I hear Christians use the word call and its various forms in many different ways. I’ve often thought to myself, is that the right way to use that word? Being someone who loves words and wants to use them in a way that’s true and in accord with reality, I decided to do a word study with the word call in the ESV translation of the Bible.

The word “call” is used 187 times.

The word “calls” is used 34 times.

The word “calling” is used 37 times.

The word “called” is used 561 time.

As I read over a lot of those uses I saw that the word is used in various ways. To try to make my findings more accessible, I’ve created a chart for you to look at. I’ve grouped the different meanings in categories, given a description, and included some examples from Scripture where the word was used that way. My group of examples will not be exhaustive of the entire Bible.

In order to comprehensively study the word call and all of its uses, one would have to read every time it’s used in the Bible. I have not spent that much time on it, so feel free to help me make the chart better by giving your input in the comments below.


Bible Word Study: Call (in all of its forms)

NamingUsed for the naming of something... “Calling Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor.”Joshua 19:47, Genesis 1:5, Genesis 2:19, Genesis 3:20 John 5:18, Romans 7:3, 1 Corinthians 15:9, 1 Peter 3:6, Revelation 19:13
Attention GettingThis is a call for attention and/ or action. People call to one another. The LORD calls or speaks to individuals and even entire nations at times. In return, people call out to and upon the LORD. Someone can even call for an impersonal object like a judgement. Genesis 3:9, 1 Samuel 3:8, Psalm 50:4, Proverbs 9:15, Isaiah 1:13, Isaiah 46:11, Jeremiah 1:15, Amos 5:8, Matthew 18:2, Luke 7:19, Acts 22:16, Revelation 6:16
To Christ; Effectual and Irresistible This is the call of a Christian's salvation. Every true Christian has been called with a holy calling into union with Christ unto eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12, 2 Timothy 1:9). This calling is linked with election (2 Peter 1:10, Revelation 17:14). We are called to God’s glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3) on the basis of God's own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9). We belong to Jesus Christ (Romans 1:6) and are called saints (Romans 1:7), Sometimes this calling is spoken of in terms of being called to peace like in 1 Corinthians 7:15 and Colossians 3:15 in which God is calling people to peace in Christ. The peace comes from Christ, so it’s a fruit of being called to Christ not a separate calling. Similarly, Galatians 5:13 shows that one is called to freedom when called to Christ. And to hope (Ephesians 1:18, Ephesians 4:4). Romans 8:30 is a golden chain of God's actions toward certain individuals that cannot be broken. Each one that he predestines will be called and will be justified and will be glorified.

Joel 2:32, Acts 2:39, Romans 8:28-30, Romans 1:6, Romans 1:7, Romans 9:11, Romans 11:29, 1 Corinthians 1:24-26, Ephesians 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 2:12, 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 1 Timothy 6:12, 2 Timothy 1:9, Hebrews 3:1, 1 Peter 2:9, 1 Peter 5:10, 2 Peter 1:3, 2 Peter 1:10, Revelation 17:14
To Christ; Ineffectual and Resistible "For many are called, but few are chosen.". In this story that Jesus told, some of those who were called, refused to come (Matthew 22:3) and were deemed unworthy (Matthew 22:8). There are some who are called and not chosen, and they will not be allowed to be in the wedding feast (eternal life in the kingdom of God) with the others. Therefore, this is a different call than that of salvation and union with Christ. Matthew 22:1-14, Proverbs 1:24, Isaiah 65:12,
Office | PositionThe call to be a high priest and prophet found in the Old Testament. The call to be an apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher found in the New Testament. The word "call" is not used for a prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher but since they are positions that a person occupies, it makes sense to use the word call. I may link to a post with more explanation in the future. Jeremiah 1:5, Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 4:11-12, Hebrews 5:4-5
A Life Situation or ConditionThis is the only verse that I know of in Scripture that speaks of being called to a certain type of life. The Apostle Paul is writing to the Corinthian church teaching them that they are to remain in the situation, condition, or calling that God has called them to. The types of situations Paul references are whether one is circumcised or uncircumcised and whether one is a slave or free. 1 Corinthians 7:17-24

There are more things that I’d like to say regarding this topic. I have many thoughts that I’m still working through. I wanted to start by laying a Biblical foundation for any future thinking on this word. God willing, future posts will build on this one in which I might answer common questions dealing with things like missionary calling, pastoral calling, vocational calling etc. Calling is a very popular word among Christians that should stay tied to the Bible as its source of meaning and significance, for the glory of God!

Please ask any questions you have related to calling in the comment section and I will answer them.