What is the Biblical calling of the Church? Depending on their giftings and agenda, this question has different answers to diverse Christians and leaders. But throughout history, the calling of the Church has been defined and shaped too often by its cultural context.
To answer this question biblically, we need to look at the biblical story. As we examine the Scripture closely, the biblical calling of the Church is to be on mission with God. Being on mission with God is the very essence and identity of the Church as it takes up its role in God’s story in the context of its culture and participates in God’s mission to the world.
In the biblical story, beginning in the Old Testament, there is an expectation that God’s people be involved in His mission to the world. The account begins with Abraham’s call (v. 3 – And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed) in Genesis 12 and continues in Exodus 19:3-6, showing that God calls his people to live in holiness and be a blessing to all nations and creation.
3 And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “This is what you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” (Exodus 19:3-6)
God also made it clear that the calling of the nation of Israel, God’s people in the Old Testament, is to be a light of the nations. Isaiah 49:6 says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the protected ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
While Israel’s history shows God working in their context to enable them to be on mission with Him, each stage in Israel’s story produced failure. By the time of Jesus, the Jews basically hated the Gentiles, seeking separation from them rather than being a light to them.
In the New Testament, from the Gospel accounts, Jesus’ ministry was a call to Israel to renew its role to bring salvation to the nations. Yet they still failed Him. The death and resurrection of Jesus are the means by which the community of believers, which becomes the Church, is empowered to be on mission with God and live a distinctive life that leads to not just individual salvation but to the creation of transformed communities of disciples in all places.
The Church in Acts is the continuation of the ministry of Jesus through the Holy Spirit as a witness of God’s work in Jesus to the whole world. The calling of the Church to be on mission with God is found in Luke 24, Matthew 28, Acts 1:8 and other “Great Commission” passages. In the Epistles, the writings of the Apostle Paul reflect the missional nature of the calling of God’s people. As the people of God in the New Testament, Paul linked the Church to the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit as God’s way to share the message of salvation through Jesus.
The Church is to live holy lives to attract and be missionary people to carry the message to others.
Peter reiterated the calling of the people of God in 1 Peter 2:9, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (cf. Exodus 19:5-6)
The biblical calling of the Church is to participate in the mission of God. This is our identity and the very essence of the Church. Let’s reclaim and obey our biblical calling for the glory of God.