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The Doctrine of Vocation


God used the Protestant Reformation (1517-1555) to preserve His Church from false teaching. This historical period is known for the 5 "Solas" (latin word for only): We are saved by GRACE alone, through FAITH alone, in CHRIST alone, as revealed in SCRIPTURE alone, and for the GLORY of God alone. Additionally, the Reformation produced the "Doctrine of Vocation" -- the idea that Christians are called to live faithfully in three arenas: the household, the local church, and the state. Essentially, they taught that it was appropriate for certain Christians to work in the home and raise children, some to dedicate their lives to ministry, and others to serve as governing officials or work in the marketplace. This combats the idea that some jobs are more important in God's eyes than others.

But the Reformers didn't come up with this teaching out of thin air...The idea is reinforced by both the New and Old Testaments. Look at the story of Nehemiah rebuilding the city walls. Contrary to popular belief, this book was not written so that you could know how to be a great leader...It wasn't written so you could learn the principles of management and run a Fortune 500 company. Nehemiah is a story about how, even when things seem bleak, God keeps His promises. That being said, there are other spiritual lessons contained in the book. For one, Nehemiah is a picture, a foreshadowing, of Jesus Christ.

Nehemiah once held the esteemed position of being the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1:11b), but he forsook that job to become a construction worker. Hardly any of us would give up an elegant job in the king's palace for dirty, manual labor. But that's a worldly perception. In reality, both of Nehemiah's jobs glorified God because he woke up each day and went to work for the Lord! It did not matter that enemies were coming to ridicule (and physically attack) Nehemiah and his men (Nehemiah 4:3), because God had said that the work was important. Nehemiah was faithful to his duties and said “...I am doing a great work...” (Nehemiah 6:3, NASB). Now, yes, Nehemiah's job still involved God's covenant people, so the job was important for that reason. But it was also important because Nehemiah trusted the Lord and did his work diligently. In the same way, Jesus forsook the glories of heaven to be born in a lowly manger, die on a looked-down upon cross, and serve in a hostile situation. But He did His work faithfully and willingly. "...I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord..." (John 10:17-18) Today, believers can model Jesus by waking up and going to work cheerfully; offering their job as worship to God.

Proverbs 22:29 says, “You have seen a person skilled in his work — he will take his position before kings...” (NET) This was quite literally the case for Nehemiah. He actually worked for the king. Now, every Christian will not necessarily have the privilege of working directly for the king, or a governor, or the President. But each believer can go to work for the King of Kings every day. When you go to work and create art, assemble documents, write a report, teach others, organize something, or lay bricks like Nehemiah, you are bearing the image of God. He is the original Creator, Author, Teacher, and Organizer! By doing our work well, we will glorify and exemplify Jesus Christ.

Even when your job seems dirty, or unimportant, or the dental benefits aren't good, God will remember your work that was offered up as worship to Him. Think about mothers -- especially those who stay at home. Their task is not honored by the world...and that's okay because motherhood is one of the most esteemed positions in God's mind. To the mom, who sacrifices for undeserving, sinful children by cleaning dirty diapers, straightening up the house, slaving over meals, and sharing the Gospel with her children, God will remember this type of ministry (Hebrews 6:10). By the way, can you think of anyone else who sacrificed a ton for people who didn't deserve it? Thats right...Jesus. Parents become more like Christ as they faithfully raise children in the way that they should go.

Paul confirmed that all jobs are important in the New Testament. He worked as a tentmaker (see Acts 18:3) and encouraged believers in this way: “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17, NLT) and later, “...do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people” (Colossians 3:23, NASB).

In conclusion, there are no second class Christians due to differences in occupation. Instead, every job, that a Christian completes, can be offered as worship to the Lord. Furthermore, Paul explained in Romans 14 that different Christians will have different opinions, preferences, callings, and interests about their diet, the sabbath day, and — if I may continue his thoughts — career choices. “...Each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them...” (1 Corinthians 7:17, NIV).

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