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The Fall & Vocation | The Doctrine of Sin, Man, & the Person of Christ

As taught by Zach Thompson.

In this lesson, we learn how we can live out our vocation in this fallen world.

The Fall and Vocation


Over the past several weeks, we have been walking through a lot of fundamental realities in Christian theology. What is the image of God? What is Sin? How has sin affected the world? These are the questions that have consumed our time.

Specifically, when we were looking at sin, we saw that

  • Sin is despising God through actions, inactions, or motivations

  • Sin separates us from God and earns His wrath.

  • Sin is the common state of humanity and the world.

Then the next week, as sought to gain a more full understanding of sin, we saw that:

  • Sin has dominion in this world

  • Sin affects our entire being

  • Sin breeds sin.

  • Sin doesn’t travel alone.

  • Sin results in death, pain, and separation from God.

  • Sin causes enmity between people

And in light of all of this, last week, we considered how the fall and all of the sin and brokenness of our world interacts with sexuality and what God has for us in regard to sexuality.

This week we will do something similar to last week. Having laid this foundational understanding of sin and the fall, we are going to zero on a specific theme. And that theme is vocation.

So let’s start with a question. Then we’ll dig into it.

What is your vocation?

If you are a Christian, you have one.

If you are a follower of Jesus, then you know that you were born an enemy of God, and now in Christ, you have been adopted as his child. And you await a kingdom where there is no more sin and brokenness.

But what does God expect you to do while you wait?

Enter vocation.

Vocation is a really important word, but it’s also a really misunderstood word. So as we begin to work through this topic of the fall and vocation, we are going to start with a quick definition of vocation, then we’ll dwell on that reality for a time, then we’ll consider how we should respond to all of this. So let’s start with a working definition.

What is Vocation?

Vocation is the primary role given to an individual Christian within a specific estate in order to love God and neighbor as we wait for New Heavens and a New Earth.

I realize that this definition is a mouthful. Sorry about that. But I wanted to aim for precision.

Let’s take a moment to break this down, then we’ll expand on it as we move forward.

We’ll walk through a few slides here that underline the part I want to talk about

Vocation is the primary role given to an individual Christian

Vocation isn’t a long list of things. It’s a particular answer. It’s the primary calling of God for you. And it isn’t necessarily for everyone. It’s for an individual Christian. This doesn’t mean that other people don’t have it. If part of your vocation is to own an ice cream shop, then that is going to contain a lot of things that every other ice cream shop owner will have as part of their vocation.


Vocation is the primary role given to an individual Christian within a specific estate

We’ll talk about this in more detail, but we mean that you will have different vocations depending on which sphere of life you are considering. Maybe that sounds confusing, but hopefully it will make more sense later.


Vocation is the primary role given to an individual Christian within a specific estate in order to love God and neighbor

There is a specific purpose to all of this. God doesn’t just give you a vocation to keep you busy. We live out the vocations that God has given us in order to live as God’s people. Vocation is a means toward loving our neighbors.

When speaking on this topic, Martin Luther said, that “a Christian tailor . . . will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbor.”

Then finally,

Vocation is the primary role given to an individual Christian within a specific estate in order to love God and neighbor as we wait for New Heavens and a New Earth.

We don’t live our lives in this world as if this is our permanent home. We live out our vocations in this world as we wait for the world to come. We are sojourners and exiles who wait for a better kingdom.

Let’s keep moving.

When you think of the word “vocation,” you probably think of one thing. Work. In today’s terminology, vocation is roughly equivalent to the term “career” or “occupation”

But there is actually an interesting history here.

If we think of vocation merely as career or as work, then we have an insufficient understanding of the word.

We get the word vocation from the Latin word that means “to call” or “to summon.” And at the root of its meaning, vocation is roughly equivalent to how we think about the word calling.

The Protestant doctrine of vocation was developed in the days of the Reformation of the 16th century.

For some time before the Reformation, the idea of vocation (or calling) was reserved for spiritual work.

You can see this in the illustration on the screen. There are two separate circles, and vocation means that someone was called out of the secular world and into the sacred world.

In those days, the idea of vocation would only have been used in reference to someone in the spiritual realm– like a priest or a monk or a nun. To take on a spiritual vocation meant that you would renounce things like “marriage, secular work, and economic advancement through taking vows of celibacy, obedience, and poverty.”

But a reformation understanding of vocation is different. Rather than being removed from the secular world, we would recognize that we are still in the world, but that we are citizens of a different world. We are exiles.We are sojourners.

But as the people of God a special calling has been placed on our life. God has called us to live as his people, even in the midst of a broken world.

The doctrine that made the way for this change was the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.

During the Reformation, there was an emphasis on this doctrine. The priesthood of all believers is the teaching in the Bible that every single believer is a priest. This is taken from places like 1 Peter 2:9-10, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

You might notice that this isn’t talking about a group within the larger group. He is talking to all of the people of God saying, “You are a royal priesthood.” He is speaking to the entire people, not just a select group of priests and monks. “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.” The people of God are a priesthood, not just the men and not just those who have received a special calling.

This doctrine has a lot of massive implications. And as a side note, this doctrine is a major distinctions between Protestant Christianity and Mormon theology.

But let’s focus on the topic at hand–Vocation.

The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers influenced the idea of vocation (or calling). It widened the idea of the special call of God from something that was purely ministerial to something that applied to every single Christian.

If you are a Christian, then you have a vocation. You have a calling

So what is your vocation? At this point, I want to take a turn toward application. And to do that, you need a decent grasp on your vocation.

Let me give you some categories.

The Reformation gave us three categories for vocation that all of us fit into. They are called the three estates. You can think of them as three spheres or three realms.

They are the household, the church, and the state.

We are going to consider these for just a couple of minutes here, and as we do, I’m going to ask you to meditate on what God has called you to within each category.

And when I ask that, you don’t need to remember some super spiritual experience or a time when someone prophesied over you. When I am asking you about God’s calling on you, I am chiefly asking about what God’s Word says and how that has played out in your life.

In most cases, God has made it clear what you are called to do, and I hope that you’ll see that as we spend some time on this. And let me encourage you here at the start. If the Lord brings some theme to your mind where you are not living as he would have you, then turn away from the vain things of the world and turn toward the eternal kingdom of God.

Let’s begin. First, the household.

The household refers to the family and the economic labor by which it supports itself.

What is your vocation within your household? Are you a father? A mother? A son or daughter? Are you a sojourner? What responsibilities come with that role? One of the realities to remember in the category of household is that until the Industrial Revolution, the vast majority of economic activity happened in the home, not in some other workplace. What have you been called by God to do in your household?

Are you called to provide? To protect? To nurture? To obey? To serve?


The second estate is the church.

The church refers to the local body of believers.

All Christians are called to be part of a church. Through the church God calls pastors and deacons into particular offices, but those aren’t the only vocations in the church. What gifts has God given you? What are the needs in this particular church? All of this goes into the idea of vocation in the estate of the church.

The third estate is the state.

The state is the political jurisdiction under which you find yourself.

In America, we have city, county, state, and federal governments, and at varying levels, this is part of your vocation. It’s part of what God has called you to. For each of us, we have a role to play. It may simply be to vote. It may be to run for public office. Or it might just be to obey the laws of the land insofar as they don’t conflict with the law of God.

If you are a follower of Jesus, then to some extent, you have a vocation that touches all of these categories.

For example, in the secular work place, I am a business development manager at a home design company. But that’s not my vocation, at least not in it’s fullness. Vocation is bigger than that. Through my work, I help people find a way make a home that is a custom fit to their family, and I seek to be honest about whether they can afford the project. My vocation is as a father to my children and a husband to Courtney. Within the church, my chief vocation is as a pastor to Christ Fellowship. I am bivocational in the sense that I economically provide for my family through both secular means and through some pay from the church. And I am called into a vocation as a citizen who should vote and pay taxes and give feedback to state and local municipalities through local home builder associations.

I hope that as we look at this, you can see that “your entire life . . . including the most mundane tasks, are worship to God, not only select actions and vocations reserved for those who have renounced involvement in normal institutions of worldly life.”

This is a matter for more consideration than we can give it, but I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what God has called you to.

Hopefully, you have something in mind as we continue.

But let’s simplify it with this question. Where do you spend your 9-5? Toward what end do you spend the bulk of your waking hours? If the answer to this is in line with your scriptural responsibilities, then that is probably at least part of your vocation.

And as we consider some specific realities here, we are going to think about this through the lens of work. We’ve taken some pains to point out that vocation is more than our work, but I think it will help us distill some of these realities down. Also, work is something that is common to all humans who are subject to the fall, while vocation is from God.

Let’s look at some realities for work after the fall.

Post Fall Realities for Work

A few weeks ago, Timothy recommended a book to the church called Not The Way It’s Supposed To Be: A Breviary of Sin by Cornelius Platinga Jr. At the beginning of that book, he sets the scene for the entire book by recounting a scene from the movie Grand Canyon. In that scene, an immigration attorney tries to bypass a traffic jam by taking a side route along deserted and dark streets in the city. Predictably, his car stalls, and he gets stuck on what is clearly a dangerous part of town for a lawyer with a nice car. He calls for a tow truck, but before the tow truck gets there, 5 young men surround his car and start to threaten him. Then just before the worst happens, the tow truck driver pulls up and begins to hook up the disabled car without a word.

The tow truck driver takes the leader aside and he says, “Man, the world ain’t supposed to work like this. Maybe you don’t know that, but this ain’t the way it’s supposed to be. I’m supposed to be able to do my job without askin’ you if I can. And that dude is supposed to be able to wait with his car without you rippin’ him off. Everything’s supposed to be different than what it is here.”

That tow truck driver understood something. We can look around the world and see brokenness. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

And one of the clearest places we see that is in our work.

Let’s rewind back to Genesis 2 as we begin to think about this.

We glimpsed the beginning of the doctrine of work back in Genesis 2:15, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

Work was there before the fall. Part of Adam’s mandate was to work and keep the garden. Work is not inherently evil. Before the fall, it was satisfying and without exhaustion.

But it’s not long before it is all ruined.

Look in Genesis 3:17 “cursed is the ground because of you;

in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;

and you shall eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your face

you shall eat bread,

till you return to the ground,

for out of it you were taken;

for you are dust,

and to dust you shall return.”

We’re not going to try and rehash everything about the Fall here, but look at what it says.

“Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you . . . By the sweat or your face you shall eat bread.”

What was once satisfying and fruitful will now become laborious and uncertain.

And it will be this way until we return to the ground. “For out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Not only will creation now resist your dominion at every turn, all of it will be futile because of death.

So from these verses, we see two realities about work in the world after the fall.

Because of the Fall:

  • Our work is more difficult than it was meant to be.

  • Our work is characterized by futility because of death.

Because of the Fall, all of our toil is more difficult than it should be, and it is characterized by futility.

We see that in these verses. But we don’t have to stop here. It’s all over the Bible.

Think of Ecclesiastes. This is what the teacher laments throughout the book Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”

He laments every facet of life, and he says that all of it is vanity. He even laments things that you wouldn’t expect.

He says that wisdom is vanity. Ecclesiastes 2:16 “For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool!”

Why is wisdom vanity? Because of death. Because ultimately there is nothing to be gained by it because we end up the same place.

And to our point today, he says that all toil is vanity because of death. Ecclesiastes 2:18-19, “I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.”

The inevitability of death pushes every endeavor toward futility.

This isn’t just in Ecclesiastes. Think of Abraham who dug wells that got filled with dirt and rocks by the time his son Isaac was an adult. Think of Isaac who was chased out of town by Abimelech because he feared him, then Isaac was attacked for redigging his own father’s wells, then the same people who attacked him asked to make a covenant with him. Think of Jacob who worked with Laban for 20 years and dealt in deception after deception with the man who employed him.

We could systematically walk through every narrative in scripture and demonstrate the futility and unnecessary difficulty of work in this world.

But we don’t have to restrict ourselves to Scripture. Consider the way that you spend your days.

It doesn’t matter if your work is as a mom, a priest, a shoemaker, or whatever. If we only consider this world, it’s filled futile. It’s vanity.

You make the bed every day only for it be messy again tomorrow morning. You sweep only for crumbs to return. You make the sale to get a commission that ends up getting split before it gets to you. You schedule the workers, and all of it has to be redone because one person called in sick. What good is spiritual formation if this life is all there is? What good is it to have an upright reputation or to have exorbitant wealth if all of it will be left behind, and it will be remembered by no one?

Friends, in this fallen world, we have entire industries that exist so that we can manage the brokenness and futility of our world.

Think of the medical field.

Every single circumstance in the field of medicine is a result of the fall. If sin had not entered the world, there would be no sickness, no injuries, no cancer.

Have you considered that? There will be no doctors in heaven. Nurses are only needed because of the fall.

Maybe you will say, “well most of this isn’t technically thorns and thistles.” And fair point, but all of these things are results of the fall. It’s all flowing from the fact that Adam sinned, and so all sinned (Rm 5:12).

Our workplaces and homes, the places where we would live out our vocations, they are broken places. When a coworker gets recognized, there is envy and covetousness. A salesperson will lie to a client and gouge the prices to get the fat commission. An installer’s pride will keep someone from changing a consistent pattern that harms a client. A write will plagiarize their work and count it as their own.

Employees are undervalued and unappreciated. Owners are driven into bankruptcy and despair. Mom’s aren’t in any pictures because Dad isn’t thoughtful enough to take one. Children run the house because parents are too scared to say no.

It’s overwhelming to consider all of the ways that our work is affected by the fall.

But how should we respond to all of this? How then should we live?

Balancing Vocation between the two Kingdoms:

We are connected to two kingdoms. We live in this broken world, but we are citizens of another world. So as we ask the question of how we should live in light of all of this, we have to say this.

As followers of Jesus, we must live in this kingdom knowing that we are citizens of the redeemed kingdom.

But how? I have a few things.


  • Seek the welfare of the city

I think that one of the best illustrations in Scripture for this is when the nation of Judah is sent into exile. Before Babylon even takes them into exile, God tells them, “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

We live as exiles in this world. And we can see that this world is temporary. All of it will come to an end, and we will be ushered into a better kingdom. But until then, we seek the welfare of this kingdom.

Maybe today’s discussion on vocation has only left you confused. If you missed everything else, this is the one thing to remember. Living out your vocation means seeking the good of your neighbor. It means loving people in the ways that God has equipped you to love them.


  • Work as unto the Lord

We get this from places like Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

Someone might point to your reputation and say, “the world is watching.” But for the Christian it should carry so much more weight to say that “the Lord is watching.”

This works both ways. It means that when we think we could get away with tricking our boss in some way, we should remember that we work as unto the Lord. But on the other hand, if God sees every good work, even if your boss doesn’t. God notices your unnoticed faithfulness, and it delights his heart.

One of the most common complaints in the work place is feeling underappreciated. Whose appreciation are you working for? God knows what it’s like to be taken for granted. Consider Jesus who came to his own and was rejected.

Isn’t this what Jesus chided the Pharisees for? Doing good only to be seen by men? Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”

When you work, aim to work for the pleasure of the Father and find satisfaction in that.

  • Rest as unto the Lord

Consider the realities of the Sabbath that the Lord gave for our good. Rest. Your vocation is give by God for your good and for the glory of his name.

But rest in the Lord as you pursue it. And don’t live as if your labor is full and only thing that will bring about God’s glory. When you rest in the way that God would have you rest, then it glorifies his name. Don’t indulge in idleness, but rest in the Lord.

  • Remember that there is still a harvest

I won’t say too much here because we are out of time. But even as we live in the futility of this world, remember that there is still a harvest. There are thorns and thistles, God still gives a harvest. Enjoy the good things that God gives you from the harvest and praise his name for them.

In Leviticus, there is a point where if someone lives far away from the temple, then they are expected to sell their first fruits, then travel to the temple and have a party as unto the Lord.

Partake of the harvest and enjoy the good things that God has given you.

  • Remember that even though work is still hard, it has eternal value

Think of Matthew 6:19-21, “19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

When Jesus says this, he isn’t only speaking of things that seem spiritual. He is talking about all of life. He is talking about all of the things we have been discussing. What has God called you to? In doing those things faithfully, you are laying up treasures in heaven.

Our work is never merely our work. In Christ, we have been given an eternal perspective.

A mom isn’t merely keeping her kids alive until they can move out of the house. She is aiming to raise up kingdom citizens.

A manager isn’t merely aiming to have an efficient work place, he is aiming to please the Lord as he loves his neighbors through every gentle confrontation and every employment schedule.

A medical worker isn’t just trying to minimize the physical pain of their patients. They are injecting the hope of the gospel into a hopeless and futile world.

Our vocation is where God has called us to live out the tenants of our faith.

So think for just a moment, even when you feel like your work is futile, the fact that you are in Christ totally changes that. Even when you can’t see the point, the promise of scripture is that there is one. God is working all things together for the good of those who love him and who are called according to his purpose (Rm 8:28).

This life isn’t about your seeing results. It’s about living the life that God has called you to live and walking into his embrace when you are finished.

  • Find contentment in your vocation

1 Corinthians 7:17-24, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.”

In this section of Scripture, Paul is about to address cultural identity and socioeconomic status. Two things that most people didn’t have almost any control over.

He tells the slave that he shouldn’t hate God because of his circumstance, even though he should avail himself of freedom if it becomes available. Consider what we just said. The God who is sovereign in your current circumstance was sovereign before you were born. He was sovereign when your parents decided which city you would move to. He was sovereign when you made the friends who influenced your life and who shaped your desires to do what you are doing now.

If God has called you to something, don’t despise it.

  • Seek to fulfill the Great Commission

Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This is the missionary task of the church. It’s not just for a few people in the church. It is given to the entire church. It wasn’t just the disciples who were made fishers of men.

This is our task. So it’s part of your vocation.


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