Your life’s calling
Assistant minister Brian Barker writes from 1 Corinthians about our life’s calling—and it may not be what you think.
Reading 1 Corinthians this week, I was struck by how Paul describes the Corinthian church.
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. 1 Corinthians 1:2
To those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.
Here, sanctified and saint actually mean the same thing. To be sanctified is to be made holy—set apart for God—made pure. To be a saint is not to be a super spiritual super Christian, and it’s not to be blessed or knighted by the pope or anything like that. Instead, to be a saint is to be holy. So, to clarify Paul’s introduction here, it could say something like:
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those made holy in Christ Jesus, who are called to be holy…
The Corinthian church are a contradiction. Paul says that they have already been made holy, this is something that has happened to them by no effort of their own. As they came to trust in Christ Jesus, they were made holy, they were set apart in him as God’s precious possession, they were clothed in Jesus’ righteousness, they were adopted into the heavenly family with God as their Father and Jesus as their older brother. They have been made holy.
But they still live in a broken and sinful world. They still live in broken and sinful bodies. They still sin. So, according to Paul, their calling in life is to work at being holy, to work at living out who they truly are. This is a big reason why Paul wrote the letter, to help them to live in this tension, to help them live out the holiness they have already been given in Jesus. This is the tension that we face. We too are walking contradictions.
If we are trusting Jesus and are members of his Kingdom, then we have the same privileges as the Corinthian church. You and I are holy. We have been sanctified. But we know that we still sin. So our primary calling in life is not to be a butcher, a banker or a trendy candlestick maker; our calling in life is to be holy.
When you think of being holy, you might have images of robes and halos and lots of religious stuff. But Paul isn’t thinking about any of that when he talks about working at holiness. Holiness in the Bible isn’t just about doing religious stuff. Holiness is about being different, being set apart for God. As a nation, Israel were meant to be set apart for God, different from the nations around them. They were meant to be holy.
This is what Paul has in mind. He wants the Corinthian church to be different from the world around them. He wants them to approach all the things they do day by day as people who are visibly set apart for God. In 1 Corinthians, Paul applies this to how they think about church, ministry, relationships, singleness, marriage, sex, lawsuits, the Lord’s Supper, what they eat and many other things.
It’s the same for us. Our calling is to be holy, different and visibly set apart for God in every aspect of our life. So we need to consider what it looks like to be a holy butcher or a holy banker, or a holy teacher, or a holy accountant or whatever it is we do. I need to consider what it means to be a husband and a dad who is holy and set apart for God. We even need to think about the seemingly mundane parts of life—how am I living out my calling to be holy when I’m doing the groceries, when I’m browsing the internet, when I’m on the sideline at my kids sport, when I’m driving.
In God’s mercy he has sanctified us, he has made us holy. We are his precious possession, cleansed and purified in Christ Jesus. But he has also called us to be saints, to be holy and to live holy and set apart lives in our broken and sinful world. This is our life’s calling.