Irresistible Grace
Statement of Doctrine

All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.

This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man; who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, He is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it. (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter X, Sections 1 and 2)

Scriptural Support

Romans 9:16; Philippians 2:12-13; James 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2, 23-29; Romans 8:30; John 6:37, 44-45, 64-65; Acts 13:48

Irresistible Grace is Necessary

  1. Man in his natural state is radically corrupt. He can never become holy through any power of his own. He is spiritually dead.

    • If a man is spiritually dead, then nothing short of a supernatural, life-giving power will cause him to do that which is spiritually good.

  2. Man is at enmity with God and that enmity must be removed before he can have any desire for Christ.

  3. Regeneration is a sovereign gift of God, graciously bestowed on those whom He has chosen. Only God is able to regenerate sinful man.

An Inward Change

  1. It is called in Scripture:

    • a regeneration (Titus 3:5)

    • a spiritual resurrection (Ephesians 1:19, 20)

    • a calling out from darkness to God's marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)

    • a passing out of death into life (John 5:24)

    • a new birth (John 3:3)

    • a making alive (Colossians 2:13)

    • a taking away the heart of stone and giving one of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19)

  2. A regeneration of the soul is something wrought in us, not performed by us. It involves an essential change of character.

  3. The pre-requisite for entrance into the kingdom of God is a radical transformation wrought by the Spirit of God.

    • It is entirely a work of grace. God is under no obligation to give it.

    • The soul, dead in sin, is first transferred to spiritual life and then exercises faith, repentance and good works.

      1. Men can only do so much through external words and means to bring people to God. It is God who opens the hearts for conversion.

      2. God's power is primary, ours is secondary and only is exerted in response to the Divine. It is by the same mighty power that a person is saved as that was used to raise Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20).

  4. God exercises His power in the spiritual realm as He did (and does) in the physical realm.

    • He is not just endeavoring. He is not bowing to the creature's "lordly will." He is not sharing salvation with man.

The Effect Produced in the Soul

  1. The immediate and important effect is that the person loves righteousness and trusts in Christ for salvation.

    • The desires are changed and the will follows.

    • Sin remains, but it is only struggling against an inevitable death.

  2. Confusion must not be made between regeneration and sanctification.

    • Regeneration is strictly God's work, in which He implants a new principle of spiritual life. It is performed by supernatural power and complete in an instant.

    • Sanctification is a process through which the remains of sin in the outward life are gradually removed. Perfect righteousness is our life's goal, but it is not obtained until death.

    • Our redemption (regeneration and sanctification) is complete in Christ but is applied gradually by the Holy Spirit.

The Sufficiency of Christ's Work: Evangelicalism

  1. We believe two things regarding Christ's work in redemption:

    • By His suffering and death, Christ fully paid the debt of His people owed to divine justice (thus releasing His people from the consequences of sin).

    • By His keeping of the law of perfect obedience, Christ earned for His people the reward of eternal life.

    • This is sometimes referred to as Christ's active and passive obedience.

  2. If faith and obedience must be added to Christ's work (depending on the choice of man), then doubt is cast on the sufficiency of Christ's work on our behalf.

    • We no longer have evangelicalism (that God alone saves).

    • Evangelicalism combined with a universal atonement leads to universal salvation.

Universal Grace (the Arminian view)

  1. Defined

    • The grace (provided at the atonement) is Universal (i.e. everyone has an opportunity for salvation).

    • The grace does not save anyone, but only opens a way of salvation so men can save themselves.

  2. The Creed of the Evangelical Union (the Morisonians) was a protest against Unconditional Election. A summary of its position found within the creed itself (called the "Three Universals") is reproduced here:

    • "The love of God the Father, in the gift and sacrifice of Jesus to all men everywhere without distinction, exception, or respect of persons;

    • "The love of God the Son, in the gift and sacrifice of Himself as a true propitiation for the sins of the whole world; and

    • "The love of God the Holy Spirit, in His personal and continuous work of applying to the souls of all men the provisions of divine grace."

  3. Certainly if God loves all men alike, and if Christ died for all men alike, and if the Holy Spirit applies the benefits of that redemption to all men alike, one of two conclusions follows:

    • All men are saved (which is contradicted by Scripture), or

    • All that God does for man does not save him, but leaves him to save himself!

  4. If we assert that after God has done all His work it is still left to man to "accept" or "not resist," then we give man veto power over the work of Almighty God and salvation ultimately rests in the hand of man.

    • No matter how great a proportion of the work of salvation is God's, man is ultimately the deciding factor.

    • The man who does come to salvation has some personal merit of his own, something which he can boast about (Ephesians 2:9).

    • These universalistic approaches reduce Christianity to a religion of works.

No Violation of Man's Free Agency

  1. This doctrine is commonly said to imply that men are forced to believe against their wills, or that men are machines in the matter of salvation.

    • Calvinists hold no such opinion and the full doctrinal statement excludes it.

  2. Regeneration is not of an outward and compelling nature. Regeneration does no more violence to the soul than demonstration does to the intellect, or persuasion to the heart.

    • The regenerated man finds himself governed by new motives and desires. The change is accomplished through a new principle of life which has been created within the soul.

  3. There are many passages which command us to obey or to turn to Jesus, but these do not imply that man has free will and ability.

    • It is self-conceit to assume that one has sufficient power within oneself to obey God (and therefore earn salvation).

    • Man is taught in these passages what he ought to do, not what he can do.

  4. Possibly the word "irresistible" used in the acronym TULIP has done a lot to confuse this point. A better term for modern audiences would be "effectual" or "efficacious."

Common Grace

  1. Common grace is the general influence of the Holy Spirit which to a greater or lesser degree is shared by all men.

    • God's sun shines on the evil and the good.

    • God sends the rain on the just and the unjust.

    • God sends fruitful seasons.

    • God is the source of all health, material prosperity, general intelligence, talents for art, music, oratory, literature, commerce, inventions, etc.

    • Common grace is the source of all the order, refinement, culture, etc. which we find in the world.

      1. It does not lead to salvation.

      2. It keeps this earth from becoming a hell. It prevents the complete effectuation of sin.

  2. Common grace is not capable of producing genuine conversion.

    • Through the light of nature, through the workings of conscience, and through the external presentation of the gospel, common grace makes known to man what he should do.

      1. These common influences of the Holy Spirit can be resisted. They are foolishness to Jews and stumbling blocks to Gentiles, without the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit.

      2. External righteousness (knowing God through only these outward means) is no righteousness at all.

  3. As a conclusion, an old Jewish proverb says: "Take the bitter tree and plant it in the garden of Eden and water it with the waters there; and let the angel Gabriel be the gardener and the tree will still bear bitter fruit."
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