Reformed Theology – Irresistible Grace (Part 5 of 6)

16 06 2008

I have a friend at my church who told me about a recent trip he took to America. The most interesting thing of the trip for him was not the places and attractions but the people. He told me of one experience of which I will never forget. He met a man who was car fanatic. He drove a big old gas guzler, the kind with Whaleskin Hubcabs and Seal skin steering wheel, and when he was asked about the fiel consumption he responded “This car gets 4 miles to the gallon but thats the price of freedom, God bless America.”

We have a strange concept of what real freedom is in this world. But one thing is for sure is that we all love the idea of being free, and being the ones in control of our own destiny. We don’t like people telling us what to do, think or how to act. For that very reason I think we detest the idea that God’s grace can be irresistable. It is foolishness to most people, and some consider it an offense to reason.
But in reality if we hold to the doctrine of Total Inability then this doctrine is not an offense but one of the most wonderful doctrines of the Bible.

I think we need to be careful to distinguish this doctrine from other doctrines that confuse the picture. There are two kinds of Grace that God imparts to the world. One is common Grace and the other is Effectual or Irresistable Grace.

Common Grace is something that is enjoyed by all people on earth, and refers to things such as Gods restraint in judgement of Sin, and God restraining human society from becoming like it was before the flood.  Common grace alos acknowledges that man still has a conscience.

Paul, when giving the most complete diagnosis of sin in the first 3 chapters of Romans, talks about this is Chapter 2. To paraphrase “when the Gentiles who do not have the law, that is the mosaic law, but do what is written in the law, they confirm that the law is written on their hearts, they are a law unto themselves.” This is important because although man is sinful and is dead in his trespasses, he still retains something of the image of God, and that can be seen by a mans conscience. This conscience however convicts the unregenerate man of sin, reminding him that he is made in the image of God. What we see as result of this common Grace is all matter of depravity that follows. Man tries to surpress that truth, surpress the image of God in him, man wants to deny it.
At this point the question would be, to what purpose has God extended his common grace to all men?
In this instance the purpose seems to be to be able to convict the unregenerate man of sin.

However this is not saving Grace, and I think this is where the some of the confusion takes place.
People may see some of the common grace that has been imparted to humanity and confuse that with saving grace given only to the elect.
Irresistable Grace is defined as follows: Gods Saving Grace is Effectually applied to those whom He has chosen to save, that is to say it saves them right then and there, and God in his perfect timing overcomes the resistance to gospel call in the heart of the individual bringing them to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

This is the statement of the doctrine and we want to see what the Bible says on the topic. We need to view this in light of the doctrines we have already established in the previous posts. If we hold to total depravity then man is unable to save himself. He needs to be regenerated before he can even believe in God. If we hold to unconditional election we see that God has chosen certain people to be saved since before the foundation of the world and they were elected not because of anything forseen in the way they would act to faith but in God’s sovereign will alone. If we hold to the Limited atonement then we know that what Jesus did on the cross was for the elect only, and that both sides argue for a limited atonement in reality. We then logically come to the doctrine of Irresistable grace. It is a logical following on of the other doctrines. What I want to make clear here is that logic is not the standard we hold here. Ultimately things could be “logical” but completely inconsistent with scripture. In that case scripture must trump over logic, using the principle of the reformers Sola Scriptura.

Lets look at John 6:37-39 “All that the Father gives me will come to me…. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”
All whom the father Gives to Jesus will come to Him – that is to say that the Grace of God will not be made void. His word will never return void and thats a promise he has made to us. It will accomplish the purpose it sets out to do. So if God sets out to save someone from Sin then he will make sure it is done. Clearly this talks about God’s grace and how it saves people effectually. If anyone was able to resist the call of Jesus then they were not chosen to be one of the elect. In that case Jesus would have said that “All who do not resist the call of the Father, and turn to me will come to me” now that is complete nonsense.

John 6:44–45: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.”
The word draw in the greek in its usual sense implies dragging. Some have gone to great lengths to say this word doesnt have to mean that but the word here is used in the usual sense, so it makes sense to interpret it the dragging sense. This verse also needs to be reconciled with John 12:32 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” In following the reformers principle of allowing Scripture to interpret scripture. The question is that if it is true that no one can come to Jesus except by the will and drawing power of the Father, then will Jesus save ALL people? We could spend a lot of time on this and I have already covered a lot of this in other posts. But sufficed to say that is not the case. Jesus will not save ALL people, and in relation to my post on the Limited Atonement we see that this is not the case. These two scriptures cannot logically result in Arminianism – you cannot have secure salvation for all people in Arminian theology. The Arminian would either say salvation is possible for all but secure for none, so Gods grace can be resisted. Neither one of these scriptures support that position. These two scriptures side by side either result in a Calvinist position or a Universalist position. Since we know that there are some people who will end up in Hell the universalist cannot be correct here.

I have by no means shown all the scriptures here, this would take a lifetime and more time than I have at my disposal. But clearly the narrative of scripture is one of Grace and that Grace being effectually applied to people. God created Adam and Eve, they sinned, Grace kept them from being destroyed. By God’s grace Noah was kept safe in the Ark while others died. By Gods Grace Abraham was called out of Paganism into life. Out of Grace God kept from destroying the Israelites when they continually did evil in his sight. Out of Grace David was destroyed when he had an affair with a married woman and had her husband killed. By Grace was Solomon saved when he allowed his wisdom to run amock! We could go on and on, but this is the narrative that scripture gives us. These are our stories.

I think the conclusion we need to come to is that what Jesus said “All has been given all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” If you think that anyone can defeat the purposes of God through Jesus then you are in effect calling Jesus a liar. You are saying that he lied when he said that statement. You would have to rewrite his words to say that “All Authority has been given to me in heaven but very little on earth”. What we have at stake in this doctrine is the very nature of God. Is God a liar? Can He be defeated by man? If we answer yes to that Question then our God is too small and we have made God in our Image. Our fallen Image.




4 responses

21 06 2008
Doulos Christou

How fortunate that your friend ran into Dennis Leary on his journey!

You correctly link the verses John 6:37 – 6:44 – 12:32. 6:44 is the negative counterpart to 6:37 but shouldn’t we also note that the context of these verses is the earthly ministry of the savior? Only 12:32 refers to Calvary – post Calvary, wouldn’t you say?

21 06 2008

Context is one thing. I remember reading in Lee Stroebels “Case for Christ” an interview he had with someone who sighed when he asked a question saying “In my parents house there is a saying, every verse taken out of context is a pre-text for a proof-text”. Well worth noting the context for every verse we try to apply. The question I ask myself is, if that is the context of the verse, does it change the interpretation of the passage? If Jesus said this Pre Calvary and it was meant to be for something that would happen Post Calvary – then I don’t see a problem with the interpretation I have there. We currently live Post Calvary.

22 06 2008
Doulos Christou

So, given the context and your recognition of who he is addressing and what they are talking about, is pulling 6:44 out to stand alone as a proof text warranted?

22 06 2008

Someone once accused me of taking John 17 out of context saying it was only talking to the disciples, but Jesus goes on to say that he doesnt just pray the disciples only but for all who will believe through the message of the disciples.
I think taking 6:44 as a “proof-text” alone is not the way to go – and I possibly need to revise this whole post to include more scripture. Its just that when trying to persuade someone about a certain doctrine, its very difficult to argue with the words of Jesus himself. We can argue about Paul but sometimes what Jesus said was crystal clear.

My main point here is that proof texting is normally a futile effort with many people and we need to wrestle with both sides of the arguement before coming to conclusions. In saying that I don’t think I’ve taken John 6:44 as a proof text out of context, and have taken it in the context of the chapter and other verses in the chapter as well as other verses in the book of John.

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