What’s So Amazing About Grace? It’s Irresistible

What would happen if a person really wanted to be a Christian, but God would not let them?  Here is how someone who believed in irresistible grace (along with the other parts of the TULIP acronym) would respond: If you want to be a Christian, you will be a Christian.  This is because no one who has been called by the Holy Spirit can refuse.  Sounds a little weird, but think of it like this.  The elect come to faith by the Spirit’s effectual call.  It is the Spirit working in a person’s soul that creates a change.  Grace changes your nature, giving you the ability to choose Him.  What does this mean?  If a person truly and deeply wants to be a Christian, and believes in the Gospel, then their very nature has been changed and they will be saved.


Some Common Misunderstandings

Irresistible grace is the same thing as common grace.  Common grace is grace given to every person and thing on this earth.  It is why we are not as bad as we could be, and why the world has not been destroyed by various types of bombs, chemicals, plagues, and natural disasters.  Instead of common grace, irresistible grace should be considered as special redemptive grace.  Who receives this special grace?  Calvinists would say that only the elect receive this grace, which is sufficient to change their natures, draw them to Christ, and thus, save them.   

Irresistible grace is arbitrary.  This special redemptive grace is not unplanned or arbitrary. This doctrine says that God’s special grace always accomplishes its purposes, hence it is infallibly secure.  This ties in nicely with the last of the acronym, perseverance of the saints, which holds the view that God’s true elect will persevere through the end.  How can they persevere unless they have the irresistible grace from God?

Jesus teaches that not everyone who is called will be saved.  This misunderstanding comes from Matthew 22:1-14. which ends with the famous “slogan,” that, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”  What do we make of this?  If we study the Bible’s use of calling, we would realize that there are more than just one type.  We might be called by an outside force to a certain office or position by a company but know intrinsically that such a position is a wrong fit.  You might have dreamed your whole life to have a certain occupation, but over and over again, you fail at achieving that job.  Both of these examples show that there are more than just one type of calling, and the same is found here in this passage.  There are two types of calling in the Christian life (with regards to salvation): the inward and the outward.  The inward call is the work of the Holy Spirit, changing the nature of a person to desire to serve God and keep His commandments.  That call is always paired with the outward call, which is a response or declaration of faith.  Not everyone who makes an outward call is inwardly called.  So how do I know if I am called?  I would counsel you to avail yourself to the means of grace that God has given you: Scripture, the preaching of the Word, and the two sacraments of baptism and Lord’s Supper.  Use these to make your calling and election sure.


Scriptural Support:

John 6:37: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” 

1 Corinthians 1:18–25: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

Ezekiel 36:26–27: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”


What Does This Mean Today?

1. You are saved by grace.  Not just grace when you become a Christian, but grace from the beginning until the end.  


2. The grace of God is transforming.  Your whole nature is changed by this grace, creating a hatred for sin and desire to live righteously in the eyes of God.  This does not mean living arrogantly or boasting in works at all.  If you struggle with the inward/outward call, ask yourself: Have you have been transformed and changed?  Do you desire to please God and keep His commandments?


3. The grace of God grants assurance.  If this grace comes from God, it must follow with his attributes.  His grace cannot be in opposition to Him.  Why is this good news?  Because God is eternal and unchangeable.  This means that if you are changed by a true inward call, you can have assurance that the call is eternal and unchangeable.  You will continue forever to live a life more and more like Christ and hate your sin.  This is good news that grants peace amidst a world of trouble.


More Scripture on this doctrine:

Deuteronomy 30:6 (cf. Romans 2:29); Ezekiel 36:26-27 (cf. 37:1-14); Matthew 22:1-14; John 6:22-65 (esp. vv. 37, 44-45); Acts 16:14-15; Romans 8:28-30; Romans 9:22-26; Romans 11:28-29; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Peter 1:10


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