All Christians are called to serve God; this is implicit in the Great Commission into which Jesus called His disciples and followers, saying in Matthew 28:16-20
“And the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him. But some doubted.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority is given to Me in Heaven and in earth. Therefore go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things, whatever I commanded you. And, behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the world. Amen'” (emphasis added).
The version from Mark 16:15-18 is similar saying:
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world, proclaim the gospel to all the creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned. And miraculous signs will follow to those believing these things: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will be well.’“
In John 20:19-23 we find the recorded the actual commissioning of the Disciples into their new roles as Apostles. What is interesting is that this commissioning takes place after the death and resurrection of Jesus:
“Then the same day at evening, being the first of the Sabbaths, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’
And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you. As My Father has sent Me, even so I send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. Of whomever sins you remit, they are remitted to them. Of whomever sins you retain, they are retained.’“
After the commissioning, Jesus sent out the Disciples as Apostles. Apostles, in Greek ἀπόστολος or apóstolos means literally, “one sent forth,” an envoy, a missionary.
But the topic here is entitled ‘Called to serve God’, and so now we need to go back a bit in time. As Matthew 28:16-20 above, says, “the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had appointed them.” In other words, before the eleven first became Disciples, for Jesus appointed them, or ordained them, to their positions. To understand this, let us read the account of this appointment in Mark 3:13-15,
“And He went up into a mountain and called near those whom He would. And they came to Him. And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them out to proclaim, and to have authority to heal sicknesses, and to cast out demons.”
Now, when Jesus decided to go up a mountain, it was not to take in the view; it was to pray, one-on-one with His Father in Heaven. This simple piece on information implies, here in Mark 3:13, that Jesus was doing that which He would later explicitly confirm – doing the will of His Father; as we read in John 5:30
“I can do nothing of My own self. As I hear, I judge, and My judgement is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of the Father who has sent Me.”
As we read in Mark 3:13-15, God chose the twelve Disciples (later to be eleven Apostles) for Jesus, based on three explicit purposes:
1) That they might be with Jesus,
2) That they might be sent out to preach (proclaim) and
3) That they might have authority to heal sickness and drive out demons.
The implications for us are quite straightforward: before we can be either privileged or empowered to preach or minister for Jesus or in the name of Jesus, we first need to be with Him and available to Him. These are the foundational requirements for all true work and ministry for God.
Many Christians do “good Christian works” on their own and under the power of their own intellect, ability and flesh, and doing good works is no bad thing per sē. However, when they start to presume that they are doing these works for God, or in His name, they delude themselves, for God’s power and authority are not, and cannot be, in their works, for there is no submission to God’s authority. It we are not under God’s authority we are in a place of rebellion, and God will simply not bless us when we are in rebellion.
Sometimes God calls us to be passive and sometime active in our relationship with Him. Jeremiah 42:4-7 gives a good example of “waiting on the Lord” as he and those to whom he was prophesying sat for 10 days waiting before the Word of Jehovah came back to him:
“… I have heard. Behold, I will pray to Jehovah your God according to your words; and it shall be, all the word Jehovah shall answer, I will declare it to you. I will keep nothing back from you. … And it happened after ten days, the Word of Jehovah came to Jeremiah.”
However, Christians who have made themselves available to God are asked to actively seek Him, as Matthew 6:33 says:
“But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”
This is the normal attitude of Christians called by God, seeking Him continually, as Deuteronomy 4:29 attests for us:
“… if you shall seek Jehovah your God from there, you shall find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
How long must we seek? Hosea 10:12 makes this abundantly clear, saying
“For it is time to seek Jehovah, until He comes and rains righteousness on you.”
Yes, Until He comes. This is how Christians are to seek the Lord, “until He comes!”
As I read further into Mark 3, I began to notice the a difference in the way Jesus was operating compared to the ways of both God and the Prophets in the Old Testament. Read how Jesus ordained His twelve disciples, in Mark 3:14-19
“And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them out to proclaim, and to have authority to heal sicknesses, and to cast out demons.
And He put on Simon the name Peter.
And He put on James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, the names Boanerges, which is, the Sons of Thunder.
And He appointed Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. And they went into a house.”
As Jesus ordained the twelve disciples, He changed the names of some of those whom He had called out. Now this also happened in the Old Testament, but not before the recipients had proven themselves: Abram became Abraham when he was 99 years old (Genesis 17:1-8); Sarai was renamed Sarah (Genesis 17:15); and Jacob was renamed Israel (Genesis 32:28 and Genesis 35:10).
But here in Mark 3:14-19 we find Jesus calling out those whom God the Father had given Him, and renaming some as He appointed them. Even although Jesus had just met them, He was supernaturally given all their characteristics and some outline of the future, which allowed Him to be specific in the renamings.
Jesus called out the twelve whom He had been given on the mountainside. He continues to call out to us today, just as He says in John 17:6 “I have revealed Your name to the men whom You gave to Me out of the world. They were Yours, and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” And in John 6:37 “… also All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will in no way cast out.”
As John Gill says of the renaming of Simon, “And Simon he surnamed Peter. Or Cephas, which signifies a rock, or stone, because of his courage and constancy, his strength and fortitude, steadiness and firmness of mind: this name was imposed upon him, not at the time of his mission as an apostle; nor when he made that noble confession of his faith in Christ, as the Son of the living God, at which time this name was taken notice of; but when Christ first called him to be his disciple and apostle; see John 1:42.”
I find it very interesting how Jesus “imposed” the new name on some of the disciples, not on others; two inferences being that 1) our names are important and that 2) we are all called to different tasks. Further, these tasks are preordained for us, though it seems to be up to us whether or not we will submit fully to allow the fulfilment of these tasks, the fulfilment of our destiny in The Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.
To be called by Jesus is not to be called to just anything, it is to be called into something special! To be called by Jesus is to be called from where we are, into where Jesus wants to take us: be it geographically, socially, administratively, missionally or in any other way.
When we are “called,” it is to SERVE and all that is in question is the where, the how and the when.
As I was writing this Article I felt called to add a little about names – for they are important.
My given name is Angus and I am named after my father’s uncle, Angus MacIntrye. Angus is a Scottish name meaning: unique strength, unnaturally strong; singular; only choice. Yet all my life, when people have called me after forgetting, or not knowing my given name, they always use Andrew, meaning: manly, brave, courageous. When the Lord finally reveals the ultimate task for which He has called me, it will be interesting to see whether my parents who named me, or those acquaintances who recognise me in flesh or spirit, are the ones who correctly heard from God the name which is most appropriate for me.