Is Grace Irresistible?Mar 14, 2023
"I do not come into this pulpit hoping that perhaps somebody will of his own free will return to Christ. My hope lies in another quarter. I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, "You are mine, and you shall be mine. I claim you for myself." My hope arises from the freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the will." - Charles Spurgeon
As I was writing a blog post for my sister site, www.prayerclinic.com I found this quote from Charles Spurgeon. The part that struck me was the very last sentence: "My hope arises from the freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the will."
It seems to me that Spurgeon put more confidence in the grace of God than he did in the will of man. For years I've struggled with understanding how man's free will and God's sovereignty function together. I've lived with, and explained that, when it comes to salvation, God offers us a gift that is ours to take. In order to complete the transaction we have to receive what God is generously offering.
I'm reading some pretty convincing arguments that I just might be wrong. And if I am wrong, this changes how I pray for and interact with the people I love who are distanced from Christ.
That sent me on a deep dive into the question I pose as the title of this post:
Is grace irresistible?
If it is, the way I pray for those I love who are lost, or have lost their way, will be different.
Here are 3 interesting things that I found out from 3 different articles that insist the Bible teaches God's grace is indeed irresistible.
1. The protestant reformation was driven by a deep belief that the grace of God is indeed irresistible.
Consider this quote: "One of the battle cries of the Protestant reformation is called "Sola Gratia" meaning we all deserve the wrath of God, but God did not foresee anything good in us for us to be saved but we are saved purely by his grace. If we are saved by our own faith, then there is no room for grace."
The belief that our faith, as opposed to God's grace, or in addition to the grace of God, is what it takes to save us is what the scholars call Arminianism. The belief that we are saved by grace alone, in other words, by God's irresistible grace, is called Calvinism. If you've ever heard of TULIP Calvinism, the "I" in TULIP represents "irresistible grace."
I'm not going to get scholarly in this article, but now you know and can sound scholarly when you ponder these things with your friends. I read this very long article filled with biblical references and church history regarding the difference between these 2 approaches to the interpretation of the inerrant Word of God.
God's Grace or the Free Will of Man
The writer made great points especially as directed toward what the Bible says about man being...
blind...2 Corinthians 4:4
with a deceiving/corrupt heart...Jeremiah 17:9
Check out the article and ponder these things.
2. If God's grace is irresistible, salvation is the gift of God both in giving, and in receiving.
For those of us who believe that the free will of man can trump God's generous offer of salvation and that man can refuse His gift (making God's grace resistible), then a person's salvation is just as dependent on man as it is on God. Look what I found in another article I read,
"If it is because of what the person who believes does or is, then in a sense he is responsible for his salvation and has a reason to boast. However, if the difference is solely that God does something unique in the hearts and lives of those who believe in Him and are saved, then there is no ground for boasting and salvation is truly a gift of grace. Of course, the biblical answer to these questions is that the Holy Spirit does do something unique in the hearts of those who are saved. The Bible tells us that God saves people “according to His mercy…through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). In other words, those who believe the gospel and are saved do so because they have been transformed by the Holy Spirit."
This writer is making a case for the role of the Holy Spirit in each person's salvation explaining that apart from being given the faith to believe (by God's grace) no one can be saved. This writer goes on to discuss the difference between an "outer call" to salvation (when the good news is preached), and an "inner call" of salvation when God moves in a person's heart. The "outer call" can be resisted, but the "inner call" cannot.
Learn more by reading Irresistible Grace--Is it Biblical?
3. Man's will is not really free until he is saved.
I love John Piper although I've not done an exhaustive study on all that he believes. I did know, however, that he embraces a belief that God's grace is irresistible.
This is how his article begins (and I like it):
"Before the fall of Adam, man was sinless and able not to sin. For God “saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). But he was also able to sin. For God had said, “In the day that you eat of it [the tree] you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
As soon as Adam fell into sin, human nature was profoundly altered. Now man was not able not to sin. In the fall, human nature lost its freedom not to sin.
Why is man not able not to sin? Because on this side of the fall “that which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6), and “the mind of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7–8, my translation). Or, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “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.”
Notice the word cannot twice in Romans 8:7–8, and the words “is not able” in 1 Corinthians 2:14. This is the nature of all human beings when we are born — what Paul calls the “natural person,” and what Jesus calls “born of the flesh.”
Piper also gives a good definition of "free will." To read his article check out, A Beginner's Guide to Free Will.
Here's where I landed today (I will discuss "resist-able grace" in next week's blog post.): If I embrace an irresistible grace, then my prayers for unsaved loved ones have become even more powerful. Now I know that no matter what my loved one is thinking or doing, God has the power (and the willingness) to save them.
If God's given me a promise regarding their salvation, I can stand on that promise and declare it done with full confidence that God will do what He sets out to do.
This entire blog post reminded me of an online course I created with my friend Jennifer Kennedy Dean. I remember her quoting many of the verses that are included in these articles. I marveled at her confidence that God would indeed answer our prayers for our lost loved ones with a resounding YES!
You can check out the online course (21 days) here: Praying for the Lost
Come back next week when I share what I learn from the other side of this coin.
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