Theological Commitments of the Biblical Gospel: Unable to Resist God’s Calling

Dragged against your free will?

Resistance to the Gospel

If a person is elect, what assures that they will actually answer this divine call? The Arminian/semi-Pelagian, seeing everything through the lens of libertarian free-will, assumes that man can walk away from the drawing of the Spirit of God. But clear and straightforward passages such as the so-called “golden chain of redemption” in Rom 8:28-30 show that the process once begun by God cannot be thwarted:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28–30, ESV)

Again, if the Lord God is sovereign in all things, he must have the power to overcome the deadness of sin and the resistance that inevitably comes from the naturally sinful desires of the elect before they are regenerate. The one who rejects the irresistible calling of God point to the observable reality of those who on a daily basis reject the gospel call of the evangelist.

But this general or universal declaration of the world to be saved is not the call of salvation we are speaking of here. This universal call is, of course rejected every day by many. We are speaking here of the “electing call” of God. This is the act of the Spirit of God moving, changing, provoking the will of the sinner so that all at once he sees his guilt before a holy God and his spiritual predicament, he also sees his need for a Savior, and he sees the beauty of Christ and how irresistible the call to come and drink of the living waters is. 

Dr. Lloyd-Jones says of this doctrine:

And again I could refer you to Ephesians 1:18 and to 1 Thessalonians 1:5 once more, and to Philippians 2:13. In other words, there are proofs positive of this statement that it is the internal operation of the Holy Spirit upon the soul and the heart of men and women that brings them into a condition in which the call can become effectual. And when the Spirit does it, of course, it is absolutely certain, and because of that some people have used the term—which I do not like myself—irresistible grace. I do not like the term because it seems to give the impression that something has happened which has been hammering at a person’s will and has knocked him down and bludgeoned him. But it is not that. It is that the Holy Spirit implants a principle within me which enables me, for the first time in my life, to discern and to apprehend something of this glorious, wondrous truth. He works upon my will. ‘It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do.’ He does not strike me; He does not beat me; He does not coerce me. No, thank God, what He does is operate upon my will so that I desire these things and rejoice in them and love them. He leads, He persuades, He acts upon my will in such a way that when He does, the call of the gospel is effectual, and it is certain, and it is sure. God’s work never fails, and when God works in a man or woman, the work is effective. [1]

When Paul and Silas approached the women who worshipped by the river in Philippi, it says in Acts 16:14 that “The Lord opened [Lydia’s] heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” The Lord did not destroy her volition, but as the Sovereign Lord, he overcame her inability to see and understand and believe so that she paid attention to the gospel and believed.

Those who say that they believe in the sovereignty of God yet, because of love, God allows man to have a free will to choose or reject him is biblically, theologically and logically flawed. If God gives up his sovereignty in the area of salvation, he is not truly sovereign, because God cannot ordained the end without ordaining the means. God’s saving grace overcomes the internal resistance by changing the will of those whom he will save so that they have ears to hear and eyes to see and a heart to behold the glories of Christ, the One who died to set them free from their sins.

[1] David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God the Holy Spirit (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1997), 73.

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