Elbert Anderson was a government contractor during the war of 1812. He purchased goods and resold them to the U.S. government. The good were inspected by two brothers Ebenezer and Samuel Wilson prior to the purchase. Samuel Wilson became known to some as “Uncle Sam”. Purchased good were marked “E.A.-U.S..” The “E.A.” stood for Elbert Anderson. The “U.S.” stood for the United States. However, some jokingly said that the “U.S.” stood for Uncle Sam. Thus, Uncle Sam and the United States government became connected in thought. Uncle Sam posters were made for recruitment purposes in WWI. You no doubt are familiar with the image: An elderly man dressed in the national colors – red, white, and blue, and pointing his finger saying, “I Want You For U.S. Army”. This image was the creation of James Montgomery Flagg, created in 1917.
God Calls Us
Uncle Sam isn’t the only one who calls for recruits. God calls us. Paul wrote, “We are bound to give thanks to God always for you… He called you” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). Peter spoke of “the God of all grace who called us…” (1 Peter 5:10; cf. 2:9-10). Jesus also calls us. Paul wrote, “…you also are called of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6).
To what is it that God is calling us? (1) In this earthly existence, He calls us to: (a) Obedience. Paul wrote, “We have obtained grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations… among whom you also were called of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:5-6). (b) Light. Peter wrote, “(He) called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We are to “walk in the light” (1 John 1:6-7; cf. 2:9-11). (c) Holiness. Paul pointed out that “God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7). The context concerns behavior. Notice “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality (fornication – KJV); that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). We are to “pursue” holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). (d) Fellowship. Paul said, “God called (you) into the fellowship of His son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). This fellowship is conditional (see 1 John 1:6-7).
(2) Ultimately, God calls us to a better life in the hereafter. He calls us to: (a) His Kingdom. “God… calls you into His own kingdom” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). This seems to refer to His kingdom’s existence in the hereafter (cf. Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 4:18). (b) Glory. “God… calls you into… glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). “God… called us to eternal glory” (1 Peter 5:10). “He called you… for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). A glorious existence with Christ awaits (Romans 8:17). A glorious body like unto His awaits (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2). (c) A heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1). This connects with another passage in the same book, “But now they (Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob – B.H.) desired a better, that is to say, a heavenly country. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16). W.E. Vine’s made this observation, “It (kaleo) is used particularly if the divine call to partake of the blessings of redemption (Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words).
How does God call us to these things? Does He whisper into our ear? Does He appear to us in a night’s dream? No. God calls us by means of the gospel. Notice: “He called you by our gospel, for obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14).
God’s call is not without conditions. Peter said, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11). If you do not what things? The answer is the things listed in verses five through nine. God has called us to glory; however, it is upon us to make this calling to glory become the reality of our glory.
God is Calling the Prodigal
God is calling the prodigal come without delay. Hear, O hear him calling, calling now for thee; Tho you’ve wandered so far from His presence, come today; Hear His loving voice calling still.
Come, there’s bread in the house of the Father, and to spare; Hear O hear Him calling, calling now for thee; Lo! The table is spread and the feast is waiting there; Hear His loving voice calling still.
Calling, now for thee, O weary prodigal, come; calling now for thee, O weary prodigal come.”
(Song by Charles H. Gabriel)
A Special Call
It is true that God throughout the Bible called certain one’s to certain works. Examples from the Old Covenant include: (a) Moses (Ex. 3-4); (b) Gideon (Judges 6); (c) Ezekiel 1-3), and many others. Please note: in each case, sufficient evidence was provided to verify the call. Examples from the New Covenant include: (a) The Twelve (Matthew 10); (b) Paul (Acts 9, 22, 26); and perhaps Timothy (1 Timothy 4:14; cf. 2 Timothy 1:6). Again, it should be pointed out that sufficient evidence was provided to verify the call.
Some preachers today, especially in the denominational world, claim to have received a special call. This claim is one which begs many questions. John Waddy has asked a few – “The usual practice is, the man receives his call from God, then the church decides whether or not to license him. This is sheer presumption. If God calls a man to preach, how dare any fallible group of humans to make a man first get their approval and license to do what God specifically called him to do? What if God calls a man and the church refuses to license him?… If a preacher is specifically called of God and appointed, what right has a congregation to… dismiss him? Is it reasonable that God would specifically call preachers into some 2000 different warring denominational groups? Would He call them to preach different doctrines; different plans of salvation…”? (Fortify Your Faith, March 07, 2009)
The real question is, “where is the proof?” God provided Moses with miraculous proof so that Israel “may believe the Lord God of their fathers… has appeared to you” (Exodus 4:5). Don’t expect any proof from them (A careful study of 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4 establishes the fact that miracles ceased with God’s complete New Covenant system being revealed).
There was a test for prophets under the Old Covenant. (1) Their message should not contradict any of God’s previously revealed truth (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). This is true even if any sign or wonder was provided (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). (2) If a prophecy is provided, it should come to pass (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).
Some preachers among us are starting to use this language of being called. (1) Sometimes they mean that they feel a certain nudging with them telling them to do this work. One should be very careful about this. The denominational preachers can make the same claim. (2) Sometimes they say that God provided them with a sign. Marshall Keeble told the story of a young man who saw “GP” in a cloud formation. He took it to mean “go preach”. The father of the son told him it meant “go pick”. They were cotton pickers. (3) Sometimes they mean that God seems to be opening doors and closing others, thereby guiding them. I certainly believe in God’s providence. However, the nature of God’s providence is such that it is behind the scenes. One can’t say for sure that something is God’s providence unless He’s revealed such with words (Esther 4:14; Philemon 1:15).
The evidence of special callings today is lacking; however, we’ve all been called by the gospel to a glorious future in heaven.