Irresistible Grace

The fourth point is irresistible grace or effectual grace. This point logically follows from the three we have discussed so far. If fallen man is totally depraved and at enmity against God and unable to do anything good, then grace must be irresistible if any are to be saved. If fallen man has to pay the price of not resisting the gospel while still in his natural state as a son of Adam, then no man will be saved, for no son of Adam has the native moral ability to pay that price. If before the foundation of the world, God "predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will" (Ephesians 1:5) and if God's sovereign plans never fail, then God's saving grace must always be effectual. If the Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep and then gives all the sheep eternal life (John 10:11, 28), then logically the work of the atonement must be applied without fail to all for whom Christ died.

According to the doctrine of irresistible grace, the spiritual state of heart that unfailingly results in repentant saving faith is a gift God gives to His people. Saving faith is not something that fallen man is able to do by means of his own natural spiritual abilities as a token payment to God in exchange for the otherwise free gift of salvation. The ability to savingly believe is a gift from God, as evidenced by the following verses:

John 6:65: Jesus said: "No one can come to me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."

Acts 13:48: And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

1 Corinthians 4:7: For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you glory as if you had not received it?

Romans 11:36-37: Or who has first given to (God) And it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

Acts 5:31: Him God exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

Acts 11:18: Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.

Acts 14:27: (God) had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

Acts 16:14: The Lord opened (Lydia's) heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

Acts 18:27: (Apollos) greatly helped those who had believed through grace.

Philippians 1:29: For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ ... to believe in Him ...

Philippians 2:12-13: ... it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Romans 9:16: So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

Ephesians 2:8-10: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Further evidence for irresistible grace is found in the Biblical data on the inner and the outer calls of the Gospel. The outer call of the Gospel is that general call to repentant faith in Christ which comes to all who hear the Gospel message. The outer call is a promise that all will be saved who will comply with the Gospel condition of genuine faith. It is a command that tells the sinner of his obligation before God to respond to the Gospel message with this genuine faith. This general call is accompanied by a general working of the Spirit that causes a temporary conviction of sin and a temporary desire for salvation through Christ. Many who receive this outer call reject the Gospel (Matthew 22:14). All totally depraved sinners successfully resist this outward call and general work of conviction (cf. Acts 7:51) if these are not accompanied by the efficacious inner call.

The inner call of the Gospel occurs when the Holy Spirit accompanies the preaching of the Gospel with life giving power. All those and only those who receive this inner call from God respond to the Gospel with truly saving faith.

Romans 8:30: Those whom God has called, He also justified.

1 Corinthians 1:23-24: 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.

The general call, like sheet lightning, is grand and beautiful but never strikes anything. The special call is like the forked flash from heaven. It strikes somewhere and does an effectual work. And who can resist it (cf. Romans 9:19)?

Further evidence for irresistible grace is found in the language Scripture uses to describe the regenerating work of the Spirit. In places, this work is compared to a spiritual birth. The sinner contributes no more to his spiritual begetting than a baby contributes to his own conception. For a baby to do anything, he must first be given life; and for a sinner to see and enter the kingdom of God, he must first be born again (John 3:3,5). The new birth as the beginning of spiritual life is a secret work of the Holy Spirit that can no more be seen or controlled than the coming and going of the wind (John 3:8). In this begetting of life, the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with the Gospel message, which the Holy Spirit empowers as a life giving seed (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18). The effective agent in this begetting of life is not the will of man but the will of God (John 1:13; Romans 9:16).

The book of First John teaches that those who are truly born again will manifest repentance, faith and good works just as surely as the newborn baby manifests life through crying and eating (1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1,4,18). Though one cannot see the Holy Spirit implant spiritual life in a heart, one can see the effects of this new life, just as one cannot see the wind but can hear the sound it makes (John 3:8). The spiritual effects of this divinely implanted life are not temporary but endure and remain (1 John 3:9).

Scripture also compares regenerating grace to a new creation (2 Corinthians 4:6; 5:17). And what creature has ever successfully resisted his own creation or made any active contribution to his own creation? When the Word of God goes forth as a word of new creation, it creates spiritual life just as surely as God's words "Let there be light" brought light to a darkened world.

Scripture also refers to regenerating grace as a spiritual resurrection (Ephesians 2:4-5; John 5:25). When the gospel goes forth in word only, it goes forth to men dead in sins who have no spiritual life or ability wherewith to answer. But when the gospel goes forth in Spirit and in power, it carries with it the life giving power of Christ. In such circumstances, the sinner can no more stay in the sepulcher of spiritual death and refuse to come to Christ than could Lazarus have disobeyed when Christ spoke the life giving words, "Lazarus, come forth" (John 11). Will any of the physically dead be able to resist the voice of Christ when He calls them from their graves (John 5:28-29)? Neither can the spiritually dead resist the voice of Christ when He calls them to spiritual life through the gospel in the power of the Spirit (John 5:25).