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What is “irresistible grace”?

Another term for “irresistible grace” is “efficacious grace” which simply stresses that God works effectively to bring the elect to Christ. There is good evidence that the term “elect” is used in Scripture only of those who have trusted Christ and not of those who will because they are elected or chosen.

Scripture teaches are that none can come to Christ unless the Father draws him, but it also states that the Son seeks to draw all men to himself (cf. John 6:44 with 12:32). Further, the Bible is equally clear that men must personally believe in Christ as an act of their will (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). Note the following with regard to these difficult issues:

Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” (NIV) What the God has revealed to us we are to know and understand to the best of our ability, but the ultimate goal is knowing for the sake of applying. But obviously, as this verse suggests, there are many things we cannot know and that are not revealed to us.

Added to this is the emphasis of Isa. 55:8-9 which stresses the infinite depth of God’s mind in comparison to man’s thoughts. The passage reads: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (NIV)

“Since the Bible is special revelation from the mind of an infinite God, it often brings the human reader beyond the limits of intelligence,” i.e., beyond his capacity of comprehension (Ken Boa, Unraveling the Big Questions About God, p. 12) . Boa continues and writes:

As simple as the Bible is its message of sin and of free salvation through Christ, an incredible subtlety and profundity underlies all its doctrines. Even a child can receive Christ as his Savior, thereby appropriating the free gift of eternal life. Yet no philosopher has more than scratched the surface regarding the things that happened at the Cross. The Bible forces any reader to crash into the ceiling of his own comprehension, beyond which he cannot go until he sees the Lord face-to-face.

Boa adds the following important thought that we all need to take to heart as we seek to understand some to the hard truths of Scripture, those that fall into the category of mystery:

Until a person recognizes that his own wisdom and intelligence are not enough, he is not ready to listen to God’s greater wisdom. Jesus alluded to this when He said to God, “you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” Luke 10:21).

But instead, we take the position of the wise and seek to use or apply our logic to these difficult concepts of Scripture, and in the process, we reject, misinterpret, or distort the plain teaching of the Scriptures. We become as gods and act as though we have become God’s instructors. But again, I am reminded of the words of Isaiah. Listen to Isaiah 40:13-14

Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding? (NIV)

In short, the balance to all this is simply that: (1) we must accept our responsibility to witness or share the gospel while knowing that the Holy Spirit must work in order for a person to believe; that is not our job for only the Spirit can enable them (efficacious grace); (2) know that the person must believe the message to be saved; (3) that while God is at work to draw them to Himself (cf. Rom. 2:4) some will and some will not respond and they are each responsible for their choice.

Related Topics: Election