The Calling of God
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God” (v. 1).- Romans 1:1–7
The epistle to the Romans was written toward the end of Paul’s third missionary journey. Because Paul had never been to visit the Roman church, his letter is somewhat different from his other epistles. In Romans, he lays out systematically the Gospel that he preaches instead of dealing with particular problems.
At the same time, Romans is not a piece of systematic theology. There was a particular problem in the Roman church, the same problem faced in all the churches during the apostolic age: The relationship of Jew and believing Gentile. Paul’s systematic exposition of the Gospel is designed in part to show that in the new covenant, all believers are in Christ, and in Christ there cannot be any distinction between Jew and Gentile. Against those Gentiles who thought that the Gospel simply meant a shift from few to Gentile, Paul says no: The Gospel embraces both and creates one new church in Christ.
For the rest of this month and throughout June we shall be concerned with major themes in Romans. Today we notice that Paul begins Romans with an emphasis on “calling.” In Romans 1:1 he says that he was called to be an apostle. In verses 5–7 he says that his call as an apostle meant that he was to call Gentiles into the kingdom of God.
There are three senses of calling here. First, there is the call of the Gospel. God calls sinners back to Himself. This is good news, because God might simply have ignored sinners and left them to perish. God’s open and free call to all men is a sign of His good will toward them.
Second, there is the effectual call that is heard by the elect of God. The call of the Gospel is heard by all, and some respond. Among those who respond, some do not persevere but fall away. Those who cleave to God are those who have truly been called by God from death to life. They have been granted to take part in the “first resurrection” as surely as Lazarus was.
Third, there is the call to service. Paul was called to be one of the apostolic church founders, and since the church has been founded once and for all, we don’t look for apostles today. Pastors and elders, however, must be called to God to service. They must sense an internal call, and this internal call must be confirmed by an external call from the church.
Though it is not directly mentioned here, each believer has a call to service. Many have been gifted to labor in the world. Others have been gifted to work with men and women, perhaps in the church. God’s call is a call to serve Him. See that the call of God influences how you live and work at your calling.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 1
1 Thessalonians 2:11–14