The apostle Paul was struck down on the road to Damascus. Samuel heard God's voice in the night. But how does God call in our modern 20th century?
The days and months following the day of Pentecost, A.D. 31, were exciting and momentous times for the fledgling Church of God. Each day God was adding more and more believers to the Body of Christ (Acts 2:47). Thousands were coming into the Church. The Holy Spirit was at work in the lives of many — often in ways little suspected by those involved.
The case of the Ethiopian eunuch is such an example: "But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, 'Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.' This is a desert road. And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister [servant] of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopia ns, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, 'Go up and join this chariot'" (Acts 8:26-29, Revised Standard Version used except where King James Version is designated). Philip had been one of the original deacons (Acts 6:1-6). He had been ordained to minister to the physical needs of the Church of that day. But God had even greater service in mind for this Hellenistic Jew: Philip was led to do the work of an evangelist and later became known as such (Acts 21:8). God, through the Holy Spirit and sometimes through angels, led Philip to preach the Gospel in Samaria and in many other parts of Israel. This is how he came into contact with the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch was a trusted servant of the queen mother of the Ethiopian king ("Candace" was a dynastic title given t6 the queen mother). He may have been a Jew, or he could have been a God-fearing gentile. The former is unlikely, however, since there was a prohibition against allowing eunuchs into the spiritual community of Israel based upon Deuteronomy 23:1. In any case, he was a devout man who feared God and studied his Bible. As the chariot lurched down the dusty desert road, the eunuch, in his zeal, strained to read a copy of the book of Isaiah. His eyes lighted upon the passage found in chapter 53, verse 7. As he read the words in the Greek version (the wording here follows this version — the Septuagint — rather than the Hebrew), he pondered their meaning. At that point, God inspired Philip to join the chariot. Overhearing the eunuch reading the words of Isaiah aloud, Philip inquired if the man understood their meaning. The queen's treasurer replied: "How can I, unless some one guides me?" The eunuch recognized the need for scriptural explanation. Philip then explained that the passage concerned Christ, who was the Messiah. Proceeding from that point, he began to expound the Gospel to the eunuch. As Philip continued to talk, the Holy Spirit worked to bring about conviction and conversion in the Ethiopian. Philip's explanation must have included the matter of baptism, for when they arrived at a stream the eunuch exclaimed: "See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?" (Acts 8:36.) Philip knew that God was calling the eunuch to His Kingdom. That is why the Holy Spirit had worked in such a dramatic way to bring about the circumstances whereby the two men met. Immediately they halted the chariot and went down into the water. Philip immersed the eunuch under the swirling waters of the stream, and the two of them joyfully returned to the shore. The Ethiopian eunuch had answered the call of God!
How God works today
God does not always work so dramatically today to call those He seeks to attain to salvation. Often God's calling is quite subtle. A man in a barbershop picks up a stray copy of The Plain Truth. A friend casually mentions some point of spiritual truth. Curiosity arouses the mind of one who is studying some passage of Scripture. His inquiries lead him inexorably to the truth of God. Some have been called by a random twirling of the radio dial. They just "happened" to chance upon The World Tomorrow broadcast. Somehow the words and the tone of the speaker rang true. The listener was transfixed. "There is something different about this man," he exclaims. One thing leads to another and the person writes for literature. He simply can't get enough. He wants more and more booklets, reprint articles and periodicals. The Bible begins to open up to him as the glorious plan of salvation unfolds before his eyes. "This is it!" he determines. "This is the Church of God!" Like the Ethiopian eunuch, the man asks, "What is to prevent my being baptized?"
'Join' the Church?
Those who are led through these various paths to truth and to conversion are being called of God. They are being called to have a part in the preaching of the Gospel in this life and to an incredible, mind-boggling eternity in the Kingdom of God. And this calling is not of men. It is not something you can choose for yourself. Jesus said: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). It is God who adds to the Church daily"... such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47, KJV). God takes the initiative. He acts first. John said, "We love him [God], because he first loved us" (I John 4:19, KJV). God draws those He is calling like a magnet draws iron filings. He draws them through circumstances. He exposes them to truth little by little. He reveals understanding. As truth is unveiled, conviction deepens. At some point in the process, the potential Christian becomes convinced of the need to act upon what he is learning. "I simply can't continue to sit on the fence," he determines, "I've got to do something about what I've been learning. God will hold me accountable for what I now know."
Some, of course, treat their calling lightly. They do not take it seriously. They merely dabble in religion and may be labeled "religious hobbyists." There is only one true religion. There is only one faith (Ephesians 4:4- 6). Once you have found it you had better hang on to it. You had better "... make your calling and election sure... " (II Peter 1:10, KJV) You have a God-given right to become a full-fledged member of the family of God. Yet God will not force you to enter His divine family. You are a free moral agent — not an automaton. You have choices to make. You must arrive at your own decisions. But no decision is more crucial than that of whether you will answer the call of God! We believe that this Work being done by the Worldwide Church of God represents the Work of Jesus Christ on this earth today. We make no apologies for that. We are convinced. Not that we are perfect. We are not. We make no claims to perfection. We, too, are learning and growing as we are led by the Spirit of God. But we believe that God and His truth can be found in this Work. Many of you are seeing things you have never seen before — right in the pages of your own Bibles. Many of those things ring true. They make sense. As you learn, study, pray and grow in grace and in knowledge, the fact of God's calling becomes more apparent. Conviction will set in. Your conscience, your reason and heart will demand that you act upon your heavenly calling. As you come to understand the truth of God, it will set you free from the doubts, errors• and conflicts of the past. You will know your ultimate destiny. You will have hope! "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is... " (I John 3:1-2). What a magnificent hope! To be just like Christ! To live forever in the eternal Kingdom of the living God! Can we be anything but grateful to God, from the very depths of our beings, that He would grant us such a reward? "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thessalonians 2:13-14). We are called to obtain the glory of Christ! We are set apart (sanctified) by the Holy Spirit for this very purpose. We are convicted of the truth of the Gospel. In short, we have been called by God!
Respond to your calling
Those who have been called have a responsibility to that high calling. You and I must respond to the God who made us and seeks to bring us into His glorious, everlasting Kingdom. It is our duty "to lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory" (I Thessalonians 2:12). Those who have been called to the Kingdom cannot continue to live as they have lived. Now they must experience a change of direction. Their lives must become oriented to God and to the fulfillment of His purposes instead of to self-indulgence and self-will. Peter said: "Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). To repent means to change! It means to do an "about-face" and go the opposite way. Paul expressed it this way to the Romans: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove [put to the test] what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2). When you are called of God, it is time to put away the fleshly, carnal mind and seek to acquire the mind of Christ. Paul said: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5, KJV). The mind of Christ is given by the indwelling and working of the Holy Spirit, which follows repentance and baptism. Those who have received the Spirit of God begin to bear its fruits: "... love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control... " (Galatians 5:22-23). Those who bear such fruit walk worthy of their high calling in Christ!