Saturday, May 28, 2016

Church of God Youths Ask, How Do I Know If I Am Called?

In about two weeks the Church of God will be observing Pentecost. Like all of God's annual holy days and festivals, Pentecost is rich in meaning.

One of the things Pentecost reminds us of is that the Church of God is the firstfruits of God's spiritual harvest. Only the few are called to salvation in this age. The vast majority of mankind will not be called to salvation until the millennium or the white throne judgment. This is a truth we have in the Church that most traditional, mainstream churches of this world do not have.

To be converted, we need God's calling. He has to intervene in our lives to help us understand the truth, to open our minds, and to grant us repentance (2 Timothy 2:25).

Being aware of the teaching of the Church on this subject, some prospective members may ask, "How do I know if I am being called?"

This question probably is more common with young people growing up in the Church than with outsiders who come into contact with the Church through the television program or magazine or Internet. Most outsiders who learn the truth seem to understand that they are being called or they would not be able to understand and believe the truth. I remember when I first came into contact with the Church that this question, "Am I being called?", never came into my mind. Rather, when I understood the Bible and yet had conversations with family members and others who could not understand the Bible, the doctrine of only the few being called helped me to understand why others could not accept the truth.

This doctrine helps us understand that the world as a whole is deceived and cannot understand, believe, and obey the true gospel.

But young people growing up in the Church of God may sometimes struggle with this question. I think many of them perceive that they may have familiarity with the truth, even believe it, because they grew up in it, and they question if this automatically means they are being called. This question may arise also because human nature may want an excuse to disobey God's commandments, maybe an excuse to marry outside the Church of God, and someone might think, "If I am not being called, I don't have to obey now. I can do what I want, then in the white throne judgment I can repent and be saved".

The doctrine that most in this age are not called, but only the few who are the Church are called, is based on a number of scriptures, and if you search the Bible with a concordance or a Bible software program for the words "call" and "calling", you will find many of them.

I have listed many of these scriptures at the end of this post for those who want to do further research.

But the main scripture that I think is the heart and core of this doctrine does not use the word, "call". It uses the word, "draw".

"Jesus therefore answered and said to them, 'Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day' " (John 6:43-44).

We know that salvation can only be through Jesus Christ. Yet, no one can come to Christ unless God the Father specifically draws that person to Christ.

Here are a couple of other important passages about being called.

"Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:38-39).

"For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called" (1 Corinthians 1:26). Those last words "are called" are in the italics in the New King James Version, so they are not in the original - they are understood and added by the translators to make the passage more clear. Nevertheless, it seems appropriate because the word "calling" at the beginning is in the original.

The Bible teaches that in this age most people are not being given their chance for salvation. God is allowing the vast majority of mankind to be deceived by Satan for 6,000 years. After that, Satan will be put away and Christ and the saints will rule the earth for one thousand years. During that time, no one will be deceived by Satan and everyone alive at that time will be called. Then comes the white throne judgment during which all who have every lived and died without being called will be resurrected and will have their chance to understand the gospel, believe, repent, and be saved.

These things are proved by many scriptures which I will not take the time to quote in this post, and God's whole plan for the salvation of mankind is illustrated by the weekly Sabbath and the annual holy days and festivals.

So everyone will have a chance to be saved. Everyone will be called at one time or another. The vast majority of mankind are not called in this age but will be called later. But a small minority, represented as firstfruits by Pentecost, are called in this age.

If you are looking for scriptures that will help you determine if you are being called or not, you won't find much directly related to "calling". You can find evidence that the world as a whole is deceived, so if you understand the truth, that is a good indication you are being called.

But the intent and thrust of scriptures that talk about our calling is not for the purpose of someone trying to figure out if they are being called.

In fact, if you want an excuse to disobey God, you won't find it in the Bible. God never gives a scripture that even hints that you are off the hook, even though you know the truth, because you are not being called.

Scriptures about our calling and God's plan of salvation help us to understand why we "get it" but the world does not. They help us understand why our friends and relatives in the world cannot understand and believe and obey the plain scriptures in the Bible even when we explain it to them. They also help us understand God's truth that God is merciful and fair and He will give everyone a chance for salvation. And they help us understand our need to deeply appreciate our calling and not treat it lightly. They help us to understand that if we reject our calling, we've "had it" as they say.

But not once do I find any passage in the Bible that says, here's how to know if you are called, and if you are not called, you don't have to obey God.

In fact, the Bible has a very clear emphasis from beginning to end to all who read it: Believe and obey God!

So if you want something to "get you off the hook", you won't find it in the Bible. That is not why God teaches us about our calling.

Yet, there is an answer to the question.

How can you know if you are called?

The clearest verse on the subject of calling is the one I quoted in the beginning: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44).

This is important because it clearly states the IMPOSSIBILITY of anyone not drawn by God, "called" as many other scriptures word it, to really come to Christ to be saved.

Yet, in this verse is the key to knowing if you are called by God. Even so, it won't get you off the hook.

Suppose I show you a large box in my basement, maybe about two feet long and a foot wide. It might be a wooden box. You don't know what is in it. It is sealed.

"Can you lift that box?", I ask.

"What's in it?", you reply.

"I'll tell you later. But first, tell me, can you lift it?"

"I don't know, without knowing what's in it. It might contain tissue paper or lead bricks for all I know."

Then I say, "Find out if you can lift it."

So you try to lift it. And you lift it. Now you know you can lift it.

Are you called? The question can be rephrased, "Can you come to Christ?", because that is how it is worded in John 6:44. Can you come to Christ? Can you come to Christ with all that is included, which is faith, repentance, baptism, conversion, obedience, overcoming, enduring to the end, and anything else the Bible teaches?

Can you do it?

There is only one way to find out. Do it.

If you are able to do it, God has called you.

But if you think you are not able to do it?

Be careful here. You are not your own judge. If you give a half-hearted effort, and then say, "I can't do it - it's too hard", does that mean you are not called? Not necessarily. For it is God who judges you and not you yourself. He knows if He has called you. He knows if you could have done it had you tried harder. He knows if you are really rejecting His calling and trying to justify yourself by telling yourself, "It's too hard, I can't do it so I am not called. I will live as I please and repent in the white throne judgment".

In that case, the way you will find out that God really called you may be that you will wake up in the lake of fire and not the white throne judgment. Then you will know.

It isn't just those who are converted and then fall away that will be in the lake of fire. Anyone who has been called but rejected the call will die the second death also, from which there will never be a resurrection.

If a person really cannot come to Christ, God knows He didn't call him, and God will be merciful and give him one chance in the white throne judgment. But that is God's decision, not yours or mine.

God did not give the Church of God the "calling" doctrine in the Bible so some can have an excuse to disobey and not respond to the truth they are given.

We are responsible for what we know. "And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:47-48). The many stripes and few stripes represent varying degrees of punishment. For those who reject God's calling in this age and do not repent before this life ends, those "many stripes" may represent the lake of fire, the ultimate punishment.

Asking the question, "Am I called?", or "How do I know if I am being called?", is perfectly natural and normal, especially for a young person growing up in the Church of God. But biblically, they are the wrong questions, or at least not the best questions. Better to ask, "What does God want me to do?", and "How do I know God's will?", and "How can I better obey God?", and "What does God command me in His word, the Bible?". Another good question can be, "Am I ready for baptism?", and this is a question that a minister can help you answer.

Don't worry about being called. Prove God exists. If you need help, talk with your parents or someone who has proved it or a minister. Get as much help as you need. Prove the Bible is inspired by God and is God speaking. Again, get wise help if you need it. Then commit yourself to believe and do all that God says and read the Bible to live by every word of God. And when you want to be baptized, counsel with a minister. If you are not ready, he can advise you what you should do. But before and after baptism, strive every day to obey God the best you can in every thought, word, and deed.

Then you will not have to find out the hard way that you were called but you rejected the call and kidded yourself by making the excuse, "It's too hard, I can't do it, so I must not be called".

God's message in the Bible is not, "Obey Me if you are called". God's message from beginning to end is, "Obey Me and you will live and be blessed, but if you disobey Me you will be cursed and will die".

Solomon sums it up. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Make up your mind now that you will do the best you can to prove God's existence and that the Bible is God speaking, then commit yourself to obey Him completely, and spend the rest of your life living up to that commitment. That is the best course of action you can take. If you do that, you will see the happiest outcome in the long run.

Here are some scriptures that use the word "call" or "calling" if you want to do further research:

Acts 2:38-39
Romans 8:28-30
Romans 9:23-24
Romans 11:29
1 Corinthians 1:9
1 Corinthians 1:24-26
1 Corinthians 7:17-24
Galatians 1:6
Galatians 5:8
Ephesians 1:17-18
Ephesians 4:1-4
Colossians 3:15
1 Thessalonians 2:12
1 Thessalonians 4:7
1 Thessalonians 5:24
2 Thessalonians 1:11
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
1 Timothy 6:12
2 Timothy 1:8-9
Hebrews 3:1
Hebrews 9:15
1 Peter 1:15
1 Peter 2:9
1 Peter 2:21
1 Peter 3:8-9
1 Peter 5:10
2 Peter 1:2-3
2 Peter 1:10-11
Jude 1-2
Revelation 17:14
Revelation 19:9


Editor said...

Hello author;
I read your latest post and have concluded that you may have left out something.
Perhaps you reasoned this out--or whatever--but the fact is there is another aspect of this and that is those who are called but not chosen. (Matt.20:16 & 22:14)
Many are called but reason within themselves they are not yet ready to follow, as the rich young man who went away sorrowful because he was not ready to give up his wealth. (come out of the world)
He was being called but did not respond to that calling. such a person may reason that they are not really being called, when in fact they are willfully ignoring their calling.
Editor said...

I agree. Those who are called but refuse the call may fall into the category of those who are called but not chosen, and the rich young man may be an example of this. Those who are called but not chosen may also include those who at first respond to the call but fall away later, or those who lose out because they neglect their calling and fail to overcome.

tig1 said...

But isn't it true that the calling is the Gospel itself. The parable of the sower and the seed points out that many hear the word, but only those with fertile soil bear good fruit, and become the chosen. Rev 17:14 tells us the called, chosen, and faithful will return with Christ. said...

Yes, that may be true. The term "call" or "calling" can mean different things in different contexts, just like many words. For example, in the Bible the word "law" can refer to different things depending on the context in which it is used. Sometimes it refers to the spiritual law of God (Romans 7:12). Other times it can refer to the first five books of the Bible, the books of Moses, as in the phrase, "the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12).

In a sense, sometimes "call" or "calling" may refer to the gospel itself. Yet it often seems to refer, not only to the hearing of the gospel, but the opening of the mind to understand the gospel and the drawing of one to Christ that John 6:44 refers to.

Consider this passage: "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence" (1 Corinthians 1:21-29).

This is not just referring to the hearing of the gospel, for the wise according to the flesh, the mighty, and the noble have heard the gospel as well as the weak and the small, but not many of the great of this world have had their minds opened to understand and be able to believe the gospel.

Notice that in verses 23 and 24 Paul contrasts the reaction of the Jews and Greeks who are not called with those who are called. To the Jews who hear the gospel but are not called, that is, their minds are not opened by God and they are not drawn to Christ as John 6:44 talks about, the part of the gospel about Christ being crucified is a stumbling block. And to the Greeks who hear the gospel but are not called, it is foolishness. But those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, that is, the Jews and Greeks who both hear the gospel and are drawn by the Father to Christ, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

So Paul is showing a contrast here between Jews and Greeks who hear the gospel but who are blinded and those who hear the gospel and are able to respond to it. It is that second category that Paul refers to with the term "calling" when he says, "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called". said...

Also, the Church of God uses the terms "call", "called", and "calling" in the sense of not only hearing the true gospel but being able to understand it and God opening our minds and drawing us to Christ as John 6:44 talks about. That is the meaning of the term for us because it is the way we commonly use the term - words derive their meaning from the ways they are used.

Actually, in most Church sermons and sermonettes I have heard over the years and Church of God articles I have read, John 6:44 is the main scripture used to back up our doctrine about calling, and that verse does not even use the word "call" - it says "draw". And drawing us to Christ involves more than just the hearing of the true gospel. This world is blinded by Satan and most people who even hear the true gospel are not able to understand it and believe it.

So we use the term "call" to refer to those cases where a person not only hears the true gospel but has his or her mind opened to understand it and believe it and is drawn to Christ, and that is the way the Bible also often uses the term.