.  The central reason so few are coming to Christ to be saved is because very few invitations are being given.  We cannot wait for the lost to come to us.  The whole purpose in sending ambassadors is for us to GO to the lost with God’s invitation of redemption. 

“13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things” (Romans 10:13-15)!

All believers serve as priests before God and have a priestly ministry under the direction of our High Priest Jesus Christ.  Our calling (like Paul’s) separates us from living for the things of this world and separates unto preaching the good news of God’s salvation in Christ. 

Perhaps one of the greatest perversions of Christianity was the early development of the division of the church into clergy and laity.  The word laity simply refers to all people who are not priests or ministers.  The very use of the term laity is misleading.  No one who understands the priesthood of the believer should ever use the term.  This misunderstanding results in an ungodly outcome where only certain special people in local churches are supposed to do the “work of the ministry.”  This is an absolute aberration and corruption of the doctrine of the Church.  God expects every believer-priest to be equipped doctrinally and matured spiritually so as to be able to do the “work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). 

“18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5:18-19).

“24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul” (Matthew 16:24-26)?

“4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. 11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God” (I Peter 2:4-16).

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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