Updated: Mar 16
In the previous post, we discussed the third letter of TULIP. If you haven't read that article, you can find it here. This article explores the fourth letter of the acronym, Irresistible Grace.
Henry Osawa Tanner, Oil on Canvas
When the religious leader Nicodemus came to Jesus in the darkness of the night, hoping to shed some light on who Jesus was, he heard something he would never have imagined:
"You must be born again." - John 3:7
When a person is saved, he is made a new creation. The old passes away and the new comes (2 Cor. 5:17). This is called regeneration, which is essential for salvation. We are sinful by nature and unwilling to seek after God. Therefore, God's grace, for it to be effective, must be transformative, and it must be irresistible.
If God sought to woo us to himself simply by offering the gospel and waiting for us to receive it, no one would. If he held out the gift of salvation with an open hand, we would stick up our noses at it. Indeed, this is what happened when Jesus came to his own.
"But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'" - Matthew 11:16-24
In his sinful state, the natural man is offended by the offer of the gospel. He believes it to be foolish. Therefore, he resists the grace of God at every turn (1 Cor. 2:14). What he needs is irresistible grace. This is how it works. God draws us to himself. He makes us a new creation. He frees our will from its bondage to sin, and by his grace, we freely run to him and are saved. Jesus explains it like this:
"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
Irresistible grace is necessary because no one would be saved without it.
When I was a teenager, fifteen, I went to Bible camp. The gospel was preached every day that I was there. I remember sitting in the old chapel with its wooden chairs and arched ceiling beams. It was the first night. There was no air conditioning, and it was hot.
The pastor preached about how God had made him a new man. He talked about "the old me" and "the new me." I remember it clearly, but I also remember I did not understand it. At the end of his message, he invited us to the front if we wanted to receive Christ and be saved.
I remember feeling a deep conviction over my sin, but I resisted it. I thought I had already been saved, but I didn't really know what that meant. My lack of understanding and slight embarrassment held me back.
I returned to my cabin that night, and the conviction over my sin didn't leave. The next day it only grew. I told myself that at chapel that night, I would go forward. The pastor preached, but he didn't invite us forward. Disappointed, I waited until the next night, but the same thing happened. He didn't invite us forward for the next two nights. I was in turmoil, and I still didn't understand the gospel. All I knew was that I needed to get saved.
On the final night of chapel, I was really concerned that I would miss out on being saved, but then it happened. The pastor preached a gospel message, and he used an illustration that clearly explained what Christ had done for me.
He filled a large jar with a clear liquid and dropped small drops of dark-colored liquid inside. He said the dark drops represented our sin. I could relate. But then he said that Jesus died to wash away our sins, and he poured another liquid into the jar. Immediately, the dark-stained liquid turned clear again. I was on the edge of my seat, and it was at that moment, I believe, God regenerated my heart.
A moment later, the pastor invited us forward, and I didn't hesitate. I didn't resist. I was at the front of the stage before I knew what was happening. A counselor prayed with me, and we wrote on a small piece of paper the day I was saved, July 22, 2004.
As a young man, I didn't understand that I could have gone to God without an altar call, but God used it anyway. He used that gospel message to draw me to himself.
Weeks later, I was speaking with my dad about it, and he was explaining to me the doctrines of grace. He talked about irresistible grace, and I said, "That's not true because I resisted it. When the pastor called us forward on the first night, I resisted it."
But then he explained to me that I resisted it at first because of my sinful nature, but then I went forward because I could resist it no longer. God had worked salvation in my soul. He caused me to be born again, and I went freely to him, receiving his irresistible grace.
Irresistible grace is necessary for salvation because sinful humanity will not come to God without it. We are content to stay in our sinful state. Indeed, we will resist God at every turn. Therefore, he must cause us to be born again. He must draw us to himself, and he does this with complete effectiveness. Thus, the glory goes entirely to God, for salvation is of the Lord from beginning to end.