I want to put this old series of posts in the favorite posts section on the right sidebar, so I’ll be reposting them from my previous Blogger blog one by one over the next few weeks.
In Paul, an Outline of His Theology, Herman Ridderbos writes that
….something should be said about what Paul time and again terms the divine call and the calling of the church….He gives the word a pregnant significance….by understanding it of the word of divine power by which God calls into being the things that do not exist and by which he works what he commands. It is this effectual, efficient divine calling which now takes place through the gospel and by which God has called the church to faith itself as well as to the whole of the new life by faith.1
According to Ridderbos, then, when Paul uses the word call, he means something that does real work, something that gives rise to that which had not previously existed. Paul uses call to mean a call that is heeded because there is power in the call itself.
How did Ridderbos come to that conclusion? Well, I’m pretty sure he didn’t just consult a lexicon or concordance or Bible dictionary. Ridderbos is a biblical scholar, so he had years and years and years of study under his belt when he wrote that statement, but I’d bet that part of his study involved looking at the all the instances in which Paul used the word “called” and studying the context for clues to how the word was used in that particular place; and then putting all of that information together to come up with the general definition of the word given us in the quote.
This is something that even those of us who are not biblical scholars can do. We don’t have to just take Ridderbos’ word (or the lexicon’s or the dictionary’s or the concordance’s, either). Nope, we can check it out for ourselves. It’s not that difficult, but it does involve a bit of detective work done through careful inspection of the text. You don’t have to know New Testament Greek. Not that a knowledge of Greek wouldn’t be helpful, but you can still learn a lot about the meaning of biblical words without it, as long as you’ve got your trusty magnifying glass and notebook.
So this is what I’m planning to do: I’ll look at Paul’s use of the word “called” to determine how he used it. It’ll take a series of posts; I’m not sure how many. First up will be an examination of the use of the word “called” in 1 Corinthians 1.
1Herman Ridderbos, Paul, an Outline of His Theology, page 235.