The inward call versus the outward call. Many today distinguish these as two different types of Godly or heavenly ‘callings’. Dividing the spiritual callings found in scripture between an ‘inward call’ and an ‘outward call’ is perpetuated at least in part by teachings credited to John Calvin.

“Calvinism”, or more currently labeled Reformed or Reformed Protestantism, is a Christian theology framework that stands on five points understood by the mnemonic TULIP. The idea of an “inward call” comes into play under the doctrine of irresistible grace. Specifically, the “inward call” is distinguished as the call from God that can’t be refused. This is due, at least in part, to being infused with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. After all, who could refuse the Holy Spirit?

Thus, the “inward call” is distinguished from the “outward call” –the “gospel call”– that goes to everyone and can be refused. All of this is further described in our T-U-L-I-P detail, but what does Scripture show us about an “inward call” of God?

T-U-L-I-P

A popularly recognized pneumatic representing the “pillars” of John Calvin’s teaching.

(aka “total inability”) Every person that is enslaved to sin as a result of the fall of man and further, is not inclined to love God. Instead, man’s nature is to reject the rule of God and serve themselves. As a result, no human has the moral capacity to choose to obey God for spiritual salvation. Their sin (“depravity”) affects every part of them (“total”). Calvin’s “total depravity” doctrine is based on his interpretation of Augustine’s definition of Original Sin.

From the beginning, God chose individuals that he would call his own. This was not based on any foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Instead, his selection is unconditional (e.g. unilateral) and based only on his mercy. He extends mercy and salvation in Christ Jesus to those chosen (the “elect”). Those not chosen are separated from him because of their sins, receiving his wrath.

(aka “particular redemption” or “definite atonement” or “particular atonement”) Because of God’s complete sovereignty over man, the sins of the elect – and only the elect – were atoned for by Jesus’ death.

(aka “efficacious grace”) God’s saving grace is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect). By his sovereignty, he overcomes any resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. After all, he has purposed this from the beginning (“Unconditional election”). Here a distinction is made with the Holy Spirit’s “outward call” (preaching of the Gospel) that goes to all (elect and non-elect). It is only this “outward call” that can be rejected by sinners, whereas the “inward call” (or “effectual call”) of the Holy Spirit’s saving grace cannot be rejected (e.g “irresistible”).

(aka “perseverance of God with the saints” and “preservation of the believing”) God’s sovereignty precludes any that have received his “inward call” to be lost.  These “elect” will definitively be saved.

How Scripture answers "Is there an inward call of God?"

Nowhere does Scripture speak of an explicit “inward call” (vs an “outward call”). More accurately, we see Scripture speak of one, higher14, holy18 call1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,15,16,17 discussed at different times by inspired writers in terms that effect the individual inwardly1,3,5,7,8,11,12,15,16,17,18 and/or outwardly2,4,5,6,9,10,12,13,14,16.

By allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture we see that one may respond to the gospel call2,4,5,6,9,16,18. Those that respond with belief and obedience5,9,10,12,13 (and not just in one moment in time7,8,14,15,18) are given God’s Holy Spirit as a dwelling3,8,9,11 and are subsequently encouraged to remain true to their calling1,3,4,6,7,8,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18 until death. All of this together is how we see calling on the name of the Lord” defined in Scripture.

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  1. David Norfleet at - Reply

    2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 points to the means of calling – the gospel.

    • Got it; a good one! It’s nice when a suggested passage is already in the database and resuable! We’ve got about 500 like that so far. Thanks for the add.