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Irresistible Grace

(7 posts)

Caring for the Lost

The doctrine of Particular Redemption (more commonly known as Limited Atonement) is ought to be a great comfort to believers and strengthen our assurance of salvation. It should also motivate us in evangelism. If it glorifies Jesus that He makes salvation possible for everyone, it glorifies Him even more that He actually saves particular individuals. Christian salvation is universal in its offer but particular in its application. A great example of this comes in the account of how Jesus went out of His way to bring His gospel to the woman at the well and, through her, to an entire village. Here we see Jesus the Evangelist bringing the gospel to those whom He would save. John 4 contains a number of famous statements, but the most glorious may be the one in verse 4. John begins this chapter by telling us that Jesus started gathering followers, who were baptized by the twelve disciples, and then He “left Judea and departed again for Galilee” (John 4:3). John then says: “and he had to pass through Samaria” (John 4:4). What makes this statement so wonderful is the way in which it was not true. Geographically, Jesus did not have to pass through Samaria, and for many reasons it was inconvenient for Him to do so. But John informs us that Jesus had to go this way; it was necessary for Him. The reason was Jesus’ determination to save his own, among whom was this woman by the well. . . . One way to motivate yourself to care for others is to realize how much Jesus sacrificed to care for your own soul. We see His particular concern for individuals in His journey through Samaria. Had Jesus merely wanted to open a way for salvation for whoever would come, He need never have gone to Samaria. What He soon was to do in Jerusalem—namely, His death on the cross for our sins—was sufficient to make a way to God. Jesus did not have to go to Samaria for this. But Jesus died not only generally for all who would come, but actually to save particular people known to Him, including the woman He knew was coming to draw water from this well. If you are a believer, the same is true of you. Just as Jesus personally brought the gospel to the Samaritan woman, so He personally sought you for salvation. If you have heard the gospel and believed, it was not by chance! Jesus cared for your soul, so He died on the cross for your sins, He sent His witnesses to you, and He commissioned the Holy Spirit to open your heart to believe. “You did not choose me, but I chose you,” He said (John 15:1). Realizing His sacrificial care for your soul ought to inspire you to care for the salvation of people you know and love that He might send you as His witness to them. —Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Reformation Trust Publishing, 2007), 110, 111–112.

Lord’s Day 29, 2008

I reioyced, when they sayd to me, We wil go into the house of the Lord. (Psalme 122:1) Christian Calling O Lord God, The first act of calling is by thy command in thy Word, ‘Come unto me, return unto me’; The second is to let in light so that I see that I am called particularly, and percieve the sweetness of thy command as well as its truth, in regard to thy great love of the sinner by inviting him to come, though vile, in regard to the end of the command, which is fellowship with thee, in regard to thy promise in the gospel, which is all of grace. Therefore, Lord, I need not search to see if I am elect, or loved for if I turn, thou wilt come to me; Christ has promised me fellowship if I take him, and the Spirit will pour himself out on me, abolishing sin and punishment, assuring me of strength to persevere. It is thy pleasure to help all that pray for grace, and come to thee for it. When my heart is unsavoury with sin, sorrow, darkness, hell, only thy free grace can help me act with deep abasement under a sense of unworthiness Let me lament for fogetting daily to come to thee, and cleanse me from the deceit of of bringing my heart to a duty because the act pleased or appealed to reason. Grant that I may be salted with suffering, with every exactment tempered to my soul, every rod excellently fitted to my back, to chastise, humble, break me. Let me not overlook the hand that holds the rod, as thou didst not let me forget the rod that fell on Christ and drew me to him. —The Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennett, editor (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002). Psalme 116 (Geneva Bible) 1 I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voyce and my prayers. 2 For he hath inclined his eare vnto me, whe I did call vpon him in my dayes. 3 When the snares of death copassed me, and the griefes of the graue caught me: when I founde trouble and sorowe. 4 Then I called vpon the Name of the Lord, saying, I beseech thee, O Lord, deliuer my soule. 5 The Lord is mercifull and righteous, and our God is full of compassion. 6 The Lord preserueth the simple: I was in miserie and he saued me. 7 Returne vnto thy rest, O my soule: for the Lord hath bene beneficiall vnto thee, 8 Because thou hast deliuered my soule from death, mine eyes from teares, and my feete from falling. 9 I shall walke before the Lord in the lande of the liuing. 10 I beleeued, therefore did I speake: for I was sore troubled. 11 I said in my feare, All men are lyers. 12 What shall I render vnto the Lord for all his benefites toward me? 13 I will take the cup of saluation, and call vpon the Name of the Lord. 14 I will pay my vowes vnto the Lord, euen nowe in the presence of all his people. 15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his Saintes. 16 Beholde, Lord: for I am thy seruant, I am thy seruant, and the sonne of thine handmaide: thou hast broken my bondes. 17 I will offer to thee a sacrifice of prayse, and will call vpon the Name of the Lord. 18 I will pay my vowes vnto the Lord, euen nowe in the presence of all his people, 19 In the courtes of ye Lords house, euen in the middes of thee, O Ierusalem. Praise ye the Lord. Grace be with you, and Peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hymns of My Youth III: I’ve Found a Friend

We love, because He first loved us. —John 4:19 I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:38–39 370 I’ve Found a Friend I’ve found a Friend, O such a friend! He loved me ere I knew Him; He drew me with the cords of love, and thus He bound me to Him; And round my heart still closely twine those ties which naught can sever, For I am His, and He is mine, forever and forever. I’ve found a Friend, O such a friend! He bled, He died to save me; And not alone the gift of life, but His own Self He gave me! Naught that I have mine own I call, I’ll hold it for the Giver, My heart, my strength, my life, my all are His, and His forever. I’ve found a Friend, O such a friend! All pow’r to Him is given, To guard me on my onward course, and bring me safe to heaven. Th’eternal glories gleam afar, to nerve my faint endeavor; So now to watch, to work, to war, and then to rest forever. I’ve found a Friend, O such a friend! So kind and true and tender, So wise a Counselor and Guide, so mighty a Defender! From Him who loves me now so well what power my soul can sever? Shall life or death, shall earth or hell? No! I am His forever. —Favorite Hymns of Praise (Tabernacle Publishing Company, 1967). I couldn’t find a decent video with the same melody as in my hymnal, so this will have to do. It may not be the most professional of productions, but I got a kick out of this young lady (seriously, “I’ll be right back”?), and when she plugged Banner of Truth and corrected the hymn—“I think he found me”—I was hooked.

You Must Be Born Again

Without Irresistible Grace, perhaps better called the “effectual call,” no sinner would believe. Salvation would be impossible. It is clear from the Bible that the Spirit’s regenerating work always precedes and causes faith. Jesus stated this to Nicodemus: “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This is reflected more or less clearly in every conversion recorded in the New Testament. An excellent example is the conversion of Lydia, which Luke records by writing, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). Likewise, Jesus ascribed Peter’s great confession not to the operations of his flesh but to divine grace: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17). Regeneration—the new birth—precedes faith, so that prior to being born again it is impossible for anyone to believe on Jesus. Paul explains why: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). Therefore, if regeneration had to result from faith—if unregenerate sinners had to believe in order to be saved—then according to Paul, no one would ever be regenerated and saved. Instead, the Bible uniformly teaches what our sinful condition demands: regeneration precedes and causes saving faith. The apostle John put it succinctly: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (1 John 5:1). —Richard D. Phillips, What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? (Reformation Trust, 2008), 76–77.
As I’ve been writing on the five points as presented in The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, and referred to the TULIP acrostic/acronym, it occurs to me that I haven’t actually listed them. I suppose it’s safe to assume that most of my readers are familiar with them, but for those who aren’t, here is a brief summary (for longer explanations, click the links at the end of each): Total Depravity: When Adam fell, all mankind fell with him, and inherited his sin (Romans 5:12). This sin has so corrupted all men that, without regeneration by the Holy Spirit, we are unable to respond in faith to the gospel. The word “total” does not mean that we are as depraved as we could be. All people do not descend to the most extreme depths of evil (we are not all Hitler, Stalin, or abortion rights activists). “Total” means that sin has corrupted the totality of our beings—there is no part of us that is not touched by sin. In the Arminian versus Calvinist context, applying this truth to the notion of free will, we realize that though our will may be free, it is a corrupt, sinful will, “hostile toward God” (Romans 8:7). The late R. C. Sproul preferred to call it Radical Corruption. Unconditional Election: God has chosen a people for himself, not based on any quality they possess or any good they may do (Romans 9:11), but “according to the kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:5). Sproul preferred Sovereign Election. Limited Atonement: Christ died specifically to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Who are “his people”? See above. Because of the misleading nature of this term, Sproul preferred Definite Atonement. Irresistible Grace: Those who the Father has chosen will infallibly respond in faith to the gospel call (John 6:37). This is not intended to mean that the Holy Spirit forces people against their wills to come to Christ, but that, in regeneration, he changes their wills so that they come gladly. For this reason, Sproul preferred Effectual Grace. Perseverance of the Saints: All who are chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and regenerated by the Spirit will be infallibly kept in the faith (John 6:39–40). Again, because “perseverance” sounds like something we do (contra Philippians 2:13), Sproul made his own improvement: Preservation of the Saints. Thus far, you’ve only seen the doctrine and its history presented, with very little support. Stay tuned . . .

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 10:21Now 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 This post summarizes The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 52–64.

Monergist Father: Augustine of Hippo (4)

Augustine on the effectual call (irresistible grace): God calls His many predestined children to make them members of His predestined only Son, and not with that call by which those who did not wish to come to the wedding were called, for with that call the Jews also were called, to whom Christ crucified is a scandal, and the gentiles were called, for whom Christ crucified is foolishness. Rather, He calls the predestined by that call which the Apostle distinguished when he declared that he preached Christ, the Wisdom and the Power of God, to those who were called, Jews as well as Greeks. For he speaks thus: “But unto those who were called,” to show that those others were not called, for he knows that there is a special and certain call reserved for those who are called according to God’s purpose, “whom He foreknew and predestined to be conformable to the image of His Son.” —Augustine, cited in Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 241.


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