God or Chance: Irresistible or Resistible Grace

Dear hijas,

How can sinners dead in their trespass and sin come to a saving knowledge in Christ? Since Christ died and purchased salvation to those the Father had given him (John 17: 2, 12), was it inevitable that these elect would come to faith in Jesus?

The question goes to the heart of the sovereign nature and power of God. Who’s ultimately and finally in control here, God or sinners themselves? Is God completely sovereign and powerful enough to choose a people for Himself? Can His decisions, His will be thwarted?

The Calvinists at the Synod of Dort said “YES”, those whom the Father had given and which Christ had purchased would inevitably come to faith in Jesus. Since God has chosen you, elected you, then you will inexorably come to faith. His decisions and will cannot be thwarted. His power cannot be contested, His sovereignty cannot be challenged. ‘…For who resists His will’ (Rom. 9:19)?

The Arminian Remonstrants said “NO”, it is not inevitable that man would come to faith in Christ. Man’s will is free from the effects of the Fall and therefore can accept or reject God’s offer of grace. Man is only ‘wounded’ and still has a conscious choice to take the ‘medicine’ of Jesus if he so chooses.

Calvin's TULIP

The Calvinists replied that when man fell, he died both physically and spiritually and is incapable by himself of choosing God, without God first initiating and regenerating his spirit. He’s dead, not sick or wounded, and it is the Holy Spirit which makes him alive. It is then the irresistible grace of God that the heart is changed, the mind is opened, and the will is transformed. It is this initial act of God that man is able, by the Spirit to come to faith. The outward call of the gospel must be accompanied by the inward call of the Spirit that a man “dead” in trespass and sin, now comes “alive” in Christ.

What the Synod of Dort said was that the grace of God is irresistible; that as a result of God’s mercy and regenerating power, the elect will repent and believe in the Son. This act of regeneration is monergistic–the work of God alone. ‘No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day’ (John 6:44).

By rejecting irresistible grace, the Arminian Remonstrants made man and his will ultimately sovereign. God’s glory and power are compromised, reduced to a mere vice-regent, roaming the earth knocking on the door of people’s hearts, hoping that people would see the wonder of His plan and accept Jesus as their personal Savior.

But this view is not the sovereign and Almighty God of power that created everything from nothing, mis hijas. God doesn’t ‘hope’ that you come to Him, as if He is wringing His hands in anxiety waiting for you to do so; as if exhibiting divine angst about which way you will go. No, He has divinely chosen you, elected you, by an act of His sovereign will to be His beloved child, reconciled you back to Him through an act of love that sent Christ to pay for your sin problem by His death on the cross, and is fulfilling His plan for you right now through to eternity. This is marvelous, wonderful to behold! And as we will see in the last letter of TULIP, His choosing you means He will never let you go. What love is this!

As always, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Vaya con Dios mis hijas!


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