2014 Conference Session 4 - Irresistible Grace
Continuing our summaries of Burk Parsons' sessions on the Five Points of Calvinism
Many Are Called, Few are Chosen: Irresistible Grace
In a joint Sunday school class for adults and youth, Pastor Parsons began with a reminder: the five points of Calvinism were written as a defense against the followers of Jacob Arminius. “TULIP” is a handy way to remember the principal doctrines of the reformed faith, but they aren’t a “menu” where you can pick and choose the ones you like. (When it comes to picking and choosing, remember the favorite flower of the Arminians is the daisy. He loves me; he loves me not….)
One way to consider the topic of God’s irresistible grace is to speak of it in terms of His efficacious grace. Not only does his grace have an effect in our lives, but that grace “effects” (verb) a result in our lives. It causes something to be. As sinners who are born into this world “dead on arrival,” on our own we “naturally” resist God’s grace. We run from Him, rebel against Him, and resist him at every turn. The miracle is that God overcomes our resistance. As Luther explains in The Bondage of the Will, our wills are bound to do only what we are able to do. We sin because, as sinners, that’s what we want to do. God, however, graciously changes our will. How does this happen?
First, we hear an external call: the words of the gospel of grace. Next, we hear an internal call as God changes our will and we respond. The result? We are no longer dead in our sins, but are alive in Christ. Is this something we did? Of course not! A drowning man can’t save himself. As we read over and over in Ephesians 2:1-10, the one doing the acting is God: He made us alive…He chose us….He predestined us. When we hear the word “accept” in relation to the call of the gospel, we generally think of ourselves as “accepting” the invitation. But what does the Bible actually say? In Scripture, this language of “acceptance” is not that you or I accept Jesus, but that God accepts us. He makes us acceptable “in the beloved,” that is, in Christ. Don’t be fooled - there is no gray area. We are either running toward Him or away from Him. A dead man isn’t a seeker.
Notice that our new life isn’t our own. We are made alive together “with Christ.” We will be seated together “with Christ.” Our works have been prepared ahead of time “by Christ.” Lastly, and very practically, Rev. Parsons encouraged us: “Brothers and sisters, remember that these five points were never meant to be a sledgehammer but a pillow. These doctrines of God, who gathers us to Himself, are for our comfort, our joy, and our rest. Rejoice today that you have been bought and made alive by God’s work. Rest and receive it by faith.”