Can We Know Who The Non-Elect Are?

God summons the elect usually through the preaching of the gospel. Now, Christians do not first learn the identities of the elect, and then proceed to preach the gospel only to them. Rather, they preach the gospel “to all creation,”


“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).

Therefore, whether it is in the form of public oration, private conversation, written literature, or other means, the preaching or presentation of the gospel goes forth to both the elect and the non-elect. The elect will come to faith; the non-elect will either reject the gospel, or produce a temporary and false profession of faith.

Because of this, theologians distinguish between the OUTWARD CALLING and the INWARD CALLING. The outward calling refers to the preaching of the gospel by human beings, and is presented to both the elect and the non-elect. On the other hand, the inward or effectual calling is a work of God accompanying the outward calling to cause the elect to come to faith in Christ.

The preaching of the gospel appears to everyone as an outward calling, but it also comes as an inward summons to the elect. The outward calling is produced by human beings, but the inward calling is solely a work of God and occurs only to the elect. The inward calling is usually concurrent with the outward calling. In other words, many people may hear the gospel in a given situation, but God will cause only the elect to believe what is preached, while he hardens the non-elect against it.

Matthew 22:14 says, “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” The word “invited” in this verse may be translated “called,” as many other translations have it. Many are indeed “invited” in that they hear the outward call of the gospel, but only a few are among God’s elect, and therefore genuine and permanent professions of faith only come from the latter group.

By V. Cheung

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