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CALL (Gr. kaleō, to call). One of the most common verbs in the Bible, representing over twenty words in the Hebrew and Greek text, but principally with four different meanings:

1. To speak out in the way of prayer—“Call to me and I will answer you” (Jer.33.3).

2. To summon or appoint—“I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms” (Jer.1.15).

3. To name a person or thing—“God called the light ‘day’” (Gen.1.5).

4. To invite people to accept salvation through Christ. This last is a call by God through the Holy Spirit; it is heavenly (Heb.3.1) and holy (2Tim.1.9). This call comes to people in all situations and occupations (1Cor.1.26; 1Cor.7.20).

CALLING, CALL. This is one of the most common words in the Bible, representing over twenty words in the Heb. and Gr. text. In the OT the emphasis is on Israel’s corporate destiny; whereas in the NT the emphasis is on the call of the individual to repentance, faith and service. The “called” comprise a larger group than the “chosen” who respond (Matt 22:14).

Two other applications of this terminology may be noted in the NT: (1) God’s call to a special office or service such as that of apostleship (Rom 1:1); missionary preaching (Acts 13:2; 16:10); and priesthood (Heb 5:4); (2) God’s call to a providentially ordered occupation (1 Cor 7:20 possibly).

In general, one may say that calling is a semi-technical term for that act of God in Christ, whereby through the proclamation of the Word and the inner witness of the Spirit, sinners are effectually drawn in faith and repentance into the kingdom of God. As the message of the Gospel is heralded to every creature, as the general call is issued, God works by His Spirit in the hearts of those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to draw them to the Son. Such a call is issued by the Father, made effective by the Spirit through the Word and draws us into fellowship with the Son.


G. Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, III (1965), 487-500.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)