Summary: All believers are partakers of the heavenly calling. Having been called to belong to Jesus, we press on towards the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
I. THE HIGH CALLING OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS
When we are converted, we have a change of mind, a change of heart. Yet this is not only a once-for-all experience, but also an on-going process which will not be completed this side of eternity. We have been changed, we are being changed, we will be changed.
Even a seasoned warrior like the Apostle Paul did not consider himself to have ‘arrived’ (as we might say), but he was casting the past into oblivion and stretching forward to whatever lay in store in the future (Philippians 3:13). He was pursuing the mark, dashing for the goal-line, running towards the tape at the end of the race. He was pursuing the prize - ever onward, ever upward - the heavenly reward of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).
There are two sides to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. “The hope of His calling” in Ephesians 1:18 becomes “The hope of your calling” in Ephesians 4:4. He called us before ever we called on Him.
A. HE CALLED US
God, in His foreknowledge, predestined some out of the mass of fallen mankind to be conformed to the image of His Son. He called them, justified them, and glorified them. He continues to work all things for good in favour of “the called” who love Him.
It is because of the efficacy of this call that Paul, and the believer, can be assured of the affirmations that conclude this chapter. Since God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)? The Apostle points us to the cross, and encourages us to embrace all that God so lavishly bestows upon us (Romans 8:32).
Paul goes on to reassure us that there is no-one to accuse us, because God has chosen us (Romans 8:33). Because God condemned sin in His flesh (Romans 8:3), there is now no-one to condemn us (Romans 8:34): Christ died for us, and the Father accepted the sacrifice of the Son by raising Him from the dead. The Lord is seated at the right hand of God, His work completed (cf. Hebrews 1:3), ever interceding on our behalf.
So, who is about to separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35)?
There is nothing and no-one that can possibly separate us from the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39)!
B. WE CALLED ON HIM, TO SAVE US
We are called to heart belief. Whoever believes in Jesus shall not be ashamed. Whoever calls upon His name shall be saved.
Heart belief is a sincere and personal acceptance of the truth which God has revealed to us. The word of God which is near to us, in our mouth and in our heart, testifies to our inability to keep the law of God. It testifies of our sinfulness.
It testifies that the wages of sin is death, eternal separation from God. It testifies of our need of a saviour. It testifies that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour of sinners, that He laid down His life for our sins and that God raised Him from the dead that we might live in Him.
This faith is not merely an agreement with the facts of the gospel. Even the devils believe in the truth of the gospel. And tremble (James 2:19)!
Sincere faith will lead to public confession of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not an easy confession to make, as the community in Rome will have known. On the one hand, there was the opposition of those within the synagogue: on the other, the civil authorities and state religions which felt threatened by the claims of Jesus’ Lordship.
The confession of faith strengthens the believer. It brings with it the assurance that we are on the side of the victor. It is a clear announcement of intent in the spiritual warfare. It is a challenge to those who hear.
II. CALLED TO BE HOLY
A. CALLED TO BELONG TO JESUS
Paul numbers the saints in Rome with those of all nations who are “obedient to the faith” (Romans 1:5). Amongst all these, Christian believer, you are “the called” of Jesus Christ. This calling is efficacious, and connects us with our Lord Jesus Christ, so that nothing and no-one can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).
B. CALLED “SAINTS”
Paul addresses this epistle to all the beloved of God that are in Rome, "called saints." The verb “to be” does not appear in the original text, so when God calls us “saints” that is what we are: He looks at us through the prism of our association with Jesus, and sees the end from the beginning. Rome was the very hub of the Empire, the capital of the world, the seat of politics, a centre of philosophy and idolatry: it is amazing that, even there, there were those whom God loved, and whom He was calling to sanctification.