God calls all His elect unto salvation, and so we can say that every Christian is called of God. This we read in Romans 8:30 – “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” This call of God comes to God’s elect through the preaching of the Gospel and as the Holy Spirit works in their hearts to convict and convert – “Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:5).
Besides, every Christian also has a calling from the Lord to serve Him (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:22; Romans 6:28; 12:11). For this purpose, the Lord has equipped every Christian with at least one spiritual gift (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7- 11; Romans 12:6-8). Hence, all Christians are urged to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58b).
Though all Christians are called to serve the Lord, some Christians are specially called by the Lord to serve as pastors, teachers, missionaries or other full-time workers of the church. This calling into the full-time ministry is also referred to by some as God’s call unto vocational ministry.
The Scriptures teach us through the life and ministry of God’s servants that an absolute conviction of a divine call into the ministry is a necessity for those who serve Him in various ministries of the church. To help us understand God’s call into the ministry, the Spirit of God scrupulously recorded in the Scriptures, the Apostle Paul’s deep conviction of his divine calling to be an apostle and preacher of the Gospel.
Paul wrote: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). The words, “called to be an apostle”, are very significant because they affirm Paul’s apostleship as divinely ordained. He did not take it up himself but he was called and appointed by God to that office.
In his epistles, Paul asserted his calling in various ways. He insisted unashamedly that it is “by the will of God” or “by the commandment of God” that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; I Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1). There was not a tinge of doubt in his heart that his ministry as an apostle of the church was commissioned by the Lord. So, he wrote in Galatians 1:1 – “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)”.
Even the designations that he used for himself in his customary introductions were a further proof of his deep sense of the divine call he had received to serve God full-time. Consider these designations: “Apostle of Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; I Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1; Tit. 1:1); “Minister of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:16); “Servant of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:1; Phil. 1:1). Truly, Paul saw himself as a man appointed by Christ to do His work. He understood that his commitment was, first and foremost, to Christ, and thus always acted in obedience to the One who had called him into the ministry.
An abiding conviction about his call to the ministry filled Paul’s heart, and it is seen in all his epistles. Paul’s preaching was always characterized by a fresh awareness of the divine call he had received.
Such unswerving conviction about his call to the ministry fashioned him to be a single-minded, devoted, enthusiastic minister of the Gospel. In all circumstances, whether convivial or hostile, preaching the Gospel was Paul’s singular passion. Even when he was bound in chains, he looked for opportunities to preach the Word. So, in Ephesians 6:19-20, he wrote, “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
From Paul, we must learn that the work of the ministry is too difficult and too demanding for any man to enter without a deep sense of divine calling and appointment. Only a man with an unshakeable persuasion that God has called and commissioned him for a task, can be successful in the ministry. Such an understanding of God’s call into the ministry rejects any notion of a self-assumed office in the work of the church. It also prohibits Christians from appointing those who are not called by God into the ministry of the church.
Let us also take note that it is those who are unsure of a definite call from God who leave the ministry, whereas those who are fully persuaded of their divine call and appointment will remain responsible and effective, even in the midst of many adversities.
Has God called you into the ministry? If you are called, your answers to the following questions will be “yes!”
- Do you sense an inward call of God through His Word?
- Do you yearn to be in the service of the Lord?
- Is your desire (or burden) so great that you are prepared to leave your profession to be wholly dedicated to the work of the Lord?
- Is your heart ready to toil assiduously to offer an excellent service to the Lord?
- Do you see yourself as never leaving the ministry for worldly gain but persevering in it?