The word for the day is “called.” As we go about our daily life, our attention often must be givall to the details of our work. So we might forget for the moment that we have a divine calling. That vocation is not separated from our daily routine but gives it meaning.
In today’s reading of 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, Paul speaks of his calling and the calling of his readers. He states, “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ…” (OSB vs. 1) and again, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints…” (OSB 1:2). Today our study will remind us of the summons of the Lord to serve Him.
In our reading of 1Corinthains 1:1-9, we find that the apostle starts his Epistle with the most gracious words. But they are more than words of flattery before the apostle gets to the concerns of the letter. As he begins to write, the apostle reminds the Corinthians of his vocation and theirs. He notes that God has willed to call him to be an apostle (1 Cor.1:1). And the Corinthians likewise have been called–“called to be saints,” (1 Cor. 1:2); “called” to be numbered “with those who in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord…” (1 Cor. 1:2), and called into the “fellowship of His [God’s] Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).
Chosen and Called for a Mission
What does it mean to be “called”? It is striking that the same Greek word and its derivatives are used throughout the passage. The Greek words are derived from the root, which means “to summon” (Strong’s #2822, 140, and #2564).
Accordingly, to be called is more than to be invited. It is to be singled out and summoned for a mission. Recall that when the Lord Jesus called his disciples He had the divine authority to choose his associates. It was not their prerogative to volunteer. It was not their mission that they were to serve.
In the same way, Paul’s authority as an apostle did not rest in him. St. John Chrysostom reminds us that Paul repeatedly insisted that what he proclaimed did not come from him. No credit belonged to him for His work, but all glory belonged to God (NfPf1:13, 3). In our reading, therefore, the apostle was making the bold claim that he had heavenly authorization to counsel and admonish the congregation in Corinth. Moreover, his teaching was from the Lord, not him.
Called and Set Apart as Saints
Likewise, the Corinthians had no cause in themselves to boast. But the Lord had called them to be “saints.” The Greek word for “saints” that Paul uses here is the word “holy.” That is, the believers are summoned to be the “holy ones” of God. Note, to be holy is to be set apart—dedicated to God. By His own choice, not theirs, the Almighty God had claimed the Corinthians as His own. That is why the apostle calls them the “church of God.” The Greek word is a compound of the words “call” and “out.” Thus, the church is the community of those who are “called out” for a special purpose (Strong’s #1577, 81). Paul reminds his flock in Corinth that together with all who call on the Name of the Lord Jesus, they had been selected from among the nations. They had been called together to be members of a new assembly, the church. Therefore, the church of which they were a part was not a human creation but “of God” (1 Cor. 1:2). Consequently, it did not belong to any human leader. This gathering of sanctified people was a new “fellowship,” joined together and unified in Christ.
Called to be the “Holy Communion” and a “New Creation”
In our upcoming reading of this letter, St. Paul will remind the Corinthians repeatedly of their calling— their mission that comes from God. In their conflicts, pride, and toleration of sin, the congregation had forgotten the purpose for which God had selected them and brought them together in Christ. Paul will stress that this divine summons is to be the Body of Christ, a “holy communion” of the faithful, a new creation set apart from the world to know the grace of God and to be united in the love of Christ.
If we identified with the Corinthians, we would realize that the stresses and challenges of the moment can overshadow the remembrance of our sacred vocation. The passions and their temptations can distract us from the Lord’s summons to holiness. And the purpose for which Christ has chosen us to be His disciples can be lost in
the day-to-day grind. Our study suggests that we ask ourselves whether we, like the church in Corinth, need to be reminded of our calling–who we are and whom we serve. If so, we must pray that the Lord of Grace will call us back to the holiness, that is, the dedication to God, that is our true vocation in Christ. When we recall our divine mission, all we do from day to day will have an underlying sense of a large and sacred purpose.