Irresistible (Efficacious) Grace
The Doctrine of Irresistible Grace has been summarized like this, “Irresistible Grace (or efficacious grace) is a doctrine in Christian theology particularly associated with Calvinism which teaches that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (the elect), whereby in God’s timing, he overcomes their resistance to the call of the gospel and irresistibly brings them to a saving faith in Christ.” This doctrine naturally flows from the doctrines of total depravity, unconditional election, and definite atonement. If we are totally depraved, then an outside force must act decisively in order to change us. If we are unconditionally elected, then God will bring us to Himself (Romans 8:29-30). If Christ actually died for actual people to actually save them, then they are His and will without doubt come to saving faith in Him.
The key passage for the doctrine of Irresistible Grace is John 6. In this chapter, Jesus makes the following statements:
- “All that the Father gives me will come to me…” (v. 37)
- “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” (v. 39)
- “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” (v. 44-45)
- “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (v. 65)
From these passages, it is abundantly clear that Jesus will not lose a single person that the Father has given Him. Other Scriptures make it extremely clear that faith, a gift of God, is required for salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 11:6). Since we cannot be selective with which passages to believe, we must believe both truths. The result is the Doctrine of Irresistible, or Efficacious, Grace.
Romans 8:29-30 is another passage that shows the unbreakable chain of salvation that God set into motion before the foundation of the world, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Those whom God has chosen by His grace will be justified, and justification comes by grace through faith. Those whom God has chosen will come to faith in Christ.
The Doctrine of Irresistible Grace has often been attacked based on the Scriptural and personal evidence that the Holy Spirit can be resisted (see Acts 7:51). I do not disagree with the fact that the Holy Spirit can be resisted, but I also believe that God will always accomplish what He sets out to accomplish. In your sin, you can resist the Holy Spirit, but the moment God wills that your resistance fall, it will fall.
This has been compared to “Divine rape”, but that is obviously not what is happening at the moment of regeneration. God does not drag you, kicking and screaming, into His presence. Instead, He gives you a new heart (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26), opens your eyes (2 Corinthians 4:4), and raises you from the dead (Ephesians 2:1-5). The natural result of this is a new attitude, sight, and life. Suddenly we see the truth that had since been veiled from us. We realize that we can know God and live the life for which we were made! This is by no means Divine rape. On the contrary, it is amazing and efficacious grace.
In short, Irresistible Grace is inseparable from any of the other five points. If we are completely defiled and totally unable to come to God both by nature and by will, we would always resist the Holy Spirit. It takes regeneration to change our hearts before we can have faith. As has been said, “Regeneration precedes faith”. You are not regenerate because of your faith. You have faith because you are regenerate.
If we are unconditionally and sovereignly elected by the grace of God, we will come to Him. Again, this is made clear in John 6:37. Another passage that speaks of this is Jesus’ High Priestly prayer in John 17:6-8, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” Those whom the Father had given the Son believed.
If we are definitely redeemed by the blood of Christ, then the atonement is not wasted. It will accomplish what God purposed for it to accomplish. The moment Jesus died, He actually redeemed actual people. In that moment, the price was paid to remove their sins and by grace regenerate them and give them faith. That is the Gospel.
While there is a universal call to salvation spoken of in Scripture, few are chosen to receive that call (Matthew 22:14). Charles Spurgeon put it like this, “The general call of the gospel is like the common ‘cluck’ of the hen which she is always giving when her chickens are around her. But if there is any danger impending, then she gives a very peculiar call, quite different from the ordinary one, and the little chicks come running as fast as they can, and hide for safety under her wings. That is the call we want, God’s peculiar and effectual call to his own.” Thank God today for the beauty of His irresistible and effective grace!
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Over the course of this week, I will be releasing articles on the Doctrines of Grace (aka the Five Points of Calvinism). This is not meant to cause division, but rather to give a clearer understanding of these doctrines. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, either leave them below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow to get our articles in your inbox!