Lesson 26 – Irresistible Grace
It needs to be pointed out that if the truths that we have previously studied be true, then the truth of irresistible grace must necessarily follow. For example, one cannot maintain that man is truly dead in sin and yet deny the necessity of irresistible grace in his salvation. If the sinner is totally depraved, dead in sins, unable to do any good, then he needs far more than mere assistance. Give a dead man a cane and try to assist him in walking! You know that such assistance would do no good. Rather, he must be made alive again or he will never walk. So it is with the totally depraved sinner. God’s grace must take the dead sinner and must make him alive again. Total depravity implies that an irresistible, powerful grace of God is the only hope for the dead sinner.
The same can be said of unconditional election–this truth implies necessarily an irresistible grace of God. God has chosen unto Himself a people from before the foundation of the world. The execution of the decree of God can not rest now upon the fickle will of man, but rests upon the irresistible grace of God which will bring to pass His eternal purpose.
When speaking of the truth of the power of God in bringing salvation to the sinner, the Scriptures use three powerful analogies or comparisons. In all three of these comparisons the recipient of the action is helpless and passive until a higher power acts upon it. The first of these comparisons is that of resurrection. In John 5:25, Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” This is not talking about the resurrection of the bodies from the grave. That is the subject under consideration in verse 28.
Christ says here, that the “hour is coming and NOW is.” The time was right then. Jesus was speaking of a resurrection from being dead in sin, to being alive in Jesus Christ–a spiritual resurrection. Just as it took the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ to raise Lazarus from the tomb (John 11:43), so it takes the voice of the Son of God to give spiritual life to one who does not have it. Jesus said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth (makes alive); the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).
This spiritual quickening is what was under consideration in John 5:21 where Jesus said, “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will.” The same thing is spoken of in Ephesians 2:5 “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ…”
Lazarus was helpless and passive until Jesus raised him. Jesus called him with irresistible power. Lazarus could not and did not resist the voice of Christ. Likewise the one who is dead in trespasses and sins is helpless and passive until Christ by the Holy Spirit calls him from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive. The one who is dead in sin cannot and will not resist the call of Christ. This call comes with irresistible power.
The Ephesian epistle, in very powerful and beautiful language shows emphatically that it takes the same mighty, miracle-working power to make one a believer as it took to raise Christ from the dead: “And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:19-20).
The bringing of a person from a state of death in sin to a state of being alive in Christ is also called a birth in the Scriptures. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3). Nicodemus didn’t understand so Jesus explained to him, “Verily, Verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5).
Being “born of water and of the Spirit” simply means being born of the Spirit. The conjunction “and” is the Greek word KAI which can be translated and, even, or also. Born of water even of the Spirit would probably be the best translation here in light of the context of John 3:6,8. Water is used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John as can be seen from John 7:38-39.
Jesus goes on to say in John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh (the natural birth); and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (the spiritual birth).”
Then Jesus says, “The wind bloweth where it listeth (that is, where it desires, wishes, or pleases), and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8).
Notice that everyone who is born of the Spirit is born the same way. There is only one way of salvation. There is not one plan for the intelligent adult, another for the mentally incompetent, and another for the baby who dies in infancy. All are born the same way with the same irresistible power.
In natural birth, we know that the one who is born does not will to be born–in fact, he has no decision in the matter at all. He doesn’t decide the time, place, or circumstances of his birth. He has no power to determine the family into which he will be born. The analogy holds true with regard to the spiritual birth. God determines the time, place and circumstances. The sinner can no more resist this than can an infant resist and refuse to be born naturally. This fact is shown so clearly in John 1:13 where speaking of believers it is said, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” This verse kills the doctrine of those who teach that men are saved when they exercise their “free wills” and accept God’s “offer” of salvation.
This same truth is taught in I Peter 1:23: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” The “word” here is not the preached word nor is it the written word. Rather it is the living truth of God in Jesus Christ which is implanted in the heart of the believer by the Holy Spirit. We will study this verse in depth in another study sheet.
The impartation of saving grace to individuals is also referred to in the Scriptures as a creation.
“For God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
(II Corinthians 4:6)
Here, of course, Paul is referring back to the Genesis account of the creation of the heaven and the earth.
How was light created?
God commanded it to shine with irresistible power!
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”
There was no resistance here. God was the active agent. The thing created was passive (indeed non-existent) until God called it into being.
So it is in the spiritual creation, says Paul.
How does an individual get to know Jesus Christ with saving knowledge?
God commands it as He speaks life into the heart by the Holy Spirit. God is just as sovereign in the creation of spiritual life as He was in the creation of the universe. No one helped Him create the heaven and the earth and no one helps Him give spiritual life to His people. Look at the following Scriptures which teach this wonderful truth:
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (or “creation”–Grk. KTISIS): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
(II Corinthians 5:17)
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”
Look at Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
We are HIS workmanship. An artist forms his work as he wills. The artist does not ask the clay which he forms, “In what form would you desire to be made?” But he fashions the clay according to his own will. So also we are God’s workmanship. The prophet states this too in Isaiah 43:21, “This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.” That is irresistible grace. This power of God does not wait for those poor miserable sinners to accept Christ–but it FORMS them to be His people. They therefore show forth His praise.
1. Why, if you hold to the truth of man’s being dead in sin, must you logically and consistently hold to the truth of irresistible grace?
2. What kind of resurrection is under consideration in John 5:25?
3. Who is the agent in raising one from death in sin to life in Christ?
4. What does it mean to be “born of water and of the Spirit” in John 3:5?
5. How does John 3:8 teach that there is only one way of salvation?
6. Who helps God give spiritual life to His people?
We have memorized Psalm 110:3.
Let us memorize II Corinthians 4:6.