Irresistible Grace Part 1

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The goal of this series is to magnify God’s sovereign grace and to humble man’s pride.

This blog post is based on Covenant Reformed Seminary of Asia’s session on The Sovereignty of God and the Doctrines of Grace: Irresistible Grace Part 1

Many theologians are uncomfortable to call this doctrine “Irresistible Grace” because it gives the impression that God is coercive. So they prefer “Effectual Grace.” Nevertheless, the meaning is the same: God powerfully works in the hearts of men that they may willingly come to Christ in repentance and faith. 

TWO TYPES OF CALL: UNIVERSAL & EFFECTUAL

Universal Call

In the gospel, God universally calls or summons all men to Himself. This is the external call (vocatio externa). It’s the task of the church to proclaim the gospel to all men indiscriminately

Mat 28:19  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Mar 16:15  And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 

This call is a command. God commands every person who hears the gospel to believe it. Failure to repent from your sins and believe in Christ is rebellion—it’s a refusal to obey the voice of God. 

Act 17:30  The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

1 Pe 4:17  For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

The Gospel of God calls for obedience. To refuse to obey is a high-handed rebellion. All men are called to repent and to believe. To believe in Christ is to come to Christ and to trust in Him alone for salvation. 

This call is an invitation. God not only commands men to believe but invites them to Himself. 

Rev 22:17  The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. 

By using the imagery of “water”, the Scripture shows our need. By repentance, we refused other sources of water. By faith, we come to Christ solely for the water of life. 

Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.

The Canons of Dort 2.5: The Mandate to Proclaim the Gospel to All

“Nothing is more certain than that the gospel is addressed to all promiscuously (without discrimination), but that the Spirit of faith is bestowed on the elect alone. The promises are universal and make an offer of the grace of Christ equally to all; and God, by the external call, invites all who are willing to accept of salvation.”

John Calvin (letter to Melanchthon)

Reality Check. Though the external or general call comes to all, to those who will remain unsaved as well as to those who are saved, obviously some new distinction comes in, because some are saved by it. So the question we must now consider is: What it is that establishes the difference between the two groups? Obviously, the call of the gospel, which has been given to all, is effectual only in some.

Effectual call

By effectual is meant “effective, successful, or powerful”—it’s a call that actually brings sinners to God. while all men are called or summoned by God, only certain people are actually brought by God. It’s for this reason, Scripture at times refers to Christian as “the called” in contrast to the unsaved (uncalled).

Rom 8:28  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 

Rom 8:30  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 

By “His purpose” is meant his eternal purpose—God purpose from eternity who He would call in time. Only those who are called in eternity are called in time. 

Disciples

John 6:66-69 ESV – After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Here, we see that the word “disciple” is a generic term. The one group disbelieved and went home, the other, who had heard exactly the same things, stayed with Him, wanted to hear more, and rejoiced in it. What makes the difference? It is that the word was effectual in the case of the saved in a way that it was not effectual in the case of the unsaved who refused it. Obviously, in addition to the external call, there is this effectual call, and that what makes anybody a saved person and a true Christian is that the call of the gospel has come effectually. 

The Called

1Co 1:2  To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 

1Co 1:23-24  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 

There are people to whom the preaching of Christ is foolishness; they are unsaved. But the saved, Paul again describes as those who are called. 

1Pe 2:9-10  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 

The descriptions here that were used for Israel are used of the church. The call of the gospel has gone to many others but they are not the people Peter is talking about. It is obvious therefore that in these people the call has been effectual; that is the teaching of these Scriptures. 

The Meaning of Church

The word church translates the Greek word, ecclesia; and the ecclesia means the ‘called forth ones’. A church is a gathering of people who have been called forth, called out, separated as the result of this call. ‘Who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous lighť. Therefore that very word in and of itself is sufficient to establish the statement that there is such a thing as an effectual call because the same message has gone to others but they have been called from the world into the Church.

Internal Call

What, then is the difference between the external call and the kind of call which has become effectual? This is an INTERNAL (vocatio interna), spiritual call. It is not merely something that comes to a person from the outside. In addition to that external call that comes to all, there is an internal call that comes to those who are going to be Christians, and it is an effectual call. God sovereignly “invincibly and irresistibly” call someone to faith in Christ. The contrast, therefore, is between external and internal. 

Taught of God

Joh 6:45  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.

There will be certain people who shall be taught by God himself, not taught by men only but in addition to that taught by God, taught by the Spirit. Some internal work is going to take place. The people who come to Christ are those who have been taught of God, who have learned of the Father by the Spirit, and they alone.

Joh 6:61, 63-65  …knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling… It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 

Spirit of Wisdom

Eph 1:17  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,

We cannot have knowledge of him unless He gives us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation—they are absolutely essential. 

Php 2:12  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 
Php 2:13  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 

God does an internal work and it is as the result of that that we are enabled to will and to do according to His pleasure. 

Not in Word Only

1Th 1:5  because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 

1Th 2:13  And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 

It is this internal work that turns people from sinners into saints; this is preaching in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

2Ti 2:25  correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth

Paul’s logic in instructing Timothy to continue to correct his opponents gently is that God may perhaps grant them repentance. 

Mat 22:14  For many are called, but few are chosen.” 

Its context is the wedding feast, many are called (external call) to the wedding, but only few are chosen (internal call) and able to enjoy and come.

Without this work within, no one would ever become a Christian; it is an utter necessity. ‘For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit’ (Rom. 8:5). But the natural man or woman — those ‘after the flesh’ — are not interested in the things of the Spirit at all. They find them dull and boring and uninteresting. They regard them as a waste of time and they hate them. But they that are after the Spirit are interested in the things of the Spirit: ‘For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because’ — and this is the final argument — ‘the carnal mind is enmity against God’ (vv. 6-7).

Martin Lloyd Jones

The internal work of the Spirit is an absolute necessity before any sinner can come to Christ. Without the working of the Spirit, none can and will respond to the call of the gospel

The Natural Man

1 Corinthians 2:10-15 ESV These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 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. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 

Here is the statement that the natural man or woman not only does not receive it, but cannot receive it because these things are spiritually understood, judged, and discerned. There cannot believe because they are blinded by the enemy. 

2Co 4:3-4  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 

It is clear that the gospel is hid to certain people; they hear it like everybody else but they see nothing in it, they do not want it, they blaspheme it, they treat it with scorn. 

Eph 2:1  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.

“You cannot have anything stronger than that, that is their position spiritually. All these are statements to prove the absolute necessity of this internal work of the Spirit before the call — the external, general call of the gospel — can possibly be effectual.”

Lloyd-Jones

It only proves that regeneration precedes faith. 

INTERNAL CALL, then, is the exercise of the power of the Holy Spirit in the soul. It is a direct operation of the Holy Spirit within us. It is immediate, it is spiritual, it is supernatural, miraculous. And what it does is to make a new mode of spiritual activity possible within us. Without this operation we are incapable of any true spiritual activity but as the result of this operation of the Holy Spirit upon us, we are rendered capable, for the first time, of spiritual activity and that is how this call now becomes effectual, that is what enables us to receive it.

Lloyd-Jones

Immediacy

Act 16:14  One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 

This is what happened to Lydia. When the call comes to men and women effectually, the result is not simply a general moral effect. It is an operation of the Spirit upon the men and women themselves, in the depths. It is not merely that the Holy Spirit heightens our natural faculties and powers, it is more than that. It is the Spirit acting upon the soul from within and producing within us a new principle of spiritual action.

Conclusion

It is the internal operation of the Holy Spirit upon the soul and the heart of men and women that brings them into a condition in which the call can become effectual. That’s why God’s grace is irresistible! It’s not that something has happened which has been hammering at a person’s will and has knocked him down and bludgeoned him. It is that the Holy Spirit implants a principle within me which enables me, for the first time in my life, to discern and to apprehend something of this glorious, wondrous truth. on my will. ‘It is God that works in you both to will and to do. He does not strike me; He does not beat me; He does not coerce me. What God does is operate upon my will so that I desire these things and rejoice in them and love them. He leads, He persuades, He acts upon my will in such a way that when He does, the call of the gospel is effectual, and it is certain, and it is sure. God’s work never fails, and when God works in a man or woman, the work is effective.

Let us meditate on this truth. Every true Christian knows that had God not work in his heart, he will never come to Christ for the forgiveness of His sins. We are not able and not willing to come to Christ, but Christ is willing and able to save. The grace of God triumphs over our resistance by creating praise where it did not exist (John Piper). God’s grace is so powerful that it has the capacity to overcome our natural resistance to it (R.C. Sproul). Truly, we are debtors to mercy alone!

SOLI DEO GLORIA!


‌For Further Reading: 

This article was published by Jeff Chavez for Herald of Grace Covenant Bible Church of Cavite. Click on the link for the original source: https://hgcbcc.com/2022/01/20/irresistible-grace-part-1/

Jeff Chavez

Jeff Chavez

Jeff Chavez is a servant of the LORD Jesus Christ, husband of Gloryben, and father of Myrhh Abigail. One of the preachers and teachers at Herald of Grace Covenant Bible Church of Cavite.
Jeff Chavez

Jeff Chavez

Jeff Chavez is a servant of the LORD Jesus Christ, husband of Gloryben, and father of Myrhh Abigail. One of the preachers and teachers at Herald of Grace Covenant Bible Church of Cavite.

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