Called to Holiness, Responding to Your Notifications

Do you have a missed call? If your phone is like mine, some calls go directly to voicemail. Without my lock screen notifications, I wouldn’t know anyone had tried to reach me.

A call notification pops up in 2 Timothy 1:9, alerting us that “the one who saved us … called us”![1] Notice how it’s framed. Above it we see that God “saved us” (v9), and below it we find “life and immortality” (v10). These truths stand out for us as believers: our sins are forgiven, and we have eternal life. But there’s much more to the Christian’s life than escaping judgement and going to heaven. Between these two great blessings a third appears: God “called us to a holy calling” (v9 ESV).[2] Like notifications on my phone, this truth buzzes and dings all through Scripture. Clearly, we as God’s people need to be constantly reminded of a very important call.

Who Called?

When you glance at your notifications, what do you look for? You look to see who called. Why? Because your relationship with the caller usually decides the importance of the call. Peter tells us that the one who called us is the one we call “Father,” and He is already in our contacts because “you call on him” (1Pe 1:17 ESV). Of all our relationships, none is as significant or as precious as the one we have with this caller. That makes His call the most important of all.

What’s This Call About?

He “saved us and called us to a holy calling” (2Ti 1:9 ESV). The word translated “calling” can be defined as “an invitation to an experience of special privilege and responsibility.”[3] Our “holy calling” is not merely God saying to us that we should try to live as holy as possible. It was an invitation we received with our salvation to experience life as it is intended. It is God’s “ennobling summons” to live consistent with his holy nature.[4] It is an enabling call to “a new quality of life,” lived in rich fellowship with God.[5] What a privilege and what a responsibility!

Why Holiness?

Our caller said, “I am holy” (1Pe 1:16). And since He has brought us near to Himself through salvation, it comes as no surprise that His plan and expectation is that “you shall be holy, because I am holy” (v16). The Christian’s life can only be meaningfully lived in communion with God, and that involves living consistent with His character. Paul wrote that “God did not call us to impurity but in holiness” (1Th 4:7). Impurity, in its widest sense, is all that is inconsistent with God. He didn’t save and call us for that kind of a life. He called us “into the sphere”[6] of holiness, where we can live for His glory, and where He transforms us as we appreciate and model our lives after Christ (2Co 3:18).

How Can We Respond?

Answering our call is straightforward. “Do not comply with the evil urges you used to follow in your ignorance, but, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct” (1Pe 1:14-15). Our Father is the caller, and we are to answer Him “like obedient children” (v14). And the holiness He called us to isn’t only during our private time with Him, or just about our thoughts and desires; it is “in all of your conduct.” It means holiness in every action and aspect of our daily lives. Paul emphasized to the Thessalonians that our call includes “that you keep away from sexual immorality, that each of you know how to possess his own body in holiness and honor” (1Th 4:3-4). When writing to Timothy, Paul connected our holy calling to not being “ashamed of the testimony about our Lord,” and to sharing “in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2Ti 1:8 ESV). And we know the Spirit of God will show us where there is need for greater holiness in our lives and enable us to deal with impurity (Rom 8:13).

The notifications are clear and unavoidable – we’ve been called. The Holy One has called us to a holy calling. Now the question is: how will we respond today?

[1] Scripture quotations in this article are from the NET unless otherwise noted.

[2] The NET treats “holy” as the means of our calling, translating it “with a holy calling,” while the ESV treats “holy” as the purpose of our calling, “to a holy calling.” There are good arguments for both possibilities. I lean towards the interpretation reflected in the ESV, as it seems to better fit the context.

[3] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG), (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 549.

[4] Robert W. Yarbrough, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, ed. D.A. Carson, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2018), 360.

[5] Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1992), 191.

[6] Charles A. Wanamaker, The Epistles to the Thessalonians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1990), 157.