God’s Will and the External Call
“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty” (v. 3).- Acts 6:1–7
Our study of how we can know God’s will has thus far emphasized the importance of seeking to live our lives according to God’s revealed will. We do not and cannot know what the Lord has ordained for the future, but we can discern those things that He finds pleasing in themselves (Deut. 29:29). Thus, as a general rule, we may choose whatever will facilitate our Creator’s intent for all of His people, namely, their sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3–8). Of course, when it comes time to make a decision and select between various options, we may find ourselves with several good choices. We are thinking here in particular of choosing our vocations, and as we have seen, we should seek the sense of internal calling that the Lord gives to His people. God grants the desire for pastoral ministry to those whom He calls to that work (1 Cor. 9:16; 1 Tim. 3:1), but there is good reason to believe that He does the same for other vocations. If we have a burning desire for a particular lawful vocation, that is often a clue that we should choose that vocation.
Yet, the inward sense of calling is not enough to be determinative. Our hearts are fallen and can deceive us (Jer. 17:9). It is all too easy to fool ourselves into thinking we are called to something when we have not been given the gifts to carry out that calling. We may also be motivated by the wrong reasons to choose something that is itself good.
To address these realities while evaluating potential candidates for pastoral ministry, the church has also spoken of the need for an external call to ministry. When a man believes that he has a call to preach and teach, other Christian leaders must confirm it. They are to weigh the gifts and disposition of the potential candidate for ordination in order to help him discern if he has actually been called by the Lord to full-time vocational ministry. The laity also plays a role here in affirming the abilities of the man who believes he is called to ministry. We see the dynamic of the external call in today’s passage, wherein the early church was exhorted to select men from among the congregation for the diaconate (Acts 6:1–7).
As is the case with internal calling, it is also reasonable to expect that the Lord extends an external calling for other vocations. If we believe ourselves called to a particular vocation and no one else agrees, then it is possible that we should be looking for our calling somewhere else.
No matter our vocation, we should expect some kind of external confirmation that the vocation we desire is actually for us. Furthermore, we should be honest with friends and family regarding their vocations. We do not serve people well when we affirm their sense of internal call and yet it is obvious that they do not have the skills or aptitude for the vocation in question.
Passages for Further Study
1 Samuel 16