A few weeks back a blog was posted that did a word study on the word ”elect”. I decided that it might be helpful to post another word study on a word that is often talked about with election. The word we are going to look at today is the word “calling” and how it is used in the New Testament. This study is not intended to give you big answers, but is to be used as a tool for your further study.
(1) The verb “to call” (kaleo) is used some 147 times in the New Testament. It has a variety of meanings.
The word is used 72 times with the connotation ”to name, to designate as, to appoint to be.” This is seen, for example, in Matthew 1:21: “And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”
Another 25 times it is used in a way that means “to summon, invite, appeal,” and on occasion can have the more forceful meaning, “to command.” In this sense it does not have a direct applicaiton to salvation. For example, “Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared” (Matt. 2:7).
It is used 7 times in the four Gospels where salvation is the context. In each case it means “to summon, to invite.” Of these seven, in four cases the summons or call is clearly resistible or ineffective (Matt. 22:3,4,8,9) and in three it is ambiguous (Matt. 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32). In two other texts (Heb. 11:8; Rev. 19:9) the word again means “to invite, to summon,” with salvific import.
In 3 texts the word is used with the sense “to appoint” or “to call to some task or vocation” (1 Cor. 7:17,20; Heb. 5:4).
The usage with which I hear the most disscustion about is with the verb “to call” when used as a metaphor for God’s sovereign and effective action of bringing a person into a saving relationship with Jesus. There are 31 times when this seems to happen. Twenty-four are in the letters of Paul: Romans 8:30 (twice); 9:11,24; 1 Cor. 1:9 (called into fellowship with Christ); 7:18 (twice),21,22 (twice),24; Gal. 1:6 (called by the grace of Christ),15; 5:8,13 (called to freedom); Eph. 4:1,4; Col. 3:15; 1 Thess. 2:12; 4:7 (called in or for sanctification); 5:24; 2 Thess. 2:14 (called through the gospel); 1 Tim. 6:12 (called to eternal life); 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 9:15; 1 Pet. 1:15; 2:9 (called out of darkness into light),21; 3:9; 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:13.
(2) The related noun “calling” (klesis) is used 11x, nine of which are in Paul’s letters.
In one text it refers to a profession, a job or life’s work, or possibly your status or place in a society (1 Cor. 7:20).
The other 10 times it refers to the calling of the elect in a salvific way. We are to walk worthy of our calling (Eph. 1:18; 4:1,4; 2 Thess. 1:11). Our calling is high (or upward, Phil. 3:14), holy (2 Tim. 1:9), and heavenly (Heb. 3:1). See also Romans 11:29; 1 Cor. 1:26; 2 Peter 1:10 (in which calling is almost synonymous with election).
(3) There is another noun (kletos) often translated “the called,” that is used 10x, again largely in Paul. In Matt. 22:14 it is used of a resistible, ineffective summons to salvation. Twice Paul refers to himself as one “called” to be an apostle (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1). Believers are “the called of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:6), “called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2), and “the called according to God’s purpose” (Rom. 8:28). See also 1 Cor. 1:24; Jude 1; Rev. 17:14.
I hope that this gives you some insight and understanding on this complex word. Use this as a tool for further study and exploration into the depths of God.