|Written by David Lawrence|
|Saturday, August 14 2010 12:40|
Irresistible grace defines the doctrine that the call of God on the human heart will always result in that individual coming to faith in Christ and receiving eternal life. The concept is that the human will, in spite of the natural inclinations to resist God, in fact to hate God, will so be changed by the working of the Holy Spirit in the act of regeneration, that God’s grace will prevail over sin. The doctrine defines an important aspect of the entire redemptive program of God, of what grace is all about, of God’s sovereignty over Satan and evil, and of the eventual victory of Jesus Christ.
If Satan could prevent God from calling people to salvation, if grace were resistible, then logically no one could be saved, for the devil has far greater power than man, and he operates within the hearts of everyone who has not been reborn (Eph. 2:2). For how could the will of man prevail against the power of Satan? From what source would come the desire to turn to Christ? Jesus said “no man can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him….enables him” (John 6:44, 65).
One of the clearest texts establishing this doctrine is John 6:37 in which Jesus stated “All that the Father gives to me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” John 10:16 tells us that Jesus has other sheep that MUST be brought into the fold, and Acts 18:10 informs us that God had people in Corinth that MUST hear the gospel from Paul. All those foreknown and predestined are called, and all those called are justified and glorified (Rom. 8:29-30). If one of them fails to be saved, then Jesus Himself has failed (John 6:38-40). Yet Jesus will look on the labor of His life and be satisfied (Isa. 53:11). Christ takes the burden for the salvation of those the Father has given Him on Himself, and He tells the Father in His prayer that He has indeed given eternal life to all those given to Him (John 17:2).
Thus this doctrine would, in the end, have to be true or else Christ would have failed, and with Christ’s failure would follow the failure of God’s eternal plan of human redemption and the victory of the devil. The Lord knows those who are his own (2 Tim. 2:19), and Jesus is indeed the author and finisher of our salvation (Heb. 12:2), the salvation of all given to Him for that purpose (Heb. 2:13). Indeed, many sons shall be brought to glory (Heb. 12:10). The language of redemption throughout the Bible, in prophecies of the Old Testament and details of redemption accomplished in the New, demand such an interpretation.
One of the greatest examples of this doctrine is the apostle Paul. He was a determined enemy of Christ, leading a vicious persecution against Christians. Yet he was a chosen vessel (Acts 9:15), chosen to know his will and to see the Righteous One (Acts 22:14), with work appointed for him to do (Acts 22:10), the work of opening the eyes of Gentiles, turning them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those sanctified by faith (Acts 26:18). We would have to see the grace of God prevailing against the sinful resistance of Paul. So it is with us, and God has appointed work for all of us to do (Eph. 2:10), and when He calls us into fellowship with His Son, He will keep is strong and blameless to the end (1 Cor. 1:9).
The word irresistible, however, conjures up connotations of a continual struggle against God so that man is “dragged kicking and screaming into the kingdom,” as critics have said. Some call it “spiritual rape,” or “cosmic coercion.” Yet the prophecy of Psalm 110:3 suggests that in that day God’s troops will be willing. The free offer of the gospel is to “whosoever will” (Rev. 22:17), and Jesus speaks of understanding granted to those who want it (John 7:17). Jesus’ invitation “come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden” (Matt. 11:30) is genuine and sincere. Thus we conclude that the act of regeneration by the Holy Spirit changes our wills, opens our hearts to understand spiritual reality that have been closed to us by sin and the devil (2 Cor. 4:5-6, John 3:3, Acts 16:14, 1 Cor. 2:14), and we then willingly and freely choose Christ.
Thus a better term would be effectual calling, which expresses the doctrine much more accurately: that the call of God on the human heart is effectual in resulting inevitably in the salvation of the one called. Thus, as Paul writes, “…we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24). If we have been “called according to his purpose,” then nothing in all creation shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:28-39)!
(For further study we recommend Danny Hale’s audio series The Doctrines of Grace. You may listen to this series under "Audio" and then "Study Series." –David Lawrence)