By Charles H. Welch
The Greek word translated ‘calling’ is
klesis, and it occurs in the New Testament eleven times. Those who
receive this calling are denominated ‘called’
kletos, and this too occurs eleven times. Both of these words derive from
kaleo ‘to call’, which is found in the New Testament 147 times. Those who
receive the call of Divine grace, become members of a ‘called out company’ or
ekklesia, which is the primary meaning of the word church. (See article
on CHURCH). Calling is employed doctrinally, as in
Romans 8:30, ‘whom He called, them He also justified’ and has a great place in
the doctrine of grace. We, however, must not allow ourselves in this analysis to
attempt to embrace doctrinal themes as well as dispensational, and with this
passing reference, we turn our attention to the use of ‘calling’ as a term
employed in making known dispensational truth.
We will first of all give a concordance to the word
The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
1 Cor. 1:26.
Ye see your calling, brethren.
1 Cor. 7:20.
Abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
What is the hope of His calling.
Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.
Called in one hope of your calling.
The prize of the high calling of God.
2 Thess. 1:11.
Count you worthy of this calling.
2 Tim. 1:9.
Who hath ... called us with an holy calling.
Partakers of the heavenly calling.
2 Pet. 1:10.
Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.
We can subdivide these references under three headings:
The calling of Israel.
The calling of the Church before Acts 28, and
The calling of the Church of the Mystery.
These three callings differ radically from one another, both
in sphere, constitution and origin. Let us consider each separately.
The calling of Israel
Romans 9 to 11 is devoted to the dispensational problems that
arise out of Israel’s defection, failure and non-repentance. For a complete
analysis of the epistle, the article on ROMANS
should be consulted, here we limit our survey to these three dispensational
Romans 9 to 11
A 9:1-5. Sorrow.
Doxology ‘over all, God blessed unto the ages’ (9:5).
B 9:6-29. REMNANT
saved. Mercy on some.
‘All Israel’ 9:6).
C 9:30 to
11:10. Stumbling stone.
ALL ISRAEL saved. Mercy on them all.
A 11:33-36. Song.
Doxology ‘Of Him ... unto the ages’ (11:36).
The exposition moves from sorrow to song, from a remnant out
of Israel as a firstfruits and pledge, to the salvation of all Israel at the
end. In chapter 9, the apostle enumerates the dispensational privileges of an
Israelite in the flesh, which can be appreciated as it stands, but with much
greater understanding when placed beside the dispensational disadvantages of
being a Gentile in the flesh. The reference to Ephesians 2 which is here made
will be better understood if the reader is in possession of the complete
structure of the epistle, which will be found under the heading
EPHESIANS, p. 275.
A Acc: to the
B Who are
C The Adoption.
D The Glory.
giving of the law.
C The Promises.
B The Fathers.
A Acc: to the
Gentile disability ‘in the flesh’.
A Gentiles. IN THE FLESH.
B Without Christ.
C Aliens ... commonwealth.
C Strangers ... covenants.
B No hope.
A Godless. IN THE WORLD.
In Romans 11, the apostle shows that the failure of Israel
was over-ruled to bring about greater blessing to the Gentile, saying: ‘Now if
the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the
riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?’ (Rom. 11:12). Should the
thought arise in our minds that it is hardly believable that God would save and
use Israel after all that they have done, he says: ‘I would not, brethren, that
ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own
conceits: that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the
Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved’ (Rom. 11:25,26). The
salvation of Israel is entirely removed from the covenant of works and law of
Sinai, and is based upon the New Covenant, as Romans 11:27 shows. The fact of
Israel’s enmity is squarely faced, ‘as concerning the gospel they are enemies
for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’
sakes, for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance’ (Rom. 11:28,29).
Such is the character of Israel’s calling, it is entirely of grace, and arises
out of the electing love of God, merit, works and law being rigorously excluded.
The calling of the
Church before Acts 28
Two passages speak of the ‘calling’ in the epistles written
before the setting aside of Israel at Acts 28, namely 2 Thessalonians 1:11 and 1
Corinthians 1:26. In one passage, the apostle prays that the believer may be
counted worthy of the calling, in the other, the apostle draws attention to the
fact that in this calling ‘not many wise after the flesh, not many noble are
called’ (1 Cor. 1:26), but that all is in Christ Jesus.
To discover the nature of the calling of this period we shall
have to ponder the teaching of the Acts and epistles that cover it. We shall
find, among other features, that it differs from the calling of Israel inasmuch
as those who belong to this company are comprised of
Jew and Greek, and being made ‘all one in Christ Jesus’ they are necessarily
also ‘Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise’ (Gal. 3:27-29). The
calling of the Church during the Acts looks to the promise made to Abraham as
its foundation. This promise includes ‘the Gospel’ preached (Gal. 3:8), the
great doctrine of justification by faith (Rom. 4:3), and the promise of the
spirit (Gal. 3:14). The hope that was entertained by this Church was millennial
in character (Rom. 15:12,13), and was linked with the hope of Israel which
extended right to the last chapter of the Acts (Acts 28:20), which hope was
definitely linked with the ‘Archangel’ and the ‘trump’ of God, and so with the
hope of Israel. (See
There was, however, no equality except in sin and salvation
where there was ‘no difference’ (Rom. 3:22; 10:12), for the Gentile believer was
reminded by the apostle that his position was that of a wild olive graft,
contrary to nature, into the olive tree of Israel (Rom. 11:24), (see articles on
OLIVE TREE and ROMANS
- Provoke unto Jealousy), and that the Jew was still ‘first’ (Rom. 1:16). The
middle wall still stood, and the enmity occasioned by ‘the decrees’ of Acts 15
made it impossible while such a condition lasted that the one body in which
every member was on perfect equality could be revealed (see articles on
The Gentile had been called and blessed during this period, to provoke to
jealousy and to emulation the failing people of Israel. The long-suffering of
God waited for thirty-five years, and then the change of which Paul had warned
them in Acts 13:40 fell.
While the glorious basic doctrine of Redemption and
Justification remains, the dispensational position has entirely changed, and we
must turn to the Prison Epistles of Paul, to learn what calling obtains at the
present time. There are four references which indicate something of the glory of
this new calling.
It is a holy calling (2 Tim. 1:9). The
context supplies the following distinctive features.
This calling is essentially associated with Paul as ‘the
This calling is essentially associated with a period
spoken of as ‘before the world began’ (literally ‘before times of ages’
pro chronon aionion).
To this testimony Paul had been appointed ‘a preacher and
an apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles’.
And this glorious message including both its gospel and
its calling is spoken of as a ‘deposit’, ‘something committed’.
It is a high calling
(Phil. 3:14). The interpretation suggested by some, that this should be rendered
‘the call on high’ as though it were a future summons, has been examined in the
articles entitled ABOVE,
, which cannot be repeated here. Our conclusion can be stated, however, the
passage in Philippians does not refer to a future summons ‘on high’ but to ‘the
high calling of God in Christ Jesus’ here and now. Here, in Philippians, ‘the
Prize’ of this calling is in view, whereas in Ephesians it is ‘the hope’ of this
same calling that is in view. The prize may be won or lost, the hope is
intrinsic, it can neither be won nor lost, it is as much a gift of grace as is
salvation itself. Hope is related to calling in two passages in Ephesians. The
first is in the doctrinal portion, in which after giving ‘the charter of the
church’ (see under
EPHESIANS) in Ephesians 1:3-14, the apostle pauses to make the new
revelation a matter of prayer.
‘That ye may know what is the hope
of His calling’ (Eph. 1:18).
The second is found in the practical outworking of this great
revelation and forms a part of the sevenfold unity of the Spirit (see
UNITY OF THE SPIRIT)
in Ephesians 4:4. ‘There is one body, and one spirit, even as ye are called in
one hope of your calling’. Doctrine - ‘His calling’; Practice - ‘Your calling’;
the same calling seen from two points of view.
The doctrinal portion of the epistle (see
EPHESIANS for structure of the epistle as a whole) opens with the apostle
beseeching his readers that they ‘walk worthy of the vocation’ (calling)
wherewith they had been called (Eph. 4:1), and upon that pivot the whole
teaching of the epistle is balanced. To appreciate the unique character of the
calling we must become acquainted with the meaning and implication of such terms
as ‘all spiritual blessings’, ‘heavenly places’, ‘foundation of the world’,
‘seated together’, ‘mystery’, ‘far above all’ and ‘Prison Epistles’. These
various and wondrous elements of this unique calling can be considered by
turning to articles in this analysis which either bear these titles, or which
evidently include them.