The Doctrines of Grace: Irresistible Grace
The Doctrines of Grace (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints), also known as T.U.L.I.P., are a hard thing to grasp, especially when you hear them for the first time. As sinners, we want a piece of the pie—we want a part in our salvation. But the truth is, the pie was never ours in the first place. It is a gift…and the greatest gift we could ever receive at that.
Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Faith and repentance are a gift of God…there is no other way around it. It would not be grace if we had anything to do with it (see Acts 11:18). The Doctrines of Grace show God’s sovereign will in all of our lives. And the doctrine we will be focusing on today is God’s irresistible, forever sustaining grace.
I rarely meet Christians who take credit for their conversion. And if I do, I could probably say they don’t truly grasp the depravity of their sin and the power of God to redeem. There is something about true grace in the recently converted heart that makes us want to give all the glory to God for the rest of our days. If we had the power to save ourselves, why do some believe when they hear the Gospel but others don’t? Is it because we are smarter and less sinful than the ones who turn from the faith? Absolutely not. We can know it is not our own doing in saving us, but it is by the divine grace of God. This is what we mean by irresistible grace.
They are called the Doctrines of Grace for a specific reason: it all comes back to grace upon grace. Once God captivates you and exposes your sin, the Gospel is revealed in a way that is completely irresistible. We aren’t saying that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted—instead, we are emphasizing the fact that the Holy Spirit, in His divine choosing, can overcome all resistance and make His influence irresistible. In 2 Corinthians 1:22-24, Paul says, “Indeed, Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” God’s effectual calling of us to Himself overcomes resistance of the Gospel. The resistance doesn’t contradict God’s sovereignty—if anything, it exposes His sovereign ways more fully. God allows resistance, and He overcomes it when He chooses to do so in His perfect timing (refer to Psalm 115:3 and Daniel 4:35). It should be obvious from this that irresistible grace never implies that God forces us to believe in Him and follow Jesus against our will; believing, repenting, and following are always of our own willingness. In essence, we would be contradicting ourselves if we said God forces us to believe in Him (see Romans 9:14-23).
Paul’s teachings exemplified this all throughout Scripture, and the opposing would question God’s will. Paul responds in Romans 9:20-21 by exclaiming, “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”
Our hearts are so incredibly wicked that even if we wanted to know God, we couldn’t on our own will. Our sinfulness is blinding—something so dirty and unclean could never see the face of God unless He brought us to Himself first. Irresistible grace refers to the sovereign work of God to overcome the sinful rebellion of our hearts and call us to Christ so that we can be saved. We must fully grasp our total depravity in order to come to terms with irresistible grace. If we are dead in our sins, unable to commit our lives to Christ because of our fallen nature, then we will never come to Christ unless God calls us to Him personally, overcoming our own rebellion.
Romans 8:7-8 states, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." So, to the person who says we can use our freedom to resist or accept God’s grace, this is not biblical.
The Bible teaches those who are in the flesh cannot and will not please God. It is only by divine intervention—by His will—and by Him giving us a new and humble nature to do so. As Charles Spurgeon said, “We believe that the work of regeneration, conversion, sanctification, and faith are not an act of man’s free will and power, but of the mighty, efficacious, and irresistible grace of God.”
Christians, this revelation should be beyond freeing. We no longer have the pressure of our salvation lying heavily on our shoulders; instead, our salvation is in the hands of our eternal Father...and in His hands rests grace upon grace.