Paul: A Case Study In Calling
One of the clearest ways to look at the idea of calling is to look at the story of the Apostle Paul.
As Paul shares his testimony in Acts 26, he recounts the words that Jesus said to him as he apprehended him on the Damascus Road. “I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you…” (Acts 26:16-17)
In this short sentence, Paul outlines several different aspects of his calling. Firstly, he is appointed to be a servant of Christ (this is what we have called ‘Type A Calling’). Secondly, he is called to be a witness to Christ (this is what we have called ‘Type B Calling’), and thirdly he has been sent to the Gentiles. In view of this calling, Paul describes himself in Romans 11:13 the ‘apostle to the Gentiles’. This is the kind of the ‘Type C Calling’ that we have discussed and it determined the shape of Paul’s life and ministry.
Based on this calling, Paul knew what he was about. His whole life story from that point forward is about fulfilling his calling to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Within this calling, there was a great deal of flexibility about how Paul conducted his ministry. Sometimes he did receive specific ‘Type D’ callings to a particular place, such as the vision he had of a Macedonian man in Acts 16. On these occasions he did just what God had called him to. Other times he didn’t receive such specific direction but was instead motivated by his strategy to work out his calling (as outlined in Romans 15:19-20), by personal desire to got to particular places (such as Rome and Spain – see Romans 15:23-24), or even to be where his friends and team members were (2 Corinthians 2:12-13 is a fascinating insight into how Paul lived out this calling).