Irresistible Grace

by Matt Slick

Video Presentation of this topic is found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlUex5X0buk

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These notes were used by me in my defense of irresistible grace on the radio show.  I did not use everything listed here.  Nevertheless, they should help should you desire to follow along.

 

Irresistible Grace - Irresistible Grace means that when God moves to save a person, the sinner cannot successfully resist God's gracious will upon him and he will be regenerated.  The term, unfortunately, suggests a mechanical and coercive force upon an unwilling subject. But, Irresistible Grace does not mean that a person cannot resist God’s grace throughout his life.  Instead, Irresistible Grace is the gracious act of God where, at the time of salvation, God regenerates a person which then means that the person will willingly, of his own free will receive and trust in Christ. It means that the person cannot successfully resist the act of God’s regeneration. It is not a violation of their will since the person is changed and because of it, the person willingly trusts in Christ.

  1. Quote: Irresistible Grace is “A term that refers to the fact that God effectively calls people and also gives them regeneration, both of which guarantee that we will respond in saving faith. This term is subject to misunderstanding since it seems to imply that people do not make a voluntary, willing choice in responding to the gospel.” (Grudem, Wayne A., Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Cómo Entender). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.)
    1. Verses used in support of Irresistible Grace
      1. John 1:12-13, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even 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."
      2. James 1:18, "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures."
      3. John 5:21, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.”
      4. 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
      5. Colossians 2:13, "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,"
  2. Irresistible Grace originates in the will of God and it is completed in the regeneration and the salvation of the Christian. Because God knows all things (1 John 3:20), is all powerful (Job 42:2; Luke 1:37), and is everywhere (Jer. 23:24; 1 Kings 8:27), he infallibly and irresistibly accomplishes our regeneration.
    1. This work of regeneration, this work of grace, is necessary because of the fallen condition of the unregenerate sinner.
      1. The unbeliever is deceitful (Jer. 17:9), full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19), and cannot come to God on his own (John 6:44), does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12), is helpless and ungodly (Rom. 5:6), is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20; John 8:34), cannot receive spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), is dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1), is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3)
      2. Therefore, he will never, of his own sinful free will, choose Christ.
    2. This is why God must intervene and change the person by regenerating him and upon his regeneration the person trusts in Christ as the necessary and free choice of that person.
    3. Furthermore, this work of irresistible grace by God is due to God’s sovereign choice since it is an act of his grace.
    4. Regeneration is not a process. It is an instantaneous event that happens only once.  It is also known as being born again.
  3. What does it mean to be regenerated?  It means to be born again. 
    1. Irresistible Grace is the act of God where he changes a person so that they are then free to choose Christ, and they will. 
    2. John 3:3, "Jesus answered and said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'”
    3. “Born again” means to be born from above
      1. Greek, born again is γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, gennatha anothen, which is literally "might be born from above."
    4. John 3:7, "Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’"
      1. Greek, born again is γεννηθῆναι ἄνωθεν, gennathanai anothen, which is literally "to be born from above."
    5. Since we are born from above, this means it is God’s work, not man’s work.
    6. To be born-again means to be changed by God into a new creature.  It means we have a new spiritual life.
      1. New Creature, 2 Cor. 5:17, "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
      2. Newness of Life, Romans 6:4, "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."
    7. To be born-again means that God lives in us.
      1. John 14:23, "Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him."
    8. Being born again produces such things as…
      1. An awareness of God’s presence; a desire to worship God, a desire to read the Word and share the faith.  The ability to resist sin, do good works, and choose to follow God, etc.
  4. This regeneration, this being born again, was prophesied in the Old Testament
    1. Deuteronomy 30:6, “Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live."
    2. Ezek. 36:26-27, "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 "And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances."
    3. Ezek. 11:19-20, "And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances, and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God."
  5. What is the cause of being born again?
    1. Is it our free will choice that initiates a born again experience?
    2. Is our free will choice what causes us to be regenerated?
    3. Does God react to our choice? 
    4. Does our choice somehow force God’s hand to be gracious to us and make us new creatures?
    5. Or, as some would say, is that God is waiting in the wings waiting for the unbeliever to come Christ so that he can then live in us? 
    6. But, that would mean that it is God who responds to us, to our initiative.
      1. This makes God reactionary.
      2. It also means that the unbeliever is able to choose God of his own sinful free will – in contradiction to the scriptures (i.e. Total Depravity)
    7. On the other hand, is it that God causes us to be born again?
      1. 1 Peter 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,"
      2. James 1:18, "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures."
    8. God, the Holy Spirit, is the cause of us being born again.
      1. John 3:3–5, "Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
  6. Does regeneration precede faith or does faith precede regeneration?
    1. In temporal priority, there are problems with both regeneration preceding faith and faith preceding regeneration.  Let me explain…
    2. Temporal priority means that one thing happens before another event in time.  For example, if I throw a ball at a wall, my throwing it precedes its hitting the wall.  Throwing is temporally prior to the impact.
      1. If faith comes before regeneration, then we have someone who is a believer for a while who is not also regenerate.
      2. If regeneration comes before faith, then we have someone who is born again for a while, but he is not a believer.
    3. Logical priority, not temporal priority
      1. Lightbulb Analogy with electricity logically preceding the light.
      2. In a light bulb whenever electricity is present, light is also present. Electricity is the cause of the light, but it is not the case that the light is the cause of the electricity. They are simultaneous. We would say that electricity is logically prior to the light, not that the light is logically prior to the electricity. In other words, electricity is the cause of the light, not the light the cause of electricity.
    4. Verses used to show regeneration before faith
      1. Col. 2:13, “And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,”
      2. Eph. 2:4-5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”
    5. Some say that you must believe in order to become born again. 
      1. We know that being born again, being regenerated means to have the Holy Spirit in you.  Consider John the Baptist
        1. Luke 1:15, "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb."
      2. Consider Psalm 22:9-10
        1. Psalm 22:9–10, "Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts. 10 Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb."
 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.