Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:1-3 ESV)
Paul writes as one who is “called” to the church of God who is also “called.” What does this mean to be “called”?
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, (Romans 1:1 ESV)
including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:6-7 ESV)
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30 ESV)
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 ESV)
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, (2 Timothy 1:8-9 ESV)
Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God. (1 Corinthians 7:17-24 ESV)
It appears that in the epistles the “call” of God is indeed an effectual call. God predestines certain people and then calls them (Rom 8:29-30). God places His love on certain persons and they are the called (Rom 1:6-7). God saves those whom He calls (2 Tim 1:8-9). Those who are called are set apart (Rom 1:1).
Two other important texts to consider:
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37 ESV)
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44 ESV)
Whoever then comes to Jesus (the one who is called) He will not cast out. But no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws (i.e. calls) them. This is who Paul is writing to. He is a called Apostle, writing to the called Church, to instruct them with God’s word. Paul is perfectly setting up his readers (and us) to understand that they are the called of God, under the authority of God, and that they need to obey Him because they belong to Him.