Generally, evangelism should present evidence of a person’s need for salvation, followed by an explanation that Jesus died as a substitute for that person, rising again as a guarantee of eternal life for those who would believe in Him. From there, evangelism should instruct the person to repent of their sin and put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have little doubt that I’ll write future blog posts elaborating on these points.
Neither John nor I came to faith as a result of such a presentation, however. Yet the Holy Spirit exposed us to Scripture, and worked through that Scripture to give us saving faith (please see Romans 10:17). I believe our rather unconventional conversions each testify to God’s Irresistible Grace.
An updated phrase for Irresistible Grace (and a phrase I used yesterday) is effectual call.” Both terms emphasize the idea that the people God elects for salvation will respond to Him. Obviously, I can’t type out all the verses and passages that substantiate this doctrine, but OpenBible.info provides this helpful compilation.
Our Armimian brothers and sisters, many of whom genuinely know and love the Lord, argue that Irresistible Grace violates the doctrine of free-will. I agree! The Bible, even in the verses that appear to teach free-will, consistently affirms the ultimate sovereignty of God. Therefore, He gives us a willingness to choose Him as a result of our regeneration.
In addressing the matter of the effectual call, it follows, we must maintain that the doctrine of free-will suggests that God is at the mercy of human choice. Arminians believe that God’s foreknowledge of who would respond to the Gospel determined who He included as His elect. I certainly used to embrace that theory. But eventually He confronted me with Ephesians 1:3-10.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (ESV)
Notice verse 4, which says that the Father chose us. It gives absolutely no indication that He looked helplessly down the “corridors of time” to see who would decide to follow Jesus. This passage depicts a God Who fully controls redemptive history (and all history, for that matter) according to His plans and purpose.
Making the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth dependent on whether or not or not we choose to be saved erodes His sovereignty. As a matter of fact, the doctrine of free-will pretty much transfers sovereignty to us. Isn’t that essentially blasphemous? I think so!
Additionally, the doctrine of free-will assumes that human beings possess an ability to choose to follow Christ. I’ll remind you, in considering this point, of Ephesians 2:1-3.
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. (ESV)
These verses describe unregenerate people. In other words, this is who you and I were prior to becoming Christians (and who you are if you don’t yet have saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ). Our physical bodies functioned, but we had no capacity or desire to respond to the things of God. We lacked any ability to come to Him on our own volition (consider Romans 3:10-18). Consequently, we can only choose to follow Christ after the Holy Spirit does His regenerating work in us.
Of course, entire books devote themselves to refuting the doctrine of free-will, beginning with Martin Luther’s The Bondage of the Will (which I’m currently slogging through), so I hardly think that this minuscule article will settle the question. But I wanted you to see the Scriptures that have most helped me work through this objection to Irresistible Grace.