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Irresistible Grace

Irresistible Grace

This is an extract from chapter 6 of the book Saved by Grace, by Ronald Cammenga and Ronald Hanko, published by the RFPA.


Against Calvinism's teaching of irresistible grace the enemies of this truth raise several objections. One of their objections is that if God's grace is irresistible, then man is actually saved contrary to his will. The caricature of Calvinism is that it teaches that Christ draws sinners kicking and screaming into heaven; that God forces men against their wills to be saved. Those who hold to irresistible grace are charged with teaching that God deals with men as senseless stocks and blocks.

We reject this charge! This is not the teaching of Calvinism, but a gross misrepresentation.

Neither is it the case that one defends the truth of sovereign grace by denying, or downplaying, the activity of faith. One does not show himself to be a staunch advocate of irresistible grace by getting nervous whenever someone speaks of our repenting, our believing, or our coming to Christ, as if this puts the emphasis on man, man's work, and man's ability, and jeopardizes the truth of sovereign grace.

The reality is that the fruit, the infallible effect of God's grace in the sinner is that although before he did not believe in Jesus Christ, now he believes in Jesus Christ. Although before he did not repent of his sins, now he repents of his sins. Although before he would not come to Christ, now he wills and actually does come to Christ. Irresistible grace does not rule out repentance and faith but rather guarantees that the sinner will repent and will believe in Jesus Christ.

An illustration of this truth we have in Jesus' miraculous healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda in John 5. That impotent man had absolutely no ability in himself to walk, nor was he in any position to cooperate with Jesus in the miracle of his healing. But when Jesus spoke the word that healed him, that impotent man was healed and the effect of his being healed was that he did what he could not do before - he took up his bed and walked.

That our willing and doing are the effect of God's grace at work in our lives is plainly taught in the Holy Scriptures. In Psalm 110:3 David declares, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." In Philippians 2:13 Paul writes, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."

Another objection against the truth of irresistible grace is that it effectively rules out the use of means, particularly the means of the preaching of the gospel. If man does not have the ability in himself to believe, to accept Jesus Christ and salvation, why call men to faith in Jesus Christ? If it does not lie in the ability of every man to cooperate in salvation, why preach the gospel to all men? If God's grace is irresistible and if the will of God to save certain men will certainly come to pass, why should the church be concerned to preach the gospel at home or on the mission field? Will not God save his people regardless?

This objection does violence to the truth that although God's grace is irresistible, that irresistible grace of God is worked in men through definite means, chief of which is the preaching of the gospel. The divine rule in this matter is that God works and God maintains His grace in the hearts of His elect people by means of the preaching of the gospel.

The warning of the Canons of Dordt, III, IV, 19 is in order here.

As the almighty operation of God, whereby He supports this our natural life, does not exclude, but requires the use of means, by which God of His infinite mercy and goodness hath chosen to exert His influence, so also the before-mentioned supernatural operation of God, by which we are regenerated, in no wise excludes, or subverts the use of the gospel, which the most wise God has ordained to be the food of the soul. Wherefore, as the apostles, and teachers who succeeded them, piously instructed the people concerning this grace of God, to His glory, and the abasement of all pride, and in the meantime, however, neglected not to keep them in the exercise of the Word, sacraments and discipline; so even to this day, be it far from either instructors or instructed to presume to tempt God in the church by separating what He of His good pleasure hath most intimately joined together.


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