Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 31, 1955
NUMBER 46, PAGE 8-9a

"Called To Preach"

Jack Holt, Houston, Texas

I suppose every gospel preacher has had the question, "Why did you start preaching," and similar ones asked him many times. Some ask the question sincerely, being interested in your life; some ask in anger, while others ask out of curiosity. Among the latter group have been many denominational people with whom I have had conversations. As a general rule my answer to the question did not satisfy them, and I could see evidence of unbelief in their faces. Their skepticism is easily explained. I did not answer the question in the way they had expected to be answered.

Many denominational people think every preacher has had some mysterious incident (s) in his life which meant that he had been called of God to preach. Hence, when they put the question to me they expect me to say, "God called me to preach," and then they wait expectantly for me to relate the circumstances that surrounded the call. Often, after I have disappointed the curiosity of such inquirers by telling them I had never received such a miraculous call, I have been told, "Well, if you were not called to preach, you certainly have no business preaching." Now the statement may be true, but not because of the foregoing reason.

The idea that one must be miraculously called of God in order to preach is one that has been planted in the minds of the people by denominational preachers for years. They have repeatedly stated that they were called to preach and nearly every time they make the statement they back it up with a story. Usually it is a story so fantastic that only a deluded preacher could tell it, and only a very gullible audience believe it. I have often heard these preachers tell of strange and weird voices that haunted them in the night and in sepulchral tones bade them, "go preach." One preacher told of his call. As he was milking a cow, which had hitherto been a very nice cow, not having kicked anyone but his wife, he noticed the cow began to act very peculiar. All of a sudden without premeditation the cow kicked the soon-to-be preacher in the head. The preacher saw stars, which can be explained as very natural, and thought he was being wafted through the heavens. Upon his arrival back in this world he concluded that this was his call to preach. After hearing him preach I concluded that a kick in the head, even if not his call, was at least his qualification.

It is sometimes interesting to hear these preachers tell stories about their life prior to "getting the call." Some relate that they were wicked and they tell of their escapades before being captured by the Lord and put in his service. Many times during their life of sin they were called, but fought the call, time and again until God finally won. Then there are others who lived lives good and clean. They desired to preach, but for some reason or another God never called them. It seems that God can make better preachers out of drunkards, liars, etc than he can out of those who live righteous. It may be that those who live good lives are so honest that they will not tell some fabricated tales as evidence that they have been called. Not so, with the wicked, for it is well known to one and all that there is "no honor among thieves."

In view of such denominational confusion I think it timely that we ask and answer the question: "Does God miraculously call preachers today?" In spite of the claims put forward as evidence that God calls directly, I answer, No. Those who claim such a call may be honest, but they are mistaken. Before I will believe that God calls men miraculously today I must have the passage of scripture that so teaches. Paul said, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by word of God." (Rom. 10:17). The idea is: no word of God, no hearing, no hearing, no faith. Now how can we be expected to believe that God calls men miraculously today when the word of faith nowhere so teaches? Sometimes Romans 10:15 is offered as proof that God calls and sends preachers. The first part of this verse reads, "How shall they preach except they be sent?" The answer is, of course, obvious, they couldn't. But the question is: to whom does the apostle refer ? To preachers today ? Certainly not. Paul here has reference to the original proclamation of the gospel and to the original proclaimers, the apostles. God called them, prepared them, and sent them. No one could have believed had they not been sent. The apostles were witnesses, ambassadors, and the earthen vessels in which was placed the "unsearchable riches of Christ." They were the only witnesses, and ambassadors. I can believe only by hearing what these God called preachers spoke. They were the ones who brought glad tidings of good things. I believe that God did call and send preachers, but I do not believe that he does such today.

The calling of Saul may throw some light upon the question. As Saul journeyed toward Damascus he was halted by the heavenly vision. Jesus appeared to him and said, "rise and stand ... for I have appeared to thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness ..." (Acts 6:16). This was Saul's call. But what of his preparation for the ministry? Did Saul enroll in some theological school as do those who claim to be called of God today? I trow not. Paul did not receive his gospel of man, "neither was he taught it.. .." He received it, "By revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1:11-1). When Paul was called he did not bother to "confer with flesh and blood." (Gal. 1:16). Do those who claim a "call" today receive teaching from men? Then their call is certainly different from Paul's and the other God called preachers of the New Testament. When God called someone into His service, He also qualified them to do the work for which they were called. The absence of miraculous qualification testifies to the absence of a miraculous call. Both stand and fall together.

Some may argue that the claims of seemingly honest men prove that God calls men miraculously today. These claims prove nothing. Those who claim such a call will not accept testimony as evidence. Baptist preachers claim they were called. But if you ask them if they believe God called the Methodist preachers, they say no. What they claim for themselves they deny to others. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church, claimed that he had a special call from God. Do the Baptists and Methodists believe that Joe was divinely called? No. But Joe had as much right to claim a call as they did. I had as soon believe Joe. Smith the Mormon preacher, as the Baptist or Methodist preachers. Besides, Joe could tell more fantastic tales than they.

It is nothing new for one to claim that God called him or her to do a certain thing. Throughout history fanatics have attempted to justify their deeds or make authentic their claims by testifying that God called them. Mr. Charles Guiteau claimed that God called him to murder President Garfield. Warmongers, such as Germany's Kaiser, have claimed that God called them to lead their nation into war. Can we believe such claims?

Many churches before ordaining to the ministry, examine those who claim to have been called to see whether or not God made a mistake. Regardless of the testimony the would be preachers may offer, before he can be ordained, he must pass the ordaining board's examination. In the Methodist Discipline the question is raised, "How shall we try those who profess to be moved by the Holy Ghost to preach?" The answer is given, "Let the following questions be asked, namely: 1. Do they know God as a pardoning God? ... 2. Have they gifts as well as grace for the work? ... 3. Have they fruit? Are they truly convinced of sin and converted to God by their preaching? As long as these three marks concur in any one we believe he is called to preach."

The Bible declares, "The secret things belong to God . . . (Duet. 29:29). Isaiah says, "His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are His ways our ways . . ." (Isa. 55:8.) Paul asks, "Who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counselor?" (Rom. 11:34). In the face of these plain declarations, Methodist authorities gather to decide if God has done the right thing. The creature judging the creator.

The fact of the matter is simply this: The man is not judged to see if God called him, but to determine whether he will or will not preach Methodist doctrine. The Baptists make a similar examination. One who preaches the gospel of Christ and it alone, could never be ordained as a Methodist, Baptist, or any other denominational preacher.

If we should accept as true preachers all those who claimed a call from God, we would be obligated to conclude that God contradicts Himself. Would God call a Methodist preacher to preach infant baptism and then call a Baptist preacher to deny it? Did God call the Baptist preacher to preach that Jesus "Died for our sins," and then call Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy to deny the fact of sin? To affirm that God is responsible for such confusion is ridiculous. The truth is none of them was divinely called.

A Question. "How does God call and qualify preachers today?" First, let it be observed that before a man is qualified to preach the gospel he must be a Christian. We are called to be Christians, not by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit, but by the Gospel. (2 Thess. 2:14). Further, every Christian man is entitled to do the work of an evangelist if he so desires. The Bible knows nothing of any ordination ceremony by which one receives the right to be an evangelist. This right belongs equally to every Christian man. One qualifies himself to serve as an evangelist by heeding Paul's command to Timothy, "Study to shew thyself approved of God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed." (2 Tim. 2:15).