Is God's Grace Resistible?Mar 19, 2023
In my previous post, I shared excerpts from 3 articles that support this statement: Grace is irresistible.
In this post I'm going to discuss how a theology of irresistible grace affects our understanding of free will.
One of the marks of being human is the ability to choose.
Throughout Scripture we read that people "get" to accept or reject God's right to rule in their lives. Over and over again we see what happens when God's people humbly bow under His lordship, and what happens when they don't. Because we have free will we are responsible for the choices we make.
Ironically enough, I wrote an entire book on this subject: Taking Responsibility for the Choices We Make. In it I explain that there is tremendous freedom in realizing that we have more power over the way we feel than we think we do. We're not victims of our circumstances because we get to choose how we let those things affect us.
In the article What is Free Will and How Does It Relate to Salvation by Clarence Haynes, he poses the question that is at the crux of any discussion related to God's irresistible grace:
"If we are all predestined with no choice in the matter, then how can you say God is being just, if he has taken away our choice?"
He goes on to explain that "predestined" does not mean determined in advance but rather "God knew in advance." Here is a quote the summarizes what Haynes writes,
"The ones he knew in advance are the ones he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. In other words, God’s predestining is based on his foreknowledge, not his random selection. This understanding allows God to remain just and still hold people accountable for their choices."
If God determines who will and who won't be saved, then can a person be personally responsible for the choices he/she makes?
Here are a few of my rambling thoughts...The Bible definitely teaches that we have freedom to choose whether or not to live our lives under God's rule. I've actually visited the Mount of Curses in Israel's biblical heartland where that choice was made clear by Joshua just after the children of Israel entered the promised land. Haynes references that day in his article, and you can read about it in Deuteronomy 28-30.
The Bible also teaches that we are predisposed to sin because we were born contaminated with "sin nature" as children of Adam--in fact, Scripture says we are enslaved to sin (Romans 6:20)--and that definitely influences the choices we are more prone to make.
Scripture also teaches that the more we choose our own way over God's, the more we will continue choosing that way. In fact, we end up blind, deaf, and even dead. (See my article Is Grace Irresistible?) Scripture also teaches that when our poor choices leave us in this vulnerable state, God reaches down to lift us up (Romans 5:8).
But, we nevertheless have a choice to make when we are confronted with the gospel. Free will means that I am free to determine how I will live my life, whether or not I choose wisely. God's grace is indeed extravagant, unrelenting and amazing--in fact, could it also be His grace that allows us to choose for ourselves whether or not we will receive it?
Without free will, we relinquish personal responsibility for the consequences of our decisions.
My granddaughter Misty loves animals. She has a special relationship with our dogs. A while back she heard me complain about them barking all the time, and she heard her Papa tell me not to get so aggravated with them because it was their nature to bark.
A little bit after that Misty was not being kind to her sister and I was getting on to her when she said, "Nana, I'm her big sister, it's my nature not to be nice." And with that, she was attempting to excuse herself from any personal responsibility for the choice she was making.
If we land too solidly on our sin nature, then we begin to dismiss ourselves from responsibility regarding our actions or their consequences. We become innocent sin-natured beings who are simply waiting to be rescued by a loving Father who chooses to take full responsibility for the choices we're making.
Wait a minute...
But isn't that what He did on the cross?! Didn't Jesus take sin's wages and pay them Himself? Is it possible that God, Himself, took personal responsibility for the choices we make? He inserted Himself into our earth suit, lived in the same sin-stained world, only without sin, then became sin for us. Jesus took the wrath of God (the demands of holiness) on Himself and died in our place.
We did the wrong, He took the punishment.
Ahhh! And there we find ourselves right back where we started.
But what happens if God opens our spiritual eyes and ears, brings life back to our spiritually dead souls and we choose to reject him? Is that even possible? And if it is, then we, not He, are responsible for our salvation.
But what if God doesn't open the spiritual eyes and ears of every person? What if He picks and chooses who He saves? What if, God's grace is irresistible and He chooses to whom to reveal Himself? Doesn't that conflict with John 3:16, Titus 2:11, I Timothy 4:10, I Timothy 2:4, and 2 Peter 3:9?
I found all these Scripture references in this great article Does God Choose Who Will Be Saved and Who Will Be Lost?
God intercepted the consequences of sin when Jesus died on our behalf but He doesn't coerce, force, or overstep the boundaries He set for Himself that would diminish our freedom to choose, and make us accept Him.
I googled, "If I'm praying for someone, does God affect their free will?" And I landed on this article, Does God Interfere With Our Free Will?
Go read this one! It's catholic and rather than citing Scripture, the writer cites "catechisms" (and I don't think catechisms carry the weight of Scripture) but I love the way he presented his information. He makes a great argument for free will and does a great job of explaining what that is:
"He created us in his image, with the capacity to love, to give ourselves freely, to choose to become (or not to become) what he created us to be: saints. He wants our friendship, and friendship can never be forced."
But then, Father John Bartunek explained that human freedom can be influenced. He reminds us that advertisers know this well.
"Just look at a billboard or two, or watch a commercial or two. More often than not, advertising tries to influence our decisions by stimulated our baser instincts. They present certain images, promises, or ideas to our imagination in order to convince us to make a particular choice, to exercise our freedom in a particular direction."
We are all influenced by those we choose to interact with. We are influenced by what we read and listen to! Our freedom to choose can be swayed! And because of that, we do our best to share truth with those we love so that they will choose God as He reveals Himself to them.
I'm not sure I've landed this conversation, next week I'll discuss how the understanding of God's grace, and man's free will, and our prayers all work together.
Between now and then, ponder these things!
Stay connected with news and updates!
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.