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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Call, Calling

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Invitation, summons, commission, or naming.

Old Testament Five main uses of call appear in the Old Testament. First, “to call” means “to invite or summon.” For example, God called to Adam (Genesis 3:9 ); Moses called the elders together (Exodus 19:7 ); and Joel gave a command to call a solemn assembly (Joel 1:14 ).

Second, the verb can have the sense of “calling on God,” hence, to pray. We first meet this expression in Genesis 4:26 : “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.” (See also Psalm 79:6 ; Psalm 105:1 ; Isaiah 64:7 ; Jeremiah 10:25 ; Zephaniah 3:9 ).

Third, “to call” is used very often in the sense of naming, whether of things (Genesis 1:5-30 ; day, night, heaven, earth; Genesis 2:19 , the animals), or of persons (Genesis 25:26 , Jacob; Genesis 30:6-24 , Jacob's sons), of a city (2 Samuel 5:9 , the city of David), or of qualities (in Isaiah 35:8 a way and in Exodus 12:16 a day are called holy).

Fourth, God calls by name with a view to service. The call of Moses (Exodus 3:4-22 ) and the call of Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1 ) are good examples.

Fifth, “to call” may be used in the sense of “to call one's own,” to claim for one's own possession and to appoint for a particular destiny. Especially noticeable is Isaiah 43:1 , when the Lord addressed Israel: “I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” This calling of Israel stands closely related to its election (Isaiah 45:4 ). It thus points to the covenant relation in which Israel is called to salvation, is given its name, and has the function of God's witness.

New Testament All the senses found in the Old Testament appear again in the New Testament. The meaning “invite/summon” is encountered principally in the parables of the great banquet (Luke 14:16-25 ) and the marriage feast (Matthew 22:2-10 ). Calling in the sense of naming has special importance in the infancy narratives (Matthew 1:21 ; Luke 1:60 ; Luke 2:21 ). Calling on the name of the Lord is found in a quotation from Joel in both Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13 . The choosing of the apostles can be expressed in terms of calling (Mark 1:20 ). Finally, Christ's people are those whom He has called and who are rightly called by His name (Romans 8:28 ; Galatians 1:6 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:12 ; 1 Peter 1:15 ).

The New Testament refers to the Christian life as a calling (Ephesians 1:18 ; Ephesians 4:1 ; 2 Timothy 1:9 ; Hebrews 3:1 ; 2 Peter 1:10 ). The basic call is to Christ as Lord and Savior; thus, all Christians are “called ones.” It is employed in a comprehensive way to depict what has happened to those who through the Father's love are now called children of God (1 John 3:1 ). However, there are further callings to special ministries (Acts 13:2 ).

The noun “calling” takes on great significance in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. First, there is the goal of calling. We are called to salvation, holiness, and faith (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 ), to the kingdom and glory of God (1 Thessalonians 2:12 ), to an eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15 ), to fellowship (1 Corinthians 1:9 ), and to service (Galatians 1:1 ).

The means of calling is clearly stated as being through grace (Galatians 1:6 ) and through the hearing of the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14 ).

The ground of calling is specifically established in 2 Timothy 1:9 . The starting point for the divine calling is not works but the purpose and grace of God in Christ Jesus.

The nature of God's calling is described as an upward (Philippians 3:14 ), heavenly (Hebrews 3:1 ), holy (2 Timothy 1:9 ) calling. It is filled with hope (Ephesians 1:18 , Ephesians 4:4 ). Christians are urged to lead lives that are worthy of their calling (Ephesians 4:1 ; 2 Thessalonians 1:11 ). Also, they are urged to make their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10 ). Finally, the “called, and chosen, and faithful” are with the Lamb (Revelation 17:14 ) indicating that those whom God called (saved) He glorified (Romans 8:30 ). The stress is on the initiative of God. The one who experiences God's calling can only break forth in praise with Paul: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33 ). See Election ; Predestination .

J. A. Reynolds


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Call, Calling'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/c/call-calling.html. 1991.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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