The Doctrines of Grace: Irresistible Grace, Part 2
Now, at long last, we return to the fourth point of the TULIP: Irresistible Grace. To quickly recap, I have defined irresistible grace as the special favor of God, unnecessarily given by His own prerogative, that gives merciful, equitable relief so appealing to those towards whom it is exercised that they in turn want that favor.
As I stated in my initial post on this petal, irresistible grace is akin to the moth and the flame. When God moves savingly in a person’s heart, that person is attracted to Jesus in much the same way as the moth is to the flame. The moth does not necessarily immediately go to the flame; however it is attracted and begins to make movements towards it, halting and cautious movements. It will advance and retreat, and at some point it will fly close enough to the flame that it will be consumed. We see this all the time with our outdoor lights – sometimes bugs will sit close enough to the light or even attach themselves to the light bulb so that they effectively cook themselves to death. They are, of a sort, consumed by the light they are attracted to.
Today, let us examine the biblical support for this position.
We begin to see the doctrine of calling from the writings of Paul:
…those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified he also glorified… (Romans 8:30)
All throughout the New Testament letters we see references to this idea of calling, which seems to be applied only to the saved. What is this saving call?
We find the Scriptural evidence for such a call in several verses:
John 6:44 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
John 6:65 – “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”
John 10:3-4, 16, 26-29 – States that Jesus calls only the sheep to him in a saving manner. Furthermore, that call cannot be thwarted, as per verses 28-29.
John 11:1-44 – The raising of Lazarus from the dead. Note here that Jesus calls a dead and rotting man out of the tomb, and he comes out alive. This illustrates that our decision does not precede the calling of God, implying that God must first raise us to life before we can decide for Him.
Romans 11:29 – States that God’s call cannot be thwarted; it is irrevocable. This verse has more to do with the final petal of eternal security, but it strengthens irresistible grace by showing that the saving call to Christ is not withdrawn. If His call cannot be thwarted, then by extension it cannot be resisted unto death nor withdrawn from those who do so resist.
Philippians 2:12-13 – States that it is God who works in us to do His will. This is, essentially, what is meant by irresistible grace or effectual calling. God is working in us (His chosen) to produce the response to Christ that He desires.
What do these Scriptures imply to us, if in fact God’s call to the elect cannot be resisted unto death?
First, they tell us that God is the one who has secured our salvation. We, like Jesus, have done nothing of ourselves, but only what the Father has purposed to do in us. Every action we make towards salvation was initiated by God alone. J. M. Boice in The Doctrines of Grace writes that “(w)hen we are first saved, we think quite naturally that we have had a great deal to do with it….” But what the Christian fails to realize, says Boice, is that unless God has worked to bring about salvation before our decision, no decision would ever have been possible on our part. Remember Romans 3? “None seek after God!”
Second, irresistible grace contributes towards our assurance as believers. If my coming to Christ was the result of my own actions, then surely I can undo my salvation by my own actions as well. If God is powerless to save me unless I make a decision, He is also powerless to keep me under His saving grace. On the other hand, if my coming to Christ was the result of God’s action in my heart through the power of the Holy Spirit, then nothing I could ever do can undo what He has wrought in my heart. Who can resist God’s will (Romans 9:19)? Who can thwart Him (Isaiah 14:27)? On the contrary, it is I who is powerless to save myself, powerless to remove myself from His hand. Since it is God who has called us, we can be assured that we are truly saved.
Third, irresistible grace gives us confidence of our success in evangelism. Why? Because we are not relying on our own words and wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:4, 13; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). If we believe in irresistible grace, we must have confidence that whatever we say, God will use it to save those to whom we witness. This is why it is so important that we rely on sola Scriptura. If we are speaking Scripture (explicitly or implicitly) to those to whom we witness, we are trusting God’s promise that His Word will not return to Him void, but will accomplish its purpose. We are trusting that the purpose of His Word is to draw all people to Christ in some way. We are trusting that when people are drawn to Him by our preaching, that God will do with those people as He has purposed – whether to save them or to condemn them. And as such our success comes not from ourselves, but from God who gets the increase.
Tomorrow, I will share My View and our Conclusion.