TULIP: Irresistible Grace, 1

Intro | Total Hereditary Depravity 1 | Total Hereditary Depravity 2 | Unconditional Election 1 | Unconditional Election 2 | Limited Atonement 1 | Limited Atonement 2 | Irresistible Grace 1 | Irresistible Grace 2 | Perseverance of the Saints 1 | Perseverance of the Saints 2tulip

by William J. Stewart

The fourth tenet of Calvinism is discussed by Steele & Thomas in The Five Points of Calvinismin the following way:

Although the general outward call of the gospel can be, and often is, rejected, the special inward call of the Spirit never fails to result in the conversion of those to whom it is made. This special call is not made to all sinners but is issued to the elect only. The Spirit is in no way dependant upon their help or cooperation for success … the grace which the Holy Spirit extends to the elect cannot be thwarted or refused, it never fails to bring them to true faith in Christ.

Basically, if you are among the elect, you are going to be saved whether you want to be or not. Reject the preaching of the gospel all you want, the Spirit is still gonna getcha.

With the previous three points of Calvinism as a base, irresistible grace is a logical conclusion. However, as we have seen, the first three points of Calvinism are not Bible doctrines. We’ll spend the rest of our time here considering the following question: Is there some inward call of the Spirit separate and apart from the preaching of the gospel of Christ?

Writing to the church at Rome, Paul spoke of God’s power to save man. It seems that Paul was not familiar with Calvin’s doctrine, for he didn’t speak of an inward call of the Spirit, but said:

…I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Later in the same letter, he wrote:

…how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? …they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:14, 16-17)

Supporters of Calvinism tend to minimize the need for the gospel message to be preached, since they do not believe the hearer has any ability to respond anyhow. In fact, I’ve heard some claim an individual can be saved and have the hope of heaven without ever hearing a single word from the Scriptures. That is not what Paul told the Romans. The gospel is God’s power to save and the message must be preached, for faith is not possible without hearing the gospel.

Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul spoke of how people are called salvation. Notice:

…He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:14)

Likewise, Peter identified the gospel as the means whereby we have been saved:

…you have purified your souls in obeying the truth … having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever …Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:22-23, 25)

The very title of this doctrine contradicts the Bible—“Irresistible Grace.” It is an attack on free will. You cannot choose to come to God, and if He’s selected you, you cannot choose to not come to Him.

The Bible teaches that all men are able to come to the Lord or reject Him. His offer of salvation is to all (as we noted in the first articles on Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement). Not just a few examples of Bible verses which reveal our freedom to choose to serve God or not:

I call heaven and earth as witness today against you, that I have set before you life and death blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live… (Deuteronomy 30:19)

And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness. (Romans 6:16)

Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent… (Acts 17:30)

We can choose God’s way! Notice what Paul said about God’s grace to us:

…the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age… (Titus 2:11-12)

Consider one last statement by Steele & Thomas:

…the Holy Spirit, in order to bring God’s elect to salvation, extends to them a special inward call in addition to the outward call contained in the gospel message. Through this special call the Holy Spirit performs a work of grace within the sinner which inevitably brings him to faith in Christ. The inward change wrought in the elect sinner enables him to understand and believe spiritual truth… The Spirit creates within him a new heart or a new nature. This is accomplished through the regeneration or the new birth by which the sinner is made a child of God and is given spiritual life. (The Five Points Of Calvinism)

Not only does the doctrine of irresistible grace nullify the need for the word of God and deny man’s free will, but it contradicts what the Bible says about salvation. Consistently the Bible says one must believe before they can be saved (Mark 16:16; John 3:16; Hebrews 11:6; etc.). Calvinism says that one is unable to believe before they are regenerated.

Also, Steele & Thomas say that the new birth takes place through this inward call of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says otherwise:

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. …I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:3, 5)

Is the Spirit involved? Yes. But so is baptism. God does not save people before they believe and obey His word. This doctrine of irresistible grace is as contrary to the Bible as the other tenets.

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