Through the centuries, some of the doctrines of God’s grace have been set forth by the acronym “TULIP”, which stands for
Perseverance of the Saints
In our last article we considered the doctrine of “Limited Atonement” where we learned that Christ made atonement for the sins of a particular people spoken of in scripture as the elect. As we considered “Unconditional Election”, we learned that this choice was not based upon human merit, but solely by God’s grace. As we come to the next letter in our acronym, we will discover a progressive flow of thought. Irresistible Grace has to do with the application of this salvation in the heart of the very same people.
The application of God’s salvation involves the personal call of God to every one of His elect. This call not only brings His people into a living relationship with their God, but it also changes them—it gives them spiritual life. From this spiritual life many other benefits are received. It gives them the ability to understand spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14,15); it gives them the desire to talk to their heavenly Father (Romans 8:14-16); it instills a desire for personal holiness (Matthew 5:6). And they are given a hope of heaven from this calling (Hebrews 11:1,13-16).
This call is referred to as irresistible because it can not be turned down. In this call, God is active, and the sinner is passive. Jesus compares this call with the wind, “the wind bloweth where it listeth (pleases)…so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Man has no more control over God’s spirit than he does the wind. God sends it and it exerts its sovereign power over all flesh.
This call is just as effective for the infant in the womb, as it is to the aged. The biblical illustration is given of John Baptist who leaped for joy in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:44). Joy is a fruit of the spirit. John was born again before he saw the light of day. And we see the thief on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him. They were both born of the spirit by the same sovereign, irresistible voice of God.
Many other examples are given in scripture. When Saul of Tarsus was called, he wasn’t on his way to a citywide revival. He hated Christ and those people who called themselves Christians. He was seeking papers from the authorities to put them to death. But the Lord appeared to Him and didn’t give him a choice, he gave him a change! Jesus changed his heart. In just a few moments his attitude changed from one of cursing Christ to asking Him, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do.” There were no tracts being passed out on that occasion, no preachers, no soft music playing in the background, and no money passed out to save the man. There was just a sinner and his saviour. That is all it takes. Saul, later known as the apostle Paul, was not looking for Jesus. Jesus found him and changed him. He performed an emergency operation on his heart. He removed the hard and stony heart and gave Saul a living heart, full of feeling and love for his Lord.
If you doubt our words, listen to Paul’s own testimony, “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace.”(Galatians 1:13-15).
Paul taught this doctrine extensively. To Timothy he wrote, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Timothy 1:8,9). If it is an offer the sinner must receive, it becomes a work. We all know that there are many who do not have the mental, or even the physical opportunity to hear or receive an offer. This is God’s work alone. You can read of this call in many other places, 1 Corinthians 1:26; Ephesians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Peter 2:9; 5:10; Jude 1:1; to name a few. These writers seem to be in complete agreement on the subject.
Some might be saying that God forces His salvation on people against their will. But according to Paul, if the Lord left it up to man to seek Him first, none would be saved, “there is none that seeketh after God (Romans 3:11). Yes, man is passive. But have you ever heard anyone say, “Boy, I wish I didn’t have this salvation. God forced it on me and I wish I didn’t have it. I really don’t want to go to heaven nor do I want to see my Savior.” We should be thankful for God’s irresistible grace that saves His people from their sin.