Invincible, Insuperable, Irresistible, Effectual Grace

We have been considering the Doctrines of Grace and that famous or infamous acrostic called TULIP. We have spent time on total depravity, unconditional election, and limited atonement. I trust you could now provide yourself some kind of basic explanation of these doctrines w/ one or two scriptures to demonstrate how these are what Scripture teaches.

We have, I remind you, established that these doctrines rise and fall together. They are interlocking doctrines or five aspects of one doctrine. The denial of any one of these doctrines is the denial of all of these doctrines.

We have also said that the only place you can find these doctrines are in the Bible and the only place you can find these doctrines defended is in the Reformed Church that we have admitted that the Reformed Church, sadly enough, has become itself very weak in a fulsome defense of these doctrines and their implications.

Some of you here are young. There will possibly come a day when you will have to find a Church to attend. Do not bother trying out Wesleyan, Nazarenes, Church of Christ, Pentecostals, Lutherans, or Roman Catholics because in such Churches you will not find Biblical Christianity.

Those that aren’t Calvinists are only Christians because of the Calvinism that surreptitiously yet remains in their system. This remnant of Calvinism serves in their system to rescue it from the complete paganism it would otherwise be, were it not for the presence of whatever Calvinism remains. Take the Calvinism out of their Christianity it would not longer be Christian.

So, you must find a Reformed Church and not just any Reformed Church, but one that is not ashamed of these doctrines. Not ashamed of the ongoing validity of God’s Law.

Some will and do object… “You Calvinist with your precious doctrines and theology. You need to give up your intellectual pursuit and just love and follow Jesus?

To this we answer but how can I follow Jesus unless I know who Jesus is and how can I know who Jesus is apart from a theology built up line by line with doctrine? You see nobody follows Jesus w/o having an understanding of who Jesus is. That understanding of who Jesus is the result of theology. The Jesus that we are to follow is the Jesus of Scripture.

And the Jesus of Scripture said that “all that the Father gives Me will come to me.” This clearly teaches what Calvinism later came to call irresistible grace.

With that said we today come to Irresistible Grace as we consider the Doctrines of Grace.

We find that in Scripture. There in John we find it plain as day. Jesus is contesting again against His enemies who have objected because He has said that He is the Bread of life come down from Heaven. He goes on to say,

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:44

Let us talk about the Greek word “draw” there (helskyse) When I was in undergrad at a Wesleyan School studying Arminian theology I remember being taught that the word there meant the idea of “wooing,” or “enticing.” I was taught that God woos all men equally by what they called “prevenient grace.” It is this prevenient grace equally distributed that some men will cooperate with so that God’s wooing is successful and someone is saved. However, others do not cooperate with this prevenient grace and so God’s wooing and enticing fails and they are lost. God tried to woo them but He failed.

Unfortunately, this paradigm does not stand up to the meaning of the Greek word there for “draw.” This is not a picture of hanging a t-bone in front of hungry dog to woo him into the dog pen. This idea of draw instead is a picture of being dragged. Consider a couple other times where this same Greek word used here in John 6:44 is used elsewhere in Scripture. See if you can identify which word is used in these passages that is used in this John 6:44 passage.

Acts 17:19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers.

James 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?

The Greek word in all three cases is Helskyse and means — to drag, draw, pull, persuade, unsheathe.

So this is not a matter of wooing and enticing as if the wooing and enticing could result in any end but the success of the wooing and enticing.

Drawing there then is not wooing or enticing but the kind of reality that exists when you go to a well to draw water. One doesn’t seek to entice or woo the water into the bucket but pulls the water out of the well.

In this same chapter our Liege-Lord speaks of this same idea again,

“No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” John 6:65

Men being dead in sins and trespasses are not the ones who first initiate their fleeing to Christ. It is not a matter of their decision to own Christ without it first being God’s decision to own men or peoples. We must keep in mind in our theology that God is always prior. Men do not come to Christ until the Spirit of Christ comes to them w/ grace that is irresistible and effectual.

Now as to the character of this grace let us be clear. Some of our opponents, have, as I mentioned last week, seeking to smear this Biblical doctrine referred to this a “Holy Rape.” They are seeking to equate the marvel of God’s grace effectually working its wonder on those dead with the criminal act of violating a woman against her will.
How would we answer that?

Well, first we would say that

1.) In effectual grace God is NOT violating man’s will. Man’s will remains in tack. Man chooses Christ because that is what He wants with His whole being. So, it is not true that man’s will is being violated as a woman’s will is violated in rape. Instead what God does, in effectual grace is to change man’s nature. Man’s nature being changed His will is set free to operate consistent with that new nature.

2.) Secondly we would say that it is an odd thing to accuse God of this “Holy Rape,” when it is the case that God is rescuing the fallen and dead man from his unceasing and merciless rape upon him as conducted by Lucifer. Every day … nay, every minute, the person outside of Christ is being abused in every way imaginable by the prince of darkness. It is just like Lucifer to accuse the thrice Holy God of the very crime that He Himself is guilty of.

3.) Finally we would offer here that our opponents would be well advised here to be careful for their own souls because in saying that effectual grace is “Holy Rape,” they find themselves on the doorstep of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

Well what might we say of this drawing… this dragging by which our nature is changed so that we come to Christ?

Calvin gives us some light here,

“As to the kind of drawing, it is not violent, so as to compel men by external force; but still it is a powerful impulse of the Holy Spirit, which makes men willing who formerly were unwilling and reluctant. It is a false and profane assertion, therefore, that none are drawn but those who are willing to be drawn, [153] as if man made himself obedient to God by his own efforts; for the willingness with which men follow God is what they already have from himself, who has formed their hearts to obey him.”

So … we have established that Scripture teaches that if a man is to choose Christ that person must be set free to choose Christ. Effectual grace is all over the Scripture. We see it again in these places,

John 1:11 He came to His [c]own, and His [d]own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the [e]right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Acts 16:14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

Now, that we have established indisputably that the explanation for why some men choose Christ while others men don’t is this discriminating effectual grace of God that based on unconditional election and limited atonement makes some men alive while leaving others dead let us admit that this does not negate that men resist God. We know that they do because we find in the Scripture,

Acts 7:51 says, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.”

So yes… dead men resist routinely the Holy Spirit. It’s all that dead men can do is resist.

One of our brightest Reformed theologians of the 19th century underscored this when he wrote,

“The term ‘irresistible grace’ is not really of Reformed origin but was used by Jesuits and Remonstrants to characterize the doctrine of the efficacy of grace as it was advocated by Augustine and those who believed as he did. The Reformed in fact had some objections to the term because it was absolutely not their intent to deny that grace is often and indeed always resisted by the unregenerate person and therefore could be resisted. They therefore preferred to speak of the efficacy or or the insuperability of grace, or interpreted the term ‘irresistible’ in the sense that grace is ultimately irresistible. The point of disagreement, accordingly, was not whether humans continually resisted and could resist God’s grace, but whether they could ultimately – at the specific moment in which God wanted to regenerate them and work with his efficacious grace in their heart – still reject that grace. The answer to this question, is as clearly evident.”

Dr. Herman Bavinck
Dogmatic Theology Vol IV. pg. 82

Bavinck goes on to say that the answer to this is bound up with the answer to the other doctrines of Grace. He denies that fallen man cannot reject the grace that makes men alive.

This is why the emphasis on effectual grace falls on the fact that God changes men’s nature which sets man’s will free to no longer resist. Man is born anew by the agency of the Holy Spirit. He has taken from him his nature … his disposition … his tendency as it existed in his unity with the first Adam and has given to him a a new nature… a new disposition … a new tendency that is what it is because He is united to the last Adam, Jesus Christ.

This was the testimony of Dr. Martin Luther

God has surely promised his grace to the humbled: that is to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will, and works and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure, and work of Another — God alone.

Martin Luther

But this idea of effectual grace has not been the doctrine of many who have sneaked into the the Evangelical “Hall of Fame.” Finney, much like Formalist and Hypocrisy in Pilgrim’s Progress, instead of coming in to the Kingdom by the narrow path climbed over the wall and was present w/o warrant.

Finney in his systematic theology vehemently denied effectual grace casting aside Christian orthodoxy as he did on total depravity, unconditional election and limited atonement,

Finney argued strenuously against the belief that the new birth is a divine gift, insisting that , (Quote)

“regeneration consists in the sinner changing his ultimate choice, intention, preference; or in changing from selfishness to love or benevolence,” as moved by the moral influence of Christ’s moving example (p.224). “Original sin, physical regeneration, and all their kindred and resulting dogmas, are alike subversive of the gospel, and repulsive to the human intelligence” (p.236).

John Wesley similarly affirmed that God’s grace is universally present in all and irresistible in none.

But Mr. Wesley if God’s grace is universally in all and irresistible in none then by necessity that which distinguishes those who choose Christ and those who do not lie in something those who chose Christ brought to God’s grace that those who did not choose Christ did not bring and so the difference lies in something man can and should boast in. God thus no longer saves, but merely gives us the opportunity to save ourselves by adding the magic something.

We see here also that to deny irresistible that is effectual grace is to deny total depravity and makes dead men able to choose to be alive by cooperating with grace.

Let me make one more point here before we close… and I do think we may have to do a part II on Irresistible grace.

Note here, as I have said before the harmony of interest in our salvation. When we considered Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement we saw that the Father marks out some men for salvation from eternity past and that the Son comes to be the atonement only for those elect marked out. Now in irresistible grace we see that the Holy Spirit takes from the Father and Son and applies redemption via irresistible grace to the elect. Perfect harmony between Father, Son, and Spirit. There is no contradiction of purposes as we find in these other “systems” of thought. Believe me when I tell you that if you have a contradiction in your theology that contradiction is going to get in everything else you think. Contradiction isn’t satisfied in staying in soteriology. Finding contradiction in the members of the Trinity will lead to contradiction being part of your character.

Also notice that in the work of irresistible grace it is God the Spirit working in us. Whereas in Unconditional election and Limited atonement the work of the Father and Son is called extra nos – outside of us. Election is something the Father does quite apart from us. Similarly the work of the Atonement is done quite outside of us and apart from us. But in irresistible grace God the Holy Spirit is working in us. Taking from the Father and Son what was accomplished outside of us God the Holy Spirit now applies in us the wonders of the Triune God’s undeserved favor.

We note then that what is applied to and in me is based on what was accomplished outside of me. This is a important distinction because there have been those who have tried to make what has happened outside us dependent upon what is done in us. Our being made alive with Christ and our subjective union with Christ is based upon the objective work of the Father and Son. The objective precedes the subjective.

So we end where we only can end and that is in doxology…. lost in wonder, love and praise. That we would be caught up in so great a salvation. How can it be that I was so favored by this great grace that defeated my sin bred hostility and so made me love God’s law.

Because of this great grace we now are a people zealous for good works and how else can we know what good works except the standard of God’s never repealed law? There is a unity then in law and grace for the believer. Having been won by irresistible grace we are now the Champion of God’s Kingdom, Character, and Law-Word.

All because of irresistible, effectual, insuperable all glorious grace.

To God be the glory.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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