In 491 BC, the Persian emperor Darius sent an ambassador to Athens. The ambassador’s mission was to demand that Athens would submit to Persia, and to show her submission by providing samples of local “earth and water."
When the Athenian generals, Miltiades and Callimachus, received the ambassador, they realised that refusing the demand would mean war. They urgently called for the ecclesia to be assembled. Trumpeters blew their horns, giving the sound for an emergency meeting. All Athenian citizens—that is, all Athenian men over 20 years old who were not slaves—were called out of their homes to come to the public gathering place. The ecclesia assembled to hear the proposition. On putting it to a vote, the result was so overwhelming—and the citizens were so incensed—that instead of allowing the ambassador to return to Persia with the message that Athens would not submit, the Athenians threw the ambassador into a well, sarcastically telling him, “Find your earth and water down there.”
In Athens, the political power structure was a direct democracy. No one represented the people in parliament; instead, the citizens themselves formed the parliament. When the trumpeters blew their trumpets, the people were called out from their homes, and they convened together, they formed the ecclesia.
For that is what ecclesia means. “Ek” means out. “Kalleo” means called. “Ek-klesia” means the called out ones. In Athens, citizens were called out of their homes. When they left their homes and gathered together, they were known as the ecclesia, the called out ones.
God’s call through history
In the ancient world, the Athenian trumpeters were not the only beings who called people out of their homes. God had been busy calling people.
God called Noah to build an ark to escape a flood. In so doing, God promised to enter into a covenant with Noah (Genesis 6:13, 18).
God called Abram to leave the civilised city of Ur to become a nomadic wanderer, looking forward to a land and a city that he was never to possess (Genesis 12:1–3; Hebrews 11:8–10).
God called Moses to leave a life of privilege and honour to lead a people who caused him nothing but grief and heartache (Hebrews 11:24–28).
God called Samuel, who answered him, “Speak LORD, for your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:10).
God called David to be a shepherd to his people Israel, anointing him with oil and His Spirit (1 Samuel 16:13).God called Solomon to ask him what he would have the LORD give him. When Solomon asked for understanding and discernment, God was pleased (1 Kings 3:6, 9, 10).
God called Elijah to witness to His Majesty and Power against the hordes of Baal (1 Kings 18).
God called Hezekiah to tear down the high places and break the idolatrous pillars, to keep the commandments of the LORD and trust in Him, and to liberate his people from the oppression of the Assyrians and the Philistines (2 Kings 18:4–8).
God called Josiah to great religious reform, recovering the scrolls of Moses and reading them in front of the people, reconsecrating the temple and reinstating worship of the Living God (2 Kings 22).
God called Isaiah to serve under four kings, receiving the most sublime revelations about the coming glory of the Servant of the LORD. Isaiah faithfully received the LORD’s visions and repeated his words until the compromised King Manesseh ordered that he be sawn in half (Hebrews 11:27).
God called John the Baptist to make straight the way of the LORD, raising up the lowly and pulling down the mighty, smoothing the way for the Light of Life to shine in the darkness, even though the darkness received him not (John 1:11, 23).
God called Peter to powerfully and fearlessly witness to Jews and Gentiles alike, seeing the Holy Spirit falling on everyone who heard the Word, including the Gentiles (Acts 2; Acts 10, esp. v. 44).
God called Paul to be apostle to the Gentiles, teaching the great salvation that has come through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:8).
God called Achaius, Ampliatus, Andronicus, Apollos, Archippus, Aristarchus, Artemas and Asyncritus. He called Barnabus, Crescens and Crispus. He called Demas, Demetrius and Diotrephes. God called Epaenetus, Epaphras, Epaphroditus, Erastas, Euodia and Syntyche. God called Gaius, Herodion, Jason, Jesus Justus and Junia. God called Luke and Lucius. God called Mary and Mark, Nymphas, Olympas and Onesimus. God called Philemon, Philetus and Phoebe. He called Priscilla and Aquila. God called Qartas and Quintas Cornelius Pudens. God called Rufus, Silas, Sopater and Sosipater. He called Tertius, Timothy, Titus, Trophimas, Tryphena, Tychicus and Zenas.
God called people out of sin. He called them out of the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). God called people out of confusion and false worship and servitude to the beastly powers of the earth: He called his people to “Come out of her, my people” (Revelation 18:4).
God called his people to come out. To come out of their homes. To come out of their sins. To come out of darkness. To come out and be separate (2 Corinthians 6:17). To come out and be his people (1 Peter 2:9). To assemble; to be his holy called out ones; his ecclesia.
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15). “Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Characterising God’s calling
Paul presents God’s calling as being an essential step in a Christian’s experience of salvation (Romans 8:30). God’s calling is transformative, transforming those who hear it from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive (Romans 4:17). God’s call is inclusive, calling people from every nation, tribe, people and language (Revelation 7:9). God’s call is blind to wealth, power, status or honour; He calls senators, such as Quintas Cornelius Pudens, and slaves, such as Onesimas, alike.
God calls people into liberty (Galatians 5:13). God calls so that peace may reign in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). God calls us to holiness (1 Thess. 4:7). God calls us into his own kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2:12). God calls us into eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12).
So, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
God calls you. God calls you today.
Implications of God’s call
Let us read a practical description of what God’s call means for us. Please turn to Ephesians 3:14.
“… I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named"
Every family bears God’s name. God does not place his name only on one family on earth, but on every family on earth.
“that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—"
Notice that God’s Spirit must reside in us in order for us to receive Christ through faith?
“that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
To be filled with the fullness of God means to understand the breadth, length, height and depth of His love. We cannot know God’s love ourselves. This is a spiritual revelation that can be conveyed to us only through God’s Spirit in-dwelling us.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,"
We cannot imagine the limits of God’s grace, power and mercy. We cannot imagine the limits of the God who spoke the universe into existence. We cannot imagine everything that God plans for us or has in store for us.
“according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church [ecclesia] and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
May we, the congregation of the LORD, glorify the LORD. May we glorify the LORD through our presence, our witness, our faithfulness, our capacity to be a temple that grows together in holiness and love, forming a place where God dwells among men in the Spirit (Ephesians 3:19–22).
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called"
How are we to be live as a result of God’s call? How are we to live in the salvation to which we have been called? How are we to live in this community? How are we to live in this community of the called out ones? We are to live:
“… with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
Unity is a major objective of our calling.
“There is one body and one Spirit—"
There is but one body—one ecclesia. We look around at all the denominations today, and know that this is but a distraction. For there is but one body. There is one body, because there is one spirit who animates our spiritual life in Christ.
“just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—"
Just as there is one body, we have a united hope, a hope centred in the promises that flow from the risen LORD.
“one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
Paul’s monotheism shows through. There is but one Lord, one Ruler. There is but one faith. There is but one baptism. There is only one Lord, faith and baptism because there is only one God, who is father to us all.
“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,"
There is one calling, one faith, one baptism, one Lord and one God. But there are many gifts. For we are called not into a solitary salvation, but we are called into a community in which we rely and depend on each other. We are called into a holy, called out community whose purpose is build each other up.
“for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,"
Your faith and mine are to be united in the knowledge of the Son of God. We are to obtain this unity in the Spirit, based on knowledge, and on truth that is revealed from above.
“… until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,"
We are to grow together, into a temple fit for habitation by God. And we are to grow up into Christ. We are like green sprouts that are shooting forth from a seed that has been planted. And we are to grow up into maturity, that we may yield a bountiful harvest.
“… we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Being built up in love is the aim of the called out community. You are called, that you may be called out, to gather together into a community geared for growth.
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
People who are yet to hear God are yet living in darkness. God has risen, and has given us peace, yet there are people who do not know Him.
“They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity."
We see in the newspapers every kind of vice being discussed and glorified. People are rude, crude, call each other names, incite each other to lie, cheat, to be unchaste.
“But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires
Just because we find ourselves in a body that loves to gossip, cheat, steal. Just because we find ourselves in a body that is attracted to greed, wealth, power or extra-marital affairs. Just because we find ourselves in a body that is attracted to vice, licentiousness or homosexual, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender practices. Just because we find ourselves in this state, doesn’t make it right to indulge in these practices. For we are called to put off our old selves. To put them off. They are corrupt, and belong to a manner of life that is alienated from the life that is in God.
“and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
God promises power beyond our imagining. God promises that, in whatever state we find ourselves, however corrupted our former way of life is, that He has the power to transform our lives, to give us new life, to renew us, to quicken us, to make us alive in Him, in true righteousness and holiness.
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
For all who live with the Spirit of the Living God residing within them are sealed with a guarantee that we will see God face to face, and rejoice.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love…” (Ephesians 3:14–5:2a).
Walk in love.
May the holy, called out people of God, walk in love.
God has called you out, to walk in love.