The Grand PUrpose of the Eternal Spirit (4)
Our High Calling
In Romans chapter 8, the inspired Apostle describes the providentialoperations of God in the believer’s life:
“… we know that all things work together for good to them that loveGod, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28)
In considering the Grand Purpose of the Eternal Spirit therefore, we need to address the way in which believers are “called” according tothat Purpose. The Calling is “unto his kingdom and glory” (1 Thes. 2:12), and is therefore essential to any hope of salvation inthat glorious kingdom.
THE WORD “ECCLESIA”
Christadelphians have long called themselves “ecclesias” and not“churches,” and for good reasons. The word “ecclesia” reflects the grouping of those who are called out from the world ofdarkness into the glorious inheritance of the saints in light. The word “church”, as well as being used of theinstitutions of the apostasy, has a different meaning. In his book Eureka, Brother John Thomas addresses this point, which we reproduce for the benefit of our readers:
“In the rendering of the original before us I have not translated theword ekklesiai, but simply transferred it. It is generally rendered churches; but this word does not express the ideas of ecclesia. Churchis a corruption of kuriake, which signifies “pertaining to a lord.” The Anglo-Saxons took the first and last syllables of the Greek word, askur-kef which they spelled Circe; but which is more obviously shown in the Scotch kirke; both of which are equivalent to the modern EnglishChur-ch. “Something pertaining to a lord” is the etymological signification of the word; and although, in a certain sense, anecclesia is something pertaining to a lord, and that lord the Lord of heaven and earth, yet the ideas of property and lordship are notcontained in the word ecclesia. This is one reason why in this exposition of the Apocalypse we reject the word church as therepresentative of ecclesia.
Another reason is, that ideas are conventionally associated with theword which are altogether unscriptural. Ecclesia never signifies in the Bible “the place which Christians consecrate to the worship of God;”nor does it signify such collective bodies of “professors of religion” as pass current for Christians in and with the world, under the various“names and denominations” of “Christendom.” These, and many other ideas associated with the word church, such as churchman, church-warden,church-attire, churchyard, churching of women, and all such papistical foolishness, are altogether foreign from the scriptural use ofecclesia. In order, therefore, to get quit of all the rubbish we exclude church from our Apocalyptic vocabulary, and hold on to the wordused by the apostles. We have therefore transferred it in our rendering without translation. Still, as an expounder of the word of truth, it isour duty to make the word ecclesia perfectly intelligible to the unlearned reader; for we write principally for the benefit of such.
ECCLESIA, then, is a word compounded of ek, “out of,” and klesis, “a call, or invitation.” Hence an ekklesis, is “an invitation to come out;” and the assembly of people convened in consequence of their acceptance of the invitation is an ecclesia. This is the etymology of the word, which is also in agreement with its scriptural constitution which we shall briefly explain …
… Now when men and women became Christians after the apostolic fashion,(and this is the only way of any account,) they became members of “the Ecclesia of Chiefborns.” They were addressed in the apostolic epistlesas κλητοι kletoi, “THE CALLED,” or invited, “of Jesus Anointed;” as “made holy in Jesus Anointed, called Saints,” or holy ones; as “thefaithful in the Anointed Jesus;” as “the faithful brethren in an Anointed One;” and as “the Ecclesia IN God the Father, and IN the Lord,Jesus Anointed.” They, being in the Deity and in the Anointed One, and the anointing being in them, were a manifestation of Deity in flesh;and were addressed by Paul, saying thus, “Ye are all Sons of Deity in the Anointed Jesus through the faith: for as many as have been immersed into the Anointed, have put on the Anointed. There is (in him) neither Jew nor Greek; there is (in him) neither slave nor freeman; nor isthere (in him) male and female: for ye are ALL ONE in the Anointed Jesus: and if ye be the Anointed’s, then are ye the seed of Abraham,and Heirs according to the promise”—Gal. 3 : 26-29.
From these premises, then, it is evident that an Ecclesia is acommunity of men and women, who have accepted an invitation to the kingdom and glory of the Deity; in believing the promises andtestimonies concerning the kingdom and name of Jesus Anointed; and in being immersed into him: by which faith and obedience they have been“washed from their sins in his blood; and made kings and priests to the Deity, even to the Father;” and so separated from the body of mankindfor the Age to Come. The Ecclesia of Chiefborns is, therefore, not the Kingdom of God, as church, in the clerical sense, is styled; but it isthe community of the HEIRS of the Kingdom; and every one knows, or ought to know, the difference between the heirs of an estate, and theestate itself.
From these premises, the reader will readily perceive that thedistinction existing between church in the usual acceptation, and ecclesia as defined above, is not fanciful, but real and important. Thechurches of the Gentiles are not ecclesias. They make no pretensions to be such, according to the definition I have demonstrated. The membersof the churches, judging from their prayers, extemporized and printed, are not saints, but “miserable sinners.” This is the designationimposed upon themselves by the most pious of the most exquisitely orthodox establishments. Thus the evangelical divines, who lead the stereotyped devotions of the Fabers, the Flemmings, the Elliots, the Crolys, the Bickersteths, and McNeils, send up their voices to heaven,saying, “Lord, have mercy upon us miserable sinners!”
The Ecclesia of Christ, then, comprises those who have been called untothe kingdom and glory to come. Hence, they are “the called of Jesus Christ”, being “called to be saints” (Rom. 1:6-7), and “calledunto the fellowship of his [i.e. Yahweh’s] Son.
HOW ARE MEN AND WOMEN CALLED?
Messiah himself declared:
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him:and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every mantherefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (Jno. 6:44-45).
According to the Saviour then, the calling is not some nebulous woolly feeling that a person has been specially selected, but is based uponthe premise of being “taught of God”. Everyone who hath learned of the Father comes to the Son, thus demonstrating that thecalling is a call of learning and knowledge—not in the academic sense, but the consequence of the Gospel being received andunderstood. This being so, Paul explains this, saying to the Thessalonians that
“ … God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation throughsanctification of the Spirit and belief of the Truth: whereunto he called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our LordJesus Christ” (2 Thes. 2:13-14).
The Gospel then, is the agent by which men and women are called. The preaching of the Word is the medium by which theGospel is brought to them, for “how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without apreacher?” (Rom. 10:14).
THE TESTIMONY OF PETER
This theme extends through the Epistles of Peter thus:
“… ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out ofdarkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9)
“ … ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Pet.3:9)
“ … him that hath called us to glory and virtue …” (2 Pet. 1:3).
“… give diligence to make your calling and election sure … (2 Pet. 1:10)
From these references, we learn that responding to the Call:
- Will take us out of spiritual darkness
- Will cause us to inherit a blessing
- Will make us virtuous and glorified
But all this depends on our making our calling and elections sure, by responding favourably to the call that is made to us.
CALLED AND CHOSEN
The question arises from time to time, as to why certain people are called, but not others. “What is so special about me that Ihave been called, but seemingly better people have not been called?” But this misses the point that there is a differencebetween calling and choosing. According to Messiah, “many be called, but few chosen” (Mat. 20:16). The calling in itselfis not a choosing. The Parable of the Sower (Mat. 13:3-23) illustrates the point: the seed of the word is sown in all kinds ofmen’s hearts, with varying conditions and responses. This is the calling going out: as we saw earlier, the Apostle described howthat we are called “by our Gospel” being preached. The calling goes out to men and women, and it is their free will to decidehow they will respond to it, if at all. Israel of old, as a nation, did not answer the calling:
“… when I called, ye did not answer” (Isa. 65:12, see also 66:4)
“… I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not;and I called you, but ye answered not” (Jer. 7:13, see also 35:17).
“… as they [i.e. the prophets] called them, so they went from them”(Hos. 11:2).
The issue then, is not why certain people have not been called—the calling and command goes out to all men who are preached to: “at the times of ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). The issue is rather, why do certainfolk refuse the calling. “the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him” (1 Cor.2:14). This is the underlying reason why people do not respond in large numbers to our preaching efforts: the fault is withthem, not the quality of the Word being preached. As per the parable of the sower, the seed is the same Word sown in all kinds ofmen’s hearts: the different responses do not depend upon the method of sowing, but the seed is received differently based upon the conditionsof the hearts that receive it—or not, as the case may be.
Sometimes, the issue is raised on how we can make our preaching relevant to the 21st Century. Because there are so few whorespond, the question is asked “What are we doing wrong?” But the way of life is a narrow passage, not designed to accommodate themultitudes. “narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Mat. 7:14). Although thereappears to be fewer responses to the calling than in previous ages in some parts of the world, that is a sad reflection of the decline insociety, and not because the preachers are at fault. Rather to make the Gospel message “more relevant” to the degenerate age inwhich we live, men and women need to make themselves more relevant to the Word of the Kingdom being preached to them, in order to be savedfrom their sins.
Revelation chapter 17 describes Messiah, with those who will be selected to be with him:
“ … He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with himare called, and chosen, and faithful” (Rev. 17:14).
These are the qualities of those who will be glorified with their Messiah: both called, and chosen, as well as being faithful.
In his Epistle to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul speaks of “the high calling of God in Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:14). Again, thewriter to the Hebrews speaks of the believers being “partakers of the heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1). It is a calling to higher,Divine things, seeking “those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). Aspiring toheavenly things, the believer will depart from sheol beneath (Prov. 15:24), ascending his thoughts to become like those of his Maker (cont.Isa. 55:8-9), seeking to develop the Mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5). The call goes out to all men to whom the Gospel ispreached, but the Divine Choosing will depend entirely upon whether or not we receive the word into good and honest hearts, or reject it,favouring the lure of the flesh instead.