Calvinism (IV) Irresistible Grace

By Harry E. Ozment


It is true that certain physical blessings of the grace of God are given to the believer and unbeliever alike. Jesus said, “For he maketh the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.” (Matt. 5:45) Paul explained in I Tim. 4: 10 that God “is the Savior of all men,” i.e., God sustains all life upon this earth through the bestowal of certain physical blessings (e.g., sunshine, rain, air, etc.). No one denies this. Notice, however, what Paul next says, “For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those who believe. ” Paul, in the last clause of v. 10, is speaking of the spiritual blessings of God which contribute to the eternal salvation of manthis grace is given to believers.

Calvinism denies that any “speciar, grace is shown to believers as opposed to unbelievers. The doctrine of “irresistible grace” is a branch off the vine of “predestination.” God’s grace to salvation, according to Calvinism, is given only to the elect-whether the elect desire it or not. The Presbyterian Confession of Faith states: “This effectual call is of God’s free and speciat’grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the .Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.” (Chapter 10) This doctrine, as you can see, provides for a direct and mysterious indwelling of the Spirit. This doctrine, together with its foundation doctrine (predestination), teaches that an “elected” person is saved at the very beginning in the mind of God, and he is saved “in fact” when God arbitrarily sends His Spirit into the heart of that individual.

Errors of the Doctrine

Because the existence of this doctrine depends to a great extent on the existence of “predestination,” errors of the two doctrines could be interchanged. However, as we specifically consider the Calvinistic concept of “irresistible grace,” many errors are glaringly evident, for this doctrine:

(1) Negates the importance of man’s obedience. This doctrine would have people believe that the grace of God to salvation is given to the obedient and disobedient alikeprovided they have been elected. According to Calvinism, God, in His own time, arbitrarily sends the Spirit upon whomsoever He will, while totally disregarding (a) the kind of lives these people live, and (b) the desire (or lack of it) that these people have for His grace. Such a doctrine can only do one thing: consign obedience to the realm of the “non-essential.” And when Calvinism does this, it is in complete contradition. with the Bible. The Bible teaches that man’s obedience is essential to his salvation. Jesus stated: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21)

When the Bible teaches the essentiality of obedience, it does not imply that man’s obedience earns salvation. On the contrary, our active obedience to God’s will indicates that we cannot save ourselves, and thus makes us openly admit that we must submit to Him to be saved. Of course, this would not be the case if we were to try to be saved by obeying our will. We read in Acts 10:34-35: “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Paul states the case well by contrasting the works of God with the works of man in Eph. 2:8-10 (notice the intensive words emphasis mine, HEO): “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Neither does the Bible imply that man’s obedience displaces God’s grace. The Bible teaches that God’s grace, coupled with man’s obedience, produces the promised blessing. This Bible principle is illustrated several times in Heb. 11: “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet (grace), moved with fear, prepared an ark (obedience) to the saving of his house (promised blessing)” (v. 7); “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place (grace), which he should after receive for an inheritance (promised blessing), obeyed (obedience)” (v. 8); “Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed (grace), and was delivered of a child when she was past age (promised blessing), because she judged him faithful who had promised (obedience).” (v. 11) This same principle is true today, as is shown by the statement found in Heb. 5:9: “He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” “Eternal salvation” is the promised blessing. Through the grace of God, Jesus shed his blood (“became the author”), which purchased the church and put into effect God’s will. Man’s obedience, though, must be coupled to God’s grace, as is shown in the last clause: “unto all them that obey him.” Hence, if obedience is essential to salvation, “irresistible grace” cannot be possible.

(2) Denies the true nature of grace. Paul explains the nature of grace in Eph. 2:8, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of’ God.” Grace is a gift. A gift necessarily involves two ideas: (a) the will of the giver to give; and (b) the consent of the receiver to receive. If either of these conditions is missing, the item given is not a gift. The word “irresistible” means “impossible to successfully resist” (Webster). Therefore, to state that God’s grace is “irresistible” is to say that the “consent of the receiver” is not necessarily involved in the giving of grace. Hence, this would deny that the grace of God is a gift. Such is the sad consequence of believing Calvinistic theory!

(3) Destroys the free agency of man. One of the great truths of the Bible is that man is a free moral agent. He has enough intelligence to determine his course of action. God said in Deut. 30:15-18: “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; in ..that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shall be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish.” This was true of Adam and Eve in the very beginning. They were given intelligent minds which were capable of making decisions. Two ways were set before them-the way of right and the way of wrong. God coaxed them to go the way of right and warned them against g . oing the way of wrong-but the final decision was made by Adam and Eve. Therefore, when man decided to go the way of wrong, he was held accountable for it. The same is true today. Jesus said, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, he shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you.” (Jn. 15:6-7) The vine is provided by the grace of God. But we, as branches, exercise free determination in choosing whether to abide in this vine’. Calvinism denies this. This theory would have us to believe that the elect must receive the grace of God-they have no choice about the matter. God’s grace is irresistible! God certainly could not hold unsaved individuals accountable if their condition was in no way due to their own free choice. Such a theory!-it denies the most, evident truths of the Bible!

It is sad but true that the grace of God can be resisted -many millions resist His grace every day. God’s power to save our souls is His word (Rom. 1: 16; Jas. 1:21). When men spurn this word for their divisive human creeds, they are most surely resisting the grace of the Almighty!

Truth Magazine, XVIII:32, p. 9-10
June 13, 1974