Calvinism: From God or Man? #8 Examining "Irresistible Grace"
In order for a person to go to Heaven, a change must occur in that person. A person must be converted to Christ. Matthew 18:3 says “Verily, I say unto you unless you are concerted and become like little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
There is no doubt then, that people must be converted in order to be saved. The natural question then is, how are people converted? Is it based on their faith in the Word of God? Is it based on Faith working with the Grace of God that brings men to salvation? In other words, is it something that God does to man, naturally through His Word? Something within the word of God that causes one to so move, and change his life based on the Grace of God, so that he is converted to following the Christ.
Or, is it something that God does to man, supernaturally? Meaning, that God comes to a man and “forces” him by his supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit to obey his will. And then a man can have a change of heart and be converted?
These are the questions we will deal with today, as we discuss the fourth petal on the Calvinistic Tulip that we began talking about a while back. The “I” in the acrostic “Tulip” stands for Irresistible Grace.
Calvinist Brian Schwertley says: “The Calvinistic doctrine of efficacious (irresistible) grace can be understood only if one has a correct understanding of total depravity and the doctrine of regeneration.”
He continues on the same page and says: “ Because man is spiritually dead, only a radical, all-pervasive change in man’s heart can enable him to embrace Jesus Christ. In order for God’s grace to be sufficient for any man, it must be efficacious (having the power to produce a desired effect or we might say, not able to be resisted). Only the power of God working DIRECTLY upon the human soul can infuse it with new life.”
Notice: Here is a man; according to the Calvinist, he can not do anything in the world, to even desire to change. He cannot think about God, he cannot want to make a change and do right. He has absolutely no free will to do anything spiritually. And so, what has to happen is that God, by His HOLY SPIRIT must come and – whether the man wants to change or not, (which he can not want to change, according to the teaching) so here is a man, who doesn’t even want to change, doesn’t care to follow God, but the Holy Spirit comes and FORCES – (that is the irresistible part.) He forces that man to change. And so again, man has no choice but to obey God.
Now Calvinists will try to get around the idea that God “forces” a person to obey.
For instance, Edwin H Palmer in his book called “The Five Points of Calvinism” says on page 35
“Contrary to what most people think, the Calvinist teaches that man is free--one hundred percent free--free to do exactly what he wants. God does not coerce a single one against his will. And just because man is free, man is a slave. Just because man does what he wants to do, man has no free will. (which is different from saying that he is free)...”
Confusing right? Well, He also states on page 36
“Incidentally, the Christian has no free will either. He may technically have the external option to choose or reject Christ, but basically, he does not. Christ will not let him reject Him.”
And so we see that according to Calvinism, man has no freedom to Choose, and so, in the end, God is the one who forces salvation and damnation upon people. At least, according to Calvinism.
Calvinism teaches that God, comes, and irresistibly, that is, he gives a person no choice, but forces a change upon the heart of the individual. So that he then must follow God.
So that is the idea. That the Holy Spirit, in a supernatural way, comes to a person and “changes” his heart and upon that change of heart, the person will obey God.
So we have two options for us today. Number 1, as we mentioned, the Holy Spirit comes to a soul who has absolutely no desire to follow God, then all of a sudden, now he will follow God because the Holy Spirit has changed his heart.
Or, the second option is, that a person hears the word of God, believes what he hears, upon his belief, he with the help of God through his Word and his providence, the man proves his faith, by following after God.
Now we will not go through every single passage of scripture, I am just hopeful that we can whet your appetite, and cause you to want to study the Word of God more, and in it, I am quite confident that you can read your Bible and come to the Truth as God has said it.
But let us go ahead and start right where the Calvinist likes to begin. They use a lady named Lydia as their prime example.
And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. (Acts 16:14)
Let us notice a few things, in the context of this passage. And let’s ask the question, did the Holy Spirit make her believe? Or did the words spoken, cause her to believe?
Let us start reading in verse 13
13And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. 14And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. 15And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
Notice, verse 14 says, there was a woman, and she was already worshipping God. Now, this is not going to work for the Calvinist, because for his doctrine to be right, the Spirit must first come to her, before she can worship God. But the text clearly says, a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us:
Now, not only was she already worshipping God but notice, it says she “heard us.” Heard us what? What were they doing there, talking about football? Performing a stand-up comedy routine? No, they were there, they were preaching, and the text says, she heard them. Then it says, the Lord opened her heart.
So how did that happen, how did the Lord open her heart? I suggest to you that it happened the same way it does today, by the word of God being sown into the hearts of men, and by His word, He changed her.
He opened her heart by the word of God. That is why Jesus would give the parable of the seeds and the soils. Remember he says in Luke 8:11-12:
11Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
Jesus said, the seed is the Word of God. Then he said the devil comes and takes away the Word, why? Unless they believe and be saved.
Once the word spoken or preached, is allowed to linger, and if it is planted in the right heart, the word will open up that heart, and the person will be saved. That is what we see in Lydia, and that is what we see today.
I submit to you today, that the Holy Spirit of God, wrote the word of God, through inspired writers. He spoke through men in the first century, but once those inspired men died, the Holy Spirit had given us all things that pertain to life and to Godliness in the Word of God. (2 Peter 1:3)
And today, the Spirit of God leads all men to salvation by the use of the Word of God.
I want to say to you today, that the way that victories are won, is by the soldiers doing the fighting. The way battles have been pictured throughout history, and certainly in the days of the Apostles, is that soldiers stood with their weapons drawn for battle, and with their weapon they were victorious.
Well, friend, may I suggest to you today what God said a great while ago. That the sword of the spirit is the Word of God. (Eph. 6:17) And, when the word of God is wielded properly, the word of God is the victor. Yes, the Holy Spirit is the one holding the sword, but the sword is the means by which the Holy Spirit does his fighting.
Notice Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.” Paul did not say the sword of the Spirit is not the Word of God. Paul did not say the sword of the Spirit sometimes is the Word of God. He said, “The sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.”
The Holy Spirit cannot be separated from His Word. Therefore, anyone claiming a direct operation of the Holy Spirit today denies Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:17.
The Direct operation of the Holy Spirit today is a false tenet of Calvinism. It seems that once the position of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the human spirit is taken, the power and place of the Word of God loses its luster.
The idea of Irresistible Grace has the Holy Spirit acting for God, in such a way, that it makes the Bible of no effect for anyone.
We all agree that the Holy Spirit operates today. The question is “How?” If directly “in addition to” the Word of God, then the Calvinistic position is taken wherein the Holy Spirit is (at least at times) separated from His sword, His medium.
If however, he acts only through the Word of God, then the text in Ephesians 6:17 is correct.
Folks, the Calvinist says the Word of God doesn’t save, it is the Holy Spirit. But I want us to see what the Bible says.
21Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
Now, what was it that is able to save people’s souls? The engrafted Word of God.
I submit to you that the Holy Spirit acts today upon the hearts of men, by using his sword, the Sword which belongs to the Holy Spirit which is the Word of God.
The Holy Spirit Instructs Through the Word of God
In Nehemiah 9:20 we hear these words:
20Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.
Some people say, “see, the Holy Spirit instructs people.” Of course He does, we agree He does. The question is “how” does He instruct people? Does He do it directly, miraculously? Or does He do it indirectly by the Word, spoken or written?
Notice vs 30 of the same passage.
30Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.
How were they instructed? By the Spirit in the prophets. The word of God, spoken and written by the prophets. The same is true in the New Testament as well.
Notice 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
We agree the Holy Spirit does indeed instruct. He does it not miraculously in some special feeling, but through the instructions of Word of God.
The New Birth is brought about by the Word of God
Some express that the Spirit is responsible for the New Birth, and they quote John 3:5 which says:
5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
How is it then that we are born again of the Spirit?
23Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Pet 1:23)
How does the Spirit participate in the new birth? By the Word of God which lives and abides forever.
Made Alive by the Word of God
Some say that Holy Spirit makes things Alive… or it “Quickens” them. And they turn to John 6:63 which says
63It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
Of course the Words are spirit and Life according to this passage. But look also at Psalm 119:50- “This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.”
Yes, we agree that the Holy Spirit does instruct, that He does Quicken, yet he does so, with the Word of God, which is his Sword. The instrument with which he works.
Teaching comes through The Word of God
Some say that the Holy Spirit Teaches, and that is true. Many use John 14:26 which is really a passage intended for the audience of that day, those Apostles who were with him. But the verse reads:
26But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
How does he teach today? The same author will tell us in John 6:44-45
44No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
They shall be taught of God, so that when they hear, and they learn then they come to the Father. Not by some miraculous “Feeling” of the Holy Spirit. But by the Word of God.
Conviction by the Word of God
Some say well The Holy Spirit convicts people, and they go to John 16:7-8
Jesus speaking again to his Apostles says:
7Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
Now, how will he convict? Oh, it is certain he will convince the world, HOW does he do it?
Titus 1:9 says:
9Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
By holding fast the FAITHFUL WORD, he may be able by SOUND DOCTRINE to EXHORT and CONVINCE the gainsayer. It is by his Word that he will convince them.
Comfort comes From the Word of God
It is stated that the Holy Spirit COMFORTS us, and that is true. The question is ‘how?’
31Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. Acts 9:31
Yes, they were walking in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, how?
How? 1 Corinthians 1:3 will answer the question.
3Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
So however we comfort one another, is the same way that God comforts us. That’s what we learn from that passage, so then, how do we comfort one another? Notice what Paul wrote in the word of God.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thes. 4:18)
We are all comforted in the same way, by words. More specifically in spiritual ways by the Word of God.
Salvation by the Word of God
The Holy Spirit saves today, but he does so through the Word of God.
11And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
Yes, He absolutely does save us, washes us, justifies us… the question is HOW does he do it? Let us let the Bible answer this question as well.
13And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; 14Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. (Acts 11:13-14)
The Word of God spoken, written and applied is the means whereby men are saved.
Notice a few more thoughts.
How are we washed? How does the Holy Spirit wash us? Look at Ephesians 5.
26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (Eph. 5:26)
The Holy Spirit Strengthens us, according to Ephesians 3:16-17
16That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
So the Spirit strengthens us according to Faith. That is how Deity dwells in us, by faith. We also know that Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the WORD of God. (Romans 10:17)
This idea is also found consistently in the Old Testament as well.
In Deuteronomy 11:8 Moses writes: Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong…
Did you notice what gave them strength? The obedience of the Word of God.
How does the Holy Spirit lead today?
According to Paul, we are led by the Spirit according to Romans 8:14
14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
The question is how, How does the Spirit lead? The Psalmist says in Psalm 119:105
105Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
It is the Spirit leading, for sure! How is He leading people today? By using the precious word of God, the only sword that he wields.
2 Tim 3:12-17
1 Pet 1:23
1 Thes 4:18, 2 Cor 1:3ff
1 Cor 6:11
1 Cor 6:11
It is true, the Holy Spirit does do all of these things, but he uses a means. He uses the sword of the Spirit, which is the WORD of God to do it.
The same way a man will use an axe to chop down a tree, the tree will be chopped alright, the man will be the one who chopped it, but how did he chop the tree? He did so by using the axe.
Yes, the Holy Spirit converts sinners, but how does he do it? He uses a MEDIUM; he uses the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
Let us turn to Acts chapter 2. You will remember the scene, Peter and the other apostles stand to deliver their message. People heard the sermon presented that day and responded. Now, according to the Bible let’s notice how it all happened.
So they are there on the day of Pentecost according to Acts 2:1 The Holy Spirit inspires these men and they begin to speak in different languages or different tongues. Notice verse 6.
6Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
So, they were speaking by a Miraculous event, the Apostles were speaking being guided by the Holy Spirit. But the men in the audience didn’t have a miracle upon their hearts, they were simply listening to the words proclaimed by the Apostles.
Vs 14 says:
14But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
Then Peter preached a great lesson on who Jesus was, and how they had killed the savior of the World.
And after he spoke his lesson notice: vs 36
36Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
They were pricked in their hearts, why? Because the Holy Spirit came into each of their hearts in some secretive miraculous fashion and forced them to believe? NO!
According to the Bible, when they heard the word of God, the words caused them to have a change, to be pricked in their hearts. The word of God did that.
Now notice what the Hebrews writer says in correlation with this.
12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
The Word of God gets to the very heart. And the word either causes people to change their lives, or the word of God causes people to harden their hearts.
Remember in Acts 7, Stephen stands before the Jews of his day, and he is going to preach to them a lesson, his intent was to preach to change the hearts of these people. But notice the reaction to his sermon. In Acts 7
54When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth…. Notice, they had a different reaction to the Word of God. 57Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. (Acts 7:54-48)
What was it that caused their hearts to be hardened? It was their own stubbornness, But, it was the word of God that caused the reaction. That thought takes us back to the words of our Lord in Luke 8, as he talks about the seeds and the ground.
11Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:11-15)
See that is how it happens, to the soil that is good and honest, those hearts that are touched by the word, they are receptive to it. Yet, those hearts that soil that is hard toward the word of God will not accept it. But it is the Word of God that changes people’s hearts.
Now if you want to say, no it is the Holy Spirit that changes people’s hearts, then, the question needs to be answered, “HOW does the Holy Spirit change people’s hearts today?”
And the answer as we have proven in this show is that the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to convict and convince, to convert and to lead people today.
In His Word, God has given us all we need to know and follow for salvation. That is what Peter would say in 2 Peter 1:3
3According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness
Yes, friend the Holy Spirit does indeed save sinners, but not in the way the Calvinist says he does. Not through some irresistible unction! But by the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.