Irresistible Grace

November 8, 2009 / No. 3488

Dear Radio Friends,

Our meditation from the word of God is taken from Jesus’ words in John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” In those words, Jesus Christ speaks to us of the truth of irresistible grace.

Irresistible grace is the teaching of the Bible that all whom God has chosen eternally, and all for whom Jesus gave His life, shall be drawn by the Holy Spirit, personally, to Jesus Christ for salvation. They shall be brought into the fold of Jesus. They shall be held in His bosom. They shall come to know His love. They shall be empowered to repent and to believe and to live a holy life in Jesus.

It is the teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Christ that there is an almighty power of God (God’s grace) running victoriously throughout the world; that this mighty power of God’s grace is never defeated; that it seeks and it finds everyone chosen and redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. This power of God’s grace is carried in the gospel as it is preached. And it stays on the trail of God’s elect and pursues them down through the halls of time to save all of those given to Jesus.

This power goes throughout all the world. It goes on the streets of countries where there is poverty and where people live in shacks. It goes into the cities (the greatest cities) of the world. It enters into the dens of drugs and alcohol—the places of darkness where men are enslaved to sin. It operates in homes. It works in cradles and in babies in mothers’ arms. It is at work at a family table where the father bows his head and leads his family in prayer. It knocks at the door of a home where there is alcoholism or abuse and it says, “One of my Master’s sheep is here, and I am come now to bring him home.” It enters into universities. It works in those who are hardened in intellectual pride. It works in the hearts of sinners, in the darkest and deepest place of sin; in that place where, according to God’s word, we are without God or hope: the heart of man, the temple of the idol, dead and hardened in sin—this power comes and softens and subdues and illumines and inclines and brings to faith in Jesus Christ. It is a power that is never defeated. Irresistible grace is the saving love of God that will not be denied. God’s love is not denied. It saves everyone whom God has eternally loved.

Do you know this power—this wonderful power of irresistible grace?

Very strangely, whenever this beautiful doctrine of irresistible grace is preached it is opposed. It is resisted. It was resisted in Jesus’ day. And it is resisted in ours.

In John 6, the crowd that was before our Lord was a hostile crowd. The Lord had rebuked them. He had told them that they could not save themselves, that they could not believe in Him, that they could not come to Him unless the Father would draw them to Him. In effect, He was telling them that they were helpless and hopeless and impotent of spiritual strength. He was telling them that they were devoid of any good. “Ye believe not. Ye cannot come to me.” And, as a result of His words, we read in John 6:41 that the people murmured at Him. They directed their attacks at Jesus personally. They said, “Is not this Jesus, whose father and mother we know? Is this not the ‘nobody’ from the sticks of Galilee?” And the Lord responds: “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

So also today, the truth of irresistible grace is opposed. It is falsely caricatured. It is said that this teaches that men are dragged kicking and screaming to heaven. Rather, the gospel preached by many today is that Jesus Christ waits at the door of man’s heart and that He cannot enter into that heart unless we will let Him in.

The truth of irresistible grace is opposed. And we would ask, Why? Why was the truth opposed in Jesus’ day and why is it opposed now—this most glorious and comforting of all truth? The answer is: Because our flesh wants credit for salvation; because man wants to put himself in the harness with Christ because we want to sit upon the throne.

But when grace makes known our sin and the depravity or the plague of our own heart, and when grace gives us daily to struggle against our sins and temptations and to feel the forces of evil against us and to know our own selves, then irresistible grace is the sweetest gospel, it is the sweetest doctrine that you can ever hear. It is the love of God that not only redeemed me in the precious blood of Jesus, but also now seeks me and saves me and brings me to Jesus Christ. Irresistible grace!

Irresistible grace is a mighty power. Jesus was talking that day in John 6 about a mighty power of God that would draw a sinner to Himself to be saved. He says that this grace is undeserved. But especially, He says, this grace is a mighty power. His words are: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Now certainly you see the grace of God in sending His Son into the world to save those who had no merit or worth in themselves. God did not do this because we deserved it or because we sought salvation or because we asked for salvation. No, that God sent forth His Son means that the grace that brings us to Jesus Christ is a grace that shows mercy to the undeserving. It gives salvation to those who have not sought salvation. Surely the grace of being brought to Jesus Christ is a grace undeserved, unmerited, and unsought. But the emphasis of Jesus here is that God’s grace is a mighty and irresistible power. Jesus said, “No man can come to me.” He is referring to ability. We should read those words weeping. We cannot, we are not able to come to Jesus.

There is the depth of human depravity. We are spiritually dead. In John 5:40, Jesus said, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” There He said, “You will not. You are unwilling to come to Me.” Here in John 6:44 He says, “You cannot, you do not have the ability. You are devoid of the power.” It is not found in you to love and to believe in Jesus. This ability must come from God. It must be given by God’s wondrous grace in your heart. We read in II Corinthians 5:17, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” God’s grace must first work in us. What is impossible with man (namely, coming to Jesus) is possible with God.

Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” The word “draw” is not like getting the halter around a trained horse and gently nudging him along. You must think of a mule. You must think of a donkey with all four legs locked stiff. It implies resistance. Irresistible grace does not mean that we do not resist grace. The Father must draw us. And the word “draw” refers to the one who has the superior power. The word “draw” in the Bible always implies resistance.

The grace that saves is a mighty power. Though we, in our human nature, would resist, grace is a conquering power of God to subdue and to change our hearts. The grace that saves, draws your soul to Jesus. It is a grace that is, in its power, beyond all other power. Consider the power of sin. The power of sin surely makes us tremble. The power of sin is able to hold us in our pride, hold us in hatred, hold us in addictions. But God’s grace is greater. God’s grace is the mighty power to bring to Jesus.

Now the question is, of course, Is God’s grace irresistible? Can it be defeated? Can the one whom God has loved and for whom Jesus has died upon the cross, remain hardened in sin and resist the intentions of God to save him? Shall we say, Yes, the sinner cannot save himself; he needs God’s grace to enable him; so God offers His grace to this man if he is willing to accept it; but he might not accept it? And shall we bring that, perhaps, more close? Shall we say, Knowing our own sins, have we ever trembled and cried out for God’s grace to break the hold of that terrible sin? Is there a sin too great for God? And we think of a loved one who is upon our soul. We think about them when we fall asleep at night. Is the sinner whom God has loved eternally, chosen in Christ, and given to Christ so that Christ died for his sins upon the cross, is such a sinner able to stiff-arm God and to walk into hell?

A mother, we’ll say, loses her infant son. Much later she discovers her son through DNA or whatever. And she finds that he doesn’t want her, because he has grown up without her. No matter how much she loves him, he does not want her. Human love, you see, cannot change the other person. Is that true of God’s love? Will God’s love be denied? Can the addictions of sin defeat Him? Can the devil keep a soul from Jesus Christ?

The answer is: God’s grace is irresistible. God’s grace goes forth to conquer and always to conquer. That is the whole Bible. Isaiah 53, the beautiful chapter on the sufferings of Jesus Christ, concludes with these words: “He shall see the travail of his soul.” Jesus shall see brought to faith everyone for whom His soul travailed upon the cross.

First of all, Jesus, in John 6, says, “Except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” He is referring to the mighty power of the Father. It is the Father that draws. And of the Father, Jesus says in John 10, “My Father is greater than all. My Father is the One who spoke the world into being. He is almighty God.” Therefore, if you teach that God’s grace for salvation is a resistible grace, that the sinner can overcome God’s grace, then you must teach a resistible God. Then you must teach that the will of the sinner, hard as it is, is stronger than God.

But this is not the God of the Scriptures. To teach a God whose will and grace can be resisted is to have an idol. Psalm 115:3, “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.”

But more. Observe with me in John 6 the certainty of our Savior. Jesus expected God’s grace to accomplish all that it intended to accomplish. Our Savior certainly was a compassionate Savior. He came forth to save all those given to Him of His heavenly Father. But our Savior, after having given His life for us on the cross, is not now in heaven wringing His hands. Rather, He sits upon His throne, and they shall come to Him. Jesus says, “I will raise them up at the last day.” Now, that certainly is a statement of indisputable, sovereign power. The resurrection of the body at the last day, the resurrection of our body—that is a power that is greater than death. Who can raise the dead? Who can escape the grave? Who can keep their body from decay? Jesus says, “I will raise it up.” He says, “This resurrection, this beautiful culmination of His work, begins already in the sinner when the sinner is drawn to Him. He will raise him up in the body unto everlasting life. This is a power that is greater than any other that we know. God’s grace is irresistible. It brings to Jesus everyone whom the Father has loved eternally and for whom Jesus died.

God draws us by His grace so that we come to Jesus, so that we believe personally, so that we repent and embrace Him and live a godly life. Irresistible grace works within us a new will—the will of Christ. It is to be born again. The life of Jesus Christ is graciously implanted within our heart. That grace of God infuses into our will new qualities, so that we desire Him and we want to obey Him. When God draws us, it is not like the drafting of young men into the armed forces. It is not like a robot. It does not mean that we remain unchanged. That is not the picture of the Christian saved by grace. Irresistible grace brings us to Jesus’ feet, broken, humbled under the knowledge of our sin, but now created anew in Christ, sold to do the will of our Savior. It changes us within. We will know irresistible grace by the change it works within us.

We come to Jesus consciously. We come to Him willingly. We come to Him actively. We repent of our sins and we believe in Jesus. We certainly do not defend the mighty grace of God in His election, and the mighty grace of God in His irresistible salvation, by downplaying the Christian life of faith, by downplaying the calling of personal faith. The grace of God, irresistibly, enables us to come to Jesus. It works faith in our hearts. It works sorrow and hatred of sin. And it works love for Jesus.

To come to Jesus means that you will forsake all of your former loves, all the former trust of your heart. It means that you will trust Him as your Savior. It means that you will follow Him, renouncing your own will and obeying Him. God’s grace brings us to Jesus Christ in faith and in love.

The working of God’s grace within us is a delightful, astonishing, and mysterious thing. It is too overwhelming to be expressed with words. It is irresistible in the covenant. It works within the hearts of the children born to believers—those children, according to God’s grace, of election. There it works sweet and soft. It works within the home. It works from earliest childhood. The grace of God often picks its own time to work. A person could hear the word many times but never really hear it. Then suddenly that mighty grace stirs within his heart. The grace of God often will come through afflictions, when our own will and our pride has been stripped away through a bed of pain. God’s grace often comes when we have exhausted our last resource and are left without strength. God’s grace will come in death, it will come powerfully. It will come in a moment of tragedy. God’s grace is mysterious and delightful. It comes according to the Father’s will.

But the grace that draws us personally to Jesus always comes through the word, the Holy Scriptures, and through the preaching of the word. Jesus said in John 6:45, “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” We call this the means of grace—the means whereby God brings us to Jesus is the means of the living word of God. The Holy Spirit works through the word—especially through the preaching of the word. For we read in I Corinthians 1 that it pleases God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. God draws us to Jesus by teaching us through the powerful and living word of God. God draws us to Jesus through the hearing of that word, for faith cometh through hearing (Rom. 10:17), and hearing by the word of God. When the blessed gospel is preached, it is the voice of the risen Lord Jesus, who speaks: “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

It must be accomplished, of course, by the secret work of the Holy Spirit. The word and the Spirit. The Holy Spirit must take that word preached and must incline our hearts and illumine our souls and soften us and teach us. The Bible can be picked up and put back down, unless the Holy Spirit arises with His light. The word must be preached to all, wherever God gives us the opportunity to preach. We cry out in the name of Christ: Repent and believe. But what makes that preaching powerful is the Holy Spirit and the grace of God.

What a wonderful assurance we have. There can be no assurance without irresistible grace. If God’s grace, that is, God’s intention to save a person, can be resisted, then the whole world is turned upside-down. You see, this is not a little point of doctrine. Without sovereign, irresistible, saving grace, the world is spinning by fate. Do you want to live in such a world? Do you want to believe that the cords of God’s love can be cut? Do you want to believe that a purpose of God can fail to be realized? Do you want to believe that God’s grace cannot reach you, cannot save you, cannot prevent you from entering into hell? Knowing the depravity of sin within ourselves, we confess that we need irresistible grace—or we will be lost forever.

Imagine this on a personal level. What would it mean for us? Imagine the Son of God returning to His heavenly Father in the ascension and saying to His Father, “Father, I tried. I died. I offered Myself. I said, ‘I would if they would.’ But the stubborn fools decided to reject the offer. I come back to You, heavenly Father, with a list of maybes. We’ll have to wait and see if there is anyone out there who is willing to take the offer.” That is blasphemy. When the Son returned to the Father, He said, “Father, My sheep are redeemed. They are in My arms. Because You loved them and You have drawn them to Me, and not one of them is lost.”

This is a wonderful assurance for ourselves. As we become more and more convinced of our own depravity, we see the excellent and precious power of Jesus Christ. Our faith now rests solely in God. And we believe in Jesus because God has worked that in our hearts through irresistible grace. And we are led to praise Him and to worship Him and to fall down and confess that our salvation is all of grace.

Let us pray.

Father in heaven, we thank Thee for Thy word. Seal it to our hearts. Give us both the right understanding and the personal comfort of Thy amazing and saving grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.