Irresistible Grace

Our text is 2 Timothy 1:9. It speaks of God,

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began...”

Who is it that saved us? It is God that saved us. He saved us how? With a holy calling. We now come to the “I” of the TULIP, which is irresistible grace. We sometimes refer to this as effectual calling. We’ve already seen that salvation is of the Lord in its planning, for God made choice of His people by electing them. We’ve also seen that salvation is of the Lord in its execution. It was executed, carried out, accomplished in the redemptive work that took place at the cross. Now we will see that salvation is of the Lord in its application.

What Does Irresistible Grace Mean?

What do we mean when we say that God’s grace in the saving of sinners is irresistible? First of all, it is the work of God, or call, whereby God brings the elect to Himself. Let’s observe how calling is placed in the great chain of grace. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30). The language is very clear. All of those who were predestinated—predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son—are called. The called are justified, and the justified are glorified. So this calling is God’s work. It is entirely by His grace, by His mercy. In John 6:37, Jesus specified that, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” If you want a simple definition of irresistible grace, or effectual calling, it is right here in this text. All that the Father gives to the Son shall come; they are going to be brought and drawn by Him. Secondly, by way of definition, we mean that the Spirit is active and man is passive. This is necessitated by the fact that man in his natural state, being alienated from God, is dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1). That obviously does not imply that the sinner is physically dead. He is still living; he is still, in fact, living in rebellion against God. But he is spiritually dead. Therefore, quickening is essential. “...you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins...” The dead cannot cooperate or contribute in this matter. I’ve actually heard people try to discuss the issue from the vantage point of how dead the sinner really is, or to what degree he is dead. But someone is either dead or alive. If they’re dead, they can’t contribute, they can’t assist in the resurrection. That’s man’s fallen state, that’s where he is by nature. That’s why, if you once see man’s natural condition, as he is described in the Bible, it will not be difficult to understand that salvation is all of the Lord. It can’t be any other way. Third, we further say that salvation is all of God’s free grace and not based on anything foreseen or good in man. In Titus 3:3, Paul is describing something of our condition prior to grace, “...we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” We were not submissive, we were not obedient — we were disobedient. We were deceived. We were serving various desires, feeling justified in being angry and hateful. But there came a change. Verse four, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,..” How was it? “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost...” (v. 5). What brought about this great transformation? What was it that intervened? His love and His grace appeared. How did it appear? “Not by works of righteousness which we have done...” Salvation is not a payment given you for what you have accomplished. It is a free and sovereign gift; not by works of righteousness, but according to His mercy. The apostle Paul was the one who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was writing this epistle to Titus. And Paul knew very well—not only because God had revealed it to him—but he knew from his own personal experience what this grace was all about. When Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the church, it was not free will that struck him down on the road to Damascus. It was not free will that brought him to the position that he cried out, “Who art thou, Lord?” and then, secondly, “What shall I do, Lord?” The Apostle Paul was not on his way to a city-wide evangelistic crusade, he was going to persecute the church. He wasn’t looking for Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ found him. He moved upon him by His irresistible power. He humbled him, subdued him, transformed him, took that man who was the chief enemy of the church and made him the greatest of the apostles. He took one who despised the very gospel of the Son of God and sent him out preaching it far and wide, saying, “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Fourth, the call of God, then, is not frustrated by man’s obstinate will. If it were not for the grace of God nobody would ever say “yes” to Jesus Christ as their Lord. Jesus Himself said in John 5:40, “...ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” You will not come. Why is that man will not come? Well, for one thing, he doesn’t love God, he doesn’t fear God and he doesn’t seek God. Man will not come to the light because his deeds are evil and he loves the dark. Man will not come to God because he loves his sin and he doesn’t want to give it up. He will not come, he cannot come, because he is dead in sin. So, in spite of the fact that man never would come, by grace he is drawn. Psalm 110:3 says, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power...” Notice three things about that: it’s Thy people, it’s Thy day and it’s Thy power. God makes them willing in the day of His power. He does not force salvation on people that don’t want it — He makes them willing. The gospel of John opens with this sad statement, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” ( 1:11). He came to a people who had the oracles of God. He came to a people to whom all of the prophets had been sent. He came to a people who had seen all the types and shadows. But they received Him not. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power...” or, that is, the authority, “to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name...” But, you see, that’s not the end of a sentence. The sentence continues in the thirteenth verse, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” While He came to His own and they received Him not, there were those that received Him. What was it that brought them to believe in Him? They were born. This is talking about the spiritual birth; the same birth described by Jesus when talking to Nicodemus in the third chapter of the Gospel of John. They were born, not of blood. This spiritual birth, then, was not according to natural lineage. Nor of the will of the flesh. It wasn’t the concept of man’s free will that is often suggested. Nor the will of man—that of any other man—but of God. Of God! 2 Timothy 1:9 says that it is God, “who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling...”So what do we learn? Man will not come, but God draws His people by His grace. Consequently, we have to conclude it is all not by man’s will, but by God’s will. And since it is all by God’s will and God’s grace, then He receives all the glory.

How Is This Grace Presented in Scripture?

After giving these definitions, how is this work of irresistible grace or effectual calling presented in the Scripture? We said earlier that there is some designation in Scripture as to the particular work done by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the offices which they occupy. But it all comes together to present a Trinitarian view of what is accomplished because it is the one true and living God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—that is the source of our salvation.

The Trinity Irresistibly Calls

Let’s look at three verses to see how that even this calling of God is attributed to each of these persons of the Trinity. 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.” This word “draw” does not convey the thought that there’s a tug of war and God is trying His best to draw somebody but He may not make it. The picture here is just like letting a bucket down in the well, getting it full of water, and then drawing it out. God will draw His people to Him. He says this is the work of the Father — of the Father drawing, the Father calling, the Father executing irresistible grace. Now in John 5:21, “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” So, what do we learn? It is not only the work of the Father to draw, it’s the work of the Son to quicken, to make alive. In John 3:8 we see that the work is also attributed to the Holy Spirit, as Jesus says to Nicodemus, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”He’s talking about the new birth. He’s talking about the spiritual birth. And it is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. What do we learn from these three passages of Scripture? We see that the Father draws, the Son quickens, and the Spirit is that Person of the Godhead that accomplishes this work of regeneration. It is all of God.

Irresistible Grace As a Creation

We also see this irresistible call described in the Scriptures as a creation, such as in 2 Corinthians 5, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (v.17). If a person, then, is in Christ, he is a new creature. Ephesians 4:24, “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is...” What? “...created in righteousness and true holiness.”This is a transformation on the inside. This isn’t just a matter of cleaning up your act, trying to do a little better. But where you have a creature, you must, of necessity, have a creator. Many who would be perturbed at someone teaching their child evolution are, at the same time, denying the sovereign creation that God performs in the soul. They, in effect, purport a spiritual evolution, with man in his natural state evolving by his own effort to a higher level. Just as it required the sovereign God of heaven to create this Earth, so a creation is necessary where man is dead in trespasses and in sin. Who is it that can create? Can that which is created contribute to its own creation? No, it must be accomplished by the Creator. If you’re in Christ, you’re a new creature.

The Conflict Continues, With a Change

Now, the person that’s been born again will continue to have conflict. He’ll be heard to cry from time to time, even as Paul did, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). But an evidence that a person has been born again is that they now love righteousness. The general tenor of their life is in a godly path. They are made to hate sin and love that which is right and pleasing to God. They are deeply convicted of their sin. They see their faults, their failings. They grieve over it. To suggest that a person may make a public profession of faith in Christ, go on living in ungodliness, and truly have had an experience of grace is contrary to what the Word of God reveals. The evidence of salvation is that there is a transformation. There is a change. Ephesians confirms this thought of it being a creation: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” ( 2:10). His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus… unto good works, not because of them, but unto them. Sometimes people will interpret that text as though it’s saying, “Well, we should do it, but we may never get around to it.” That’s not what it’s talking about. Is that the way you would interpret that word “should” when you read in John 3:16 that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”? It’s not saying just that you ought not to perish: “You be careful here that you don’t perish.” No, the one that believes on Him certainly shall not perish. Likewise, He has ordained that you should do good works. And so if there’s a good work wrought in you, there’s going to be some good works displayed from you.

Irresistible Grace As A Resurrection

Back in the second chapter of Ephesians — we’ve already looked at verse one that says He quickened those who were dead in trespasses and in sin. Now, what brought about the change? Verse four, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (vv. 4-6). What do we learn from this? Salvation is not only described as being a creation, it’s described as being a resurrection. Do you remember that Mary and Martha had sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick? Jesus purposely delayed His visit to their home for two days. When He arrived, they were distraught, they were weeping. They said, our brother Lazarus is dead. Jesus went out to the grave. He commanded that the stone be rolled away. When Jesus—standing at the gaping mouth of the tomb—says, “Lazarus, come forth”… what happens? Is there argument? Is there resistance? Only whatever resistance death can muster against Life Himself. Lazarus came forth. Aren’t you glad that Jesus Christ speaks with a powerful voice? The life-giving voice of Jesus Christ is the one that brings about this resurrection.

What Is the Evidence of This Grace?

Surely every one of us should be interested to know, “Am I the recipient of the grace of God? Have I had an experience with Him? Do I belong to Him? If I died today what would happen to me? Where would I go? What is my destiny?” These are, obviously, serious questions. First of all, this irresistible grace of God brings an individual to a deep sense of sin. In this day and time, people don’t want to hear much about sin — or about God, Who is holy and just, hating sin and being angry with the wicked every day. Many may profess that religion is a good thing, or even that church is a good thing; but most do not want to be told that they are a corrupt sinner before a holy and perfect God. That’s outdated, that’s behind the times. But if I’m preaching to those who know themselves to be sinners, I’m thankful to be able to bring the gospel to you because I know you’re going to like it. In Mark 2:17, Jesus says,“They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” In vivid contrast to that Pharisee who stood boasting about what he had done and what he had not done, the publican smote upon his breast and said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” And Jesus said, “...this man went down to his house justified rather than the other...” (Luke 18:13b-14a). Have you ever been brought to that place? You know the things that God has forbidden that you’ve participated in anyway. You know of the things that He requires and demands, but you haven’t done. You know that you’re a sinne Secondly, the evidence of God’s work is that now I confess my sin and turn toward righteousness. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). It’s not just a matter of recognizing your sin. It’s not just a matter of being concerned even about the consequences of them, but it’s a matter now of hating your sin and loving righteousness. Your prayer becomes this, “Lord, I want to do right. I want to think pure thoughts. I want to be pure in heart. I want to live in a godly, upright way, to the glory of your name. I desire righteousness. Old Elder Pat Byrd, down in Georgia, used to talk about how some people claimed that everybody would finally wind up in heaven. He said, “If you take some of these rebels—these renegades who are running around in rebellion against God—and try to stick them in heaven, they’d be trying to tear down the pearly gates on their way in.” You see, if you don’t have a desire for righteousness, if you don’t love righteousness, you’d be miserable in heaven. The evidence of grace is that you love righteousness. You hunger after it. A third, clear evidence of the grace of God is that you receive the gospel message when it’s preached. Acts13:48 describes how that the gospel was preached to the Gentiles, “and when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord...” How do you glorify the word of the Lord? By believing it, embracing it, saying it’s the truth! “…and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Did they believe in order to be ordained to eternal life? No. They were ordained to eternal life and that’s why they believed. The evidence that they were God’s elect was that, when the message was preached, they received it. Man in his natural state does not see, hear, perceive, understand. But when the Lord opens a heart, oh, what a difference it makes! This is confirmed in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, “we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (vv. 23-24). A changed heart says, “That’s it. That’s good news. I delight in it.” That’s exactly what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he wrote to the church at Thessalonica. What was the evidence? He said in the fourth verse, “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God…” (1 Thessalonians 1:4). How did he know that? He says in verse five, “…for our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” Paul says, “Brethren, I know your election is of God and I know it because of the fact that when I preached the gospel to you, you received it, and you became a follower of us and of the Lord.” And, finally, he not only said that he knew their election by the fact that they had received the gospel and became a follower, but in verse nine he says, “...ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God...”Here was true repentance — you turned from idols. Have you, today, turned from the idols that have dominated your life? From the idol of your own pride and your own self-righteousness to confess, “My hope alone is in the grace of God and in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ”? An old hymn describes this truth that we’ve tried to preach.

 

Why are not feeble saints destroyed?

Why are not promises made void?

And sin my utter ruin proved?

His shalls and wills remain unmoved.

 

The weak become both strong and bold,

While on these words faith keeps her hold.

Mountains must melt and waves be still,

Obeying Jesus’ shalls and wills.

 

These potent words subdued my heart,

And made the love of sin depart.

Christ said, “My purpose I’ll fulfill.

You shall submit and reign I will.”

 

These words of sovereign power conveyed,

Confirmed each promise He had made.

My ifs and buts I laid aside,

And now in shalls and wills confide.

How wonderful to rest in the sovereign will of God, the sovereign grace of God, in the Person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Augustus Toplady said:

 

“Could my tears forever flow,

Could my zeal no languor know,

These for sin could not atone

Thou must save, and Thou alone.”