Intro: Are challenged by God’s word? If so, how? Many would say that they are challenged by the direct commandments, such as the command to pray, give generously, always tell the truth, use pure speech, love and your enemies. Are you also challenged by the gospel message? Does the good news demand anything from you that is difficult to do? We do not usually think of the gospel story this way.
Let’s read Ephesians 4:1-3I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. These words of Paul introduce us to our sermon theme for 2016. The apostle beseeches (begs) the Christians in Ephesus to “walk worthy of the calling with which they were called”. I chose this as our theme because I am convinced that it is one of the most challenging statements in the N.T. We will not exhaust the implication and applications of this in the course of this year. Here is what we will consider:
Our primary text will be the first 16 verses of Ephesians 4.
|January||Walk Worthy of the Calling (v. 1)|
|Character of the Calling (v. 2-3)|
|February||in Lowliness and Gentleness, In Patience, Bearing with One Another in Love|
|Unity of the Calling (v. 4-6)|
|March||Endeavoring to Keep the Unity of the Spirit|
|October||One God and Father|
|Purpose of the Calling (v. 11-16)|
|November||for the equipping of the saints|
|December||grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ|
I. The Calling: It was difficult to decide where to begin our study. Maybe the best place is to consider the biblical use of Paul’s term here –”the calling“. I have been called by God. Have you?
A. The scriptures describe some who were “called“…
1. In 1 Sam. 3, Samuel was called by God in the middle of the night. He thought it was Eli calling. Eli eventually realized God was speaking, and told Samuel to respond, Speak Lord, your servant hears. I have not been called like that.
2. In Acts 9, the Lord called to Saul of Tarsus on the way to Damascus (“Saul, Saul…”) spoke to him personally about the mission he “called” to fulfill. Later Paul said he was “called” to be an apostle of Jesus. Later saw a vision and concluded that God had called him to preach the gospel in Macedonia (Acts 16:10). I was not called like that.
3. There are many who claim God has called them through a mystical experience, or a vision, or a direct revelation. (Oral Roberts claimed a few years back that a 900′ Jesus appeared to him and called him to collect money for his hospital. Those claims contradict the teaching of the scriptures concerning how God reveals Himself to us today.
4. People also use the term calling in another way. Someone might say, my calling has always been to teach. Or he is so good at his job, it was certainly his calling. We mean by that his vocation fits him, or he fits his vocation. It might be used to denote a compelling feeling or desire to do a job, or accomplish a goal. I have been asked if I was called to preach. My first inclination is to say no, because I know that many envision a mystical or miraculous personal revelation, and I did not get that. But I certainly felt a compulsion to preach. There was a great desire. There was also a sense of great need to do what God commands – Matt 9:37-38 – “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”Do those words call you to do anything? We use the word that way at times.
B. What does the word “calling” mean? The term is fairly common is scripture. The verb “call” and the noun “calling” are described in Vine’s (when used with a personal object) to mean to “call anyone, invite, summon”…. Used particularly of the divine call to partake of the blessings of redemption, or to “to call by a name, to name”; …to bear a name.” Thus it suggests either vocation or destination; the context determines which. (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words). It would seem that the two prominent meanings of the word are a summons, or an invitation. What is our calling? Is it an invitation – where we are invited to come to God. Or is it a summons (as the policeman would issue you a summons to appear – a directive to do something. Does the gospel call demand anything of you? I am convinced that we will see both meanings in our calling.
C. The Origin of the Calling: Not all callings (invitations or summons) are the same. Some are more compelling than others. Listening for my Dad’s whistle (summons). We responded because we knew the origin of the calling. Heb 3:1 – Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,
1. The writer of Hebrews calls the calling a “heavenly calling“. This speaks to its origin. It is the calling of God. Notice how Paul describes it in Romans 1:3-6 – 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; The apostle tells us that God sent His Son to die: His identity was declared to all men through His resurrection, and men were called upon to express their faith through obedience to the revealed message. They were the “called of Jesus Christ”. It was not an accident or coincidence. God planned to call men from before time began. 2 Tim 1:9-10 – Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,
a. Hebrews 12:25 – See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven,
2. How does God call us? How has His plan or intentions been revealed? 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14– But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. This passage settles it. The call of God is the Gospel message. This excludes all visions, mystical experiences, dreams, or intuitions. It excludes any notion that God arbitrarily calls without regard to the freewill choice of men and women to respond. If the gospel is offered to all men, then all men have the opportunity to hear the call of God.
a. Gal 1:11-12 – But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. What does this tell us? The calling of God, that comes through the gospel, is not from men. Paul did not make it up, or even learn it from the other apostles. It came through the Holy Spirit. It is found in the words that God revealed in scriptures.
D. What is the Purpose of the Calling? There is more than one answer to this question. In fact, a comprehensive answer would take more than a single sermon could contain. We will take a deeper look at the purpose of our calling near the end of the year, as we consider the words of v. 12-16. But consider this:
1. A Call to follow Jesus: Jesus’ personal ministry was punctuated with individual callings. He called Peter, James, John, Andrew, Matthew, Nathaniel, etc. These events teach us some important principles about discipleship and commitment. But I also believe that they illustrate the character of our calling – the calling of every disciple to follow. We are called to follow Jesus wherever He leads. He sets the standard. He is the goal of the gospel call. 1 Cor 1:9 – God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Conclusion: The gospel is a summons. It is a directive that compels us to live and act a certain way. This will be our focus throughout many of the lessons of this year. We must walk worthy of the calling. It is a divinely given demand that we follow Jesus in order to receive the blessings of His kingdom. Are you challenged by the calling you have received?
The gospel is also an invitation. Rev 3:20 – Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. If you are not a Christian, God is calling you through the gospel message. 1 Cor 15:1-4 – Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
How should you respond to this calling? – Acts 2:38-39 – 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. 39 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.” NKJV