Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
(1 John 5:1)
Irresistible Grace is the ‘I’ in the TULIP acronym and it teaches that God draws those He has chosen to Himself by the redemptive work of Jesus and through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. If God has elected undeserving sinners and atoned for their sins on the cross, then logically His work of redemption is followed up by the application of these salvific benefits to His chosen ones.
This doctrine flows from the sovereignty of God in working His plan and achieving what He aspires to accomplish. When the Father reveals that He desires to raise His people into eternal life on the last day, He effectually draws them to Jesus (John 6:44) and then He secures them safely so that not a single person will be lost (John 6:40). Every person who is drawn by the Father can therefore never drift away from Christ.
No matter how hard-hearted we might be, God the Doctor of Grace overcomes our rebellion by performing a supernatural heart operation by surgically removing our God-hating heart of stone and transplanting a God-loving heart of flesh into our bodies, by the Spirit (Ezek 36:26-27). This is called the work of regeneration and this rebirth changes the entirety of our being: our awakened intellect, affections and will enables us to see, to desire and to enter God’s Kingdom (John 3:3-5). By the new birth, we hear God’s gospel call with delight and respond to it eagerly. We begin to exercise loving obedience to Him, and we hungrily yield to His Word as the source of our spiritual nutrition.
This is grace, because we could never perform this surgery or cause new birth within ourselves, by ourselves. This surgery can only be done by God, entirely out of His grace. This grace is irresistible, because God will efficaciously save whomever He desires to save.
We do need to make some concessions regarding this doctrine:
1. The doctrine of irresistible grace doesn’t teach that no one can resist God’s saving grace to a certain degree (Acts 7:51). Even regenerate Christians can still grieve the Holy Spirit through their ethical misconduct (Eph 4:3). However, God allows our resistance against the Spirit and conquers it whenever He pleases. There is no rotting heart, regardless of the condition of its hardness, that God cannot operate on.
2. We also shouldn’t think of God’s effectual calling as a suppression of our wills to a manner that removes our agency to choose. Most, if not all, Christians don’t ever recall experiences where they have fought against God’s supposed ‘brain invasion’, lost their ability to control their conscience, or suddenly responded to him mechanically, as if they were robots without feeling or autonomous control. Instead, God changes our hearts as such that our will to choose God is done freely by us.
Many of us can reflect on our own conversion experiences, where we all have consciously made a decision to repent and believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The choice felt real to us, and there was no mystical force that coerced us into making that choice. Yet upon further reflection, could any of us really take credit for our own conversions? Could we really say the reason we became a Christian was because we were smarter or more spiritual, or more privileged or humble than others?
This teaching pulls back the curtain to reveal to us the reality behind-the scenes – that God was the one who chose us. He was the one who called us into Himself. He was the initiator of our new birth. He was the one that granted us repentance and faith all along.
So how do the implications of this doctrine shape our view of:
a) God? Our God is a loving God who constantly pursues after His adulterous people, again and again (Hos 2:14-23). He still remains faithful to the covenant He made with them and desires to win them over, despite their persistent rebellion against Him. And He, in His all-encompassing love for us and His all-powerfulness, overcomes their rebellion and saves them!
b) Ourselves? Similar to what we covered in the first section, we are reminded again that we are dead in our sins and would never want to submit to God. Unless God comes to us and gives us a new nature, we will continue to love the darkness rather than the light (John 3:19).
c) Salvation? We did not come to faith in Christ because we were smart enough to understand the persuasive arguments, or because we were humbler than others. We owe our saving faith to Christ, who is the originator and perfector of faith Himself.
d) Worship? We ought to love God even more, knowing that He has reached His hand out to rescue us from our bondage to sin. We are truly unworthy to step onto the holy grounds of His radiant presence, yet He condescends to our level so that we might know true joy from being in communion with the Source of all Joy!
e) Mission? We often encounter some people within our relationship circles, who are comparatively more hard-hearted than others, which discourages us from ever sharing the gospel with them. We often perceive these types as being outside of the range of God’s saving grace, “This person is just so stubborn, I’m certain he would never want to believe in Jesus.” But God’s irresistible grace should teach us one thing at least, and that is that nothing is impossible with God (Matt 19:26), for there is no one that God cannot save if He desires to reconcile with them. So let’s be encouraged to persevere in our prayers to ask God to chip away at their hard-heartedness, knowing that only He has the power to save and that He will continue to gather His sheep from all around the globe.