Q&A 14: What are your thoughts about irresistable grace?

Question: What are your thoughts about irresistible grace?


“Irresistible grace” is as unfortunate a term as is “limited atonement.” A far better way to describe this teaching is “effectual calling.” Those who affirm effectual calling believe that those who are predestined by God to be saved are effectually/effectively called to salvation. This seems to be the clear teaching of Romans 8:28-30 for example. They are not forced to come but they freely and willingly do so. Again as with the doctrine of unconditional election, there is a tension here. Effectual calling works in concert with freewill and our human responsibility to repent and believe the gospel. Timothy George has stated this so very well when he writes, “God created human beings with a free moral agency, and he does not violate this even in the supernatural work of regeneration. Christ does not rudely bolt his way into the human heart. He does not abrogate our creaturely freedom. No, he beckons and woos, he pleads and pursues, he waits and wins.” This particular doctrine naturally raises the issue of the order of salvation. Which comes first: regeneration or repentance in faith? Personally, I believe the Bible says all of this takes place simultaneously or at the same time. I do not think the Bible addresses the logical ordering of the soteriological process, and therefore neither do I.

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  1. Bruce H   •  

    The definition of grace merits the answer for me. I never could get my mind around “unmerited favor”. That definition didn’t fit every use of the word in scripture for me. Strong’s defined it, “Divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in life”. Then, in a seminar I went to, the first hour of a 32 hour seminar by Bill Gothard, I heard a definition, “Desire and power to do God’s will”. Because we resist any involvement of God dealing with our will we think it is true. I have never seen the support of scripture on our free moral agency. Poor Pharaoh didn’t have a free will to respond to what Moses was doing. Scripture did say God hardened his heart and did it for a purpose. Grace does give us a desire but not without cause. Many walked by the Pearl of Great price without recognizing it. Grace involves more than just a desire, it involves enlightenment, too. We are dead and dead men cannot see. In that moment grace is applied we see what we cannot resist. Don’t throw a million dollars at my feet and say it is mine. Nothing affects the will more than what proves to be value. With that, I was made for something other than this world, if grace opens to me the value of Christ I shall not, will not and cannot resist. My will remains intact and God glorified.

  2. cb scott   •  

    I think the content of this post, as was that of Q&A 13, is well stated.

    Thank you for writing both.

  3. Roger Simpson   •  

    Dr. Akin:

    I agree that the Bible does not give us a clear view of any type of “cause and effect” sequential ordering when it comes to God’s master plan. I don’t see any Biblical warrant to conclude that there is either temporal or logical ordering in terms of God’s plan. God knew everything at once and nothing surprised him or will catch him “off guard” in the future.

    God’s agenda was fixed prior to creation. So therefore, it is not meaningful to talk about the order in which various “decrees” were issued. So debating the pros and cons of various views – such as superlapsarianism, infralapsarianim, or any other kind of “lapsarianism” — is an exercise in speculation based upon a human construct that implicitly disregards God’s “unchanging” attribute.

    Roger Simpson Oklahoma City

  4. Dr. James Willingham   •  

    I remember saying to a friend of mine named Spurgeon that I had come to believe in irresistible grace in 1965 (we had been introduced to the doctrines of grace in the Fall of ’58 while attending East Texas Baptist College. Fast forward to ’65, we were both pastoring churches and met again on a campus, Lincoln U., in Mo.). He said he did not believe it. A few weeks later he won a young lady to Christ during an evangelistic effort. She responded so readily that he asked why. She answered, “O, it was so wonderful that I could not resist it.” He said, “When she said that, what you said about grace being irresistible popped into my mind.” I asked:”Well, have you changed your mind?” He said no but he was thinking about it. Fast forward again, Jan.’07. He had changed his mind and had come to see it as true: Grace is so wonderful that one cannot resist it. Could it be, Dr. Akin, that the doctrines of grace, TULIP plus Predestination and Reprobation are the truths of the First and Second Great Awakenings and of the launching of the Great Century of Missions? In 73 while pastoring in the Sandy Creek Assn. which originated as a result of the labors of men converted in the First Great Awakening and which experienced the Second Great Awakening and which took part in the paunching of the Great Century of Missions, I spoke to the Preachers’ Prayer Meeting of that Assn. on the subject of A Great Awakening. I preached the 5th and 10th anniversary services of that Prayer Meeting on the subject, “The Third Great Awakening.” Ever since 1973< I have been praying for a Third Great Awakening. I have not prayed for people to become Sovereign Grace believers (or calvinists as they are sometimes called), but it would seem likely that if God is going to answer that prayer He would bring back the theology of those two great awakenings. In any case, that is how I take it. I am not particularly interested in making calvinists per se. In fact, that is not my purpose. My purpose is seek God's answer to the prayer for another awakening. In the process, the theology is apparently coming back, and I have found in my studies that each of the aforementioned doctrines are evangelistic, invitational, compellingly, wonderfully winsome truths. I have since, encouraged by reading Dr. John Owens' The Death of Death in the Death of Christ and Spurgeon's Evening Devotions for Aug.6 amd Dec.24, begun praying for the conversion of the whole earth and every soul upon it, beginning hopefully with this generation and continuing for a thousand generations (I Chron.15:15-God does not waste His breath) and perhaps a thousand thousands worlds just so the Lord can make the humorous remark to His beleagured children in Rev.7:9 (no one – not even the Lord? perhaps implied by oudeis, no one – even the Lord?).

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  6. Derwin L. Gray   •  

    Great post Dr. Akin!

    Whatever God does, He does because He is good by nature (essentialism. And your post articulates that God is indeed God.

    When we go to extremes on this issue the character of God is wounded. He is either not all-loving or He is weak and in submission to man’s will.


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