Thursday, August 27, 2009

Irresistible Grace

What is irresistible grace? “Irresistible grace is the supernatural work of God wherein He works in the soul of the individual, changing the entire nature by the Holy Spirit’s operation” (Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology [Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997, c1989]. 484). Those who oppose this teaching argue that if “grace is irresistible then God forces someone to come against his own will” (Ibid., Enns).Irresistible grace does not “make someone come contrary to his will. Rather, irresistible grace makes the individual willing to come” (Ibid., Enns). Louis Berkhof says, “By changing the heart it makes man perfectly willing to accept Jesus Christ unto salvation and to yield obedience to the will of God” (Ibid., Enns). So irresistible grace has to do with the heart or the inward call of God. It is the Holy Spirit intervening in man’s heart and sovereignly giving Him the new birth, faith, and repentance of which he does not resist. Apart from this intervention, he resists the outward call of God. To help us with this, it is important to note that Scripture teaches that there are two types of  “calls” from God. There’s the outward call of God and the inward call of God.

The outward call of God comes from the preaching of His word. Many share the gospel with others, but not all who hear the message receive it. For example, in Acts 18:6, Luke records the response of the Jews after Paul preached to them. He says, “But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’” This is the outward call. The outward call of God can be resisted. In fact, apart from God’s working in us, we will resist this call (remember total depravity?). The inward call of God, on the other hand, is His secret work of regeneration (rebirth, a new beginning, spiritual resurrection) done in the souls of the elect by the work of the Holy Spirit. This work of the Holy Spirit changes us because it is inward. God places within us a desire for Him. Before the inward call of God, no person is inclined to come to Him. After the inward call, we respond to God with the gift of faith. The inward call of God cannot be resisted. So we could say that the word “Irresistible” means “that when God has chosen some to be saved and when he sends His Spirit to change them from being hateful to being loving, no one can resist Him. He is irresistible. He does what He sets out to do...If [this word] causes misunderstanding, then another word may be chosen. For example, efficacious, or effectual or unconquerable, or certain. All that irresistible means is that God sends His Holy Spirit to work in the lives of people so that they will definitely and certainly be changed from evil to good people. It means that the Holy Spirit will certainly—with-out any ands’s, if’s and but’s—cause everyone whom God has chosen from eternity and for whom Christ died to believe on Jesus” (Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism, 58). In the words of the puritan preacher Christopher Love, who said, “The internal call is when the Spirit of God accompanies the outward administration of the Word to call a man from ignorance to knowledge, and a state of nature to a state of grace.”

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