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The Doctrines of Grace: TULIP Revisited
by Carol Berubee

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Irresistible Grace, Part III

Common Questions
Going through your head now may be something like this: So, if this grace is irresistible, that means that those who receive it have no choice; they're like robots who just do whatever God pre-determined for them to do, right? But God didn't make robots, he made people who have the freedom to choose. People can choose to resist, robots can't, so that's why God didn't make us like robots.

You are correct. God did not create robots. He created clay. Remember, Adam was created from the ground, the dirt. This is the true word of God and so we believe that when Genesis 2:7 says that God created Adam from the dirt, then that is what happened. But we also see this concept throughout the Bible and it offers a great symbolic teaching (Job 10:8-9, 33:6; Isaiah 29:16, 45:9; Romans 9:21).

When God created Adam, He formed him from the dirt, but He also breathed life into him. Adam was made in the image of God. Man has a spirit, but the spirit of the natural man is dead due to sin; it is at regeneration that the spirit is reborn and reconciled to God.

Man has a spirit and a will; robots have neither. People have volition; we do make choices, we do think and act on emotions and logic. People are responsible; when we sin, it is our fault. Robots are not responsible; if something goes wrong, it is the programmer who is at fault.

God did not create us to be robots; He formed us of clay and breathed life into us. We are living beings, but we are not free; we are bound in sin, sin that is of our own making. We are stuck. But we are in the hands of the Potter and as the Potter chooses, He shapes us and molds us. When the Potter decides to apply the power of His saving grace, the clay is changed forever; it is restored to its original design. But even within that original design, there are many variations. Within the Body of Christ, no two people are alike. The Potter has allowed that living, breathing clay to have personality, emotions, and a will. Each vessel is unique.

And now the question is: But doesn't Stephen say, in Acts 7:51, "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you"? So, then, doesn't this mean that even those who saw and heard the Son of God can then resist the Spirit? That means grace is not irresistible.

First, as we said earlier, there are different forms of grace and different "calls." These particular Jews resisted the Spirit simply because they had not received the inward call. They were often convicted by Jesus and by the Spirit, but this only made them angry. Their decision was to fight against God, but this decision was in keeping with their nature.

Second, the key piece of information that needs to be understood is right there in the verse. Stephen says that these Jews were "uncircumcised in heart." This only adds to the argument for the doctrines of unconditional election and irresistible grace. These Jews could not receive the things of the Spirit. They could not do anything but resist the Spirit. Why? Because their hearts were still uncircumcised. Only the circumcised in heart can overcome the natural resistance to the Spirit. God circumcises the heart of the elect; He is the one who softens the heart. Once the heart is circumcised, grace is willingly received.

Those with uncircumcised hearts will always resist the Spirit, as Stephen attests. The question is, who circumcises the heart? Depraved man, bound in sin? Or, God, the One who creates and elects and makes atonement?

And one of the most common misconceptions is: God doesn't force people to accept Him. He gives people a choice.

First, people do have a choice, but they choose according to their nature.

Second, God does not force people to accept Him. When His love shines upon them, they willingly accept Him. It is only in the light that the sinner sees his sin for what it is. In this light, the sinner does not resist; he willingly puts his trust in God. It is God's love that shines so bright upon our sin and exposes us for what we are. It is in this light of love that we are set free from what we were. The sinner loves God because God first loved the sinner (1 John 4:19).

"Love...does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth..." (1 Corinthians 13:6). God's love changes us. He regenerates us, He shows us who we are and who He is. We respond with love because we have a new heart. This love rejoices in the truth; there is no resistance.

2 Corinthians 4:6
"For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ"

Colossians 1:12-13
"...giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love..."

We did not do anything to "qualify;" He qualified us to be partakers. We became qualified when He elected us. We did not deliver ourselves, but He delivered us from the power of darkness.

Acts 9 tells us without doubt that Saul of Tarsus could no longer resist the Spirit. First, "a light shone around him from heaven" (v. 3). This is the light of truth that shone so brightly to Saul that he could not do anything but fall to the ground. Yet, those men with him did not see the light. They heard a voice, but did not experience the blinding light (v. 7). This is the difference between those who hear the words of God and also see the light, and those who only hear the words. Saul's companions did not fall to the ground even though they heard the words of the risen Christ.

We also need to see in verse 5 that those who have received the power of His saving grace can no longer "kick against the goads" (cf. Acts 26:14). The goad is a sharp prod used to prick the legs of a work animal, such as an ox, to get him to move a certain way. What the Lord is saying to Saul here is that it has been painful for Saul to fight against the Lord's will. God will have His way and the longer someone fights against His will, the more intolerable it will be. When the light is shone and the heart is regenerated, the sinner is relieved, he is no longer in torment, and he willingly puts his trust in God. The Christian is one who has joyously received the love of God.

If you are a Christian, I would ask you: Did God force you to choose Him? Did you begrudgingly accept Him? I would hope you would recognize that God did not force you, but that you joyously put your trust in Him.

If you are not a Christian, I would ask you: What difference does it make to you whether God elects and saves certain people? If you are of the elect, there will come a day when you will be rejoicing in salvation. If you are not of the elect, then that means you don't want a relationship with God anyway. Why would you be upset that you won't be with God for eternity? You don't love Him anyway. In fact, maybe you really dislike Him, or maybe you don't even believe in Him. Any resistance you put up is not resistance to the true call of salvation; you're not more powerful than God. The only resistance you put up is in accordance with your sin nature and is only resistance to the true goodness and light that is the evidence of God in the world. If you are not of the elect, you will turn your back on the evidence of God. The fact that you're not of the elect shouldn't matter to you. But does it matter to you? Does it bother you that you are lost in your sin and separated from God? Then maybe you are of the elect. And, if so, wouldn't you be grateful?

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