"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses | Main | Images of the Savior (5 – His Temptation in the Wilderness) »

    Irresistible Grace by Dr. James White

    "The doctrine of "irresistible grace" is easily understood. It is simply the belief that when God chooses to move in the lives of His elect and bring them from spiritual death to spiritual life, no power in heaven or on earth can stop Him from so doing. It is really nothing more than saying that it is God who regenerates sinners, and that freely. The doctrine has nothing to do with the fact that sinners "resist" the common grace of God and the Holy Spirit (they do) or that Christians do not live perfectly in the light of God's grace. It is simply the confession that when God chooses to raise His people to spiritual life, He does so without the fulfillment of any conditions on the part of the sinner. Just as Christ had the power and authority to raise Lazarus to life without obtaining his "permission" to do so, He is able to raise His elect to spiritual life with just as certain a result.

    Objections to irresistible grace are, by and large, actually objections to the previously established truths of the doctrines of grace. Obviously, if God is sovereign and freely and unconditionally elects a people unto salvation, and if man is dead in sin and enslaved to its power, God must be able to free those elect people in time and bring them to faith in Jesus Christ, and that by a grace that does not falter or depend upon human cooperation. Those who disbelieve God's right to kingship over His creation or the deadness of man in sin and put forward the tradition of man's autonomous will can hardly confess that God's grace actually saves without the freewill cooperation of man. From their perspective, the autonomous act of human faith must determine God's actions. That act of faith becomes the "foreseen" act that controls God's very decree of predestination, and, of course, that act of faith becomes the "trigger" that results in one being born again.

    Neither side in the debate will deny that God is the one who raises men to spiritual life. The question is: Does He do so because men fulfill certain conditions, or does He do so freely, at His own time, and in the lives of those He chooses to bring into relationship with Himself through Jesus Christ? This question is normally framed in the context of the relationship of faith and regeneration. Do we believe to become born again, or must we first be born again before we can exercise true, saving faith? Can the natural man do what is pleasing to God? Can the dead choose to allow themselves to be raised to life? This is the issue at hand."

    - Dr. James White, Debating Calvinism, p. 197- 198

    Posted by John Samson on August 28, 2006 10:38 PM


    Isn't it true that whenever the Bible mentions the elect, it is talking about those who are already saved? Is there such a thing as an elect lost person?

    I wonder why Origen also believed in irresistable grace? Hmm

    Note to those who consider themselves "four-point" Calvinists.

    If you believe and embrace irresistible grace because you have been convinced from Scripture, then you have already likewise been exegetically convinced of the doctrine of limited atonement. Why? because they are essentially the same thing seen from different perspectives.

    Irresistible grace, is a grace from Christ, for all spiritual and redemptive blessings find their root in Christ (Eph 1:3). If irresistible grace is a redemptive blessing rooted in Christ's work on the cross, then you already believe that Christ died in a way for the elect that He did not for the non-elect, that is, to secure irresistible grace. For this blessing, you already admit, is granted to the elect and not the non-elect. Furthermore, you cannot seperate irresistible grace from Christ and his work.

    Therefore, a four-point Calvinist does not, in fact, exist except as an inconsistent doctrine, for ALL so called four-point Calvinists (who believe in irresistible grace) already believe limited atonement but have not perceived the necessity of the Christ-centered nature of irresistible grace.

    John H


    Please read the following passage carefully:

    "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 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 through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3-12 ESV)"

    The answer to your question is no it isn't true that the Bible always refers to the elect as those who are already saved and yes there are elect lost people who have not been saved yet.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    Mike, I read the passage several times and must be missing it. It seems to me the passage is addressed to believers.

    Please don't think I am being obstinate - I'm really trying to see it. I've not been exposed to much in the way of Calvinism until recently, so I've not studied much of the arguments for and against.


    Let's use some logic here. Paul is praising God that "us" has been chosen and predestined before the foundation of the World. Now, how would it be possible for those Christians and himself to be elected before the foundation of the World and not the rest of the beleivers since Paul's time. It makes no sense to apply that just the Ephesians and Paul. This is describing all Christians. Since the Church is ever expanding then this must apply to all believers over all time. So, God chose His people before He created the World predestinating them to be holy and blameless before Him. A parallel to this is here:

    "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. Romans 8:29-30 ESV)"

    All whom God glorifies (the fulfillment of predestination) are justified. All whom God justifies are called. All whom God calls were predestined. All whom God predestined were foreknown.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


    Greetings brother! Good question. Election should not be viewed as the same thing as salvation. Election itself does not save anyone. You may do better to think of election as a blueprint of what God himself intends to do when He breaks into time and creation, and Himself becomes flesh and redeems His people. The Trinity works in harmony to bring about the salvation of the elect. The Father elects, the Son redeems and the Holy Spirit applies the work of redemption to the same (at a specific time of His sovereign choosing), uniting them to Christ.

    While indeed we are elect from the foundation of the world, but there was a time when you and I were not united to Christ. Of course from God's perspective, (who determes beginning to end), He already sees them in Christ, but from a temporal perspective there was a time we were not regenerate, did not believe and were not united to Christ.

    That is why God calls people to Himself through the preaching of the Word. The outward call of the gospel will bounce of deaf ears, but internal call of the Holy Spirit will open the ears so that the outward gospel is heard and our eyes are opened so we see its truth beauty and excellency. Prior to regeneration we would not see this. The gospel is only believed when the Spirit turns the heart of stone to a heart of flesh. When we are united to Christ we believe ... but the elect who are not yet united to Christ do not yet believe the gospel.

    Hope this clarifies.

    Does the gathering together or summing up of all things in Christ include all of creation or no?

    Eph. 2:1-10, I believe sums it up.
    It is God who has made us alive in Christ, not by our own self will.

    HELP! I have recently become enlightened, seeing Scripture and the character of God differently than how I was brought up - in free will perspective. I am willing (if I can say that!), to accept what ever Scripture presents as Truth. Does anyone have insight to the following texts (and others like it)?

    Jeremiah 5:3O
    "LORD, do not your eyes look for truth?
    You have struck them down,
    but they felt no anguish;
    you have consumed them,
    but they refused to take correction.
    They have made their faces harder than rock;
    they have refused to repent."

    Is God's work in vain here? Also, "They" refused to repent after God struck them? Is this free will or their depraved nature? Does it override God's call?

    Jer 7:13b..."and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer,"

    These people were not effected by God's call. How does this fit with irresistable grace?

    I am truly seeking Truth. Thank you.

    Hi Tiffany

    How are you and thanks for the great question. The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible.

    This is what Paul taught in Romans 9:14-18, which caused his opponent to say, "Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" To which Paul answers: "Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me thus?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?" (Romans 9:20f).

    Deuteronomy 30:5-7 says, "And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live."

    If someones heart is circumcised, or regenerate, they are believers. The Lord must circumcise our hearts, so thet we will love him and desire to obey him. No one believes while their heart is still uncircumcised and hardened.

    we all agree that it is a fact that persons resist the Holy Spirit every time they reject the gospel. People do not come to Christ every time they hear the gospel. They will resist until the Holy Spirit comes in power (1 Thess 1:4, 5) and opens their eyes, and circumcises their heart.

    God works in many ways in unbelievers that are not saving. He gives them light and convicts of sin, corrects error by discipline.

    you asked >>>>Is God's work in vain here? Also, "They" refused to repent after God struck them? Is this free will or their depraved nature? Does it override God's call?

    This is like asking if God gave the Ten Commandments in vain. Since not one person on earth is able to keep the Ten Commandments, did God give them in vain? According to ROm 3:19, 20 God's legislation is given not to show our ability, but our duty. Not to reveal what we can do but to reveal our sin, our inability. God's disciplining people who continue to repent is exactly what the first three chapters of Romans is all about. They suppress the truth in unrighteousness AND so God continues to give them over to greater degrees of sin. His discipline/punishment, is not in vain, it is just. In fact, those who refuse to the end will receive His wrath for an eternity.

    The reprobate are given all types of opportunities to repent but they will not. God's chastisement is not the same as his irresistible grace where he comes to unplug our uncircumcised ears so we hear the gospel. Apart from the Holy Spirit not one will naturally submit to the humbling terms of the gospel. Man is too proud.

    Quote from Calvin:
    God indeed favours none but the elect alone with the Spirit of regeneration, and . . . by this they are distinguished from the reprobate; for they are renewed after His image and receive the earnest of the Spirit in hope of the future inheritance, and by the same Spirit the Gospel is sealed in their hearts. But I cannot admit that all this is any reason why He should not grant the reprobate also some taste of His grace, why He should not irradiate their minds with some sparks of His light, why He should not give them some perception of His goodness, and in some sort engrave His word on their hearts. Otherwise where would be the temporary faith mentioned in Mark iv. 17? There is therefore some knowledge even in the reprobate, which afterwards vanishes away, either because it did not strike roots sufficiently deep, or because it withers, being choked up.And by this bridle the Lord keeps us in fear and humility; and we certainly see how prone human nature is otherwise to security and foolish confidence.
    - John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle to the Hebrews at 6.5

    John 6:65 says that no one believes the gospel unless God grants it. Likewise John 6:37 says all to whom God grants will believe. That is a syllogism with a universal positive and a universal negative. That means when God extends saving grace, He gets the job done.


    Hello again! I appreciate your timely response. It was very helpful and lead me to a few new questions.

    You said "it is a fact that persons resist the Holy Spirit every time they reject the gospel. People do not come to Christ every time they hear the gospel.

    Also, pertaining to Jesus' parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-23)and the first 3 seeds - how are they different in their rejection of Christ? In the first soil, Satan comes and snatches it away. Is it our depraved nature or Satan's working that we reject Christ. I am not quite clear what Satan's roll is in this whole issue.
    I apologize for such broad questions. I really appreciate your dialog!


    Hi again, and thanks for your input. The foillowing may help if you are really interested in this and have not made up your mind already for the alternative ... consider..

    "Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." 1 Cor 1:22-25

    You can see two types of calling here. Paul preaches the gospel which both Greeks and Jews reject, BUT TO THOSE WHO ARE CALLED FROM AMONG the jews and greeks, salvation. There is an outward call which is resisted unless the Spirit opens our ears to it.

    You asked >>>>does not always come in power? I'm sure the answer is obvious, but I'll ask anyway.

    The Holy Spirit is sovereign and does not always convert those who are under His influence. He is under no obligation to do so. God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when he wills. "He does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand!" (Daniel 4:35). "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases" (Psalm 115:3). When God undertakes to fulfill his sovereign purpose, no one can successfully resist him.

    IN other words, obviously the Spirit does not come in the same degree of power each time he works in a heart. Sometimes He works to convict of sin, soimetimes he gives people over to sin and sometimes He fully regenerates to open people's eyes. He can do as He pleases. Wouldn't you agree that before you were a believer that the Holy Spirit was working in your life at some level? Yest you did not believe. This itself shows that He does not always work in the same way.

    To say that God is obligated to save every time he works in persons would be to misapprehend God. Further, if you read the verse that I cited in 1 Thess 1:4,5 Paul says I know that God chose you "because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction."

    This means that we can preach to people until we are blue in the face but unless the Spirit acts to plow up the fallow ground of our hearts, no one would come to Christ. Apart from the Holy Spirit regenerating our heart, the Scripture says that we cannot even understand spiritual things and always think of them as foolish (1 Cor 2:14) We don't have the mind of Christ so cannot apprehand spiritual truth. In other words, an unregenerate person cannot see the truth, beauty or excellency of the gospel, unless God open his eyes.

    As for the parable of the sower, what matters is the soil and the only ground which bears fruit is the good soil which the farmer first plowed up. If the seed lands on bad soil then the gospel will be rejected.

    As for Satan 2 Tim 2:25 that the unregenerate have been "taken captive to do his will." We must speak to them in gentleness and so "that God might perhaps GRANT them repentance" that they might believe.

    In John chapter 8, Jesus calls the Jews he is speaking with the "children of the devil" who can only be free if the Son sets them free. Jesus plainly gives a reason why people resist the gospel. He says to those resisting his words:

    44You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God."

    Here Jesus says one must be of GOd to hear God's words. This means if you are not of God to begin with. that is, if you are children of the devil by nature, you will not believe.

    IN John 10 Jesus says the same:

    26"But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.
    27"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;

    Look at verse 26 carefully. Jesus givces a clear reason why some persons reject Him. He DOES NOT SAY, you are not my sheep because you don't believe...NO he says the opposite, you do not believe BECAUSE you are not my sheep. Who they are determines the choice they make.

    So you question about the work of Satan ... God is sovereign and Satan can only go as far as God allows him. Consider Job and what God allowed Satan to do to him. Yet God always determined the boundaries.

    To say that anything happens in the univer outside of God's sovereignty is the same as saying that something can take God by surprise. To affirm this is to deny God's sovereignty. He has determined all things that come to pass (see Eph 1:11). If something could happen outside his control then how can you be sure he will ultimately prevail. If Satans and man;s fall were mistakes that God was surprised over, and sin came into the world apart from God ordaining it, then that would mean that many other mistakes could be made. But the Scriptures deny this. From Him and to Him and through Him are all things Rom 11.

    Solus Christus

    "no one can come to me unless God grants it" John 6:65"

    Hello one more time! Thanks so much for spending your time with me. I have so many questions!
    Concerning Eph 1:11, I believe God is absolutely sovereign. But opposite sides of the debate, you might not agree (which I am willing to try to understand). How is this interpretation of Eph 1:11 wrong...
    "who works all things according to the counsel of his will" Does this mean that God forknows ALL and will work it with His will? Or is the first part of the verse not complete with out the last or vice versa?
    I do believe God calls and we can't come according to our own "goodness" within us - freewill. Once last question and I'll leave you alone.
    What's the difference between freewill and free-agency?
    Thanks and Shalom to you.

    11"In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,"



    Re: Free will vs. Free Agency

    When it is said that people have no "free will" it does not mean that a person is coerced from the outside and must act against his will. With this in mind, we must learn to distinguish coersion vs. necessity. We are indeed free of coersion but not free of necessity. Let me explain:

    What we mean by denying a person has free will is that he will act according to the corruption of his/her nature by necessity. He is in bondage to sin. No one is coercing him to act as he does. This means, the unregenerate person will always choose according to who they are by nature. In other words, our choices are all voluntary, but we are not free to choose otherwise because we will not understand spiritual things and indeed are hostile to them, according to Scripture. Men love darkness and hate the light and will not come into the light (John 3:19, 20) Without the Holy Spirit man, by nature, is hostile to Christ. In other words, we are in bondage to sin until Christ sets us free. Jesus himself says that a a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, that a thornbush cannot bear figs. Jesus is teaching us that the nature of a thing determines BY NECESSITY (not coersion) the direction he/she will take.

    Consider free will by applying it to God Himself. If freedom were defined as the freedom to chose otherwise, lets ask ourselves, does God have such freedom? In other words, can God freely choose to do good or evil as He pleases? No, of course not. God in his essence is holy and therefore, by definition, cannot sin or be unholy. If he sinned or broke His sure promise He would no longer be God. The glorified saints in heaven can be used with the same kind of example. God has sealed them in righteousness and they can no longer sin. Yet we consider them the MOST free.

    Thus the Bible defines freedom, not as the freedom to choose otherwise in any way we please (contrary to our innate disposition), but as holiness, freedom from sin. Read Rom chapter 6.. when Jesus says he will set people free, he does not say they are now free to chose good or evil but he will set them free from the bondage of sin.

    And where there is bondage, by definition there is no freedom. Yes we have free agency, that is, we can voluntarily choose according to our desires, but because our desires are in bondage to corruption this is not freedom in the Biblical sense. Liberation of the will occurs when the Holy Spirit acts to free us.

    Consider the opposite theological position which affirms that God elects people based on some kind of forseen faith. If God already knows who will be saved even before He creates them, then such a reality is fixed and cannot be otherwise. Thus God would be wasting His time to try to convert persons who He knows will never come to faith. Synergists says that God is trying to save every man, yet such a position is untenable if God already knows who is to be saved, unless you are willing to concede that God is not omniscient, but then you would be conceding that He is not God.

    If God knows the end from the beginning exhaustively then he knows who will be saved even prior to creating them. An additional problem with this is that it means that there is no real free will in this arminian position because the future is certain and cannot be otherwise. But in this view God does not determine this future, and thus something else like Fate perhaps determines who will believe. The position is so untenable that many traditional Arminains have fled to become open theists who believe God has no foreknowledge of the future. But this heretical view will not stand and is sub-Christian.

    Hope this helps
    Solus Christ

    I really appreciate all your input and time spend with me. I apologize again for my quick and poorly worded questions. My little girl was crying for me!
    This has helped clear up somethings. Thank you also for touching on open-theism.
    I wonder how the will affected Satan's fall? But...I think that I'm beginning to see more clearly.
    Thank you and peace to you,

    Most relevant here is John 6:44-45: "No one can come to me unless the fahter, who sent me, draws him....every one who has heard and learned from the father comes to me."

    How is the irresistible conversion actually accomplished? How is this drawing done? How do calvinists experience it? It says by "hearing and learning" This learning is the
    drawing. There is something happening. The father teaches something. But what? What exactly is the drawing 'technically speaking'? How is it performed?

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