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Heb. 3:1 says,
1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.
Who are these “partakers of a heavenly calling”? The context shows that they are the sons (children) of God, those who are part of His household. The author tells us that Christ is “counted worthy of more glory than Moses” (Heb. 3:3). Though “Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant” (Heb. 3:5), “Christ was faithful as a Son over His house” (Heb. 3:6).
Moses was a great man, but he was a servant, while Christ came as the Son of God. Israel was redeemed from Egypt as the body of Moses; we have been redeemed from the power of sin as the body of Christ. Moses was a type of Christ; Jesus was the Christ.
For this reason, even as Christ had a heavenly calling, so also are we “partakers of a heavenly calling.” Rom. 8:17,
17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
To partake of His calling includes sharing His sufferings, for we are called to be “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20) in order also to share in His glory. Digging deeper, this means that our “old self” (fleshly identity) must be “crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6) in order that our “new self” may be raised from the dead as a new creation with a new Father.
God has many servants, but far fewer sons (or children). Those who are Old Covenant believers, even if they should attain the glory given to Moses Himself, are only servants of God. Yet even the least of the sons are greater than Moses, because they are part of the body and family of Christ, the Son of God.
So how do we upgrade our relationship with God from being a servant to being a son and family member?
Paul tells us in 2 Tim. 1:8, 9,
8 … join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.
We do not need to be physically crucified—or even to die physically—to obtain this “holy calling.” Jesus already did this on our behalf. Even servants can be crucified without being sons of God. Paul never asked anyone to go to the cross. The requirement is to reckon the old self to be dead. This is a legal act that is registered in the divine court, that we no longer claim to be children of Adam or Israel but the children of God Himself.
Like the Aaronic priests of old, we are then set apart, or sanctified, or made holy, having a calling that is distinct from the rest of the people (Israelites). A holy calling means that some are set apart to do a specific work that others are not allowed to do.
Recall that King Saul made the sacrifice himself when he was not called or qualified to do it (1 Sam. 13:8, 9). When Samuel himself showed up (late), he told Saul in 1 Sam. 13:13, 14,
13 You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever [olam, “indefinitely”]. 14 But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after his own heart…
Saul was not called to make the sacrifice. His disobedience disqualified him even from having an enduring dynasty. So also, the Roman bishops, who claimed to be the high priests as well as the rulers of the world, were disqualified from having an enduring dynasty, as it were.
The “Sauls” of the world will be replaced by the “Davids” who represent the overcomers who have this holy calling. More broadly, New Covenant sons will replace the Old Covenant servants who have not crucified the old Adamic self and have failed to change their identity to the new self.
Note that in 2 Tim. 1:9 (quoted earlier) that God has “called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace.” In other words, it is a New Covenant calling that is based on God’s will and not on the will (and works) of men.
We are not begotten through “the will of man,” but by the will of God (John 1:13). God’s will initiates it; our will merely responds to His will. The response is evidence that God has spoken the word and that someone has heard. If anyone claims to be begotten by God as one of His children, then let him examine the foundation of that claim to see who initiated this begetting.
Many define grace in terms of God helping our flesh fulfill its Old Covenant vow. That definition misses the main point of grace itself by linking it to one’s Old Covenant vow. God is thus a helper rather than an Originator. The Old Covenant is man’s vow to God; the New Covenant is God’s vow to man. But the New Covenant is not God’s promise to help our flesh make the right choices. It is God’s promise to make it happen, to ensure that we will indeed be saved before the end of time. He takes the responsibility from us.
Grace is a sovereign act of God (Rom. 11:6). Anything else is a work of man by his own will. Man’s works have their place, but not until God has done His work of grace. So the remnant of grace is a group described in Rom. 11:4,
4 … I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
This remnant of grace was “kept” by God. The wording does not tell us that they decided to be part of the remnant of grace but that God chose and kept them as the remnant.
Now many might be frightened or confused by this. If God is the One who chooses, then how can we really know whether or not we are part of that remnant? Where is the confirmation of our status? How can we know our status? I do not mean to cast doubt upon your status of Sonship but to confirm you in the same manner that Paul did with the believers in Corinth. We read in 1 Cor. 1:2, 3,
2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified [hagiazo] in Christ Jesus, saints by calling [kletos, “by invitation”] with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Although these “saints by calling” were in need of some correction—which was the purpose of Paul’s letter—their status was not in question. They understood that they were New Covenant believers by invitation (kletos), which was an act of God. Hence, they were “sanctified” (hagiazo) and set apart (made holy) and consecrated to a particular calling.
In the same manner, I write this FFI as a letter to you, not to put your calling into question but to acknowledge that you believe the New Covenant gospel that I have been teaching. This gospel is the “good news” that you have adopted and believed. The word of God is the immortal and incorruptible seed, which has impregnated you through your ears, begetting a new creation within you.
1 Peter 1:23-25 says (modifying the NASB),
23 for you have been begotten not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you.
Fleshly seed from our fathers can produce only perishable flesh which, like grass and flowers, is mortal and temporary. However, when the “seed” is the word of the Lord, it “endures forever,” because it begets immortal children who are incorruptible.
That new son is immortal, and when we lay claim to that immortal and incorruptible son, we shed our fleshly identity as children of our forefathers in order to obtain a more glorious inheritance in the family of God.
Knowing that your salvation does not depend upon your own will or your own works or your own promises to God should be of great comfort to those who worry about their imperfections getting in the way of their salvation.
I think it is safe to say that Elijah was part of the remnant. It is hardly likely that God would have excluded him from the 7,000 in his day. Yet James 5:17 tells us that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.” In fact, in the end, Elijah ran from Jezebel (1 Kings 19:3), virtually ending his ministry on earth.
It was while Elijah was sitting in the cave at Mount Sinai that God revealed to him the existence of the remnant of grace (1 Kings 19:18). Did his discouragement or his complaint disqualify him? I don’t believe so.
John the Baptist came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). He too expressed some doubts in Luke 7:19,
19 Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?”
Jesus did not condemn or chastise him but told John’s disciples to “report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:22).
Jesus told the people that John was “more than a prophet” and that “there is no one greater than John” (Luke 7: 28).
We are of the same remnant, not because we are perfect, but because we have been begotten from above through the seed of the word—the gospel that we have believed. God has opened our ears to hear and believe the New Covenant that Christ has made by His own promise, oath, or vow.
Those who are honest will surely acknowledge that our old self continually falls short of the glory of God. Although this is a concern to us, it is not a factor in our salvation or in our status as children of God. Why? Because the old self that sins is no longer the real you. Hence, Paul writes in Rom. 7:16, 17,
16 But if I [the old self] do the very thing that I [the new self] do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I [the new self] the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
Paul discusses the two “I’s” in Rom. 7:14-25, but few seem to grasp what Paul is saying. Essentially, he says that you used to be just one “self,” having one identity, that is, one seat of consciousness that is “you.” But then you heard the word of God and received His seed by which a new creature was begotten.
From that point on, you had an identity crisis until you decided which “self” was the real you. No longer were you the old self, which was reckoned to be dead and buried through baptism. You changed your identity to the new self which has a different Father.
So, Paul says, when you observe your old self sinning, you can say (with Paul), “no longer am I the one doing it.” This does not mean that we should allow the old self to “continue in sin so that grace may increase” (Rom. 6:1). The law was made “for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners,” which perfectly describes the old self that traces its genealogy back to the first sinner—Adam.
The purpose of the law is to restrain sinners. The old self disagrees with the law and tries to put it away so that it is no longer under any restraints. Paul, on the other hand, says of his new self: “I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good” (Rom. 7:16).
Anyone who claims that the law is evil or that it should be put away is speaking as the old self, not the new man. Hence, Paul writes in Rom. 7:22,
22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man [i.e., the new self].
He concludes in Rom. 7:25,
25 … So then, on the one hand I myself with my [spiritual] mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh [the carnal mind of the old self] the law of sin [i.e., lawlessness].
The old self disagrees with the law of God, because it takes orders from King Sin. The old self agrees with the law of sin, which claims that sin is good. But the new self disagrees and takes the side of the law of God, telling the old self that it has done wrong when it sins.
This is the main conflict that besets all true believers. For this reason, it is vital that we know who we are in Christ. By identifying with Him in His death and resurrection, we changed our identity to the newly-begotten “self” in Christ, and thereby also identified with Him in His righteousness.
Our heavenly calling, then, is to live our lives according to this new self, which is a son of God. There are many different opinions being taught in Christian circles. Some say you have to speak a particular formula or use certain words or do this or that in order to be a true believer. I have studied all of their claims, all of which have at least a grain of truth. However, I have found that it really comes down to a change of identity, which Paul discusses in Romans 7.
Earlier, I quoted 2 Tim. 1:9 where Paul says that God has “called us with a holy calling.” So far, we have focused on the fact that God is the One who has called us. We did not call ourselves; we merely responded to that call by faith, believing (along with Abraham) that He is able to keep His promises.
The gematria (or numeric value) of the phrase klesei hagia, “holy calling” is 288. This is, of course, 2 x 144, which connects it to “the elect” or “chosen” (Rom. 11:7).
Both 144 and 288 are very important biblical numbers, built into the very text of both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament.
In Gen. 1:2, “the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” This is the first recorded move of the Spirit. The Hebrew word translated “moving” is rachaph, which, has a gematria of 288. Hence, our “holy calling” (288) is made possible by a move (288) of the Spirit and a double anointing upon those who are chosen (2 x 144).
In Rev. 21:9 an angel showed John “the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” This phrase has a gematria of 2880 (10 x 288). The bride of Christ has a holy calling, because in marriage a wife is set apart from all others to enjoy a position that no one else can hold.
The benefits of her holy calling include “the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. 25:21 KJV), which also has a gematria of 2880. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church in 1 Thess. 2:19, 20,
19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? 20 for you are our glory and joy.
This describes a joyous church that is secure, knowing that she was chosen and called as a co-heir of His inheritance to exercise authority until all things have been put under His feet.
One of the best illustrations of this holy calling as “the bride, the wife of the Lamb,” is in the story of Rebekah, who was willing to go with Eliezer to a foreign land to be married to Isaac, a man that she had never met. Isaac was a type of Christ, and in this story, Eliezer was a type of the Holy Spirit that was sent to prepare a bride for Christ.
Eliezer is the Hebrew form of the Greek name Lazarus, which has a gematria of 144. Eli means “my God” and ezer means “one who helps.” His name means “My God helps.”
So Jesus said in John 14:26 (NASB),
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
John 14:26 KJV reads “Comforter,” rather than Helper. Yet either way, the word describes the Holy Spirit, as well as Eliezer’s role in finding a bride for Isaac. No doubt Eliezer taught Rebekah “all things” about Isaac on the trip home.
Eliezer was unsure that God’s choice would be willing to follow him back to the land of Canaan (Gen. 24:5), but Abraham told him that an angel would go ahead of him to prepare the way (Gen. 24:7).
When Eliezer arrived in Haran, he prayed that the right woman would respond to his request for water—and would also give his 10 camels water to drink! (Gen. 24:14). We read that Rebekah responded accordingly (Gen. 24:18-20).
Then we read in Gen. 24:22,
22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half-shekel and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels in gold.
These he gave to Rebekah even before asking her name and family. The point, however, is that Eliezer gave her “two bracelets for her wrists.” The Hebrew word translated “bracelets” is from tsamid, which has a gematria of 144. He gave her two of them (2 x 144 = 288).
Upon returning to Canaan, Isaac “took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Gen. 24:67). This lovely story of marriage shows how Christ found a bride through the work of the Holy Spirit, the “Comforter.”
In Revelation 7:4 we see the sealing of the 144,000 of those divinely protected. In ancient times, the general used to put a mark on the foreheads of those who emerged unscathed in battle. We see this also in Ezekiel 9:4, where God seals a few in Jerusalem to protect them from the time of Jacob’s distress. This is a male theme (i.e., military).
In Revelation 14:1-4 we see another 144,000, this time “virgins” who are not defiled among (meta) women. They are not unmarried, for marriage does not defile them. The Greek word meta means “by” in the sense of nearness. In other words, it means among women. These follow the Lamb and sing the new song. It is a female theme.
Together, they form 288,000, or perhaps 144,000 couples, each with their distinct callings as men and women. No longer will men and women be incomplete, for when they function in unity as “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). they will fulfill their heavenly calling that was established in the Garden.
These overcomers were foreshadowed in David’s Kingdom. David had 288 in his choir to sing the new song in his day (1 Chron. 25:7). He also had 288,000 in his military, with 24,000 from each tribe serving one month out of the year (1 Chron. 27:1).