Thursday, February 4, 2010

Vocation and the Two Kingdoms

There is indeed a distinction between holy or sacred work and common or secular work. The Christian, in his person and in his being, is holy and sacred by virtue of his union with Christ, and yet it is not an affront to this fact if his vocation is labeled as that which is common or secular.

Common grace ennobles secular work for God has not abandoned the present world, and it is through this type of labor that He sustains it, just as His redeeming grace empowers the Church's sacred work through Word and Sacrament.

Let the Christian, in humble circumstances, take joy in his labors as he engages in them for the glory of God.

"The kingdom of God advances through Word and Sacrament in the power of the Holy Spirit, while the kingdoms of this world advance through the arts and sciences, technology, literature, education, agriculture, business, medicine, and so forth. When a Christian is called to cabinet-making, he or she is not engaged in 'kingdom work' or a sacred calling. But that is not to demean this trade, as it was in the case of medieval Rome and much of modern Evangelicalism. Rather, it is to liberate us from thinking that something has to be justified by its usefulness to redemption, as if creation is not sufficient as a sphere in and of itself. A calling to make cabinets is the same for Christian and non-Christian alike. Because the unbeliever is still created in God's image and is the beneficiary of God's common grace, he or she is given a vocation by God in this world. God did not abandon the world and creation in order to work with his elect people, but rather he patiently endures the world's rebellion during this interval, restraining wickedness, while he extends his kingdom of grace to the ends of the earth (2 Pet. 3:1-13). This creates space for this shared sphere of human activity which is neither sacred nor sinful, but common and eminently worthwhile.

So let's stop blurring distinctions on this matter. Oil painting does not a 'minister' make. It is not kingdom work (if it is the kingdom of God that is meant), but cultural work. The only reason we would find that distinction offensive to our secular callings is if we already assume that whatever is not somehow a part of the kingdom of Christ is unworthy of a believer's passionate attention and interest. We need to recover creation as a sphere of common grace activity. Christians need to be freed to embrace the world which God has created without being burdened with trying to justify everything in terms of its 'kingdom value.' It is enough to serve one's neighbor and society without having to figure out how it all contributes to the regime of 'redeeming culture.'

Dr. Michael S. Horton, 'How to Discover Your Calling'.


  1. I enjoyed looking over your blog
    God bless you

  2. Thank you for the gracious and encouraging word, sir.

    Pls. do visit from time to time.

    Soli Deo Gloria.


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