Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Blessing of Irresistible Grace

"For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."
- Philippians 2:13

I start here with Paul, because of his straightforward and economical expression of the doctrine of irresistible grace, i.e., that regeneration and sanctification are the effectual, sovereign work of God in us, not something we work up in ourselves. However, it is the expansion of this truth in Ezekiel that I especially want to highlight. I am referring to chapter 36.

Ezekiel 36:21-23: "I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate My holiness before their eyes.'"

Notice this starting point: it isn't about us! God acts in His grace for the sake of His own holiness, His own glory, for the vindication of His own character. Therefore, when any person claims some special worthiness before God, whether for some supposed inherent holiness or even because of his own belief, he fails to give God the credit and glory that He has claimed for Himself. Paul emphasizes this point, as well, in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace have you been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

But to continue in Ezekiel, verses 25-27: "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules."

Paul explains the "heart of stone" in Ephesians 2:1, "And you were dead in trespasses and sins." Dead, not sick, so that we must be born again (John 3:3) and become a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17).

Ezekiel continues, verses 28-29: "You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be My people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses." And thus God grounds His gracious promises in the same covenant of grace that He declared to Abraham (Genesis 17:7) and to his spiritual seed (Romans 4).

As with reprobation, this aspect of biblical doctrine allows no room for man's pride, but much for man's redemption. Why do so many clamor to reverse that?

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