August 22 – Calling


Series Intro (in case you missed it last week)
As you read through the Bible you’ll notice that salvation is described with a lot of terms. To be saved is to be adopted by God (Eph. 1:5), to be justified before him (Rom. 5:1), to be in the process of sanctification (2 Cor. 3:18), to be destined for eternity with him (2 Cor. 5:18), and more. And notice that not all of that occurs at once; though a Christian has already been justified (cleared of guilt before God), they are in the process of sanctification, and will one day be glorified in his presence. Theologians call these different steps the order of salvation or ordo salutis, but saying it in Latin makes you sound like a snob.

There are a couple different ways you can break down this order, but our series will progress through it this way:

  • Week 1 – Predestination
  • Week 2 – Calling
  • Week 3 – Regeneration
  • Week 4 – Repentance and Faith
  • Week 5 – Justification
  • Week 6 – Transformation
  • Week 7 – Glorification

That’s right, week one we’re coming in hot with predestination. You’ll notice the order is somewhat chronological, starting with God’s actions in eternity past, predestination, and ending in our eternal future, glorification. All the steps in between, weeks 2-6, happen at the point of someone’s conversion; God calls us out of darkness and into the light of the gospel (1 Pet. 2:9), and all of a sudden we’re made alive (Eph. 2:4), we accept Jesus’ work in faith (Eph. 2:8) and repent of our sins (Acts 2:38), we’re made right with God (Rom. 5:1), and the Holy Spirit indwells us to transform our hearts, minds, and affections (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; John 16:13). Though, to be fair, transformation has both an initial aspect in our salvation and an ongoing aspect in our sanctification, which progresses through the rest of our life.

Our hope for this series is that from seven points of view we’ll see the panoramic grandeur of God’s work in salvation, and that we’ll leave with at least seven reasons for being utterly, eternally grateful for God’s loving kindness towards us in Jesus. Ephesians 1:3-14 tells us the ultimate purpose of salvation is to the praise of God’s glory (Eph. 1:14). And may we finish knowing that God sent Jesus into the world to save sinners, such that 1. we proclaim God’s infinite goodness for saving our poor, needy souls and 2. we are full of every hope that he desires the salvation of our lost neighbors, coworkers, and friends too.

Passage Intro
Last week we looked at God’s eternal decree of salvation, in which God chose the church before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). This week we start to look at the intersection between God’s work before your life and God’s work in your life. Before you were ever born, God pre-loved you and sent his Son to redeem you. But when God calls you within your earthly life, eternity pierces time and God beckons you out of spiritual death and into life with him. As described in the Series Intro, regeneration, repentance, faith, etc., all follows in the moment of conversion, but this week we’re just looking at “calling” which is God’s initiation of your salvation.

We can think of this like a divine summons. God, the Almighty King of the Universe, quite literally orders us out of death. Think of his actions in creation (Gen. 1), when all God had to do was say the word for light to appear, for the sun and moon to coalesce, and for the waters to teem with life. God is so powerful he can effortlessly bid uncreated matter into existence. Or think of his interactions with the likes of Abraham, Moses, Samuel, or others. God came to Abraham and said, “Go into the land I will show you.” And Abraham did (Gen. 12). God called to Moses from the burning bush and said, “I will send you to Pharaoh.” And Moses went (Exo. 3). When God calls someone, they are never the same.

So turning to 1 Peter 2:9-10 we’ll look at some of the aspects of this divine call, especially what happens because of it. We’ll see that God takes us out of darkness and into his light, making us into a special people for his possession. When Peter describes us as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” he’s pulling that language out of Exodus 19:6, which is after God liberated Israel from Egypt but right before he gives them the law. So we can even understand our calling in salvation through the story of the exodus, in which God came into a kingdom of darkness and liberated a people in order that they may live in his Kingdom of light.

This sort of sovereign, effective call is perfectly in line with what we looked at last week with predestination. We are by nature dead in our sin and unable to choose God, so God chose us. Similarly, we are unable to summon ourselves out of spiritual death, so God must speak the word. So, while we’ll start our discussion in 1 Peter 2:9-10 to look at some of the aspects of God’s call, we’ll turn to the story of Lazarus to see an example of God’s call. With Lazarus we have an example of physical resurrection, but the parallels to our spiritual call and regeneration are quite clear. Jesus speaks the word and Lazarus comes back to the land of the living, his death and decay instantaneously transformed into life and wellbeing. As an aside, as I describe this you can see how intertwined calling is with regeneration. That’s because when God speaks things are bound to happen. For example, at creation it’s almost impossible to speak of God’s creative commands without immediately looking at the fulfillment, because the only thing that separates “let there be light” from “and there was light” is a comma.

Lazarus’ story should also help us see the tone of God’s call. As much as it’s a divine summons, God’s voice is filled with compassion. Every person who is summoned by him is his enemy, dead in sin and enslaved to rebellion, so every single time he calls someone it communicates his inordinate mercy. That’s one thing we can never forget about calling—the called can never gloat over their calling because everyone starts out in the same place. We aren’t called because of our goodness but because of God’s grace (2 Tim. 1:9). Remembering our own conversion stories can help us keep God’s grace fresh in our minds. And then finally, we aren’t called to sit around and revel in our calling. We’re called to call. Mysteriously, God is interested in carrying out his purposes in salvation through the ministry of average people like you and me, so one of the last things Jesus did on earth was commission his disciples to go make other disciples. God calls people through all sorts of means, through them picking up the Bible, hearing a song, or facing some tragedy, but the most consistent means is faithful gospel testimony, through people telling their neighbors and coworkers and friends about the good news of Jesus. God can use a simple conversation, maybe even one you hadn’t planned on having, to pierce the temporal with the eternal.
Questions for Discussion
• Would someone read 1 Peter 2:9-10 for us?

• What stood out to you in this passage?

• How does this passage describe salvation?

• Could someone read John 11:17-44 for us?

• How does the story of Lazarus help us understand what happens when God saves someone?

• In the process of salvation, think of “calling” as a divine summons. Think back to last week; why do we need this divine summons?

• Not everyone experiences salvation the same way, but if you experienced this sort of “divine summons,” what was that like for you?

• How does God call others to himself through us?