John didn’t hold a gun to my head, forcing me to marry him. Neither did he resort to blackmail. He never threatened me. In no way did he coerce me into this marriage. Rather, I married him both willingly and eagerly, absolutely delighted that he would choose someone like me for his bride. I guess you could say that, even though he chose me, I entered the marriage of my own free will.
But looking at it another way, I found John irresistible, even from our first online conversation. I’d arrange my schedule so that I’d almost always be home and on my computer by 4:00, when I knew he’d be online. I simply couldn’t stay away from him, even during that brief time when I’d broken our engagement. Obviously, I didn’t want to resist him. But that doesn’t negate the fact that I felt drawn to him in a way that I found…well, irresistible!
I say all this because it helps me understand the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. While all analogies break down at some point, reflecting on the way I felt inescapably drawn to John, as well as my sense of wonder that he selected me (when he could have had any woman on the planet), gives me a way of understanding how the Lord draws His elect.
Christians throughout the centuries have fought against the teachings on election, predestination and Irresistible Grace by arguing that God gives us a Free Will to either choose or reject Christ. They often interpret passages about election by emphasizing God’s foreknowledge. According to their theology, God elected those that He already knew would accept His invitation to salvation. Thus, a person makes the ultimate decision regarding whether or not they would be included in His elect.
I sympathize with those who take that position more than people might think. Until very recently, it may surprise you to know, I pretty much subscribed to that line of reasoning. Although it would be sinful for me to speculate on why others hold tightly to the doctrine of Free Will and the idea that election depends on God’s foreknowledge, I can explain my reason for embracing them: pride.
I wanted to take some of the credit for having become a Christian, and the whole idea that a sovereign God actually elected me was just too humbling. I admired myself for “deciding” to follow Jesus, and I’d often word my testimony to gain the admiration of other Christians.
So yes, I actually understand why the very thought of Irresistible Grace troubles Christians who believe in Free Will. Furthermore, I acknowledge that most of those people probably have purer motives than I had.
Yet, Scripture always nagged at me, faithfully confronting me with the reality that God had called me to Himself without any assistance from me. Many passages worked together to convince me that He had done all the work, but I have neither the time nor the space today to show all of them to you. Therefore I want to limit myself to the one passage (familiar to my regular readers) that the Holy Spirit used to finally change my mind.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~~Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)
Notice the premise that, until God showed His mercy, we were spiritually dead. Ladies, let me state the obvious: dead people can’t do anything for themselves! But taking it even deeper, dead people have no wills even to choose life. It follows, then, that God gave us the willingness to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ when He brought us from the death of our sins to life in Him.
Advocates of Free Will typically insist that the doctrine of Irresistible Grace reduces us to robots. But as I mediate on the beautiful description of transformation in Ephesians 2:1-10 (as well as other Bible passages about His sovereign grace in choosing His elect), I see myself willingly responding to Him. Rather than dutiful or grudging obedience, I take great joy in following Him. And, quite frankly, I find His grace totally irresistible.