Lesson 28 – Irresistible Grace

When we speak of irresistible grace, we mean that when God moves in power to bring salvation to a sinner, that this power cannot be resisted–it is always effectual. Those who don’t believe this always turn to Acts 7. Stephen is preaching here and in verse fifty-one he says, “ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.”

To properly understand this passage, we must see what Stephen is talking about. He is speaking to the Jews concerning the words of the prophets which came to the Jews in the past. In resisting the words of these prophets, the Jews had resisted the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost reveals God’s Word to holy men: prophets and apostles. The Holy Ghost uses ministers of the Word to proclaim the Word of God throughout all ages: to the Jew in the Old Testament period, and to every tribe and tongue and language in the New Testament dispensation. People who hate the Word resist, rebel, and show scorn. They take those whom the Holy Ghost uses to proclaim the Word and kill them. That is what Stephen is speaking about here. He is not telling them that the Spirit of God was given to them all to lead them to repentance–but that many of them resisted. But the Spirit is resisted in the sense that these holy men whom the Spirit sends are resisted. The word “resist” is antipipto which means “to oppose.” So they resisted the Spirit as they opposed the men who were led by Him.

They were resisting the Spirit in an external way because He was not working on their hearts, trying to bring salvation to them.

To further prove this, we need only point out that Saul was at this time resisting the Holy Ghost in the same sense that they were. See Acts 7:58. But later, when the Holy Spirit moved on the heart of Saul with irresistible power, Saul was instantly brought to salvation. See Acts 9:5,6. See also Acts 22:3-16; Acts 26:9-19; Galatians 1:13-17. Saul persecuted the church of Jesus Christ for a considerable time after the death of Stephen. But when the Lord moved on his heart in power Saul or Paul immediately began to preach the gospel he once opposed. This is proof positive that God worked on him on the way to Damascus in a much different way that He did while Stephen was preaching. And Paul later said that God works on all believers with the same power in which He worked on him. See I Timothy 1:16.

Behold, I Stand At The Door

Another Scripture that those who oppose the doctrine of Irresistible Grace like to use is Revelation 3:20 where it is said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

People misrepresent this Scripture by saying that Jesus is knocking at the door of peoples’ hearts and trying to gain entrance. But this is not the door of anyone’s heart. He knocked at the door of that corrupt church of Laodicea and He calls to separation those who yet love the word of God. But Christ does not knock at any man’s heart. God opens the hearts of His elect by Irresistible Grace. See how He works as in the case of Lydia: “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” (Acts 16:14).

Whosoever Will

Another favorite Scripture of those who deny Irresistible Grace is Revelation 22:17 where it is said, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.”

Let us examine the condition of those to whom the invitation is given. “Let him that is athirst come.” A man has to have life before he can be thirsty. A true thirst for the things of God is an evidence of life. A thirsty man is already in a blessed condition. God’s irresistible grace has already operated on him. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6). This man is not in need of life. He is in need of the things which sustain life (the water of life).

“And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

Who is this man?

He is the one who has been given a willing heart by irresistible grace. Not everyone has a will to come. The Lord Jesus said to some, “And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life.” (John 5:40).

What is the difference in those who will and those who won’t?

Sovereign, irresistible grace!

As was mentioned before, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power.” (Psalm 110:3).

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”
(Philippians 2:13)

To show emphatically that man can’t come to God by his so-called “free will” the Scripture plainly says, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” (Romans 9:16).

Other invitations in the Scriptures are also given to those who have already experienced a change wrought by the grace of God.

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters…”
(Isaiah 55:1)

The one who is not thirsty is not invited.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28)

He did not say, “I will give you life.” They already had life or they couldn’t have been weary. What they needed was rest for their souls.

When God determines to save one, His grace cannot be resisted. “But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased.” (Psalm 115:3).


1. In what sense was the Holy Spirit resisted by the Jews in Acts 7?

2. Did Paul resist the Holy Spirit when salvation was brought to him?

3. What door is Christ knocking on in Revelation 3:20?

4. To whom is the “whosoever will” of Revelation 22:17 addressed?

5. To whom are the invitations to come to Christ addressed in the Scriptures?

Memory Verse:

We have memorized Psalm 110:3, II Corinthians 4:6, and John 5:25.

Let us memorize John 3:8.

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