Monday, October 31, 2016

Irresistible Grace: Can a Mere Man Say No to God's Electing Grace?

I have never understood the resistance of Arminians to the doctrine of irresistible grace. I know that, sometimes, it is a matter of misdefinition, a caricature of the doctrine as teaching that God tackles an unbeliever, and forces him to believe in Jesus, like force-feeding a hunger-striking prisoner. And that is not, at all, what it means. Rather, the doctrine teaches that God's love and grace are effectual in the salvation of the elect.

First, let us consider what that grace does. In the process of effectual calling, God deals with a man who is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). He replaces that man's dead spiritual heart with a new living heart (Ezekiel 36:26), with new desires and a new will to seek Him (Philippians 2:13). Thus, this man has become a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17), and has been born again (John 3:3). God doesn't jump on the unbeliever, like a farmer chasing a chicken for his dinner. Rather, He changes a dead man into a living man who desires to know and to serve Him. This is no different from a parent who uses discipline to change a disobedient, misbehaving child into a responsible adult, a bending process. It is different in one way, however: where a human parent can end up disappointed as his grown child makes bad or destructive choices, God is never disappointed in His efforts, because He cannot fail.

That last phrase is what I will address now.

I often wonder if Arminians have forgotten that God is God, and we are not. Is a puny human able to tell God "no," like a naughty two-year-old? Yeah, I guess he can say it, but God is hardly blocked by it. Rather, God tells us that He always achieves what He intends. Consider Isaiah 46:10, where He says, "My counsel will stand, and I will accomplish My purpose." And even more direct is Daniel 4:35: "All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will... among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, 'What have You done?'" "None can stay His hand?" Really? No one can demand, "What have You done?" Amazing! Who does He think He is? God or something? Well, yeah, He does, actually, and rightly so, which is My point. God acts in a godlike manner, not as a man can.

Saint Augustine said, "Lord, command what you will, and give what You command." And that statement is biblical, a paraphrase of Isaiah 26:12: "O Lord, You will ordain peace for us, for You have indeed done for us all our works." This is what irresistible grace means. God takes a sinful, condemned man, and changes him, from the inside out. He makes that man what He demands that he be. And that is a merciful act, reader, for it is something that no one can do for himself (Isaiah 64:6): "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." I thank God for His irresistible grace, because I know that I would have been headed for Hell, without hope, without it.

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