May 23, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – 2 Timothy 1:9 (NRSV)
[God] saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.
The Bible reveals that we have a “holy calling.” Does that mean we’re all supposed to become priests, nuns, pastors, or missionaries? No, not necessarily. Our calling is holy because it comes from a holy God. It is unlike any other summons we receive in life because of its source (God) and because of what it offers (relationship with God through Jesus Christ). In a unique way, God has called us to himself and to serving others in his name.
Today’s devotion is part of the series God’s Transformational Calling.
Imagine that you’re a parent of a young woman who has gone off to college. You don’t see her in person for several months, but you keep in touch via the usual digital platforms. Your daughter mentions that she has had a powerful experience of God while at college, which is both a great relief and a great joy. When she comes home for the Thanksgiving holiday, she announces at the dinner table, “I have a holy calling.”
How would you respond to this? What would you think she meant? If you’re a Roman Catholic, you might wonder if your daughter has plans to become a nun. If you’re a Protestant, you might suppose she wants to be a missionary or a pastor. No matter your religious tradition, you might even worry for a moment that your daughter had joined some kind of cult. I expect that if I had heard something like this from my own daughter when she was in college, I would have been curious, puzzled, and perhaps elated and a bit worried. I surely would have wanted to hear more about her “holy calling.”
The phrase “holy calling” appears in the Bible just one time, in 2 Timothy 1:9. There, the Apostle Paul refers to God as the one “who saved us and called us with a holy calling [klēsei hagiai].” The context makes it clear that this holy calling is part of God’s work of salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul is not referring to his particular calling to be an apostle, as in 1 Corinthians 1:1, for example. Rather, he is talking about that calling which all who respond favorably to the gospel receive when they are summoned into relationship with God through Christ. When a person says “Yes” to the gospel, choosing to trust God’s grace in Christ, that person has a “holy calling.”
What makes this calling holy? Biblical scholars aren’t sure about this. Some believe that a holy calling is God’s summons to holy living. The translators of the NIV, for example, actually render the phrase we’re studying, “saved us and called us to a holy life” instead of going with the more literal “saved us and called us with a holy calling.” Other commentators observe that the calling is holy because it comes from a holy God. Surely the source of our calling helps to explain its holiness. But I wonder if Paul uses the unusual phrase “holy calling” to emphasize the uniqueness of the calling we receive from the Lord. Remember that the Greek word for calling, klēsis, was a common word meaning “invitation” or “summons.” Greek-speaking Christians in the first century had lots of “callings” in this sense. But only one was uniquely special because only one came from God and led to a life lived in relationship with God.
Once again, it’s important for us to note that all Christians have a holy calling, including you. It isn’t something reserved for priests, nuns, pastors, and missionaries. God has summoned you through the gospel into a relationship with him and into a life of kingdom service. So, if your collegiate daughter or anyone else ever says to you, “I have a holy calling,” you might happily respond, “That’s fantastic. So do I.”
When did you first sense that God was calling you into a relationship through Jesus Christ?
When did you first respond to this calling?
How does the call of God to you make a difference in your daily life? In your work? Your relationships? Your dreams for your future?
When you receive an ordinary invitation, sometimes you are asked to RSVP, which comes from the French phrase meaning “Please respond.” Today’s devotion focuses on the extraordinary invitation you have from God, the summons into a relationship with God through Christ. Take some time to consider how you have responded to this invitation in the past. Thank God for calling you and for helping you to respond in faith.
Gracious God, thank you for calling me into a relationship with you and into your service. Thank you for helping me to hear and respond to your summons. Thank you that my salvation does not depend on me, but on you, on your grace, love, and calling.
Help me, Lord, to take seriously the “holy calling” I have from you. No matter what I am doing today, no matter who I’m with, no matter how I’m feeling, may I live this day as one who has been summoned by a holy God. May your holy calling inspire me today to live fully for you in every circumstance. 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: Cultures Can Persist for Generations (2 Timothy 1:1–2:13; 3:10–17)
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, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Thanks Mark. I received my calling from God aged 22, the year after I left university. By His grace I’ve been serving Him for the last 19 years.