God’s Grace Sovereignly Applied
Invincible, irresistible, efficacious grace, or effectual calling, is the blessed fact that all whom God had predestinated unto life, all whom He had chosen from the beginning in Divine election, and all for whom Christ obeyed the law and died on the cross, making an atonement for them, must in time be brought from condemnation into the blessed state of justification and salvation. When we speak of effectual calling, we are speaking of the work of the Holy Spirit IN God’s elect whereby He sovereignly applies the great salvation that God purposed before time and Christ purchased in time for the sinner. What God’s elect already possess in the person of Christ, as He by Himself earned all grace and all glory for them, is sovereignly applied to their persons, in each and every generation, in time. The application of salvation to their persons is called the new birth which includes:
(1) Regeneration, or quickening by the Holy Spirit, wherein He gives spiritual life to a spiritually dead sinner, and
(2) Conversion, whereby the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel brings that sinner to saving faith and true, godly repentance. Regeneration and conversion are always together. Where the Spirit gives life, He always gives faith and repentance. This is the invincible, effectual calling of the Holy Spirit.
Two important things we must understand about the work of the Holy Spirit in God’s elect.
(1) All the work of the Holy Spirit IN a sinner is the fruit and effect of Christ’s work FOR the sinner. In other words, Christ’s work, His righteousness, is the only ground of salvation. None of the work of the Holy Spirit IN a sinner forms any part of the ground of salvation. The work of the Holy Spirit IN a sinner is as necessary for salvation as the work of Christ FOR the sinner, but not for the same reason. Christ’s work is the ground of salvation. The Holy Spirit’s work IN a sinner is the fruit and effect. The is important because it is necessary that Christ as Mediator between God and men have all the pre-eminence in salvation. The triune Godhead is glorified in the salvation of sinners based on the merits of Christ alone. Without Christ’s work FOR sinners, there would be no work of the Spirit IN sinners (John 16:7; 1 Corinthians 15:14-19). Also consider that the main work of the Holy Spirit IN sinners is to point them to Christ and cause them to value His work for them (John 16:13-14).
(2) Another thing to remember is that this work of the Holy Spirit IN sinners is not called invincible or irresistible because the Holy Spirit forces us to come to Christ against our wills. It is true that apart from the Holy Spirit’s work we will never choose to come to Christ for salvation. If left to ourselves we will always choose our own way and perish, but God the Holy Spirit in salvation, in true conversion, changes our wills. God makes us willing in the day of His power (Psalm 110:3), and He does it by using His truth in the Gospel to enlighten us and teach us and convince us that there is no hope of salvation outside of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ (John 6:45; 16:8-11).
This effectual, invincible calling is the work of God the Holy Spirit whereby He through the preaching of the Gospel convinces us of sin (of the absolute impossibility of salvation conditioned on the sinner), enlightens our minds in the knowledge of God in Christ (how He can be just to justify the ungodly based on the imputed righteousness of Christ), and draws out our affections and wills toward God as both a just God and a Savior in Christ. The Holy Spirit persuades us and enables us to embrace Christ by faith and plead His righteousness alone as the only ground of salvation, freely offered to us in the Gospel.
This is absolutely necessary as we all by nature are spiritually kin to Satan and totally opposed in our minds to God being glorified in salvation conditioned on Christ alone. We all by nature believe salvation conditioned on the sinner, and go about trying to establish a righteousness of our own (Ephesians 2:1-3). This is the product of the powers of Satan and darkness, self-righteousness, self-love and pride which we inherited from our natural father Adam. Therefore, it is NECESSARY that we be BORN AGAIN by the Spirit of God through the word of God (John 3:3,5).
God must do right, and just as Adam’s sin is imputed and his fallen nature imparted to each one whom he represented in each generation, when we are born by natural generation, even so, Christ’s righteousness is imputed and His very nature imparted to each and every one whom He represented in each successive generation, when we are born again by regeneration and conversion. Just as the sin of our representative Adam plunged all whom he represented into guilt, total depravity and all particulars involved in this state, even so, the righteousness of our Representative Christ Jesus demands that each one whom He represented be made partakers of all grace here and all glory hereafter. Adam’s sin insured that we be made partakers of spiritual death, and Christ’s righteousness insures that all the elect be made partakers of spiritual life (Ephesians 2:4-5; John 6:37, 44-45; 10:16; Romans 8:28-30). Consider the great Gospel truth of invincible grace in light of the following:
I. PURPOSED BEFORE TIME, FULFILLED AND APPLIED IN TIME.
A. Whatever God purposes before time must have its accomplishment in time. Christ is the LAMB SLAIN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD in the mind and purpose of God. For salvation to be obtained and completed, this must take place in time according to the Father’s will in Christ’s own Person as God the Son incarnate. This actual event was always sure and certain, yet it must have had its accomplishment in time on the cross of Calvary.
Galatians 4:4-5– In time Christ came, being made of a woman, under the law, and our sins were IMPUTED to Christ who went to the cross and paid our sin debt and perfectly satisfied law and justice on our behalf. Jeremiah called Him the LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. In time, Christ came and actually established that righteousness. Daniel said that messiah would come and make an end of sin by satisfaction and establishing that righteousness. Christ came and did what was purposed for Him to do before the foundation of the world. Both Jeremiah and Daniel, for example, were saved based on that atonement yet to be accomplished in time.
In order for God to be just and punish Christ for our sins, sins actually had to be imputed to Him. HE HAD TO BE MADE SIN (2 Corinthians 5:21a). He was already made sin in the mind and purpose of God, but not yet in His own Person as God the Son incarnate. He was set up from everlasting as God the Son incarnate, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, but He had not yet actually taken into union with His Divine Person that perfect, sinless humanity formed by the Spirit. In the mind and purpose of God, Christ was always ONE WITH THE ELECT in the view of God’s law and justice BY REPRESENTATION, but it was necessary that He be made ONE with us BY IMPUTATION. So Christ in eternity past became a partaker of our nature in the mind and purpose of God WITH A VIEW TOWARD His incarnation and His becoming a partaker of our sin and guilt by imputation. When this took place in time, there was an actual death, an actual separation of the Father and the Son, an actual atonement, a righteousness established, all in fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose of grace to glorify Himself in salvation.
B. It can be said that ALL of God’s elect in every generation are saved in the Person of Christ, their Representative, yet not in their own persons UNTIL REGENERATION AND CONVERSION (salvation). Ephesians 2:6 states that we are already seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, not in our own persons, but in the person of our Representative. Christ has by God the Father’s appointment performed and satisfied all the conditions of the salvation of His elect in order that we should most certainly enjoy all the grace and glory prepared and promised in the way and manner determined by God.
Christ actually delivered us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us 2000 years ago. He purged our sins by Himself. He perfected God’s elect forever by His one offering as their Substitute, Surety, and Representative. Christ alone satisfied all the demands of God’s law and justice thereby establishing a perfect unchangeable righteousness for each and every one of God’s elect 2000 years ago. Each and every one of God’s elect were, at that time, actually entitled to all spiritual blessings to be communicated and freely bestowed unto us, in God’s way and time, without any dependence upon any condition to be performed by us. This is why our reconciliation, justification and all of salvation are in the Scriptures spoken of as things actually done and accomplished in the death of Christ. It is not as though all of God’s elect were actually justified and saved in their own persons at that time. Most had not been born yet, but because of the absolute certainty of our regeneration and conversion in time, it is spoken of as if it were already accomplished.
Always keep in mind the vital principles of representation and imputation, and never lose the distinction between Christ as Head and Representative and the ones whom He represents. We know that we all sinned in Adam, and, therefore, we all became guilty, defiled, and condemned in our representative, Adam, yet not in our own individual persons until by natural generation and imputation we become so personally. In time, when we are born into this world by natural generation, we are born in sin, in a state of wrath and condemnation, guilty and defiled by representation and imputation. In the very same way all of God’s elect were purged from sin and justified in Christ our Representative, yet not in our own individual persons until by imputation, regeneration, and conversion, we become actual partakers of Christ’s nature, Spirit, and imputed righteousness. This is the application and communication of grace. THIS IS EFFICACIOUS, IRRESISTIBLE GRACE!
II. IN THE NEW BIRTH, COMMON TO ALL TRUE BELIEVERS.
A. PAUL’S CONVERSION, A PATTERN (Galatians 1:15-16; 1 Timothy 1:15-16) — We know that the details of each person’s conversion may be different in the realm of circumstances and temporal situations, but the process and the issues are the same for all of God’s people. Consider the Apostle Paul as an example. Before his regeneration and conversion, before he was born again, before justifying faith and repentance from dead works, he was a guilty, defiled, servant of sin, a member of Satan’s spiritual family, alienated from God, and all his efforts at religion and morality were dead works and fruit unto death. Even at this time he was already saved in the mind and purpose of God, yet not in his own person. His sins were already purged, put away, and he was already perfected forever in the Person of Christ his Representative, yet certainly not in his own person. Righteousness had been established for him, yet righteousness had not yet been imputed to him. All spiritual blessings had been secured for him, yet none had yet been communicated to him. Christ, his Representative, had purchased for him all grace here and all glory hereafter, yet he had not yet become a partaker of any of this in his own person. He was righteous and holy, purged and justified in the Person of Christ his Surety, but he was guilty and defiled, condemned and under the power of darkness in his own person, BEFORE REGENERATION AND CONVERSION, BEFORE SALVATION.
We might note that even before Paul’s actual conversion, he, like all of God’s elect, was blessed of God in temporal and providential ways. God had determined before the foundation of the world to bring this man to the point in time when he would be saved, born again. But before his conversion, Paul attributed all of the temporal and providential blessings to a god of his own imagination, not the true and living God. This is the experience of all of God’s elect. We may look back in our lives and see many times when God preserved us and blessed us temporally and physically, but before we came to faith in Christ and true repentance, we attributed it all to a false god, a god who cannot save.
Paul was purged and made righteous and holy in his own person when in true conversion, which includes regeneration, faith, and repentance, he was made an actual partaker of Christ’s nature, spirit, and righteousness. Before believing, before justifying faith, Paul was not purged in his own person. He was defiled and had no fellowship with God. Remember, the wrath of God abides on all who believe not on the Son of God (John 3:18,36), and God’s wrath cannot abide where sin has been purged. An unbeliever is not purged, cleansed, justified or yet a partaker of any grace or glory in his own person, although like Saul of Tarsus, he may be so in the person of Christ, His Representative. If he is, then at some time he, by the power of the Spirit of God, will hear and believe the Gospel. Justifying faith and repentance from former idolatry and dead works is the evidence of election and that Christ represented and atoned for that person’s sins.
B. All of us are born under the covenant of works, under law, owing a debt to God’s law and justice. There is an actual passage in time between the covenant of works to which we are born by nature and the covenant of grace which is the NEW BIRTH by the Holy Spirit of God. The elect of God must in time be made one with Christ by IMPUTATION of His righteousness to them (2 Corinthians 5:21b) and in REGENERATION, wherein we become actual partakers of His nature, His spirit, that powerful principle of holiness which enables us to receive Him and His righteousness by FAITH and to repent from dead works and former idolatry. Righteousness alone demands justification and life according to God’s promise and consistent with strict law and inflexible justice; and until we become actual partakers of Christ’s righteousness by imputation and faith, it is impossible for a holy God to justify us and receive us into His fellowship, in our own persons. Only those who receive the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by Jesus Christ. Until we are united to Christ by faith through the preaching of the Gospel, we remain guilty, defiled, under wrath in our own persons, and lost.
C. Titus 3:4 — This is the manifestation of God’s goodness and love to us PERSONALLY in a special manner by His Spirit. The grace of God, the love of Christ, APPEARED to us when we were enlightened to God’s Gospel of salvation conditioned on Christ, where His righteousness is revealed (2 Corinthians 4:6). This does not oppose God’s purpose before time, nor Christ’s purchase in time. Paul seeks to magnify the grace of God in our conversion. Here, God reveals Himself in a certain way to His elect as both a JUST GOD AND A SAVIOR based on the blood and the imputed righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 45:21-22, 24-25).
Who is commanded to look and be saved?
Those already saved?
NO! Active idolaters are commanded to look and be saved, to repent of their idolatry.
On what ground are they to seek salvation?
The imputed righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel.
Titus 3:5 — What is the NEW BIRTH?
What actually takes place in a sinner when he is born from above by the Spirit of God?
Paul tells us. That sinner is REGENERATED (given life or quickened) and RENEWED (converted in newness of life) (Romans 6:17-18; 7:4-6). The Agent in this new birth is the Holy Spirit who makes us actual partakers of the very nature of Christ (His spirit, His righteousness), and the instrument is the Gospel whereby our hearts are purified by faith and our consciences are purged by the blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit imparts a new, holy principle in our hearts, the very nature of Christ, enlightens our minds to the glory of God revealed in the promise of salvation conditioned on Christ, and we are brought from death unto life. God the Father actually imputed the very righteousness of Christ to each one of His elect in each successive generation. The Holy Spirit imparts new life unto them and renews their minds with the truth of the Gospel, overcomes their natural prejudices against it, and brings them to faith in Christ and repentance from dead works. Now these things take place as God has ordained from the beginning, and they are never separate according to Scripture. They can be distinguished but never separated. Where there is the imputation of righteousness, there is regeneration and conversion. Where there is faith, there is life (John 6:54).
D. Salvation is not only a thing determined and resolved in the mind and purpose of God, but it is actually and completely accomplished by the atonement of Christ (Titus 3:6), and in the actual application of it is made in time to the elect in regeneration and conversion. THIS IS THE ELECTS’ OPEN PASSAGE INTO THE STATE OF GRACE, AND WITHOUT THIS THERE IS NO ENTRY INTO GRACE AND GLORY. Remember, there is a vital, unbreakable connection between God’s purpose in election as the cause of salvation, Christ’s work for us as the ground of salvation, and the Holy Spirit’s work in us to apply salvation.
Ephesians 2:1-5 — We were spiritually dead and condemned in the person of Adam our representative, but not in our own persons until we were born by natural generation. We were spiritually alive, purged from sin, redeemed, and even glorified in the Person of Christ our Surety, but not in our own persons until we are born again by regeneration and conversion, and not finally glorified in our own persons until we pass from this life into the next (Romans 8:30; Ephesians 2:6). The application of salvation to our own persons, whereby we are made actual partakers of justification and life in this world, is just as sure and certain as Christ’s death on Calvary. This application is the effectual call of God the Holy Spirit through the preaching of God’s Gospel. God the Holy Spirit is the sovereign Agent who quickens spiritually dead sinners, and the Gospel preached, heard and understood is the means, the very power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17) by which He calls and converts God’s people (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 1 Peter 1:23-24; James 1:18). Here we see that the truth of irresistible grace does not shut any sinner out of the kingdom of God. Sinners exclude themselves by refusing to believe these truths which honor the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Sinners refuse to believe these truths which exclude all occasions and grounds of boasting in themselves (1 Corinthians 1:29-31).
III. OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO PREACH AND HEAR.
A. Someone may object then, “Why preach, why listen, why evangelize, why send missionaries? We don’t know if they are God’s elect, if Christ died for them, or if the Holy Spirit will quicken and call.”
We must see that in all things the secret things belong unto the Lord, but the revealed things belong to us (Deuteronomy 29:29). God has commanded His people, for His glory, to preach the Gospel to all without exception and show sinners their responsibility to believe and repent. Evangelism is not motivated by what we do not know. It is motivated by what we do know! We know that the Gospel preached will have no saving effect upon any sinner apart from the Holy Spirit’s effectual call. We know that if any sinner savingly believes God’s Gospel, it is due to the power of God in affecting that great change. But we know also that God uses means to save His elect, and we are responsible to use the means to His glory and our good.
We know that the means will be used in every instance of the application of salvation to God’s elect. We know that God’s elect will hear and believe God’s truth. We know that all without exception are commanded to believe it and to seek justification and life based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. We know that all are forbidden to seek salvation any other way upon any other ground. We know that all without exception are responsible to believe God’s promise of salvation conditioned on Christ — HE THAT BELIEVETH SHALL BE SAVED, AND HE THAT BELIEVETH NOT SHALL BE DAMNED. God uses means, and we are commanded and encouraged to be diligent in using the means (Isaiah 55:6-7). Many who claim to believe the doctrines of grace excuse their ambiguous and vague preaching by claiming that if any of their hearers are God’s elect, they will hear and believe. This is nothing more than a person seeking to remove the offense of the cross under the guise of exalting God’s sovereignty. We should make our preaching plain and distinct and definitive so that sinners, whether they believe it or not, know exactly what we believe and what God’s Word says (1 Corinthians 14:8). This is our responsibility.
B. We know that THIS PROMISE OF THE GOSPEL IS SURE AND CERTAIN TO ALL THE SEED (all of God’s elect), and that it is made certain by means of faith, believing God’s promise of salvation conditioned on Christ (Romans 4:16). There are many things we do not know and have no promise or assurance from God as to the outcome. For example, if you get sick and need an operation, you do not know when you go under the anesthesia whether or not you will wake up. You have no promise from God concerning the certainty of physical health and life, but that does not stop you from seeking after and using the means.
It is because your physical life is precious to you.
In eternal salvation and life we do have a sure and certain promise from God BASED ON HIS FAITHFULNESS TO FULFILL HIS PROMISE OF SALVATION CONDITIONED ON CHRIST ALONE! We are to tell sinners that GOD WILL JUSTIFY THE UNGODLY, EVEN THEM, BASED ON THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST ALONE. Now, all are commanded to seek after and use the means to gain eternal life.
B. We also know what keeps sinners from the means and in condemnation. John 3:18-20 — The only thing that keeps a sinner in a state of condemnation is the sinful principles of self-love, self-righteousness and religious pride which cause them to refuse to admit of and repent of former idolatry and dead works. These sinful principles cause a sinner to insist on salvation based on something other than the imputed righteousness of Christ. In the invincible calling, God the Holy Spirit convinces those whom Christ redeemed of the utter impossibility of being saved based on anything other than the imputed righteousness of Christ, and He reveals to them that God is glorified in their salvation conditioned on Christ alone. This makes them willing to be saved and kept saved by grace alone.