The Doctrine of Irresistible Grace (http://theopedia.com)
“Those who obtain the new birth do so, not because they wanted to obtain it, but because of the sovereign discriminating grace of God. That is, men are overcome by grace, not finally because their consciences were more tender or their faith more tenacious than that of other men. Rather, the willingness and ability to do God’s will are evidence of God’s own faithfulness to save men from the power and the penalty of sin, and since man is so corrupt that he will not decide and cannot be wooed to follow after God, sovereign efficacious grace is required to convert him. This is done by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit whereby a fallen man who has heard the gospel is made willing and necessarily turns to Christ in God-given faith.”
Major Scriptures related to the Doctrine of Irresistible Grace:
- John 6:37, 39 (ESV): “All that the Father gives me will come to me…. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”
- John 6:44-45 (ESV): “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.”
- John 6:65 (ESV): “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
- Romans 8:28, 30 (ESV) “Those whom [God] predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified”.
All that the Father gives will come…what does this mean? It means, as John MacArthur points out, that in eternity past the Father determined to give, to the Son, a redeemed humanity as a love gift and every person that the LORD God has sovereignly elected unto salvation will come to the feet of the Son, the Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ. On a certain level, this is a mystery for we are not clearly told, in Scripture, how this comes to pass, yet the Scripture does in fact teach that it will happen.
One thing that we want to point out is a particular Greek word in John 6:44 and that word is ἕλκω, helkô and the word, generally has the connotation of dragging (John. 18:10; 21:6; 21:11; Acts 16:19; 21:30; James. 2:6). As a consequence, we can assume that it means that this drawing cannot be resisted. This is not to say that God’s grace can never be resisted under any circumstances. Rather, as Dr. Sproul teaches us, “The idea is that God’s grace is so powerful that it has the capacity to overcome our natural resistance to it. It is not that the Holy Spirit drags people kicking and screaming to Christ against their wills. The Holy Spirit changes the inclination and disposition of our wills, so that whereas we were previously unwilling to embrace Christ, now we are willing, and more than willing.”
We learned, in the lesson on Total Depravity/Total Inability, that man is, of his own accord, not only unwilling but also unable to come to Christ. Thankfully, on the other side of that coin is the fact that God, the Father, changes the desires of our hearts; He creates a new heart where the old obstinately disinterested one used to be and we are now capable of seeing the beauty of the Glorious Prince of Heaven and and are so desirous of the Redeemer that we willingly come and bow at the Throne of Grace.
Some would object to this doctrine, yet I will answer their objection with the words of Paul, “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, “Why hast thou made me thus?” (Romans 9:20) or, perhaps, the words of Isaiah, “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counseller hath taught him?”
I suspect that many of the objections to this doctrine come from those who do not really understand it. Let us turn then, to our friends from Got Questions Ministries for some wise instruction:
“The reason this doctrine is called “irresistible” grace is that it always results in the intended outcome, the salvation of the person it is given to. It is important to realize that the act of being regenerated or “born again” cannot be separated from the act of believing the gospel. Ephesians 2:1-10 makes this clear. There is a connection between the act of being made alive by God (Ephesians 2:1, 5) and the result of being saved by grace. (Ephesians 2:5, 8). This is because everything pertaining to salvation, including the faith to believe, is an act of God’s grace. The reason God’s grace is irresistible and efficacious (always bringing forth the desired result) is that God “has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into” His kingdom (Colossians 1:13). Or, as Psalm 3:8 puts it, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.”
To understand the doctrine of “irresistible grace,” it is important to recognize that this is a special grace given only to those God has chosen for salvation (His elect) and is different from what is known as “common grace” which God bestows on both believer and unbeliever. While there are many aspects of common grace, including life and all that is necessary to sustain it, common grace is what is often referred to as the “outward call of God.” This is God’s revelation of Himself given to all men through the light of creation and their consciences. It also includes the general call of the gospel that goes out anytime the gospel message is preached. This call can be resisted and rejected by those that receive it. (Matthew 22:14; Romans 1:18-32). However, God also gives an “inward call” which always results in salvation. This is the call of God that Jesus spoke of in John 6:37-47. The certainty of this inward call is seen in John 6:37: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” John 6:44 confirms this: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him and I will raise him up at the last day.”
To summarize, Irresistible (or efficacious) Grace is the consequence of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. To borrow from the popular culture, it is, in a sense, when God makes you an offer you can’t refuse; it is that gift of grace which allows us to become the Bride, without spot or wrinkle, who is suitable for the Bridegroom, the Crown Prince of Heaven