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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Call, Called, Calling

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These terms in the NT are for the most part the rendering of καλεῖν in its various parts and derivatives (κεκλημένοι, κλητοί, κλῆσις), or in one or other of its various compounds. Among its meanings are invitation (καλεῖν, -εῖσθαι [Matthew 9:13; Matthew 22:3, 1 Corinthians 10:27, Revelation 19:9], προσκαλεῖσθαι [Acts 2:39]); designation (καλεῖν, -εῖσθαι [Matthew 1:21; Matthew 5:9, Acts 14:12, Hebrews 2:11; Hebrews 11:18], ἐπικαλεῖν, -εῖσθαι [Matthew 10:25, Luke 22:3, Acts 1:23, Hebrews 11:16]); invocation (ἐπικαλεῖσθαι [Acts 2:21; Acts 7:59, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 2 Corinthians 1:23, 1 Peter 1:17]); summons (μετακαλεῖν, -εῖσθαι [Acts 7:14; Acts 10:32]).

In the OT a call of God to His servants and His people is part of His gracious dealing with mankind. It was in response to a Divine call that Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), Moses (Exodus 3:10), Bezaleel (Exodus 31:2), David (Psalms 78:70), Isaiah (Isaiah 6:8-9), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:4-5), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:3) and other eminent servants of God entered into covenant with Him and fulfilled the tasks committed to them. Not only was Israel thus called as the people of God, but complaint is again and again made by the Prophets that they refused to hearken and stopped their ears that they should not hear (Isaiah 6:9, Zechariah 7:11-13). The Prophets, moreover, had visions of the day when the Gentiles should be called into the covenant and service of Jahweh (Isaiah 55:4-5). Of this OT meaning examples in the NT are our Lord’s call of His apostles (Matthew 4:21), the Spirit’s call of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:2), the call of the High Priest of the old dispensation (Hebrews 5:4), where a Divine call to special service is given and accepted.

In the Epistles, and particularly in St. Paul, there is found the more definite meaning of the word as the call of God to the blessings of salvation. It is here intimately associated with the eternal purpose of God in human redemption. This is an advance upon what we find in the Gospels. In the Gospels ‘the called’ (οἱ κλητοί) are distinguished from ‘the chosen’ (οἱ ἐκλεκτοί), the former being those to whom the invitation to the gospel feast is addressed, and the latter the more select company who had heard and accepted it (Matthew 22:14). In the Epistles ‘the called’ are ‘the chosen’ (Romans 9:24, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, 1 Peter 2:9, where γένος ἐκλεκτόν are these whom God ‘called out of darkness into his marvellous light’). The κλητοί are the manifestation of the ἐκλεκτοί; ‘of a κλῆσις which does not include the ἐκλογή the Scripture knows nothing’ (R. Seeberg, in Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche 3, article ‘Berufung’). With St. Paul and also with St. Peter, it is more than an invitation, it is an invitation responded to and accepted, and it is so because ‘the called’ are already ‘the chosen’ (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, Romans 8:28).

‘The called’ (οἱ κλητοί) to whom St. Paul addresses the Epistle to the Romans, are ‘called to be Jesus Christ’s’ (Romans 1:6) and they are ‘called to be saints’ (Romans 1:7), the meaning of the word being identical with our ‘converted.’ They are ‘called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28)-God’s electing purpose from all eternity: ‘for whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren: and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.’ ‘The called’ in the thought of St. Paul are ‘the elect’ from all eternity, and their ‘calling’ through the gospel and the means of grace is the realization in time of God’s purpose with them from eternity: ‘that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy which he afore prepared unto glory, even us whom he also called not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles’ (Romans 9:24). This thought of St. Paul’s is also St. John’s. We find it in the Revelation, where St. John pronounces the victorious followers of the Lamb ‘called and chosen and faithful’ (Revelation 17:14, κλητοὶ καὶ ἐκλεκτοὶ καὶ πιστοί)-a description entirely in keeping with St. John’s record of the words of Christ: ‘all that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me’ (John 6:37-38), and His promise concerning the sheep to whom He gives eternal life and whom no man shall pluck out of His Father’s hand (John 10:28). ‘The calling’ (ἡ κλῆσις) is ‘not of works’ but of the sovereign grace of God (Romans 9:11), ‘who saved us and called us with a high calling (ἁγίᾳ κλήσει), not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given in Christ Jesus before times eternal’ (2 Timothy 1:9). The call which thus comes from God is ‘in Christ’ (1 Peter 5:10) and ‘through the gospel’ (2 Thessalonians 2:14), to ‘the fellowship of his Son’ (1 Corinthians 1:9), to ‘freedom’ (Galatians 5:13), not ‘for uncleanness but in sanctification’ (1 Thessalonians 4:7), to ‘eternal life’ (1 Timothy 6:12), to holiness ‘like as he which hath called you is holy’ (1 Peter 1:15). It is, therefore, well designated ‘the high calling of God (ἡ ἄνω κλῆσις τοῦ Θεοῦ) in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:14), ‘a heavenly calling’ (κλῆσις ἐπουράνιος, Hebrews 3:1); and these who are partakers of it are exhorted to make their ‘calling and election sure’ (2 Peter 1:10). For the goal, though predestined and prepared aforetime (Romans 8:28 f.; Romans 9:24), is not attained without labour and conflict; as St. Paul exhorts Timothy; ‘Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on the life eternal, whereunto thou wast called, and didst witness the good confession in the sight of many witnesses’ (1 Timothy 6:12). That ‘the calling’ is to more than a Christian profession is clear from the experiences which St. Paul associates with it; for, if he is ‘a called apostle’ (Romans 1:1), the particulars of his call, which was his conversion, are given when he tells how it pleased God to separate him from his mother’s womb and to call him by His grace and to reveal His Son in him (Galatians 1:15-16). ‘The calling’ carries with it a great hope-‘ye were called in one hope of your calling’ (Ephesians 4:4)-for they that experience it do not only in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, but know that when Christ who is their life shall appear they also shall appear with Him in glory (1 Thessalonians 2:12). For this ‘the called’ are kept (τετηρημένοις κλητοῖς, Judges 1:1); and, many though the adversaries and difficulties be, ‘faithful is he that called you, who will also do it’ (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

The call which St. Paul and the apostolic writers generally have in view exercises upon those who are the subjects of it a grace and a power which are of the Holy Spirit, who, in the words of the Westminster Divines, ‘convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the Gospel’ (Shorter Catechism, 31).

Literature.-Sanday-Headlam, Romans (International Critical Commentary , 1902), 12f., 215f.; R. Seeberg, Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche 3 ii. [1897] article ‘Berufung’; C. Hodge, Systematic Theology, ii. [1872] 639-732; article ‘Call’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ; ‘Call, Calling’ in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels .

T. Nicol.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Call, Called, Calling'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/c/call-called-calling.html. 1906-1918.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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