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 2
by William J. Stewart
Does the Bible teach irresistible grace? Supporters of Calvinism believe it does. Today we’ll look at their “proof texts.”
Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You, that he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, of Your holy temple.
I’m sure Calvinists who use this believe they have found a slam dunk verse for their cause. How more plain could it be? The problem is they’ve pulled it out of context. In this Psalm, David is extolling those who serve at the temple (priests), not the doctrine of irresistible grace. Incidentally, v 2 speaks about all flesh (not a select group) coming to the Lord.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
The Calvinist will say God’s people do not have a choice, God puts His Spirit in you and you will walk in His way—it’s irresistible, right? Note, the same prophet wrote this:
Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of the one who dies, says the Lord GOD. Therefore turn and live! (18:31-32)
God wants people to turn, His Spirit and His word are powerful in the life of the one who will have a new heart and new spirit. But, He will not force anyone to receive anything from Him. Ezekiel does not say it’s irresistible, but that we must turn to God and live.
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
This same thought is also found in John 6:37 and 6:65. Indeed, we must be called by the Father, but the question we need to ask is how does the Father call us? As we noted last week, Calvinists believe this happens by “the special inward call of the Spirit” (Steele & Thomas). Is that what the Bible says? Jesus tells us in the context how God calls us:
It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. (John 6:45)
Jesus didn’t speak of a “special inward call”; He said we are called by God’s word. It is the gospel message that is used to call people (Romans 1:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:14). Is the grace offered through the gospel irresistible? Not according to Paul, for he wrote:
...the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men... (Titus 2:11)
If it were irresistible, then all men should be saved. But that simply is not the case. Everyone has the freedom to receive or reject God’s grace.
…among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
One blogger, after listing this verse as a proof text for Irresistible Grace comments,
Effectual Calling—the Holy Spirit convicts & convinces us. Yes, it’s irresistible grace because it’s so true, so logical and so convincing.1
Say it long enough, say it loud enough, say it with enough conviction—and it will still be a false doctrine. Paul doesn’t say a thing in this text about how the Romans were called. And so the Calvinist latches onto it and makes it a part of their doctrine. How were the Romans called? If we keep reading, Paul writes:
…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 book, Paul quotes Joel 2:32, which says those who call on the LORD will be saved. He then asks:
How then 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? (Romans 10:14)
What is the solution? The “effectual calling” of the Holy Spirit? No, that’s not what the apostle said. Preachers must be sent (v 15) so that people can come to faith by the hearing of the gospel (v 17), and thus obey (v 16).
Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
One of the keys to effective proof-texting is to grab every verse that has key words related to your doctrine and use them [sarcasm, heavy sarcasm]. Proof-texting is not a good way to establish truth. It is a good way to avoid every verse in the Bible says something different from the proof-texter’s doctrine. The word “grace” is in Romans 11:5, but the text says nothing about irresistible grace. In the next few verses, Paul wrote:
…if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (Romans 11:6-7)
How are we saved? The Jews would affirm the Law of Moses as being essential (and we see this with the Judaizing teachers whom Paul battled against, see Acts 15, Romans 10, Galatians 5, etc.). It is not by the works of the law but by faith in Christ that we are saved, and most of the Jews rejected Christ (v 19-23).
There are several other texts Calvinists will use as support for the doctrine of irresistible grace. There are key words that tend to appear over and over in the verses that are put forth: called, grace, cause, will, appointed, shall, etc.. What is missing in any list of verses used to support Calvin’s doctrine of irresistible grace is a single verse that mentions “irresistible grace.” Why is there not a verse mentioning it? The answer is simply this; it is not a Bible doctrine.