TULIP – The Fourth Point: (I) Irresistible Grace

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2013
Now comes Point Four: The “Way Conversion Occurs” necessarily means that only the elect will be granted the gift of grace from God which will be irresistible, not that the elect will resist until finally their will is broken down by God until they receive the Gospel, but that God’s grace will not be resisted at all.

The Fourth Point: (I) Irresistible Grace.

The Canons of Dordt combine what they call “Human Corruption, Conversion to God and the Way it Occurs” as the Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine.” We have discussed “Human Corruption” (Total Depravity) under the First Point. Their Fourth Point is the nearest equivalent to Irresistible Grace, even though it covers much of what we have considered concerning the ability of the unsaved to believe in Christ. They consistently affirm that regeneration must be granted by God before anyone can believe. Their presentation of the Fourth Point will continue to show that their system must follow the logical order with which it began:

Point One: The human race is totally depraved, thus incapable of believing faith.

Point Two: Only God’s special group were unconditionally elected to receive regeneration by which they are born again and receive God’s special gift of faith, enabling only them to believe and be saved.

Point Three: Thus, the atonement by Christ on the cross is limited to the Elect, since they, and only they, will ever be saved.

Now comes Point Four: The “Way Conversion Occurs” necessarily means that only the elect will be granted the gift of grace from God which will be irresistible, not that the elect will resist until finally their will is broken down by God until they receive the Gospel, but that God’s grace will not be resisted at all. The Canons of Dordt never use the actual term, “Irresistible Grace,” but several statements indicate that this is exactly what they intend to portray. After all, this whole matter was settled from eternity; how could it possibly be resisted by totally depraved humans without free will!!

Article 7: God’s Freedom in Revealing the Gospel.

“In the Old Testament, God revealed this secret of his will to a small number; in the New Testament (now without any distinction between peoples) he discloses it to a larger number. The reason for this difference… (must be ascribed to)… the free good pleasure and undeserved love of God. Therefore, those who receive so much grace, beyond and in spite of all they deserve, ought to acknowledge it with humble and thankful hearts; on the other hand, with the apostle they ought to adore (but certainly not inquisitively search into) the severity and justice of God’s judgments on the others who do not receive this grace.”

Article 10: Conversion as the Work of God.

The fact that others who are called through the ministry of the gospel and do come, and are brought to conversion must not be credited to man, as though one distinguishes himself by free choice from others who are furnished with equal and sufficient grace for faith and conversion. No, it must be credited to God; just as from eternity he chose his own in Christ, so within time he effectively calls them, grants them faith and repentance, and having saved them from the dominion of darkness, brings them into the kingdom of his Son.

In dealing with Total Depravity, it was necessary to quote from the Canons of Dordt, Points Three and Four, Articles 12, 14, 16. But since these articles are so closely connected to (I) Irresistible Grace, repeated quotations from Articles 14, 15, 16 are unavoidable.

Article 14: The Way God Gives Faith.

In this way, therefore, faith is a gift of God, not in the sense that it is offered by God for man to choose, but that it is in actual fact bestowed on man, breathed and infused into him. Nor is it a gift in the sense that bestows only the potential to believe, but then awaits assent—the act of believing—from man’s choice; rather it is a gift in the sense that he who works both willing and acting and, indeed, works all things in all people, produces in man both the will to believe and the belief itself.

Comment: Man therefore has no will to believe until God “breathes and infuses it into him?” So he must be regenerated before he can exercise faith in Christ!! So the cart must come before the horse?

Article 15: Responses to God’s Grace.

God does not owe this grace to anyone. For what could God owe to one who has nothing to give that can be paid back?… Therefore, the person who receives this grace owes and gives eternal thanks to God alone; the person who does not receive it either does not care at all about these spiritual things and is satisfied with himself in this condition, or else in self-assurance boasts about something which he lacks.

Comment: But why and how can unregenerate man care about spiritual things when he has no free will to care? How can he boast about something he is unable to comprehend at all?

Article 16: Regeneration’s Effect.

This article was partially quoted before, but we want to add one more segment which helps to explain Irresistible Grace. “Also this divine grace of regeneration does not act in people as if they were blocks and stones, nor does it abolish the will and its properties or coerce a reluctant will by force, but spiritually revives, heals, reforms, and—in a manner at once pleasing and powerful—bends it back. As a result, a ready and sincere obedience of the Spirit now begins to prevail where before the rebellion and resistance of the flesh were completely dominant. It is in this that the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consists. Thus, if the marvelous Maker of every good thing were not dealing with us, man would have no hope of getting up from his fall by his free choice, by which he plunged himself into ruin when still standing upright.”

Comment: Here again, this whole system really stands or falls with the First Point, the Total Depravity of Man. From the viewpoint of the TULIP reasoning, nothing is possible for the unregenerate man; he must be regenerated first; only then can he believe. This logic carries through—he cannot be regenerated unless he has been elected by God, for he has no will of his own—it has been “spiritually killed.” Only the sins of the Elect have been Atoned for by the blood of Christ, and only the Elect will ever be the recipients of the grace of God, which, when it is given as part of the regeneration process, will not be resisted. As a result of regeneration, “a ready and sincere obedience of the Spirit now begins to prevail, where the rebellion and resistance of the flesh were completely dominant.”

Some verses they use as “proof” of this action by God:

Jeremiah 31:33 “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.”
Isaiah 44:3 “I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring.”
Romans 5:5 “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit in you; and I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Not one of these verses ever mentions that the regeneration of the Spirit comes before belief!

Ephesians 1:19 is misinterpreted. Paul is praying for Ephesian Christians asking God to “give unto you (Ephesian Christians) the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, the eyes of your understanding (as Christians) being enlightened (verses 17, 18)… That ye (Ephesian Christians) may know what is the hope of his calling… And what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe (tous pisteuantos, aorist active masculine participle; that is, to us “as believing ones”), according to the working of his mighty power.”

The Canons of Dordt interpret thus: “The apostles who teach that we believe by virtue of the effective working of God’s mighty strength.” To them, it is that “we believe by virtue of God’s mighty power” rather than a prayer from the Apostle Paul that God would give to these believing Christians all those things mentioned in his prayer, as part of their Christian growth, not as part of their regeneration!

It is certainly true that God works in the minds and hearts of unbelievers in order to persuade them to believe and be born again, but this is always pre-regeneration action; it is never called regeneration!

God the Father draws the unsaved, John 6:44 “No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him.” The word draw is from helku-o. R. C. Trench contrasts this with the word suro: “In suro there is always the notion of force, but in helku-o it is not necessarily there…. How is it that men are drawn to the Lord? Not by force, for the will is incapable of force.” Trench then compares the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint; LXX) use of this word helku-o in Jeremiah 31:3 “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” In Song of Solomon 1:4 “Draw me after thee,” rather than suro: “In helkuein is predominantly the sense of drawing to a certain point; in suro merely a dragging after one” (Synonyms of the New Testament, pp. 72-74). It is clear that sinners are drawn by the Father, not dragged toward salvation with no will of their own.

God the Holy Spirit convictsthe world (kosmos) of sin, righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7,8). Convict is from elegcho: “To show someone his sin and summon him to repentance” (Kittle’s Theological Word Studies, Vol. 2, p. 474).

Then, from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, pages 202-203: “to convict, to refute, to confute, generally with the suggestion of the shame of the person convicted… to bring to light, to expose, Jn. 3:20.” Please note that this is not regeneration, but merely conviction. First, conviction “of sin, because they believe not on me” since refusing to believe on Christ is that which keeps a person out of heaven; “of righteousness, because I go to the Father and ye see me no more” since the Holy Spirit takes up this work of declaring a righteous God, convicting sinners that they must abandon their own righteousness and receive the righteousness provided by Christ as their means of fitness for heaven (Rom. 4:5); “of judgment because the prince of this world is (has been) judged” since Christ triumphed over Satan at the Cross, and has made peace with God available to the sinner (Col. 1:20; 2:14,15).

All this work of drawing and convicting the sinner is pre-regeneration work. Then what is regeneration? Definition: Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit whereby He imparts eternal life to any sinner who believes in Christ, with the result that the sinner is born again (Titus 3:5). Regeneration is also described as: New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17), New Nature (2 Pet. 1:4); New Heart (Ezek. 36:26-27).

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