Summary: Does our calling affect our choice of career? It may, but not necessarily. It’s interesting that Paul directed the Corinthians to remain in the calling in which they found themselves when they came to faith in Christ (1 Cor. 7:17–24).
Can God Use Me?
Nowadays people often speak of a “calling” to signify a career that one has made a lifelong passion, a vocation to which one feels deeply committed. In a similar way, many people use the term “calling” in connection with vocational Christian work. For instance, members of the clergy often describe their “call” to the ministry, a conviction that God has led them into that particular career to accomplish certain work for Him.
Hebrews tells us that all of us as believers partake of “the heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1). What exactly does that mean? The Greek word translated “calling” comes from kaleo-, meaning to call, invite, or summon. The word and its derivatives are used often in the New Testament. There is no single, definitive discussion of calling, but we can gain a fuller understanding by looking at some of the ways in which this subject is treated. For example, calling is used in connection with:
• An invitation to classes of people for salvation (Mark 2:17; 1 Cor. 1:9, 24; 2 Thess. 2:13–14).
• An invitation to individuals for salvation (Gal. 1:15–16; 2 Tim. 1:9).
• A summons to a Christlike lifestyle (Eph. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:12).
A Summons to Faith and Obedience
It is the sense of identification with Christ and with other believers that Hebrews emphasizes when it calls us “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1). Christ became human like us (2:14, 17) in order that we might become like Him—alive, free from sin, and holy.
One overriding theme for all of these treatments of calling is that the call of God is a summons to people to come to Him through faith in Christ and to live as servants of His kingdom. Thus, salvation from sin and obedience to God are at the heart of what “calling” means in the New Testament.
A Higher Calling?
Why, then, did the idea of calling come to be connected with vocation? One reason is that Scripture records God calling individuals to particular tasks. Paul, for instance, said that he was “called” to be an apostle (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1). This has led some to propose the idea of a “general call” to all believers but a “special call” or “higher call” to certain believers for specific assignments, notably the “full-time” gospel ministry.
However, there is little evidence that Paul saw his calling chiefly as a “higher calling.” Rather, he viewed himself mainly like any other believer, called by God to salvation and obedience. However, that calling had important implications for his vocation, because the Lord made clear from the start of Paul’s walk with Christ what He wanted Paul to do: “He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Henceforth, Paul regarded himself as “called to be an apostle.” But the emphasis should be on the word called more than the word apostle.
Every Christian shares that same basic calling with Paul, as his opening words to the Romans demonstrate. He began the letter, as was his custom, with the greeting “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). But the opening sentence (which is unbroken in the original Greek) goes on to say “among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ” (1:6, emphasis added). The word “also” indicates that the Roman believers’ call was basically the same as Paul’s. They were not all apostles, but they were all “called of Jesus Christ.”