Irresistible Grace

Irresistible Grace

Written by Joel E. Smit |
Friday, December 22, 2023

Irresistible grace happens in us, as the eternal salvation of God enters our personal existence through the supernatural work of conversion. This first taste of saving grace, which is experienced more and more each and every day through Christ, is what the true Christian savors both now and forever: the riches of His grace that sovereignly saved and drew all His elect into personal relationship with Himself.

A professional athlete was asked, “At what moment did you realize that you had made it into the highest league of your sport?” The reality did not hit him, the athlete responded, until the first paycheck was deposited into his bank account, and he understood that he was now getting paid for the game he loved to play. This earthly example portrays in part the experience that a Christian might have when he comes to understand the doctrine of irresistible grace. When the true believer comes to the realization that all the benefits of Christ are personally applied to him and he is now in Christ, he is like the athlete who has come to a fuller realization of who he really is and all that truly belongs to him. He now understands that he is a Christian through the sovereign eternal election and redemption of Christ effectually applied to him by the Spirit.

Irresistible grace is perhaps better described theologically as efficacious grace or effectual calling. This doctrine is spelled out clearly in the Westminster Confession of Faith (ch. 10), and it is summarized in the Westminster Shorter Catechism in this manner:

Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered in the Gospel. (Q&A 31)

The whole of salvation, including the work of conversion, is a work of God because the whole (or totality) of man is affected by the fall of Adam. Spiritually dead men and women can neither do nor will themselves into a better relationship with God unless God does a work in them. George Whitefield said that man can more easily “climb to the moon on a rope of sand” than do any good works that place him in right relationship with God. What man is incapable of doing, God does powerfully and efficaciously by His grace through His Word and Spirit.

This inward call of the Holy Spirit typically takes place in conjunction with the external call of the gospel that goes out to the world through the read and preached Word of God. What is externally read and heard finds a heart, mind, and will that have been spiritually renewed and regenerated by the Spirit.

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