Call Waiting

Tom Burke

October 2019
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1 Corinthians 1:2
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: [emphasis added]

Many Christian writers and teachers have remarked upon the fact that Paul refers to the Corinthian believers as “saints.” If the Corinthians, who were noted for their carnality, are designated as saints, this certainly challenges the traditional definition of sainthood! And indeed, when defined scripturally, we see that saints are those who are sanctified, or holy, due to the simple fact that God has made them holy.

You will note, however, that in the King James translation of this verse (quoted above), it speaks of the Corinthians as being called to be saints. The words “to be” change the “sainthood” of the Corinthians from a reality into a possibility. In other words, it implies that if they clean up their act they may someday attain to sainthood.

This must certainly be a relief for those who cannot conceive of a saint behaving in anything less than a heavenly manner. Indeed, perhaps this is the reason why many of the modern translations follow the example of the King James Version by including these two little words.

There is only one problem: in the King James Version, you will note that the words “to be” are printed in italics, indicating that they are not in the original text!1 The accurate reading, therefore, is “called saints.” But what is it to be a called saint?

In the Scriptures, as in modern English, the word “called” is often used in reference to names or titles, as in the following verses:

1 John 3:1
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. [emphasis added]

Acts 3:11
And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering. [emphasis added]

Matthew 23:10
Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. [emphasis added]

Luke 1:60
And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. [emphasis added]

Clearly, in all of the above verses, the word “called” is used for designation. However, as in English, there is a second common use ─ that of summoning or invitation. For example:

Luke 19:13
And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. [emphasis added]

Acts 4:18
And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. [emphasis added]

1 Corinthians 7:22
For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. [emphasis added]

We have seen that the word “called” can have two distinct meanings. Thankfully, in the large majority of cases, the intended meaning is made clear by the context.2 In 1 Corinthians 1:2, however, this is not the case.

1 Corinthians 1:2
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: [emphasis added]

In this verse, are the Corinthians simply given the name “saints,” or are they being summoned to something as saints? Honestly, the context does not help us in this instance, but the grammar does. In all of the examples we have considered in this study, the word “called” is a verb, signifying some action that was accomplished in the past. However, in this verse, “called” is an adjective, which is a description, or attribute.

In simple language, the Corinthians (and by extension, all Christians) were not just “called saints,” but saints who are called. If you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, you are not only holy, you are also called with a holy calling.

2 Timothy 1:9
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. [emphasis added]

Please note that this verse speaks of a calling belonging to us, the church. Although individuals may at times be called to temporary tasks, the great calling of God in Christ is an “us” calling, a calling in one body.

Colossians 3:15
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. [emphasis added]

The one body to which we have been called is also referred to as the church. In the Scriptures, the word “church” is translated from a Greek word meaning “called out.” 3 We have certainly been called out ─ out of the world, out of the darkness, and out of the grave.

1 Peter 2:9
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: [emphasis added]

But we have not only been called out. We have also been called unto.

Galatians 5:13
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. [emphasis added]

As with any summons or invitation, we can choose to disregard it. But God, our Father, desires that we would heed it and live accordingly.

Ephesians 4:1 (New American Standard Bible)
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of [in accordance with] the calling with which you have been called. [emphasis added]

Many born-again ones who are ignorant of the Scriptures are even today sitting and waiting for God’s special “calling.” In truth, God’s calling is waiting for them. While we are waiting (for Christ’s return), what could be more satisfying to us, and more pleasing to God, than to heed His call and thereby enjoy His presence, His blessing, and His peace?

Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. [emphasis added]


[1] One of the strengths of the King James Version lies in the fact that all such words are marked in this way. Sadly, very few of the modern translations have followed this pattern.

[2] For those interested in a more in-depth study, the Greek verb, kaleo, should also be considered where it occurs with a prefix: proskaleo, sugkaleo, etc. The student will also want to consider the noun and adjectival forms. All of these can be easily found with a concordance or good Bible program.

[3] ekklesia