Irresistible Grace Part 2

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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 2

This is the second part of our discussion on Irresistible Grace. In part 1, we learned about the important distinction between the universal and effectual call. We also learned in Romans 8:30 that Christians are described with three words— chosen (from eternity), called (in time), and faithful (to the end). While God calls or summons all men in the gospel, He only calls or summons men effectually.

John 10:16 ESV And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

By other sheep are meant Gentiles, which along with a Jewish remnant, comprise one flock with one Shepherd. let us notice here that (a) “Them also I must bring.” It is the LORD’s doing. It includes personal engagement of the LORD in saving His sheep, and (b) “they will hear His voice. Christ will make His word effectual to them. They will hear with the heart so as to believe and obey the gospel.

1 Corinthians 1:22-24 ESV For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Here, Paul speaks of two types of people-Jews and Greeks who are not called and Jews and Greeks who are called. In other words, not every person is called in this sense-only the elect are effectually or savingly called. The preaching of Christ crucified is foolishness to one group but the power and wisdom of God to the other. 

1 Thessalonians 1:5 ESV 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.

While the gospel comes to all men (universal call). It comes in the power of the Spirit to some men (effectual call). How do you know whether the gospel comes in word only or in the power of the Spirit? It comes in much assurance or deep conviction. 

Irresistible Grace is Rational

This means that God calls His elect as rational creatures and does not drag them to Himself as stones. God makes us willing to come. We do not come to Christ against our will. Here are the steps of effectual calling:

  • Regeneration: Through the effectual call, the Spirit infuses the dead soul with spiritual life. This is the power and activity of God alone. The sinner is acted upon. He is raised from the dead. 
  • Conversion: The change that takes place through repentance and faith. After regeneration, the Spirit communicates to our souls the grace of repentance and faith. Both of these are gifts from God, but the sinner is enabled to exercise repentance and faith.
  • Justification: Having been regenerated, the sinner exercises faith in Christ and is joined to Christ in time.
  • Though we distinguished all these three, they all happen together. Nobody is regenerated that is not justified by faith. No one is converted that is not regenerated. This order is not temporal by logical. 

Psalms 110:3 ESV Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.

This verse says that God’s people will freely join themselves to Christ as followers. This will happen in the day of God’s power, that is, in the day when Christ effectually calls them.

John 6:44-45 ESV No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 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.’

Notice here that Christ explains by quoting the Old Testament (Isaiah 54:13) how the Father draws them to Christ, that is by teaching the sinners, and all who listens to the Father comes to Christ. All of them will hear and learn from the Father. God will teach them through the intellect and teach them as rational beings that they may come to Christ.

Irresistible Grace is Powerful 

Since this work is God’s work. It is accompanied by the power of the Most High through the Spirit that sinners may come to God willingly. So we ask, what takes place in effectual calling?

In effectual calling, sinners are taught the truth of God. They are taught by the Holy Spirit through the Word.

  1. The sinner begins to understand what the word of God says—he beings to be concerned for his soul. 
  2. He begins to see in Christ a suitable Savior—he beings to see salvation is by grace through faith. 
    • Acts 2:37-38 ESV Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
    • Acts 2:40-41 ESV And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

In effectual calling, sinners willingly return unto God

Though sinners come by grace, nevertheless “sinners come- they willingly and wholeheartedly believe.

John Calvin—”As to the kind of drawing, it is not violent, so as to compel men by external force; but still it is a powerful impulse of the Holy Spirit, which makes men willing who formerly were unwilling and reluctant.“

1689 BCF 10:1 – Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, He is pleased in His appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and 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 to 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 willing by His grace.

Common Objections

#1 There are passages that state that sinners have rejected and resisted God. 

Acts 7:51 ESV “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

Answer:

  • In regards to the OT passages that refer to the nation of Israel, we must deal with the complexity of the term “elect.” 
  • Because of total depravity, humanity is always in the state of resisting. 
  • God elects Israel as His chosen nation, but as we learn from the rest of the Scripture, not all Israel is of Israel (Rom 9:6). So this objection is a frail attempt to do away with the teaching.
  • Thus, in the Old Testament, within the chosen nation, there were individuals who were elect and non-elect when it comes to matters of salvation. Israel is thus elected for both service and salvation, but while all who are elect in Israel for service, not all are elect in regards to salvation (Rm. 3:1-2; 9:4-5).
  • The Doctrine of Irresistible grace does not mean that men do not resist the Spirit, but the Father’s effectual call and regenerating power of the Spirit are able to overcome man’s resistance, that they will be made willing in the day of His power.

Matthew 23:37 ESV “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Answer:

  • Note who the pronoun “you” refers to in verses 33-35 where the killers of the prophets are described. 
  • Look at who was resisting and who was to be gathered. Jesus laments over the leaders in resistance to God’s drawing of their children. 

#2 A passage that seems to teach that faith comes before regeneration 

1 John 5:1 ESV Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

Answer: 

  1. The verb “has been born” in English is in the perfect tense. This suggests that it is an action completed in the past with continual results in the present. In 1 John 5:1, the continuing result is “believes,” which is a present tense participle.1 
  2. Therefore, it is the new birth which results in belief. 
  3. The same grammatical construction is also true in other verses in 1 John (1 John 2:29, 3:9, 4:7, and 5:4).
  4. Scripture affirms that God’s act of regerneration is what gives rise to the believer’s faith. 

Marks of Grace

  1. The elect are called to believe in Christ. 
    • John 6:45 ESV 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
    • Every person who’s been effectually called comes to Christ—they answer the summons. Thus, how do you know you’ve been effectually called or drawn, but that you have believed on Christ.
  2. The elect are called to fellowship with Christ 
    • 1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
    • They are not only called to believe upon Christ, but to enjoy loving fellowship with Christ. They desire to worship Christ. 
  3. The elect are called to be like Christ 
    • Romans 1:7 ESV To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
    • They are called to be sainst or “holy ones”. They are called with a holy calling which results in a holy life. 
  4. The elect are called to suffer for Christ 
    • 1 Peter 2:21 ESV For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
    • Christians are not only called to believe in Christ, walk like Christ, but share in the sufferings of Christ. 
    • Philippians 1:29 ESV For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.

The lives of those who are effectually called are marked with grace. They embrace Christ, delight in Christ, pursue to be like Christ, and are called to suffer for Christ. The grace that initially worked in them will be evident in their daily walk with Christ.

SOLI DEO GLORIA!


‌For Further Reading: 

  • David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Effectual Calling & Regeneration from Great Doctrines of the Bible. Crossway Books (2012).
  • Wright, S. D. (2019). 40 questions about Calvinism. Kregel Academic.‌ Questions 27-29

‌Notes: 

  1. Traditionally, this is how Reformed Theologians explain this passage. You can read the reference materials in this article. However, a more accurate reading is recognizing the force of the perfect tense in Greek, not in English. The Greek verbs are primarily aspectual not according to tense. Aspect refers to the author’s perspective on an action (unfolding, wholistic, or stative) not primarily on its timing (past, present, or future).
    The perfect tense communicates the stative aspect which refers to the current state of affairs or action viewed as an existing state (Matthewson & Emig, Intermediate Greek Grammar: Syntax for Students of the Greek New Testament, 6.3). This is reflected in some translations rendered as “is born of God (NIV11, KJV).”
    Nevertheless, believing cannot precede regeneration because those who believe are born of God. Their being born of God is demonstrated by believing in Christ. LORD be willing, we will expound on this in future blogs. 

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/2022/01/27/irresistible-grace-part-2/

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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