Romans 1:1-6, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:…”
In the English language there are some words that contain multiple definitions. A word could have the same exact spelling and yet mean something totally different when used in various contexts. For an example, let’s consider the word “flush”. Consider how the word flush can mean something different if you were speaking to a card player, a plumber, a quail hunter, or a carpenter. Same word, spelled the same way, yet having a different definition when used in a different context or setting. The word “called” in the Bible is one of these words.
When we look up the word “call” or “called” in a dictionary, we will find half of a page or more of definitions. The word, according to the context or setting, could mean an invite or request, or the word could mean a direct summons for assembly. I think any reader would agree that there is a difference in a neighbor calling to make a request for you to visit, versus the Civil Authorities sending men with authority to fetch a person to stand before a Judge. In one case, it’s optional to go, the other is not an option. If you will recall, in 2 Samuel 9:5 when “David sent” to fetch Mephibosheth from Lodebar, it wasn’t optional for Mephibosheth. The men that came to “fetch” Mephibosheth; came with authority and power. It was not an option for him to decline.
When reading the first six verses of the Book of Romans, we find the word called three times, and each time it means something different. For a few moments, let us consider these three:
(1) Romans 1:6, “called of Jesus Christ.” In this particular verse, the Apostle Paul is referencing the direct call to life by the voice of the Son of God. The Lord Jesus Christ’s voice in the context is synonymous with the direct work of the Holy Spirit in the New Birth (John 5:25, 2 Timothy 1:9). Paul is telling these people that he has witnessed enough evidence for him to believe that they had already been quickened from being dead in sins to life in Jesus Christ (born again). When this call came, it was not a request, but a powerful work that could not be resisted. We should never confuse this “called” with the “called” of the gospel to obedience, for this call is to the heart of the elect child of grace, and will always be effectual in its working. Most, if not near all, children of God do not know when this work happened but see and bear witness to the evidence of the direct work of God (for more info concerning the evidence see the “”fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23).
(2) Romans 1:7, “Called to be saints.” In this verse, Paul is referring to the call of the Gospel, or the call of the word of God to the born again child of God to live an obedient life unto their Father which is in heaven. This call is one in which the born again child of God is called upon and instructed to live like a child of grace. In Romans 12:1-2, the Apostle Paul writes, “I Beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of you mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” This call is one which can be refused or rebelled against by the child of grace. As my daddy used to say, “a born again child of God can, and often will, live more like the devil.” Matthew 7:14 says, “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” The “few” in this text refers to the “few” children of God which obey God and enjoy fellowship with Him in this world.
(3) Romans 1:1, “called to be an apostle…” The Apostle Paul in this verse is referring to the call of God on him to be an apostle. Even though the scripture is clear, that there could be no apostle on earth during our present time (according to Acts 1:22 an apostle would be man who was baptized of John and a witness of the resurrection; the Apostle Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 15:8, he was “as of one born out of due time.”), the call of the New Testament ministry has many similarities. The man who is called of God to preach the gospel is, like the apostles, called directly by God. This is not something that a man decides to do one day, or something his family decides for him. The Church and family of God bears witness of this call by seeing the evidence of it in his preaching efforts. Even though the call is direct, it can be rebelled against and disobeyed by the person. There will be consequences to the rebellion, but it does happen.
In closing I would hope the next time you, as a reader, see the word called in the Bible, you would consider the context and setting before coming to a conclusion. And in so doing, you will have a better understanding of God’s Holy Word.