We are utilizing a series of five blogs to address and subsequently refute the five basic precepts of Calvinism. Calvinism lies at the heart of the Protestant Reformation which developed in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries in reaction to the heresies and corruption of the Catholic Church which had become anathema to the gospel of Christ as revealed in the scriptures. Through the course of our investigation what we are finding is that the prevailing doctrines found in Calvin’s theological system does not bring the church into a condition of recovery which aligns itself with the clear testimony of the Scripture. Calvinism prevailed during the period of the Reformation and those precepts have been handed down in large measure during the subsequent generations at least in part even unto this present time. There remains a viable alternative which would bring the Christian church into much better alignment with the truth of the Bible. It was formulated in the teachings of James Arminius (1560-1609) and has come to be known as Arminianism. Its precepts stand in stark contrast to Calvinism.
In pursuit of our current topic we will investigate the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. What is meant by this theological tenet of Calvinism and do we find a support for it in the scriptures? Outlining what is meant and how it is held will follow. Calvinists would assert that there is an efficacious call of the Spirit or irresistible grace. In addition to the outward general call to salvation which is made to everyone who hears the gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The external call which is made to all without distinction can be, and often is rejected; whereas the inward call which is made only to the elect cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By means of this special call the Spirit irresistibly draws the sinner to Christ. He is not limited in his work of applying salvation by man’s will, nor is he dependent upon man’s cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. God’s grace is therefore invincible; it never fails to result tin the salvation of those to whom it is extended.
Arminian doctrine presents the exact contrast in asserting that the Spirit’s call or conviction can be effectively rejected as a matter of the will and choice of the individual so convicted. The Spirit calls inwardly to all of those who are called outwardly by the gospel invitation. He does all that he can to bring the sinner to salvation. But as much as man is free, he can successfully resist the Spirit’s call and man’s free will limits the Spirit in in the application of Christ’s saving work. The Spirit cannot regenerate the sinner until he believes. Faith which is man’s contribution precedes and makes possible the new birth. Thus, man’s free will limits the Spirit in the application of Christ’s saving work. The Holy Spirit can only draw to Christ those who will allow him to have his way with them. God’s grace is therefore not invincible; it can be and often is resisted by man.
As with all matters of sound doctrine we must look to the word of God for its validation and establishment. At Acts 3:22-23 we read:” For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” (emphasis mine).
Moving further into the Book of Acts in chapter seven we are given Stephen’s lengthy admonition to the Jewish Sanhedrim, i.e. the elders of Israel. Concluding his summary of their history and transgression even to the rejection of their Messiah he states at verse 51 “Ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost, as your fathers did so do ye.” As it isclear from the passage that Stephen is speaking to the plurality of the Jewish elders, and is it not also clear that he is speaking in the power of the Spirit? So then is it not obvious that they had the opportunity to receive his words. So then it is clear that there existed not only an unwillingness to receive the word but an exercise of the will to resist it? This does not support Calvinist doctrine.
Let us look at two passages in Hebrews which illustrate the fallacy of irresistible grace. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew the again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”(Heb.6:4-6 emphasis mine). Does this sound like irresistible grace or is it a willful act to fall away and depart through a choice favoring sinful activity or rebellion?(again emphasis mine).
“He that despised Moses law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment suppose ye, shall be thought worthy, who have trodden under foot the Son of God , and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified , an unholy thing, and hath done despite (insulted-Strg. Conc.) unto the Spirit of grace.” (Heb. 10:25-26). If grace is irresistible and election is unconditional how then is it possible to fall from a place of being sanctified by the blood and being made a partaker of the Holy Ghost and then to do despite unto the Spirit of grace? The context of this passage is clearly addressing anyone who has come to Christ and been regenerated but subsequently has turned aside and done despite to the Holy Spirit. The passage affirms that such a one cannot be renewed to repentance and most certainly will be subjected to the judgement of God. “The Lord shall judge his people” (verse 30). Calvinist doctrine again miserably fails in its conclusions when measured by the testimony of Scripture.
David Lance Dean website and blogs: authordavidlncedean.com