It is important that present and new members of the church understand our individual and collective calling from God for our existence and functioning as a faithful and fruitful church of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, I urge you to consider and pursue the following biblical truths concerning our calling as a church.
Church: God’s ‘Called-Out’ People
Church is a group of people whom God has called and assembled as His people through Jesus Christ. This truth is expressed in Paul’s first epistle to the church in Corinth – “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2; cf. Romans 1:7).
Only when members of the church are aware of their call of God and passionately pursue that calling will the church be able to fulfil its calling. Members’ understanding and obedient response to the call of God are paramount to the church’s faithful and effective functioning for the glory of God.
The church is called to belong to God:
The biblical depiction, “church of God” (1 Cor. 1:2; cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:13; and 1 Tim. 3:5), denotes that every local church – like those in Corinth, Ephesus and Galatia – belongs to God. God owns the church, having purchased it for Himself with the blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 20:28). He has given the Headship of the church to His Son, Jesus Christ, who has given His life for her redemption for God’s glory. Paul wrote about the church in Rome that they were “the called of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6). So, no one should ever lord over the church, but Christ. It is not an institution or organisation that should be controlled and directed by human ideologies and fancies which are contrary to God’s revealed purposes in His Word. The church belongs to the LORD God, hence it is referred to as “the house of God” in 1 Timothy 3:15.
The church is called to be an assembly of saints:
The church (in Greek, ekklesia – “the called out ones”) is formed by those whom God has called out of the darkness of sin and the world, to be an assembly of holy people. That is why Paul explicitly speaks of the members of the church that they “are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2b; cf. Roman 1:7). The word “sanctified” (hagiazo) means “to be separated from profane things and be dedicated to God for His use”. It is in Christ that we are sanctified from sin unto God. Christ cleanses us from our sins by His blood and imputes His righteousness to us, that we may be separated from sin unto God for His service. Scripture says, “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). In Ephesians 5:25-26, Paul said, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.”
Paul also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:2 about the congregation of Corinth that they were “called to be saints”. Being sanctified or separated from sin, the members of the church are “to be saints”. The calling of the church is to function as a congregation of saints. The church and its members are summoned by God to live a life of holiness in this wicked world. No organisation or group of people on earth is endowed with a holy calling, but the church and its members. Any member of the church who lives in worldliness and sin without genuine repentance defies God’s call and corrupts His purpose for His church. So, let us cease from every sin and live a holy life that pleases our blessed Master, who loved us and gave His life for our sanctification. Nothing weakens the church as much as the sin of its people. Thus, we must separate ourselves from sin and falsehood. Scripture reminds us again in 1 Thessalonians 4:7 – “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” The Lord has “saved us, and called us with an holy calling” (2 Timothy 1:9). So, let us walk in holiness, in obedience to the calling we have received from the Lord.
The church is also called unto His fellowship:
As much as the church of God is called to be saints, it is also “called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). Likewise, the apostle John wrote: “truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Our fellowship (or partnership) with Christ, the Son of God, must determine every fellowship we have with people or organisations. Our fellowship within the church must also be based upon Christ. In other words, we should not enter into a relationship or fellowship that would dishonour or hinder our fellowship with the Son of God. John warned us: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). Paul also reminded us in Ephesians 5:10-11, “Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Every church member ought to examine himself to see whether his fellowship with Christ is growing more affectionate and profound, or whether it is hindered by sins and worldly friendships and activities.
The effectiveness of a church is very much dependent on the strength of its members’ fellowship with Christ. If church members abide in Christ, the church will be a fruitful one. The stronger its relationship with Christ, the greater is the impact of the church as a witness to the world!
The church is called to be one united people:
In 1 Corinthians 1:24, we read: “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” God has called both Jews and Greeks alike, that they may have Christ as their power and wisdom. In the church, everyone, regardless of ethnic or national diversity, has the same spiritual inheritance. In Christ, every man, whether Jew or Greek, is called to partake of the divine provision of power and wisdom. All believers share in the same spiritual inheritance. Therefore, there is no reason why any true believer should feel that he is less privileged or more privileged than others. We are all joint-heirs with Christ! In Romans 8:17, Paul wrote: “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” Let us therefore regard one another in the church with mutual respect and love. Let us not despise, but esteem one another, and thus keep our unity in Christ for God’s glory.
In 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, Paul dealt with members of the church who were from different classes of society, and taught them how they should live as Christians though God’s providential appointments for them in society vary. He wrote: “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God” (1 Corinthians 7:17- 24). Even though Christians are all one in Christ, each believer should remain in the same calling which the Lord has providentially allotted to him. Jewish believers should not try to become Gentiles (by erasing the physical mark of the covenant), and Gentiles should not try to become Jews (by being circumcised).
A Christian’s past religious, racial or social background and his present vocation are of little consequence in his spiritual relationship with Christ. If the vocational status of a Christian can improve, well and good; if it does not, it is not a matter of concern. What matters is that every Christian should realise that he is Christ’s slave and needs to render obedience to Him. Every vocation then becomes Christian service performed for the Master (cf. Ephesians 6:5-8). A Christian can then live in peace in his calling to whatever earthly vocation, and carry it out as one responsible to God.
In the church, members must hold one another in high esteem (Philippians 2:3; cf. Romans 12:10). No church can prosper if it is not united by mutual love and respect. Selfishness and pride will ruin the church, but a sacrificial spirit and humility will promote its unity and strength. So, may all church members take heed of Paul’s advice in Ephesians 4:3-4, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.” Paul also reminded us, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Colossians 3:15).