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Irresistible Grace in Scripture


If not for the TULIP, I would abandon the term Irresistible Grace as too misleading. In truth, grace is resistible. It is in the very nature of all men to resist God's grace. Most who hear the gospel call (often called the “general” or “outward” call) will reject it. It is the inward call of the Holy Spirit, given to God's elect, that never fails—“For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Therefore, terms like Effectual Call or Efficacious Grace are preferred. As the Westminster Confession explains,

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 a 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.

&mdashThe Westminster Confession of Faith, 10.1.

The work of salvation is thoroughly Trinitarian. Just as the Father chooses and the Son redeems, the Spirit does his part in calling, regeneration, and sanctification. As pertains to calling, it is the Spirit who causes us to receive the gospel.

At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.”

—Luke 10:21

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

—1 Corinthians 2:12–13

But in our natural state, we cannot receive what the Spirit says to us.

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

—1 Corinthians 2:14

Before we can receive the gospel, a change must take place.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

—John 3:3–8

This is the Spirit's work of regeneration. In regeneration, we are given an entirely new nature.

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

—Ezekiel 36:26–27

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

—2 Corinthians 5:17

Having been given a new nature, we respond to the gospel in a new way. We come, not “dragged, kicking and screaming,” as some Arminians caricature this doctrine, but willingly, eagerly. It is an effectual call that never fails.

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me . . .

—John 6:37

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This post summarizes The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 52–64.



Posted 2018·01·18 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Irresistible Grace · Monergism · The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented · Westminster Confession of Faith

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