Foundations of Grace: Irresistible Grace

Over the previous three blogs we’ve been looking at the foundations of grace and what is often called the Five Points of Calvinism or the Doctrines of Grace. We continue to the fourth point in that system: Irresistible Grace. Every point thus far has highlighted God’s hand in saving spiritually dead sinners by grace in His sovereign unconditional election. How does God do it though? How does God change people who are totally depraved into those who are filled with the Spirit?

First, God does not spiritually resurrect the willing, for there are none. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:1-3 that all people are spiritually dead. The Apostle Paul wrote, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)

The Apostle Paul’s words practically mean that apart from a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit every man, woman, boy and girl is spiritually dead, enslaved to Satan, in bondage to their lust, greed, arrogance, and pride, they persist in sinful acts of the body and mind, are naturally worthy of the wrath of God and cursed and hopeless apart from a miracle. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is operating from a position contrary to the Old and New Testament. When God finds us He does not find a diamond in the rough; He finds a rough in the rough.

Why is this important for us to understand? We will never love God rightly until we understand the bad news of what our sins deserve. People need to understand the power of the gospel; that is, the good news. But the good news is meaningless until people are confronted by the bad news.

Second, God does in fact resurrect the dead. If it is true that natural fallen man is spiritually blind and utterly hopeless left to himself — how does God transform sinners into saints? God must raise the dead. We look again to the Apostle Paul’s words, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesian 2:4-6)

What do we see God do here? God raised us up. He resurrected us. The commencement of the coming of the Kingdom of God has already begun by our spiritual resurrection, though what we shall become has not yet arrived (the future physical resurrection). By this we learn that God raised us up by Himself, and that He does this marvelous work without our effort. Contrary to the hymn, we did not win the victory; He did.

Think with me about the Gospels and how they portray the work of resurrection. Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter by His word and strength, not hers (Mark 5:41-42). We see the same thing with Lazarus in John 11. Lazarus was not cooperating with Christ; he was dead! Jesus did not compel Lazarus to come out with persuasive stories, or emotionally manipulative music or circumstances. He did not reason with the corpse or grant him the final verdict by choosing according to his free will. Lazarus’ will was consumed by physical death. Our wills are naturally enslaved by our spiritual death. All we find in the text is an echo of that first word which burst out over the darkness in Genesis 1, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Gen. 1:3 ESV) Christ who was the Word in the beginning with God and was God, the very One by whom “all things were made” (John 1:3 ESV) came and authoritatively summoned the dead to life and by this act alone Lazarus was raised. Lazarus did not cooperate with Christ for the dead can do nothing. Instead, we see the dead raised by the power of the Word of God.

At just the right time, Christ calls His sheep by the power of the Gospel. Just as Lazarus was raised to new life, so we too are summoned and resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit. There comes a day for Christ’s elect when He brings us to life. This effective or what’s called, effectual calling, becomes more than a summons to our ears — it reaches down to our hearts. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd…. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:14a, 27) There is a divine certainty in Christ’s words. There’s not even a possibility of Him being wrong because this is the plan of God being accomplished. As God has predestined some for salvation, all those whom He predestined He calls in time and all of us make it home (Romans 8:30).