The High Calling
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“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1).
Have you ever heard one person remark to another that their job as a doctor, a nurse or teacher was their “calling”? In other words, someone was saying that their vocation was what they were called to do. They might mean that God had called them to perform these duties for humanity. The Bible makes a statement like this in Philippians 3:14: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
This scripture tells us that God has a call going out to humanity during this Gospel Age. This call draws individuals toward God and His son. It is not just a calling, but a “high” calling (see also 1 Corinthians 1:26). The inference would logically be that there was also a type of low calling in comparison, and we believe this to be Israel after the flesh, a peculiar people, separate from other peoples and nations of the earth (The New Creation, page 85). “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2). Even though Israel after the flesh was offered the Abrahamic blessings first, they were cast off for rejecting their Messiah—Christ Jesus. Still, all of fleshly Israel will have the opportunity to be re-grafted into the olive tree of the Abrahamic promise and eventually will become a blesser nation in the Messianic Age (Romans 11:15-36). But
the scripture in Philippians 3:14 and others, like Ephesians 4:4 and Romans 1:7, refer to a higher calling — a calling to be saints and to the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:2, 9).
So the natural question might be, “What is the high calling of God in Christ Jesus?” We might subsequently inquire: What are the terms and conditions of the high calling being referred to and how does this high calling relate to God’s plan of salvation for man?
The high calling is a special invitation for members of the human family during this Gospel Age to be conformed to the image of Christ Jesus and claim the prize of becoming what their Master referred to as the Little Flock (Luke 12:32). Revelation 14:1 gives us the exact number of this Little Flock, 144,000. It is a special invitation for human beings to become a people for a purpose. And the purpose? To “bless all the nations of the earth” as part of the seed of the Abrahamic Promise by suffering with Christ. Through suffering and their properly applied effort to obtain the mind of Christ, they prove worthy to reign with Christ in his earthly, Messianic Kingdom (Galatians 3:8-9, 29, Revelation 20:4).
Although the class itself was predestinated or planned by God before the foundation of the world, the individual members were not. Those who accept the invitation must (1) repent of their sins and receive justification by the blood of Christ (Romans 5:9), then (2) renounce their own wills to do the will of God, and (3) consecrate their entire lives in denying themselves, taking up their cross, and following Jesus (Matthew 16:24). Only then could they—after acceptance by God—become “spirit-begotten” to a new, spiritual nature (2 Corinthians 5:17). Consequently, they run for this prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus, as spirit-begotten human beings, by fulfilling all the terms and conditions of their consecration as specified in God’s holy Word.
Terms and Conditions of the High Calling
What are the terms and conditions of the high calling? They are a full consecration of all of a person’s time, talents, influence, means—his all—to be used in the service of his Master, Christ Jesus. This consecration is based on a realization and confession of being a sinner and needing his Redeemer’s merit for the purpose of justification, to be made right in God’s sight. God will not have a relationship with sinners on Plane R of the Chart of the Ages (Matthew 8:22). One must be justified in order to become part of this Little Flock (Romans 5:1-2). These terms for running for the prize of the high calling demand self-denial, going against the grain of our fleshly inclinations. That is, mortifying our human passions, along with denying the legitimate earthly hopes, aims, and ambitions of this present life.
The high calling is a life of deferred gratification of reward versus the immediate gratification in this life. This is one of the main reasons why most people who hear the invitation of the high calling do not accept it. It costs too much (Matthew 6:19-21). This path of life demands scriptural study, prayerful application of such study, and a great effort of transforming the Christian’s mind more and more into the mental image of Christ Jesus. That is the goal—Christlikeness. It is the mark of the prize of the high calling (Philippians 2:5, 3:14).
Following the Divine requirements associated with the high calling will cost us many friendships, earthly opportunities for satisfying human cravings, and bring us the cross-bearing experiences of suffering for righteousness and truth by those opposed to God’s truth. Luke 14:27 says, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” It will be a life and death struggle for existence as a new creature as it courageously fights not only the flesh, but the worldly influences and attitudes, as well as dodging the darts of the great Adversary.
The present evil world is the one window of opportunity for Jehovah to develop 144,000 individuals in an adverse environment that will prove their character and thus be rewarded with the divine nature. As far as the scriptures tell us, this environment of sin and opportunity for developing and testing such individuals will never be present again. Romans 8:18 promises, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
The High Calling and God’s Plan of Salvation
How does this calling relate to God’s plan of salvation for man? First of all, this calling of the sons of God must be critically important, because “the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). The world waits because the manifestation of the Church class—the Little Flock—with their King Christ Jesus, will usher in the earthly phase of Christ’s kingdom. Most “mainstream Christians” believe that they are the end product of God’s grace. From the scriptural perspective, however, we understand that the end product is perfected humanity; a very different eschatology in that sense.
The development of the little flock, individuals that have transformed their lives by the spirit of God and the educational course He set before them, ultimately positions them to be divine beings and part of the Abrahamic seed. As such they will be a sympathetic priesthood that will bless and help transform humanity back into what God always intended — perfect humans in body and in character. This is “the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).
Therefore, those who graduate from the high calling become a means to the end — to the end product of perfected humanity, based on the ransom sacrifice of Christ and the antitypical sin-offering of the goat mentioned in Leviticus 16:10,15 (Hebrews 13:11-13).1 How else could one explain Obadiah 1:21: “And saviours [plural] shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’s. (We encourage you to carefully study all of Obadiah.)
This high calling of God in Christ Jesus develops a class of spirit-begotten individuals who ultimately become part of the Abrahamic seed that will bless and uplift the world out of a dying condition. It will free them from sin and its debilitating effects—free them from Adamic death and its wages. This class, developed through the high calling, becomes a people for a purpose. That purpose is, together with Christ, to bring forth a transformational change in mankind that ultimately brings them back into favor and harmony with God, in righteousness and human perfection.
Revelation 22:17 says, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” The high calling develops the bride that will fulfill this promise. Surely, as the scriptures testify, the “wrath of man [the permission of evil, for a time] shall praise thee [God]” (Psalms 76:10).
(1) The faithful church will have added no atoning merit to the sin-offering. The merit comes from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone.