Our Calling and Our Election

“Ye are called in one hope of your calling.” —Ephesians 4:4

OUR theme text, an excerpt from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, is one of only ten scriptures which refer to the ‘calling’ of God. From this reference we learn only that there is a calling, by God which is ‘the one hope’ of those who share the call. Paul’s second letter to Timothy gives us additional information: “God hath saved us and called us with an holy calling … according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (II Tim. 1:9) From this scripture we learn that this is a holy calling, and that God had planned it even before the world began. The following verse tells us what is God’s objective in sounding the call: “Jesus Christ hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.”—vs. 10

Notice that there are two concepts mentioned to which Jesus brought light, or clarity. First: life (involving the resurrection of the dead to life on earth); and Second: immortality (meaning something very different!) The calling by God taking place during this Gospel Age offers a very few an opportunity not only for life, but for immortality—a condition where death is an impossibility. This offer reaches us through the Gospel, the Good News, preached by Jesus Christ at his first advent, and reaching us through the pages of the Holy Bible.

In Philippians, the Apostle Paul uses the expression ‘high calling’: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14) This is the only text in the King James’ Bible which uses the expression ‘high calling’. In this instance, Paul had just indicated that he wanted to share Christ’s sufferings in order that he might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (vss. 7-13) From these words we conclude that the prize of the high calling is not to be attained in this life, but in the life to come. This prize, we are told, is immortality!

In another letter of the Apostle Paul he addressed the Hebrew brethren in this manner: “Wherefore holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling …” (Heb. 3:1) Here again, it is evident that the calling has to do with a heavenly reward. Just as Jesus died and was raised to a new life in heaven, so others have been called to live as he did, and to receive the heavenly life he received. But it requires labor and dedication on the part of those who are called; success is not guaranteed. “We are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” (Heb. 3:14) So the objective of this calling is a future life in heaven, to be partakers of Christ, receiving immortality—the same life he has received.

John equates possession of this objective as being sons of God. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear [“not yet hath it been made manifest,” Rotherham] what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear [or, when it is “made manifest,” Rotherham] we shall be like him [God], for we shall see him as he is.”—I John 3:2

During this Gospel Age there is only one calling: to be sons of God. There is not one calling to be sons, another to be servants, and still another to be the Lord’s kingdom representatives on the earth. If we have heard and responded to God’s call, let us never forget how precious it really is.

Saint Peter wrote, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (II Pet. 1:4) This marvelous promise makes sure our receiving the prize of divine life—the very highest form of life in the universe. But Peter went on to state in his letter that these promises are conditional; we are expected to develop certain godlike characteristics: faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Then he adds, “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.”—II Pet. 1:10

Here Peter stresses two thoughts: a calling; and an election. The calling is our nomination to this office—which precedes the election. The election follows at a later time. We accept the calling, or nomination, when we present ourselves as a living sacrifice in full consecration to God. Any who have taken this step of consecration have already made their calling “sure.” But we know that nominees for earthly offices do not get elected simply because they have accepted nomination. They must run for their posts; and so must we as Christians, attempting to make our election “sure.”

Our Lord Jesus told us that “many are called but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14) The word ‘chosen’ comes from the same Greek root as the word Peter used, and which was. translated “election” in II Peter 1:10. Those who respond to the calling of God and carry out their covenant of sacrifice faithfully unto death, make their election, or selection, or choosing, sure. Jesus’ words indicate that many hear the call but do not accept it. Those who do respond have, in their very response, been selected by God to become his sons. This new standing remains constant unless these called ones fail to make their election sure, and are judged unfaithful. We could paraphrase Matthew’s words by saying, “Many are nominated, but few are elected.”

Running for office as a political candidate in some ways approximates the course which a Christian must follow to be successful in his election. Political hopefuls spend their money and all their time, energy and efforts, endeavoring to insure their election. They attend rallies emphasizing their goals and objectives to all who will listen. Candidates who foolishly run half-heartedly are seldom if ever elected.

However, our run for office in the spiritual realm is quite different in many ways from that of electoral candidates in the world. Jesus’ instructions to his disciples were, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24) Denying oneself is not easy, and it becomes harder when you have more of this world’s goods. Consider the young man who went to Jesus inquiring what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ reply was, “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”—Matt. 19:21,22

When the choice is between treasure that can be seen, and treasure that is invisible, it seems that the decision is difficult. The rich young ruler wanted to be ‘elected’ to eternal life without running for office! In this case, he did not even make his calling sure. But there were others who heard the conversation between the young man and Jesus. Peter asked the Master, “We have forsaken all and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” Jesus replied, “Every one that hath forsaken houses or brethren or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or land for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”—Matt. 19:27,29

The parable of the wise and foolish virgins is a lesson given to us by our Lord, which clearly indicates that not all who are called make their election sure—not everyone who has been nominated is elected. We quote from Rotherham’s translation:

“Then will the kingdom of the heavens become like unto ten virgins, who taking their torches, went forth to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were foolish, and five prudent. For the foolish, though they took their torches, took not with them oil; but the prudent took oil in their vessels with their torches. Now the bridegroom delaying, they all became drowsy and were sleeping. And at midnight an outcry bath been made: ‘Lo! the bridegroom! Be going forth to meet him!’ Then arose all those virgins and trimmed their torches. And the foolish unto the prudent said, ‘Give us of your oil, because our torches are going out.’ But the prudent answered saying, ‘Lest once by any means there be not enough for us and you, be going rather unto them that sell and buy ‘for yourselves.’ But as they were going away to buy, the bridegroom came, and they who were ready went in with him into the marriage-feast, and the door was locked. But afterwards came the other virgins also saying, ‘Lord! Lord! open unto us!’ And he answering said, ‘Verily I say unto you, I know you not.’ Be watching therefore, because ye know neither the day nor the hour.”—Matt: 25:1-13

In this parable, all who were waiting for the bridegroom were virgins. In the Scriptures a virgin pictures a pure person, separated from the world—one who has dedicated his life to serve only the Lord. Virgins represent those who have made their calling sure. Although all the waiting ones are called virgins, and all have torches, there is a crucial difference between them: one group planned for the future; the other did not.

All the virgins awakened and heard the cry, “Behold the bridegroom!” The still sleeping world (not shown in the parable, however) heard nothing. Each virgin had a lamp, or torch, picturing light from God’s Word. Only after the announcement of the bridegroom’s presence is made does the difference between the two groups of virgins become obvious. Five possess oil for their lamps; five do not. The oil is a beautiful picture of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of the truth—the spirit of consecration. Paul said we have this treasure in earthen vessels. (II Cor. 4:7) Those who have an abundance of the proper spirit go into the marriage. Those who are empty, do not.

The events of this parable cover a long span of time. Over one hundred years have passed since the cry went out, “Behold the bridegroom!” and this cry is still being proclaimed. Some virgins have been prepared, and have passed beyond the veil into the joys of the heavenly kingdom. Others have not been made ready; at their death they do not enter into those joys.

Is the ‘door to the high calling’ closed at this time? Although this phrase is not a Biblical expression, there is no doubt that the idea came from this parable. After the prudent virgins went in to the marriage feast, the King James’ Version says, “The door was shut.”

Does this door represent the opportunity to present oneself to God in consecration to run for the prize of the high calling? This cannot be the correct meaning of the thought represented by the shut door, since all were virgins—they had already answered the call affirmatively by presenting their hearts and lives to God, dedicating themselves to the doing of his will.

Of course, the offer of the “high calling” will come to a close when its objective has been accomplished. When 144,000 individuals have been conformed to the image of God’s dear son, and when they have laid down their lives as he did in death, and when they have been resurrected in his likeness, having made both their calling and their election sure, the heavenly calling will cease.

Until that time this call still goes out. That is why we continue to see some who respond to this call, presenting themselves in consecration, and showing every evidence of spirit begettal. It does not seem likely that God would bring anyone to the point of understanding the high calling, its responsibilities and privileges, and then reject that individual’s presentation of himself as a living sacrifice.

The Scriptures reveal to us when the opportunity to become joint-heirs with Christ will cease to be offered. And this time has not yet come. “Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Rom. 11:25) Today Israel as a nation is still blind. They do not recognize Christ as the provider of their redemption—their Messiah. This means that the full number of the Gentiles—the church class—have not yet “come in.” Israel’s blindness will be removed only after the church has been completed.

John wrote, “Behold I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.” (Rev. 3:8) We can be rightly skeptical if any man tells us that the door of opportunity to become sons of God is closed, because it is the Lord who set the open door before us.

The door of the parable pictures what happens at the death of each one who has consecrated himself to God. One individual goes through the door into the marriage; another does not. The final words of the parable tell us, “Be watching therefore, because ye know neither the day nor the hour.” No one knows the day nor the hour when death closes one’s own personal door of opportunity to serve God. We must be servants who take advantage of every opportunity while it is still day.

So we conclude that there is a real difference between our calling and our election. Our calling is made sure when we present ourselves in consecration to God. Our election is only made sure after we faithfully carry out our covenant of sacrifice. During this age there is only one calling: to become sons of God and thus to partake of God’s nature. There are no secondary callings.

Because we’ see evidences of spirit begettal in those who have newly entered the narrow way of sacrifice, we know the door to the high calling is not shut. And it will not be closed until every member of the church class has died and passed beyond the veil into glory, and until blindness has been removed from Israel.

“We constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name, of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”—II Thess. 1:11,12, NIV

Dawn Bible Students Association
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