Irresistible Grace (1)

April 2, 2023 / No. 4187M

Do you, friend listening in today, do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?  I am not merely asking you how you would answer if someone asked you if you were a Christian.  I am asking this:  Do you know yourself by nature to be a sinner before a holy God, and do you despise your sins—especially this about them, that they offend the very God who made you and gave you this earth to live on and your mind and your hands and feet and eyes?  And, do you know the Lord Jesus Christ as the atoning Savior for sins—a Christ who, of His own work and not for anything in you, pays the price for your sins that you might be freed from sin’s guilt and dominion?  And do you have within you this desire to serve God with your life, to know this God ever more deeply, and to honor Him and to give Him glory in your life—a desire that leads you to battle mightily with remaining sin in you to please Him?

If not, if that is not you, then the call comes to you personally:  Let go of your sins and your rebellions against this God whom you know is there and you know made you.  And look to Christ alone for forgiveness of your sins and for strength for a life that is pleasing to God.  There is a day of reckoning coming, and if you are found standing alone with your sins in your hands, there is no shelter for you, none.  Protection is found only in the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord, your Christ, your Savior.

But if you answer that question, “Yes, yes. What you described is me,” then the question that we face today is:  Where do you turn for the explanation of the fact that that is you?  Do you turn to yourself for the explanation, or do you turn to a sovereign, irresistible grace of God that must have worked and is still working in your life as the only possible explanation for that very fact?  Really, we do not even have to prove today that the explanation for your answering the question “Yes” is the irresistible grace of God. We have already, in past weeks, proven that the explanation for the fact that that is you, cannot possibly be you.  And, if it can not possibly be you, then the irresistible grace of God is the only other possibility.  Remember, in the last two messages we showed from Scripture that we are all totally depraved by nature and that the result of that is that we are enslaved by that dead nature to sin, so that in everything, in our actions and in our thoughts and in our willings, we are bound to sin, enslaved to sin, dominated by sin.  And no one can even see the kingdom of Christ and believe in Christ, come to Christ, and serve Christ.  They are enslaved by sin.  What explains, then, the fact that you embrace Christ for your only comfort in life and death and walk with Him?  The only explanation possible is a miraculous, sovereign grace of God, who has done an irresistible work on you.  Nonetheless, we will prove irresistible grace from Scripture in this and the next message and will do so primarily from the teaching of the Lord when He was upon the earth.

There is a unity in salvation, child of God. God has chosen His own in eternity.  Jesus has given Himself to the cross for the sake of those same elect, as we saw in limited atonement.  And now, that salvation predestined to be given to the elect, that salvation that Christ earned for them, must still come into the actual possession of those elect.  And for that, the Holy Spirit comes to work an irresistible work that cannot fail in the hearts and lives of any of God’s own. Irresistible grace.

Irresistible grace.  When the Scriptures speak of God’s grace, they are speaking of God’s undeserved favor towards His people in Jesus Christ.  That is what the Scriptures mean, for example, when they say that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8).  When Noah looked up to the Lord, there was favor toward Noah in the eyes of the Lord.  There was grace.  There was an undeserved favor in the eyes of the Lord toward Noah.  Neither Noah nor anyone else who receives this favor deserves this favor of God.  In fact, not only is this favor undeserved, what is deserved is the exact opposite of favor—punishment.

It is not that we are just neutral before God.  As we saw in our last message, we do everything possible to make ourselves guilty before God.  We rebelled and acted as though we are God when we are nothing.  And it is not as though there is any justification for our doing so.  The prophet Isaiah says that we are as grasshoppers in His sight.  And again, later, that all the nations of the earth are like dust in a balance before Him, that is, like tiny specks of dust on one side of a scale, so miniscule that even the most sensitive scale does not pick up the weight.  And, if the kingdoms of the earth are described that way, specks of dust to God, then who are we as individuals who make up one tiny, tiny part of the nations of the earth, the tiniest fraction of a speck of dust before Him?  We are nothing in this vast universe, and yet we walk around placing imaginary crowns on our own heads as though we are gods and God should bow to us.

Yet, this God has favor toward His people who are like that.  If you understand it at all, have any sense of it, you almost say that it cannot be possible.  When we all fell into sin, why did He not just take His hand and wipe all these specks of dust away in a tiny fraction of a moment, like you wipe dust off your table or off your desk.  Yet, instead, He gives us favor; He gives us His grace; He takes delight in us; He wants to have communion and fellowship with us.  And then He makes that happen because grace, that undeserved favor, is much more than simply a nice desire or a nice feeling that God has about His people.  God’s undeserved favor toward His people is not simply a favor that says, “I’d really like to have fellowship with them, but there is nothing I can do about it. After all, they’re totally depraved and I’m a holy God.”  But God’s grace is also a power to actually carry out what it desires, to actually save the people He favors. It accomplishes the purpose.  “For by grace are you saved!”  Not just, “For by grace are you felt nice about.”  But saved. Grace actually saves.  It is rescuing, it is a power to deliver. It takes one out of the bondage of sin and corruption and sets him in the very covenant of God.  It transforms him.  It takes something that was only ugly and repulsive and begins to make it lovely and beautiful in the eyes of God, righteous as He is, fit for life in Him, bound to Him in love.

The power of grace to do this is irresistible power.  It is power that cannot be stopped.  It is power that has its way, that accomplishes its purpose with its objects.  It is like a giant tsunami wave that crashes over anything in its path and nothing can stop it.  Nothing!  We have all seen pictures of great tsunamis that crash into the shore, come right over those barriers on the shore, flow over houses and buildings and walls and nothing can stop it.  It is an overwhelming force.  So to, God’s grace cannot be stopped by man.  If he is the object of that grace, it overruns, it takes him over, so that what in him was against God is not the only thing about him anymore.  He is turned towards God by the power of this grace.

It is interesting, the Canons of Dordt use verbs that display this power in such a beautiful way, a panoply of verbs, giving a beautiful description of the power of His grace, in the third and fourth Heads of doctrine on irresistible grace.  Let me give some of those verbs.  It is a grace that confers and that rescues; that translates into a new kingdom; that accomplishes God’s good pleasure; causes; powerfully illumines; efficaciously pervades the inmost recesses of the heart; opens the closed; softens the hard; infuses; quickens; actuates; resurrects from the dead; affects; enables; produces.  And does all that without the prior consent of any man.  That grace comes as an irresistible power to those whom God has given to His Son in eternity to be His children and for whom Christ died.

That grace has its source in Christ, who died for those objects of grace and earned that grace for them.  That grace does not come to anyone else.  The Spirit who brings that grace to them does not go beyond the limits of the purposes of the Father and the Son.  If He did, every human being would be saved, for it is an unstoppable force.  But He will not.  In fact, He even cannot because there is no grace available for more than those whom the Father has chosen to Himself and given to the Son.  Grace (this unstoppable force) was merited by Christ on His cross.  And He merited it for His own, for the sheep.  And to them it shall powerfully go by the Spirit.  Therefore the Lord says in John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.”

Now, that does not mean that God’s elect to whom alone this grace comes do not try to resist it.  It is an irresistible power, but that does not mean there is no resistance attempted.  Even the elect, remember, are by nature dead and enslaved in sin, no different from anyone else in themselves.  Therefore they cannot but naturally try to resist it when it comes to them in their life.  The fact that it is irresistible grace even implies that that is the case.  The only way to discover that something is irresistible is if there is something that has first tried to resist it and found out that it cannot resist it.  Then it can be described as irresistible.  O, the old nature, the old man of sin in all of God’s own, resists that grace of God.  It resists it when it is first set upon them, and it resists it every day after that.  But the resistance is entirely unsuccessful.  It is like trying to stand with your arms outstretched to stop a tsunami from washing over you.  It is a grace that breaks through the walls of resistance at its will, a grace that brings new life, brings new motivations, transforms us into sinner/saints by its power, and one day by the same power into saints and no sinners.

Now Arminius, at the time of the Synod of Dordt (or before it), and the Arminians, said that God does not limit the giving of His grace to those elect.  He sends that grace to all and every man.  And they said that this grace is not powerful.  It is not an irresistible grace.  In fact, they said, it is very, very weak.  It is weaker than any human being.  And, therefore, it is highly, highly resistible because it is a grace that cannot do anything on the inside of a man.  It is only something that can work on the outside. Its only power is to try to persuade a man to use his own free will to accept salvation.  God, as it were, sets salvation out on a plate before all men like a chocolate chip cookie.  God does everything in His power on the outside of men to convince them to take it.  And that action on the outside of men to try to convince men to take it, that is His grace.  It is trying to persuade, but that is all it can do, nothing more than try to persuade.

The word that the Arminians used at the time of the Synod of Dordt was “advise.”  His grace can only advise.  It is not a power.  It can only advise men to take salvation.  And only the people who are good enough and who listen well enough or who have this desire welling up in them from their own free will to take this salvation are the ones who accept it and allow it to come into their life.  That grace is no different from one person to another.  All men receive the same grace, the same advising.  The difference in salvation is not the grace of God.  The difference in salvation is the decision and action of any individual.  God has absolutely no control over who takes the salvation and who does not.  Maybe, in the end, no one will.  And if no one does, there is not a thing God can do about it.  The grace is weak.  The Arminian really ends up presenting God (they never say this, of course) like a big bad wolf:  “Let me in, let me in.”  But, unlike the big bad wolf, He has no power to blow the house in.  Man is in control, and God can do no more than beg and plead with men to accept His desire to save them.

How different from the Lord’s affirmation in John 6:37:  “All that the Father giveth me, they shall come to me.” And how shall they come to Him?  By an irresistible grace given to them that leaves no doubt about it.  For the Lord said, “No man can come to me, except it were given to him of my Father.”  By grace are you saved.  Except the Father draw him irresistibly.  It is impossible that one come to Him apart from that one being given to Christ by the Father.  And it is equally impossible that one who has been given to Him by His Father not come to Him.

“They shall come to me.”  Irresistible grace will be the power to accomplish it.

So, grace is irresistible, and it is given to the elect even in the preaching and witnessing of the gospel, where we seek to persuade men, and we advise, and we seek to convince.  Even in that preaching, it is true that grace is only coming by God to those given to Christ by His Father.  When we preach and witness, we want to save all men.  We do not know who has been given to the Son and who has not.  If we have experienced this grace, we want everybody we come into contact with to experience it.  We call all to repentance and faith and do so urgently.  We say, “All who believe will be saved.”  And that witness that we give is true.  It is an established fact, a God-established fact, a reality, that those who repent and believe will be saved.  Not one will be cast out.

But God is not giving His grace to all men when they hear that.  He is giving His grace only to those whom He has given to His Son who will, then, by that irresistible grace perform what is commanded, repent, and believe.  He knows those who are His.  We do not. We seek to persuade men; we are gracious to everyone.  His grace comes never beyond the elect and never only on the outside to be resisted, but going inside and working faith in exactly those in whom He wants to work that faith.

So, child of God, if your life is a life of repentance at your sins and a life of looking to Christ in faith as your only source of hope before God and a walking with Him and a battling against the sin that remains in you, then you must know that He has sent an irresistible force into your life, a grace, a favor.  And it will never run out.  And that you may look up into the eyes of your Father like Noah, who looked up into the eyes of God, and you may see grace in His eyes.  Favor. Love has done this.  Love has raised the dead. Love has given sight to the blind.  And grace and love will do it still until it takes you to the end determined in glory and life with Him forever.

Let us pray.

Father in heaven, we are thankful for grace, a power, an irresistible grace.  Apart from that, Lord, we have nothing.  With that we have everything.  And, therefore, to Thee be all praise, to Thee be glory now and forever for the grace that is effective in our lives.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.