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 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?


(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 call1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13 that might be discussed at different times by inspired writers in terms that affect the individual inwardly1,3,4,5,7,8,11,12,13 and/or outwardly2,4,5,6,9,10,12.

By allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture we see that one may respond to the gospel call2,4,5,6,9. Those that respond with belief and obedience5,9,10,12 (and not just once7,8,13) 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 until death. All of this together is calling on the name of the Lord”.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

I [Paul] am constantly giving thanks for you in my prayers, asking the God our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory.  I ask him to give you a spirit of wisdom and understanding in knowing him – opening the eyes of your hearts – that you may know the hope to which he has called you and the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…

Paul’s opening to the church in Ephesus.  His prayer continues for several more verses, including a third “what” he is praying for them to know – specifically that “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (vs 19).

How does it inform?

Paul refers to the fact of the Christian’s “calling” but nothing indicates it being “inward” (or “outward”). In fact, he will later3 emphasize the ‘oneness’ of the calling and hope that he highlights here.

Does it apply? Yes

For many are called, but few are chosen.

Many are called but few are chosen.

How does it inform?

Jesus speaks in relative terms to distinguish between two results (we would say responses) to a single call. There is only one call referenced here, from which some (“few”) are “chosen”.

Does it apply? Yes

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
There is one body and one Spirit.  Likewise, you were called to one hope that is your calling.  There’s one Lord, one faith, one baptism.  Finally, there is one God and Father of all who is over, through, and in all.

Paul is turning to urge the brethren to be unified and to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling”  to which they were called (vs 1).  He is encouraging them to do so humbly and in love (vs 2) while remembering the grace that has been given to each one (vs 7).

How does it inform?

Paul’s whole point is unity [of the Spirit] and the single (unified) aspects of their spiritual calling.

Does it apply? Yes

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
We thank God that though you were once slaves to sin, you have become obedient from your heart and remained committed to the standard of teaching you heard. You were set free from sin and have since become slaves of righteousness.
How does it inform?

While “calling” isn’t referenced here, Paul describes two aspects of a Christian’s single call – their initial repentance coming “from the heart” (inward) and an ongoing “obedience” and commitment to the teaching (outward).

Does it apply? Yes

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
Lydia from Thyatira and a seller of purple goods and worshipped God.  God opened the heart of Lydia in order for her to truly listen to Paul’s words.

Paul and his traveling companions are in Philippi and have sought out worshippers of God in order to teach them about Jesus. Lydia is one among a group of women they found at a known place of prayer (so presumably she was praying to God). She responded to their message and was baptized.

How does it inform?

God opened Lydia’s heart to “pay attention” to Paul’s message (the gospel). Subsequently, she believed and obeyed (was baptized). Scripture only says that God opened her heart to “pay attention”.

Does it apply? Yes


I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

I [Paul] am amazed that you are listening to a different gospel and so refusing the gift of Christ to which you were called by God.  Not that there is a “different gospel” – there is only one – but some do you harm by distorting Christ’s call.  Even if an angel were to come from heaven to preach something contrary to what we have preached and you have heard, they should be doomed to destruction.  We have said this before, but will say it again, if anyone contradicts the gospel of Christ that you have obeyed, let them be doomed to destruction.
Paul opens letter to the churches of Galatia astonished by their quick turning from the gospel and his own confronting of Peter re: false teaching.
How does it inform?

Although no mention of any particular kind of calling, Paul, does describe what some define as the “outward call” (the gospel preached) and is saying it to those that would have received the “inward call” (Christians). Why would Paul be giving this lengthy warning about turning to “a different gospel” (essentially, a different “outward call”) when they’re secure in their “inward call”?

Does it apply? Yes

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

Before when you did not know God, you were beholden to those that by nature are not gods.  But now that you have come to know Him – or be known by Him – how can you turn back to those natural gods that are weak and worthless worldly principles?

Paul’s letter to the Christians throughout Galatia, converted during his first missionary journey (Acts 13-14).  He is confronting a persistent effort by Jewish Christians to continue in and bind on Gentile Christians customs and practices from the Old Law.

How does it inform?

Later in the same letter6, Paul makes the same plea again about them falling away. However, instead of talking about their having responded to the gospel, here he describes it as the mutual “becoming known” – them to God, and God to them. No mention of an “inward call” nor any caveat regarding the surety of that calling.

Does it apply? Yes

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

It’s impossible to restore to repentance those that have fallen away after coming to understand and experience salvation – having shared in the Holy Spirit and the goodness of God’s word and the power to come – since they crucify all over the Son of God, putting him to public shame to their own harm.

The Hebrews writer is arguing the “better” things in Christ, contrasting with things from the Old Law these Hebrew Christians had turned from, but apparently were at risk to turn back.  He is chastising them for having become “dull of hearing” (5:11) and requiring someone to still need to teach them these “basic principles” (5:12).
How does it inform?

The writer is clearly speaking to those that would have received the “inward call” since they have “shared in the Holy Spirit.” Nevertheless, he warns them about falling away. Why would he do that?

Does it apply? Yes


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.

Give thanks to God, since He chose you to be saved through the setting apart by the Spirit and belief in the gospel – to this He called you by “our gospel” in order that you may obtain glory shared with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica where he is warning them about coming destructive forces to the faithful – those that succumb even being helped by God who “sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,” (vs 11).
How does it inform?

Paul states clearly that the “brothers” were called by God “through our gospel”. The gosepl is the calling, not distinguished as an “inward” or an “outward”.

Does it apply? Yes

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

We are lying if we say we are partnered with God when we walk in worldly ways and ignore the truth.  However, if we walk in righteousness, as he is righteous, we have fellowhip with each other and the blood of Jesus washes away our sins.

The Apostle John’s opening in a letter written to Christians encouraging them to love each other (as God loves) and resist false teaching.  His instruction appears to be to individual Christians (not a particular church).

How does it inform?

If there is an irresistible, inward call, why is John warning those that he clearly believes have received the “inward call” to “walk in the light”?

Does it apply? Yes

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

God has called us to be holy and not to be impure.  Therefore, whoever chooses to disregard this is disregarding the very God that has given his Holy Spirit to you.

Paul is giving his final admonitions in his letter to the Thessalonians and imploring them to remain sanctified especially avoiding sexual immorality (vs 3).

How does it inform?

Paul warns about a Christian’s ability to “disregard” God’s calling, even inspite of His giving of His Spirit.

Does it apply? Yes


And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Anyone who has crucified their fleshly passions and desires belongs to Christ Jesus.
Paul is making the argument that the Christian is “called to freedom” (vs 13) and the freedom is from Christ (vs 1).  Specifically in this context, he is arguing their freedom from being circumcised according the Old Law who as a result are “severed from Christ” (vss 2-6).
How does it inform?

Those that “belong to Christ” in this passage are those already saved and who Paul is encouraging them to “walk by the Spirit” (vs 16) and not be “severed from Christ” (vs 4) due to living in the flesh. Paul never mentions their “inward call” but instead appeals to their free moral agency to obey…even while teaching their being “led by the Spirit” (vs 18).

Does it apply? Yes

For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

You know that just as a father would with his children, we urged, motivated, even commanded you to live according to God’s desire, who continues to invite and beckon you into His kingdom and glory.

In Paul’s extended introduction to the “church of the Thessalonians” (1:1), he is recalling the events around their first hearing Paul bring them the gospel (Acts 17 during his second missionary journey).

How does it inform?

Paul exhorted, encouraged, and charged Christians to live (e.g. “walk”) in a way that was worthy of God’s call into His Kingdom and glory. God’s “calling” is ongoing, regardless of the individual Christian’s walk.

Does it apply? Yes

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