Today I will be teaching the women at our church’s Bible study the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. It is the fourth doctrine of The Doctrines of Grace, otherwise known as The Five Points of Calvinism. We will be meeting at 10am EST. If you remember, please say a prayer for us. Below are some of my notes. As you will see, they are a little choppy. I’ve tried to consolidate but the challenge remains…
We have been working through the doctrines of grace in acrostic order, and it is here, at Irresistible Grace, that I have come to truly appreciate how each of these doctrines build upon each other. Simply put, the doctrines of grace stand or fall together. If T is true, then U is true, and if L is true, then I is true, and if I is true then P must be true.
My eyes are also being opened to the glory of the Trinity and the fact that the unity of the Triune God is at the core of our salvation. Providentially, this week I was introduced to Herman Bavnick and some of his writings. In his discussion of the Trinity he states, “In the love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is contained the whole salvation of men.”1 If a skeptic were to ask me to provide the best theological evidence I could muster for the sovereignty of God in, and over our salvation, I would have to point to the unity of the Triune God. The “eternal covenant” (Hebrews 13:20), in which the Triune God covenanted to rescue and redeem a particular people from sin, is at the center of our salvation. Nowhere do we see the perfect harmony of the Trinity as clearly as we do than in the doctrines of grace. Rightly did Herman Bavnick say, “ We can truly proclaim the mighty works of God only when we recognize and confess them as the one great work of Father, Son, and Spirit.”2
When we studied Total Depravity we saw that man, as a consequence of the Fall, is spiritually dead in his transgressions. Apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, he is incapable of freely chosing God. Definition of free will: “the ability to equally choose between spiritual good (turning from sin and following Christ) and spiritual bad (that which is opposed to godliness).” (Source) As a consequence of Adam’s sin, all of our choices stem from a sin nature that has infected every part of our faculties.
When we studied Unconditional Election we saw that God, the Father, before the foundation of the world, marks out those people who are to be saved and gives them to the Son to be His people. God’s election of certain individuals is not conditional upon any foreseen faith. Men believe because they are elect, not the other way around.
When we studied Limited Atonement we saw that God, the Son, at the appointed time, comes into the world and secures the redemption of the elect by living a life of perfect obedience and making atonement for their sins.
Now, we are studying Irresistible Grace and we will see how God, the Holy Spirit applies the benefit of Christ’s finished work to the elect whom Jesus has redeemed. The Holy Spirit draws them and then keeps them.
The Westminster Confession of Faith defines Irresistible Grace:
“All those whom God has 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 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 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 willingly by His grace.”
“…effectual calling is the point at which the eternal foreknowledge and predestination of God pass over into time and start the process by which the individual is drawn from sin to faith in Jesus Christ, is justified through that faith, and is then kept in Christ until his or her final glorification.”3
Irresistible Grace assures us that everyone who is chosen by God, the Father, and for whom God, the Son redeemed, WILL be made willing and able to believe by the God, the Holy Spirit.
Irresistible Grace asserts that the Holy Spirit will never fail to bring to salvation those sinners whom He personally calls to Christ. The Holy Spirit will, at the appointed time, apply salvation to every sinner whom He intends to save…and it is God’s intention that all of the elect come to repentance and salvation!
Moreover, Irresistible Grace assures that when God calls us to faith in Christ He calls effectively. His grace is EFFICACIOUS, meaning He will succeed in His purpose to save us.
2 Kinds of Calls:
(1) The General Call: This is what we hear every Sunday from the pulpit and from every true church. It is the Gospel invitation to all persons to repent of sin, turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, and be saved.
It is Matthew 11:28: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.
It is John 7:37: If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink
It is a universal call. It is for everyone as described in Revelation 5:9: “… for every tribe and language and people and nation.” There is no such thing as a religious type when it comes to the elect. He saves ALL kinds!
The General call, in and of itself, cannot save. Left to our own devices no one could respond. Incidentally, many times the elect hear the General Call and don’t respond right away. God has to issue the inward call for the gospel to become desirable to a spiritually unregenerate person.
(2) The Internal Call: This call not only involves the outward or the general call plus the INTERNAL, SPECIFIC, AND EFFECTUAL. This is the call that provides the willingness or the ability to respond. It is God bringing to spiritual life that which would otherwise remain spiritually dead. It is God overcoming a rebellious will and the enmity that is against Him in us.
The greatest illustration of God’s grace in calling a dead sinner to life is the raising of Lazarus in John 11. We’re told that Jesus arrives in Bethany where Lazarus has already been dead for 4 days. Lazarus is a decaying corpse who we’re told smells – this is a picture of our own decaying sinful soul.
But then Jesus calls out: “Lazarus Come Forth!” And a dead man comes to life. This is the effectual call.
Listen as Boice and Ryken explain this: “That is what the Holy Spirit does today. The Holy Spirit operates through the preaching and teaching of the Word to call to faith those whom God previously has elected to salvation and for whom Jesus specifically died. Apart from those three actions – the act of God in electing, the work of Christ in atoning, and the power of the Holy Spirit in calling – there would be no hope for anyone. No one could be saved. But because of those actions – because of God’s sovereign grace – even the worst of blaspheming rebels may be turned from his or her folly to the Savior.” (page 139)
What God does when he regenerates is He (1) breaks our rebellious wills, (2) causes us to believe, (3) He gives us faith and causes us to overcome.
The Canons of Dordt state the Holy Spirit, “opens the closed and softens the hardened heart, and circumcizes that which was uncircumcised; infuses new qualities into the will, which, though heretofore dead, he quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and refractory, he renders it good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that, like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruits of good actions”
The Fruit of Regeneration: The results of regeneration or the fruit of effectual grace is this: (Source)
1. DON’T HAVE A TASTE FOR SIN LIKE YOU USED TO: 1 John 3:9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
2. YOU OVERCOME AND YOU ARE VICTORIOUS: 1 John 5:3-4 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
3. YOU ARE KEPT BY GOD: 1 John 5:18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
Effectual grace involves the process of being conformed the image of Christ…
Below is a list of some evidence of regenerated life:
1. trust in Christ for salvation
2. assurance of the forgiveness of sins
3. a desire to read the Bible
4. a desire to pray, communicate with God
5. a delight in worship
6. a desire for Christian fellowship
7. a desire to attend church services
8. a desire to be obedient to Scripture”5
If you have observed these traits at work in your life then that is the effectual or irresistible grace of God at work in you!
Irresisitible Graces confirms that Regeneration precedes faith. This is a Scriptural fact that many people trip over and it is paramount to understanding the sovereignty of God in our salvation:
• John 3:3 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
• John 3:5-8, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit”
MAN CANNOT REFUSE IT: The doctrine of irresistible grace means that the believer cannot boast of his faith because it is a gift.
(1) Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
(2) Philipians 2:13 “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
This is good news! Were it not for the grace of God overcoming all of our rebellious wills none of us would be here.
Listen to John MacArthur explain” “Nobody would will that [coming to God] unless God first willed it and activated it. It isn’t because the sinner comes to his senses. It isn’t because the sinner is persuaded byclever preaching or an emotional appeal, those are all deceptive illusions. It isn’t because you’re so nice or you’ve made Jesus look so nice. People are saved because God summons them and He summons them under the proclamation or the understanding of the gospel. Forget all the nonsense, the gospel alone is what God uses to awaken the sinner and He makes him willing whereas he has never been willing before.”
SATAN CANNOT DEFEAT IT: Man can’t refuse the grace of God and the enemy can’t defeat it.
In the book of Job, Satan asks permission from God to attack Job. Satan wants to prove that if he wanted to, he could cause Job to fall away. The Lord grants Satan permission and the enemy attacks. He takes his flocks and herds. He kills his sons and daughters. He makes Job physically sick, and even turns his wife against him. Satan throws EVERYTHING that he has on Job and Job remains faithful.
Here’s why: “Satan failed to reckon with one fact. There was a power in Job that is greater than all the power of darkness. There was a power in Job which is greater than the winds of the desert or the waves of the sea. There was a power in Job which is greater than the power of sin, death and hell. And that power was the sovereign, irresistible grace of God.”
The sovereign and irresistible grace of God will never be defeated by Satan. The elect can bank on the sovereign, irresistible power of God to keep them.
TEMPTATION CANNOT UNDERMINE IT: The grace of God is irresistible, because temptation cannot undermine it.
John puts it this way in his Gospel, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
One illustration is the temptation that Satan came to Jesus with: He offered to give him all the kingdoms of the world but Jesus answered, “It is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only.” Jesus resisted the temptation because he was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14)
“This then is the grace of God. Man cannot refuse it. Satan cannot defeat it. Temptation cannot undermine it. The free, unmerited, irresistible grace of God. My salvation is a free gift from God, for He knows that I can never repay Him. It is an unmerited gift, for surely I did not deserve it in any wise. It is an irresistible gift, for it was necessary for God to break my rebellion before He could save me. And now that He has saved me, I can be certain that all the powers of darkness shall not take the gift of God from me, for all the hosts of sin and hell cannot defeat the power of God.”6
1. Herman Bavinck, The Divine Trinity (Online)
3. Steele, Thomas, Quinn, The Five Points of Calvinism, page 52
4 Rev Gordon Girod, Irresistible Grace (Online)
Edwin Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism,
James Montgomery Boice & Philip Graham Ryken, The Doctrines of Grace
Fred Butler, Irresistible Grace (Online)
John MacArthur, The Doctrine of God’s Effectual Call (Online)