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Grace Notes

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A HOLY CALLING
by Philip Owen

            We noticed last week that the believer has a calling from God unto salvation.  Identified (in Ephesians 1:18) as “his [God’s] calling, it is more than a mere invitation that may be accepted or rejected by the recipient.  When God issues this call, the sinner infallibly responds in repentance and faith and becomes a redeemed member of the New Testament church of Jesus Christ.  Since it is God who does the calling, it should not surprise us to learn the nature of that calling:  He has “called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (II Tim. 1:9).  Let’s note several truths concerning the fact that the believer’s calling is a holy calling.

            1.  It is “not according to our works.”  The fact that this calling is “holy,” tells us right out of the box that it is not rooted in human merit.  God has not saved us because we were good in absolute terms, nor even in relative terms—that is, better than someone else.  God calls one kind of person and one kind only:  a sinner who is by nature at enmity with Him, who is a rebel and lost, who is not seeking after God, and who deserves nothing but the frown of God’s eternal judgment.  In short, the calling suggests no superior morality and no better nature in the one called than in anyone else. 

            2.  It is “according to his own purpose and grace.”    The fact that this calling is “holy” informs us that it originates in the will (“purpose”) and nature (“grace”) of God.  Man could no more devise and implement this plan than he could create the universe out of nothing.  God alone could conceive and achieve such a plan.  The fact that it is according to “his purpose” emphasizes the reality that God exercises His sovereign will in every aspect of this calling:  whom He calls, how he calls, and to what purpose and end He calls.  Man is not at liberty to take this salvation and run with it.  It is not left to his reason, his imagination, nor his will to do what he wants with his salvation.  All is according to God’s purpose.  The fact that it is according to his “grace” underlines the truth that the recipient of the call has received an undeserved favor from God.  He is the recipient of infinite blessing and the inheritor of infinite obligation.

            3.  It is “an holy calling.”  The Bible knows nothing of a salvation that delivers a sinner from the penalty of hell, gives him a ticket to heaven, and then says:  “Do what you want until you get there.”  A good portion of God’s purpose in issuing this holy calling is to create a body of people who will refuse sin, deny themselves, resist the devil, reject the temptations of the world, and live like righteous citizens of heaven.  Paul says as much to the church at Philippi, when he exhorts them to “be blameless and harmless [“innocent’], the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (2:15).  God does not view salvation as mere “fire insurance.”  Both its immediate and ultimate objects are to produce children of God, people who bear the character of their Heavenly Father.  The calling of God includes a change in nature that transforms the character, separating a hell-bent sinner from sin and unto God.  It is a radical thing that God intends with this holy calling, so that believers live as aliens here, as pilgrims and strangers on earth, as people with a different citizenship, a different culture, different values, different objectives, different desires, and different goals from earthlings.  God’s holy calling makes the believer seem strange (not in a weird but in a holy way) to the world and the world strange to him.

             That God would choose to set us apart to and for Himself and, in so doing, deliver us from sin and its judgment and then pour out upon us the infinite tokens of His love is the marvel of this holy call.

 

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