Summary: Examining God's purpose and work in redeeming a people for His glory.

“Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” [1]

God saved us and “called us to a holy calling,” according to the Apostle’s testimony. The concept of “a holy calling” suggests several possibilities. For instance, is the Apostle suggesting that the calling is holy? Or does he mean that we are called to that which is holy? Is the Apostle speaking of himself and Timothy? In that case, he would be suggesting that those in vocational ministry, and only those in vocational ministry, have a “holy calling.” Is the concept broader than that, encompassing all believers? In that case, then believers need to be encouraged to view their life and service in a light that is quite different from what most appear to have assumed. And these are only the first questions to arise from this portion of the Word!

Clearly, the meaning of what the Apostle wrote can be significant for believers. Since the Word of God is inspired by God, and since no portion of the Word of God is superfluous, it should follow that the answer will be worthy of careful consideration. Therefore, I invite you to join me in exploring what the Apostle wrote concerning “a holy calling.”

GOD SAVED US — I will focus on the eighth verse in a future message. Today, I want to jump ahead and focus on this ninth verse. It is not that suffering is insignificant or that we should run from suffering, rather, when we suffer we need to remain focused on who we are and what God has done for us. Therefore, though the order for considering these two verses is reversed in my presentation, there is a rational behind my decision.

Christians who are called to suffer will be sustained by the power of God. The God who sustains us in our suffering is the same God who saved us. In light of this knowledge, let’s focus on God and on the salvation He provides. We who are Christians know there is a God. Moreover, we know that God delights to receive all who come to Him in the manner He has provided. This essential truth is not necessarily popular nor is it well-received in contemporary society. In popular thought, good people go to Heaven—they deserve to go to Heaven. Of course, because they are good, and because “good” is defined by our standard, almost everyone goes to Heaven. Only those whom we have decided are unworthy of Heaven will be excluded.

Our standard sets a rather low bar for going to Heaven; this is apparently so in order to ensure that no one’s feelings will be hurt—we are very sensitive about injuring delicate feelings. Tragically, this attitude has become regnant in contemporary society, even insinuating itself into the life of the churches. However, the promise of salvation is exclusive. The Master has warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” [MATTHEW 7:21]. Surely you will agree that this is quite a stern warning against presumption. Here is a precept to hold in your mind: Good people do not go to Heaven; redeemed people go to Heaven.

Jesus continued by delivering a strong warning against presuming against the Holy One, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” [MATTHEW 7:21-23]. Surely an impartial reading of the words recorded lead readers to understand that Jesus does not anticipate that “good people” go to Heaven. In fact, He states rather emphatically that there will be many—many—claiming to have performed great signs and miracles in His Name who will be excluded from the presence of the Lord God!

Immediately before He spoke of the exclusion of many from the precincts of Heaven, Jesus had warned those listening, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” [MATTHEW 7:13, 14].

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