The next two days are actually among my favorites, partly because I love talking about God’s grace, but also because I like to talk about regeneration and what that means in the life of a believer (also why I looooove talking about covenant theology and the law gospel distinction).
What is it?
Irresistible grace is the doctrine that teaches that when the Spirit of God is sent to change a person’s heart, that person cannot resist the change (A Puritan’s Mind link at the bottom). This is not to say that God is trying to fit square pegs into round holes. RC Sproul describes it as, “at the time of one’s choosing, God removes all obstacles a person has from hearing the gospel.”
The PRCA overview at the bottom also writes it as this:
“You understand what the term “irresistible” emphasizes. Do not think that irresistible grace is some sort of blind force which simply drags the struggling, rebellious sinner into heaven against his will — as a policeman might drag a rebellious prisoner to jail. The grace of God is not such a power that compels to enter into heaven those who would not.
That God’s grace is irresistible emphasizes the idea that not only does grace bring His people to glory, but it prepares them for this glory and works within them the desire to enter into glory. Grace is irresistible in the sense that by it the knee is bent which otherwise would not bend; the heart is softened that otherwise is hard as stone. Nor is there anything which can prevent the accomplishment of that purpose of God to save His people by His grace.”
Moreover, they argue that you cannot hold to total depravity without also holding to irresistible grace and I think that’s a really important distinction to make. Again, if we are completely dead, we cannot make ourselves alive, so God will have to be the one who wakes us up and removes all obstacles for life in order for us to truly live.
But we also know that Matthew 22:14 says that many are called and few are chosen.
But what about evangelism?
So this actually involves more deeply the idea of an effectual call and the idea of a general call, which I’ve talked about a couple of times previously. The general call is the call that goes out to everyone by the sharing of the gospel. The effectual call is when the Holy Spirit works in the heart of the elect to bring them to him. In Humble Calvinism, J. A. Medders describes it as, “when the Spirit goes to work, he brings you to the place where you agree.”
There’s an extent where the effectual call should be something that any Christian who evangelizes should see. You could have an answer for every question and be as gracious as can be, but someone would still be blind to the truth of the gospel and their eyes just would not open. Even if you spend any length of time watching Ray Comfort videos (which I definitely do a lot of honestly lol), you see this seasoned pro going patiently and thoroughly through a gospel presentation and not everyone listens to even him. That’s not his fault. He is fulfilling the Great Commission by going out and evangelizing and hoping that some would hear the call to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, knowing full well that it is God that saves and opens someone’s eyes.
But since God already knows who’s his and some people can hear the gospel and completely reject it, why even bother evangelizing? Well for one, Jesus put no restrictions on evangelism in the Great Commission. God commanding us to do something is really the only reason we need to do it. Even aside from that, it’s not like people walk around with neon signs above their heads saying “elect” and “reprobate.” We don’t know who is called, so we are doing the will of the Father by evangelizing, even imperfectly. And more than that, this should give us comfort and confidence because if the Holy Spirit is the one who changes hearts, we don’t have to worry about getting the words completely right or knowing all of the answers to all the questions. We just do something and God will do the rest.
Scriptural Support for Irresistible Grace:
- Psalm 110:3
- John 6:37-39, 44; 10:1-30; 17:2
- Acts 7, 9:6, 16
- 1 Corinthians 15:10
- Revelation 13:8, 17:8
- Ephesians 1:19-20, 2:8-10
- 2 Timothy 1:9-10
- Romans 8: 29-30
John Calvin Speaks About it in the Institutes:
- Book 3, Chapter 3, Section 1
- He also wrote on it in his commentary on John, particularly in chapter 6