"...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 Doctrines of Grace (Video Seminar) - Dr. James White (Part 3) | Main | Caution: Make haste slowly... »

    The Relationship Between Irresistible Grace and the Atonement

    In a discussion relating to limited atonement I discussed how all redemptive blessings are found in Christ, including the blessing of irresistible grace.

    A visitor responded:

    John, Please help me understand your logic here. Irresistible grace is wrought through the atonement and not election? I am under the impression that God will have mercy on whom he wills. Whether the atonement is limited or not God has chosen his elect and they are atoned for. I am not seeing how by acknowledging that "irresistible grace is found only in Christ" we "acknowledge limited atonement by default". How are the two connected?

    my response
    Hello ______.

    Election, by itself, has never saved anyone. It is God's blueprint, so to speak, of what he intends to do in time through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. God the Father elects, the Son redeems them, and the Spirit applies the work of Christ to the same. The Trinity, in other words, works in harmony, to bring about the redemption of the elect. God the Father does not do this alone, APART form the work of the other two Persons of the Trinity. All redemptive grace is found in Christ. Ephesians 1:3 explains it thus:

    "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." (Eph 1:3-6)

    Please note that all spiritual blessings are IN CHRIST, that the Father chose us IN CHRIST, that He predestined us to adoption as sons IN CHRIST. So yes, you are right, God elects according to his good pleasure but he gets the job done through Jesus Christ.

    Limited Atonement is connected to irresistible grace in that, irresistible grace (all acknowledge) is given to the elect alone. It is not granted to the non-elect. And all spiritual blessing are in Christ... Therefore, Christ died in a way, a redemptive way to secure irresistible grace for the elect, that he did not for the non-elect. Irresistible grace was not purchased for the non-elect PERIOD. In other words, the redemptive blessing of irresistible grace is what Christ purchased on the cross to render certain the elect would respond positively to the outward gospel call. No redemptive grace is to be had outside of the work of Christ. All spiritual blessings are found in Christ and Christ alone. To claim otherwise is to deny Christ as our Savior and that his work is finished. At the very least, it denies that His work is sufficient to save completely. Those who deny limited atonement may well believe Christ's atonement was necessary, but it was not sufficient. Even Roman Catholics believe the grace of Christ was necessary, but it was not enough ... they must believe and persevere to the end and thus MAINTAIN their own just standing before God. We affirm that Christ work is complete ... it is totally sufficient to save. He is the author AND perfecter of our faith. There is nothing we can do to improve upon that. In 529 AD the Council of Orange worte the following;

    if anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life... that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit ...he is led astray by a heretical spirit." The Council of Orange, CANON 7.(529 AD)

    John Owen said, "To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect."

    Consider: that whatever God requires of us also includes faith. We do not have the power to believe the gospel without the the Spirit uniting us to Jesus Christ.

    In Ezekiel 36:25 God says, I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

    Notice that God first gives us a new heart so that we may keep his laws. Without the Holy Spirit, the word does not find a place in our heart. Jesus told his disciples that he must go to the Father so the the Spirit would come to the whole world. So again the Bible forces us to conclude that The Trinity works together to bring about his redemptive purposes.

    Hope this helps

    Posted by John on December 16, 2009 02:31 PM



    I deeply appreciate your sharing of these questions and answers. They have helped me greatly.

    I would also appreciate a search being added to Reformation Theology. Thank you for your consideration.

    God bless you,

    Would you please add a "search" function on this blog so key words can be entered and searched?

    This would be a great help. Thanks.


    Are you saying that the Holy Spirit Does not Offer Grace to the ones that God, according to you, has not elected, or chosen?

    Are you Saying that if you are not apart of the chosen, elected group that the Holy Spirit will NEVER offer grace to them?

    I do believe, according to the foreknowledge of our Sovereing Lord that he knows who are going to be born again, and He knows who aren't, but in no way do i believe that the Holy Spirit only works on those that have been elected! Why would our Lord not be willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance, but yet, only work on the elect and not offer all men the CHOICE to RECEIEVE Him or REJECT HIM!!!!!


    Hey John,
    Great article - I totally agree. The only thing that could possibly be the difference between me and a lost soul is grace.

    You mention that all spiritual blessings and grace are purchased from Christ's cross-work for us. I've wondered something about that: what about election itself? Election is grace before time, yet it was not purchased for us by Christ.

    Now, I know that we are chosen "in Him" but the atonement can't be the cause of electing grace, which is the cause of covenant of redemption btw the Father and the Son. That's an infinite regression. Election-grace precedes cross-grace.

    If that's true, then not all grace is purchased for us by the cross of Christ. Redemption-yes. Regeneration-yes. Reconciliation-yes. Propitiation-yes. Sanctification-yes. Election-no. Rather, election-grace came from the freedom of the Father's will, moving Christ to redeem the elect.

    Does that make sense? Where am I missing it?


    Electing grace is "in Christ". You may want to consider that God is not bound by time. He is the alpha and the omega concurrently spanning the beginning and the end. Just as he is omniscient he is also omni-temporal. Eternity does not have a before and after. There can be no "infinite regression" where there is no time. Therefore, when he elects us "in Christ" it is in view of people he already knew from eternity. Jesus is the lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. (Rev 13:8)

    We are not saying that God does not "offer" salvation to all. He does. According to the Scripture he calls all people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Problem is, left to themselves, people are stiff-necked and will not come. The Scripture says that no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' apart form the Holy Spirit. That is, apart from the Spirit, the gospel only falls on deaf ears. What causes one person to respond positively to the gospel and not another? Is it something in the person himself or is it Jesus that makes men to differ? All go astray but Jesus still has mercy on his own. His sheep hear his voice. Some do not believe BECAUSE they are not his sheep, (see John 10:26, 27). How do we know which ones? IN 1 thess Paul said, "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction."

    See words are not enough.. the gospel MUST come with the Holy Spirit. "So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." Rom 9:16

    Thanks, John.

    I'm not talking chronologically, but rather logically (as with the lapsarian views). We still believe in causality even though temporality isn't the context. For example, God's decree to create sinners precedes His decree that they would fall (a la Reymond), even though the decrees happen in God's timelessness. Did election logically precede the covenant of redemption? Vise versa? Reymond believes the former (Systematic, 488). If that's the case, election is not a grace that flows from the cross. We often say, "Jesus died for me because God loves (chose) me." We never say, "God loves (chose) me because Jesus died for me." They can't both be equally causal. It would seem that infinite regression isn't just chronological.

    Or could it be that election isn't so much a grace as a plan that initiates grace?

    Thanks for your help.


    If we are elect in Christ, then our election takes place with regard to the person and work of Christ in its entirety. Our election was not before Christ but IN CHRIST. As for the logical order of things, I personally believe God is much greater than any concepts in the pre and post-lapsarian debates. Those debates do not appear in the Scripture and thus, imho, are speculative at best.

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