Wednesday, 15 July 2015

What About the Calvinistic Doctrine of "Irresistible Grace"?

The Doctrine Concisely Stated:

“When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call, and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God. Some of the verses used in support of this teaching are Rom. 9:16 where it says that 'it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy'; Phil. 2:12-13 where God is said to be the one working salvation in the individual; John 6:28-29 where faith is declared to be the work of God; Acts 13:48 where God appoints people to eternal life; and John 1:12-13 where being born again is not by man's will but by God's” (Matt Slick, “What is Calvinism?,” The Calvinist Corner [2012], <>).

A Biblical Response:

     In John 6:44 Jesus says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (NKJV). Does this teach unconditional election and irresistible grace? By reading the passage in its context, it is clear how a person is drawn to Christ by the Father. One comes to the Lord when he/she is taught and hears and learns divine instruction (v. 45) and then responds in faith (vv. 29, 35, 40, 47). When Jesus goes on to say in v. 65, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father,” this must be understood in light of the foregoing. The Father permits only those who listen and learn and respond in faith to come to Jesus, though not everyone is willing to listen and learn and respond in faith (vv. 36, 64, 66).
     In Acts 13:48 the Gentiles who favorably responded to the word of the Lord “had been appointed [tassō] to eternal life.” Contextually they are contrasted with the Jews who had just rejected the word of God, thereby judging themselves “unworthy of everlasting life” (v. 46). Note the dismissive temperament of the unreceptive Jews compared to the eager receptivity of these Gentiles. Accordingly, the word tassō does not necessarily imply that their free will was overridden but rather they were “disposed” or “inclined” to eternal life. In fact, the next time this word is employed in the Acts narrative, it refers to a willful decision: the Antioch brethren “determined [tassō] that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem …” (15:2). The same word is also used in 1 Cor. 16:15 with reference to the household of Stephanus who voluntarily “devoted [tassō] themselves to the ministry of the saints.”
     The directive in Phil. 2:12-13 is written to people who are already saved (1:1) and is descriptive of a cooperative endeavor with both divine and human contributions. In John 6:29 Jesus affirms faith as “the work of God” because faith is something required by God (v. 40), answering the question, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” (v. 28). In John 1:12-13, while the “will of man” is not the innovator or instigator or standard in being born of God, neither is the human will totally discounted in the process (cf. v. 12; 3:3-5, 22-23; Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:22-23). Rom. 9:16 has nothing to do with someone who might desire to be saved but is disallowed, or one who is incapable of seeking salvation; it is all about the unfolding of God’s purpose (v. 11). The divine scheme is not determined, improved, or thwarted by human ingenuity and fallibility.
     Seeing that God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11), his grace is available to everyone (Titus 2:11) because he desires all to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4) and is not willing that any should perish (2 Pet. 3:9). At the same time, a voluntary, free-will response (obedient faith) to the Lord’s gracious offer is required (cf. Matt. 7:21; 23:37; Acts 7:51; Rom. 6:16-18; etc.).
--Kevin L. Moore

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