Challenging Fact #4: Irresistible Grace
Persuaded to Believe
by Bob Burridge ©2012
A great architect set out to design the perfect home. He wanted to make it secure, attractive and comfortable. He planned for the best materials and engineered it for safety, easy maintenance, structural strength, and long life. He designed it to be very affordable to all buyers.
The building contractor built it exactly as the architect planned. He looked long and hard to find the best materials while keeping the costs low. He carefully supervised every step of the job to make sure it was done right. He left nothing to chance. He cut no corners.
The real estate agent sought out those in need and brought them to the house. He quickly found a buyer to move in and call it home. He helped them work out financing, and took care of any legal and practical problems that stood in their way.
That sounds fantastic, if not a bit unrealistic in our imperfect world of imperfect people. But here is another scenario …
The same great architect designed this same perfect home.
The building contractor found a way to do it more cheaply. He used less reliable materials that would slip past most inspectors. The cost ran well above projections. The safety, beauty and durability of the home were greatly reduced.
The real estate agent listed the home with an ad saying “house for sale”. He listed the address and went on vacation. He figured he had done his part. If the buyer wants it, he can go look at it on his own, then call the agent after the financing is all worked out.
What a disappointment to the architect with such a noble vision!
This is the way the false gospel so popular today treats God’s great plan of salvation.
It says that God the Father had a great plan to save everyone from sin and eternal damnation.
God the Son died to make salvation an option for everyone. He didn’t exactly accomplish salvation, but the he made sure the possibility of salvation was there.
God the Holy Spirit offers salvation by telling us about it in an enticing way. Then he waits for lost individuals to take advantage of his great offer so that the plan of the great Architect is somewhat fulfilled.
But in this scenario the Triune God does not get all he originally planned. What a disappointment to God the Father!
The biblical account is very different. God the Father planned to save some undeserving sinners.
God the Son died and satisfied everything necessary to save those chosen. Their penalty was paid in full. Divine justice was satisfied.
God the Holy Spirit applies that salvation to each one chosen. He gives them new life, conviction of sin, repentance before God, spiritual understanding, and faith. He secures them just as the Father had planned. They are all restored to full and eternal fellowship with their Creator.
This is how the Trinity works together as described in the Doctrines of Grace.
The Trinity plans and acts as one.
1 Peter 1:1-2, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”
Notice how the text shows the Three Persons of the Trinity working together to accomplish exactly and fully all God had eternally purposed.
The Father selects some and knows them before hand as His own. The passage in 1 Peter calls those who believe “the elect”, those who are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”
Before the foundation of the world, God marked them out as his people. Ephesians 1:4-5 says, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”
God the Son made atonement specifically for those chosen by the Father. 1 Peter 1 tells us the purpose of God’s election, It says it was “for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.”
The “sprinkling with blood” refers to the ancient sacrifices God had prescribed to foreshadow what Messiah would accomplish. Sin demanded death. Jesus died in place of his people. He satisfied the demands of justice for all those the Father chose. By His death he made selfish, spiritually dead sinners, into obedient, living children of God.
He came to save all those chosen, and he will not lose even one of them. As Jesus said in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
The Holy Spirit applies the Son’s work to all those who are to be redeemed. Here in 1 Peter 1 it says this is all accomplished, “in the sanctification of the Spirit.”
The Spirit infallibly applies all the benefits secured for them by Christ. In John 3:6 Jesus explained that we need to be “born of the Spirit.” Later in Titus 3:5 the Apostle Paul said that our salvation is due to, “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”
The distorted gospel reduces God from being Sovereign Lord, to just a pitiful beggar. It imagines the Father wanting to save everyone, but the Son fails to bring it to pass, he only makes a way of salvation possible, and the Holy Spirit actually brings no one to Christ. He just encourages them, then helplessly waits to see what they will do. The decision of fallen sinners is all that can save God’s plan from total failure. So God is left to hoping that his gospel will be received by each individual fallen human.
There are serious problems with this view. The major problem is that it is simply not taught in Scripture. Beyond that, it distorts and destroys the work of the Trinity. It expects fallen humans to do what the Bible says they cannot and will not do!
The Bible tells us that faith is a gift of God’s grace.
As much as we might want to take credit for our faith in Christ, we cannot. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Notice that “gift of God”, that which is “not of your own doing,” is that you are saved by grace through faith. The Bible repeatedly tells us that our faith is a gift of God. In Philippians 1:29 Paul told the Philippians that God granted them that they should believe. Peter spoke of the Lord as the one to grant repentance to Israel in Acts 5:31.
God’s grace is the cause of our salvation
Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
The saving grace of God is unmerited. We cannot earn salvation by what we do. We do not have to qualify first to become eligible. If we had to do something first, then it would not be by grace. If we earn our salvation by a faith that is natural to us in our lost condition, then we have something in which to boast. But we have already seen in Ephesians 2:8-9 that faith is the means by which God works in us, but grace is the cause behind even our faith. As Paul said in Romans 9:16, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”
The saving grace of God is also irresistible. It always accomplishes its purpose. Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). In Philippians 3:21 Paul tells us that God is able to “subdue all things unto Himself.” The heart of a lost human is certainly included in that which is under the Creator’s control, since he controlls all things.
There are two kinds of callings described in Scripture.
If the two kinds of callings spoken of in the Bible are confused, God’s truth becomes distorted.
There is an outward call for all come to Christ. This is the gospel message, the invitation to believe. God honestly and sincerely promises salvation to all who have true saving faith in Christ, and who come repentantly to Him. But fallen humans are neither morally able nor willing to obey the outward call of the Gospel. In John 6:65 Jesus said, “no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.”
The Apostle Paul explained the reason they refuse to come in Romans 8:7-8, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”
An invitation does not in itself save anyone. Jesus warned in Matthew 22:14 that “many are called but few are chosen.” Unless the Holy Spirit changes the heart, they will not come.
There is also an inward call from the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:30 “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
The Holy Spirit never fails to complete the work of the Trinity. Those same ones predestined are called, justified and glorified! This calling is obviously different in its effect from the general outward call which leaves some rejecting the offer revealing that they are lost forever.
For a person to have faith, he needs to be made alive spiritually. In Colossians 2:13 Paul says, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;”
Once the heart is made alive nothing can hinder a person from coming in true faith to the Savior. God does everything necessary to ensure that the sinner will come.
So then faith is man’s response to saving grace, not the cause of it. Once he is spiritually alive, the spiritual death is gone. The living spirit will find itself believing, repenting, and loving God with deep respect and humble gratitude.
What is it that persuades the unbeliever to believe?
Are fallen humans persuaded by arguments and appeals to reason? Do we admit our sinful condition and come repentantly because of logical arguments and theories that impress us? Is it by philosophic reasons that leaves us without alternatives? Are there psychological pleas that tug at our emotional needs driving us to the cross? Is it religious stories that make us feel sorry for God? Absolutely not! None of these can change a blinded heart or give life to a dead soul.
Only the sovereign redeeming work of the Holy Spirit can humble us before Christ. The new heart freely and irresistibly chooses to trust in the cross.
Lazarus had been dead for three days in a closed tomb (John 11). His friends could have used all the logical and emotional arguments they could think of to convince Lazarus to choose life. But Lazarus was dead! Dead bodies don’t make choices.
When Jesus called him he added the missing element. He made him alive. If Lazarus heard the call of Jesus to “come forth” he must have already been revived. He did not sit there wound up in grave clothes in a tomb and weigh the options and arguments. He came forth! He was already alive. Only living people hear and respond. Lazarus freely, yet irresistibly, chose to come forth.
When we invite people to Christ, or when we are invited, there will be no response if the Spirit does not first give life. But when the Spirit moves and grants life to a dead soul, he most certainly comes. He infallibly comes. He responds irresistibly to the grace of God already applied.
If you are a true Christian, and have that new life in Christ, then this truth ought to make you appreciate with fresh wonder the grace that has set you free. You should be compelled to live daily in humble gratitude to God.
But if you are confused and wonder what this new life is all about, then fall humbly before God and pray for a new heart. Beg God to have mercy on your soul!
It is that grace and nothing else that applies the finished work of the Savior to a dead heart making it alive, convicting it of sin, giving it a confidence in the atonement accomplished on the cross, and driving you to come to Jesus Christ as your Redeemer and Good Shepherd.
Your conviction and desire to come are already all the proof you need of His love to you! Hymn writer John Newton called it “Amazing Grace!” He wrote in that song, ” ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear – the hour I first believed!”
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)