Friday, August 20, 2010

Irresistible Grace

Grace by definition is undeserved. Man, in his fallen condition is incapable of even seeking God’s grace. If he is to ever experience it, it must be purely of God’s initiative and it must be effectual. Irresistible Grace teaches that when the Spirit of God is sent to change a person's heart, that person cannot resist the change. This is when the Spirit of God applies the work of Christ to the soul. This does not mean that the person is unwilling to be changed because the Spirit of God is "fighting against him," rather the Spirit changes the heart of stone to beat as a heart of flesh. The change opens the eyes of the spiritually blind to the work of Christ. The Spirit of God does this on His own, previous to any act of man. The Spirit of God will accomplish what He is sent out to do and will not be frustrated in His work of changing the sinner's heart.

With regard to our present subject, the theological axe to grind is the issue of man’s free will in the transaction of salvation. Pelagians and Arminians alike would have man’s free will be the hinge on which salvation turns. If a man will be saved, they reason, he must exercise his will freely. Any form of influence is seen as unfair, taking away from man the merit of his good choice. But this is precisely what Scripture would take away from man! The Biblical testimony is quite astounding. Over and over we are told that our salvation was not a result of our will, but purely a result of God’s sovereign will. John’s gospel declares quite bluntly that regeneration is, “not of the will of man, but of God.” (1) The very image of salvation as a birth (born again – John 3:5) should serve to negate the idea of participation of the will on the part of the person being regenerated. What baby participates in its own birth? What baby decides when, where, how or even if it will be born? Christ says that He regenerates who He will. (2) He claims to give eternal life to those He chooses. (3) And He goes so far as to say that no one can come to Him unless he is drawn by the Father. (4)

The fact that this grace is irresistible is seen in its efficacy. Who among the people recorded in Scripture ever fought against God’s grace and won? Who successfully resisted God’s will in drawing him to Christ for salvation? If God is the author of the salvation and it is given by grace, then it must be efficacious. It is a theologically erroneous idea to suppose that there are sinners who seek God’s grace. The Bible explicitly denies such a notion. (5) There are no “seekers.” (6) Not only do men not seek after God, they are not even able to seek. (7) Was Saul of Tarsus seeking for God when he headed to Damascus breathing out slaughter against the Way?

This is another place where the Pelagian and Arminian systems break down. When they are forced into a corner by direct statements of Scripture, such as those regarding God’s sovereignty over the wills of men (in the reprobation Pharaoh, Judas Iscariot, et al., or the calling of Jeremiah, John the Baptist and St. Paul) they insist on treating such passages as special cases. Scripture however does not ever even insinuate that these are special cases. In fact, we have every reason to treat these cases as normative. (8) No doubt Paul saw something special in his commission as the Apostle to the Gentiles, but he made no pretensions of superiority over any other Christian on the planet when it came to his Christianity. The primacy of God’s will in the salvation of man is asserted again and again throughout the New Testament. But even this is an echo of the Old Testament declaration that, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” (9)

1. John 1:13 οι ουκ εξ αιματων ουδε εκ θεληματος σαρκος ουδε εκ θεληματος ανδρος αλλ εκ θεου εγεννηθησαν
2. John 5:21
3. John 6:27
4. John 6:44
5. Rom. 3:11
6. Incidentally, this calls into question the whole current notion of “seeker-friendly” churches.
7. 1 Cor. 2:14
8. In Romans 9:16-18, Paul uses Pharaoh as a model for all whom God hardens.
9. Exodus 15:2; 1 Chronicles 16:23; 2 Chronicles 6:41; Psalm 3:8; 21:1; 24:5; 37:39; 85:7; Jonah 2:9

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