As I was reading 1 Corinthians recently, something in chapter 1 struck me. The term ‘called’ or ‘call’ occurs five times in the chapter, which is quite a few—often a sign of something important. It is verse 1, 2, 9, and 24. I’ll include those verses below:
1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: …
9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. …
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (English Standard Version)
(If anyone happens to be interested in the Greek form, three of them are the adjective κλητὸς (verse 1) or the plural κλητοῖς (2, 24). There is also a participle ἐπικαλουμένοις, those who call upon, in verse 2, and then verse 9 has the verbal form, ἐκλήθητε, you all were called.)
Let’s look at these one at a time: the first is referring to Paul, who describes himself as called to be an apostle, a messenger of the Lord. Of all the occurrences in this chapter, this is the only one that is singular. Next, Paul declares that the Corinthian church is sanctified in Christ and called to be saints, meaning separate or distinct, marked as God’s people. Now Paul is not only concerned with the church located in the city of Corinth, but also with those “who in every place call upon the name of the Lord”, which includes all those who look to the Lord for salvation. As we use ‘calling’ today, it is usually only used to refer to God calling us, often in reference to a missionary, but the Bible uses it both ways. Not only does God call us, but part of what defines us as the saints, the people of God, is that we call upon Him as well. God desires that we cry out to Him: for example in Psalm 50:15, God says, “…call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
The nature of what God is calling the Corinthian church to is further elaborated in verse 9. He is calling them into the fellowship of Jesus Christ, which is also characterized as the recognition of the crucifixion as both the wisdom and power and God. For those who are not called of God, the crucifixion is a stumbling block or pure stupidity, but those who are called have access to this miracle of the Lord, that the death of the Son of God is the means of salvation, ultimately resulting in the resurrection and conquest of death itself.
So if you feel that because you are not working as a church planter in some remote region of the word that the language of calling does not apply to you, this passage shows that it is much broader than that, and applies to all who call upon the Lord. God is calling you to holiness, to be separated, and to live a life marked by the crucifixion. This is what the fellowship of Jesus Christ means (in part, there is much more), and since calling is almost always used in the plural this means it doesn’t just apply to you in an individual way, but really applies to the community of Christians, the church. We are not saved to follow Christ alone but with others, growing together. That is the beauty of a true calling.