A Call to Ministry

Many fine Christians believe in a call to ministry.  I have often been asked whether I am called to ministry myself.  What does the Bible say about such a call?

I wonder if the idea of a call comes from the call of prophets in the Old Testament.  Isaiah and Jeremiah were called to be prophets; Saul and David were called to be kings.  However if this is where the idea comes from it would be on very shaky ground!  We must read the Old Testament as fulfilled in Christ (Luke 24:44-46).  The kings and prophets are types of Christ, not us.  We are not kings and prophets; we are like the normal Israelites.  We need to move from the Old Testament to us in application by a two stage process, not a one stage process.  A one stage process jumps from the Old Testament straight to us in application, bypassing Jesus and the gospel.  Many errors result from such a reading of the Bible.  A two stage process moves from the Old Testament to its fulfilment in Jesus, and only then to us.  I do not believe that the call of kings and prophets in the Old Testament applies to us.  These calls apply to Jesus (and perhaps the apostles).

Broughton Knox says: “It is better to speak of “being sent” than of “being called” when speaking of the Christian ministry. “Calling” is a status concept, and in the New Testament refers to being called to be a Christian, called into God’s presence. Then God send us out, he sends us as labourers into his harvest…”[1]

In the New Testament we are called to be holy (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 2 Timothy 1:9); we are called into fellowship with Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:9).  In short, all Christians are called: called out of darkness into light, called to salvation (1 Peter 2:9).  There is no verse that I am aware of that speaks of being called to be a minister.

Why is this important?  It is a good idea to use Biblical words in a Biblical way.  We should not use Biblical words in an un-Biblical way, however much it may be accepted in our own Christian circles.

My hope is that all of us who are Christian will serve Christ in holiness all the time.  Some of us may leave secular work and serve in church or on the mission field full time.  But we are all called to serve Christ in holiness all the time.  If you are a Christian, then you are called to ministry!  You might keep your day job, or you might leave it.  But either way, you are called to be a Jesus-person all day every day.


[1] [D. Broughton Knox Selected Works (ed. T. Payne; volume 1; Kingsford, NSW: Matthiasmedia, 2000), 351.]

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