Calling: Invitation and Summons

By Mark D. Roberts

April 7, 2021

Scripture – 1 Corinthians 1:2 (NRSV)

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.


When God calls us, it’s both an invitation and a summons. God reaches out to us in loving grace, inviting us into his family and his family business. God does not force us to comply. Yet, the one who invites us is also the Sovereign of the universe. His invitation comes with unique authority as we are summoned by the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Today’s devotion is part of the series God’s Transformational Calling.


Recently I received in the mail a letter I was not expecting. I wasn’t especially glad to receive it, either. Emblazoned on the envelope in bright red all caps were the fateful words: OFFICIAL JURY SUMMONS ENCLOSED. The Superior Court of California was summoning me to jury duty.

I had mixed feelings about this summons. Partly, I felt a sense of duty to participate. In fact, several years ago I was the foreperson of a jury and that experience gave me new appreciation for our legal system. Yet, as I gazed at the summons in my hand, I also felt a sense of dread. As much as I want to do my civic duty and serve as a juror, the thought of missing many days of work is a daunting one. My work doesn’t stop when I’m not doing it. It merely piles up higher and higher.

But a summons is not something one should ignore. As the State of California reminded me, “Failure to respond may subject you to a fine, incarceration or both.” A summons carries substantial authority and needs to be taken seriously. So, in a few months I’ll respond to the summons by making myself available for jury duty.

In our effort to make sense of the biblical notion of calling, we’d do well to keep in mind a summons to jury duty. In fact, if you look up the meaning of the Greek verb “to call” (kaleō) in the standard New Testament lexicon, you find these options: to call, call by name; to invite; to summon. The first meaning is like what we do in English when we say, “I’m called Mark.” The other meanings are of greatest interest to us here, however. When God calls, this is a kind of invitation. God doesn’t use his superior power to force us to respond. Rather, God invites us to join his family and his work. He extends this invitation with grace rather than compulsion.

But God’s invitation comes with distinctive clout. Though God does not compel us to accept his invitation, it really is a summons. It comes, after all, from the Sovereign of the universe, the King of kings and Lord of lords. So, in 1 Corinthians 1:2, when Paul writes that the Corinthian Christians – and by extension, we ourselves – are “called to be saints,” he doesn’t mean they have received an invitation they might ignore without consequence. Rather, when we are called by God, we are summoned by the supreme authority. God’s invitation comes with unique clout. We would do well to take it seriously.

As we consider our relationship with the Lord, we hold in tension the way in which God’s calling is both an invitation and a summons. We hear the invitation in so many passages of Scripture, including for example, when Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We hear God’s gracious invitation in Hebrews 4:16 as well, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” At the same time, we rightly understand that God is summoning us to follow Jesus with our whole lives and to live each moment for the praise of God’s glory (Ephesians 1:11-14).

On Monday we’ll look more closely into what it means to be “called to be saints.” For now, let me encourage you to reflect on the invitation and summons dimensions of God’s calling.


In what ways have you experienced God’s gracious invitation? How have you responded?

In what ways have you experienced God’s summons? How have you responded?


Talk with a wise friend or with your small group about your experiences of God’s call, especially in relationship to the invitation and summons dimensions.


Gracious God, thank you for calling us. Thank you for the ways your call comes as an invitation, an offer, a gracious request. Thank you also for summoning us, for waking us up and speaking with authority as you call us.

Help me, Lord, to receive your invitation with grateful openness. Help me to respond to your summons with heartfelt obedience. Amen.

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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Calling of Levi (Mark 2:13-17)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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