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Different Callings, Same Purpose -

 

as descri

 

bed in Acts 2:42

God calls everyone to be a part of the church, but to implement his plan for the church he has sometimes called people to perform some very specific tasks. For example, he called Abraham to leave his home; he called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt; he called David to become king. Several of the recorded callings provide us with templates to gauge our own encounters with God: the prophet Isaiah, the Apostles Peter and Paul. Similar patterns in the experiences of each man demonstrate what is appropriate in responding to God’s leading. Although we may not receive the call literally by hearing the voice of God, we are all drawn to God to hear his will for our lives.

In Isaiah 6:1-13 narrates Isaiah’s encounter with God. What he describes reflects similar scenes both in the Book of Ezekiel (chapter one) and in the Book of Revelation (chapter four). When the four living creatures proclaim, “Holy, holy, holy,” Isaiah recognizes his uncleanness and impurity contrasted by God’s presence. He is driven to his knees, but he is cleansed by an act of God. Isaiah’s reaction to the holiness of God illustrates what is normal for humanity in the presence of the divine. The majesty and holiness of God produce a feeling of dread and fear, yet the mercy of God brings about a feeling of trust.

When the call is put forth for someone to speak for God, Isaiah volunteers. Perhaps the natural response to the awesome glory of God and the mercy that cleanses from impurity is one of allegiance. God’s glory creates awe; God’s mercy inspires allegiance. Thus the prophet Isaiah receives a calling and a commission from God to speak on his behalf. His task is not to create understanding (9-10) but rather hardness of heart. This will continue until such a time that God cleanses the land but leaves a remnant (11-12). The rest of the Book of Isaiah testifies to the faithfulness with which he carried out his calling.

Another example of someone who encountered God and responded to his call is in Luke 5:1-11. Peter experiences God although he has yet to recognize that he has been in the presence of God. Jesus instructs Peter to fish when he and his workers have failed all night. The large catch of fish prompts Peter to see that he is in the presence of someone with powers transcending normal human powers. He thus recognizes his unworthiness (verse 8). As in the case of Isaiah, the presence of God strikes fear and awe into his heart.

When Jesus calls Peter to follow him, his response is also based on the power of this encounter. Admittedly Peter has met Jesus before (John 1:42), but this miraculous catch of fish indicates to Peter that Jesus possesses a power which transcends the boundaries of humanity. He can’t but help assenting to the work that Jesus will give him: to catch men instead of fish.

The final example of an encounter with God is the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. Although Paul’s conversion experiences are documented more fully in Acts 9:1-19; 22:6-21; & 26:12-18, his discussion here reflects the task and message he was given to proclaim. It also reveals the humble attitude consistent with both Isaiah and Peter when they were called by God.

Paul’s initial encounters provide us with a glimpse into the drama of a person who must entirely rethink his life. Paul thought he should destroy the movement which proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ until he met Jesus speaking to him out of a blinding light. Three days without food and water after this event gave Paul plenty of time to reflect on the direction of his life and decide that he must obey the heavenly vision. God called him to preach the Gospel.

The 1 Corinthians passage relates the content of that message (15:3-4), asserts that many people witnessed the resurrection (15:6-8), and notes just how hard he worked in response to the calling he received (15:10). More importantly Paul never sees himself as anything other than someone unworthy of the task and the least of all the Apostles. As with Isaiah and Peter, in the presence of God Paul envisions himself unworthy, at the bottom of the ladder.

The feeling of unworthiness perhaps more importantly serves to accentuate the grace and power of God working through him. This same grace and power of God worked in Isaiah and Peter and can be the same grace and power which works in the lives of all who have been called by God. Our encounters with God should also drive us to our knees, generate our allegiance, and cause us to spend our lives in service to him.

Christians have all been called. The church is comprised of all those who have been called by God to serve him and entertain the hope of eternal life. When we look at the fabric of salvation history, we see the lives of those called for particular tasks. When we examine their callings, we understand more fully how our lives also comprise the fabric of history. Our humble response to God’s holiness and our grateful response to his grace are sewing another thread as in a garment. Even if our thread is not as visible as Isaiah, Peter, and Paul, the master weaver can still make a beautiful fabric with the thread of our service. He can sew with us best when we humble ourselves in his presence, accept his merciful cleansing, and commit ourselves to doing his will.