What we identify ourselves by reveals a lot about who we are. We also draw conclusions about others based on their title or how they present themselves. For example, if someone says, “I’m an engineer,” a particular image pops into our mind. That image may not necessarily be accurate, but it is there. When I’m telling people where I’m from, I often say, “Rural north Alabama.” I didn’t start consciously doing it for this reason, but “rural” does demonstrate that I prefer small town life to that of larger cities.
When it comes to how we identify ourselves with our faith, a similar thing occurs. The name “Christian” is so common and misused, the title loses so much of its significance. However, there is another Biblical term for believers that is so packed theologically. While it may not be something we would introduce ourselves to others by, the title certainly is something we need to baer in mind.
The title I am referring to is that of “the called.” There are several verses that include this, but here’s one example. In speaking of the gospel, Paul says, “But to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). That is the name Paul uses for believers here.
Yet this is not an isolated incident. In various forms (both in English and in Greek), this title comes up throughout the New Testament. For example, Paul addresses his epistle to the romans to those who are “called as saints,” and uses a similar term in 1 Corinthians (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2). Jon says that those who come back with Jesus (i.e. believers) “are the called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).
But this is more than just another label we can slap on ourselves. As I said earlier, “the called” is full of theological—and practical—applications. One such application is our lifestyle. We have been called, and now there’s a particular way we ought to live. Check out Paul’s words in Ephesians:
“Therefore, I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
This is a beautiful passage, and Paul goes on to emphasize the one-ness of our faith. This marks the turning point in the book from theology to application, and he begins by reminding believers they have a calling. In 1 Corinthians, Paul deals with their pride and says, “Consider your calling” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Here, he is speaking of the time they believed, showing how they were not impressive by any worldly means. They were called by God’s grace, and that is the basis for their humility.
And that leads into the major theological implication of this title. “Believer” is an excellent title, as is “follower of Jesus.” They are accurate terms to describe who we are as Christians. But one interesting thing to note is that the titles reflect things we do. We believe and we follow Jesus. When it comes to “the called,” the emphasis is upon the One doing the calling—the Father.
Here is what I mean. Every person who is saved never achieved that on their own. As Paul emphasizes, “By grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5, 8). God is the One who saved us. We could not choose Him or obey Him without His choosing us (romans 8:7, 8; 1 John 4:19). We ought to emulate God’s character because He is the One “who called” us (1 Peter 1:15). We could go on and on.
The point is that we do not belong to ourselves. Paul says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20). We have been chosen by God and we ought to live in a particular way because of that.
I’m not saying that we should only refer to ourselves as “the called.” Titles that show our action and ones that show God’s action are both appropriate. For instance, just check out Paul’s description of believers in romans 8:28 – “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Both elements are there.
What I am saying is that we need to remember that we belong to Him. The Father called us, and we ought to live like that. We have been chosen for “His purpose” (romans 8:28). Let us live for His glory and remember who we truly are.