In this series outlining the evidences and reasons for why God is sovereign in the salvation of men, we now enter into the “I” of TULIP, which is the acronym for the doctrines of grace (otherwise known as Calvinism). “I” stands for “irresistible grace”, meaning God changes the will of man in such a way that man desires to choose God through the work and person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is irresistible in the sense that, though God’s elect may resist Him for a time, God ultimately effects salvation in the individual, who was chosen to be redeemed before the foundation of the world – this for His own glory alone.
All of salvation is grace. It is grace that God chose to save the ungodly (see Part 1 and Part 2); it is grace that Christ came to earth to secure the salvation of His treasured possession through His own blood (see Part 3a and Part 3b); and it is grace that exchanges a man’s heart of stone for a heart of flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This work of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of men is known as regeneration. Before man is able to respond to the Gospel message, he must be given ears to hear. Because man is born dead in sin, he must be made alive in order to respond positively to the call to repentance (just think about a corpse’s ability to respond to anything). Without this work of the Holy Spirit, man would remain condemned and dead in his sins.
Let’s take a closer look at how grace effectually draws all people for whom Christ died to saving faith.
1. The Holy Spirit sovereignly draws to glorify and testify of the Lord Jesus Christ
Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
John 16:13-14 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
John 15:26 But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
1 John 5:6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
2. The Holy Spirit sovereignly draws because no man can come to Christ without Him
John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
John 6:65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
3. The Holy Spirit sovereignly draws by making spiritually dead men alive
Ephesians 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
4. The Holy Spirit sovereignly makes spiritually dead men alive by making them born again
John 1:12-13 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
James 1:18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1 Peter 3:21 Baptism [of the Spirit], which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
5. The Holy Spirit sovereignly makes men born again so they will have ears to hear the voice of Christ
John 8:47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.
John 10:25-27 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 25 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
John 5:24-25 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
6. The Holy Spirit sovereignly draws us by giving us a new heart to respond in repentant faith
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Deuteronomy 30:6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Luke 8:15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
Acts 16:14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
7. The Holy Spirit sovereignly draws to cleanse us from our idols so we will be obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ
Ezekiel 26:25-27 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you…27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
1 Peter 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruitsd to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
8. The Holy Spirit makes men born again so they can believe
John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Acts 15:11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.
9. The Holy Spirit makes men born again so they will no longer practice habitual lifestyles of sin
Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
1 John 2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
1 John 3:9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
1 John 5:4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
1 John 5:18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
10. The Holy Spirit makes men born again so they will manifest the fruit of the Spirit and be conformed to the likeness of Christ
Romans 8:29 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.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
Ephesians 5:9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),
Colossians 3:12-13 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Ephesians 4:24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
We see then, dear brethren, our salvation is absolutely a gift from the Lord. When the Bible says we are saved by grace, this means there is nothing we have done or can do to receive grace. In fact, grace is not what we receive, it is the cause for us to receive the gift of salvation.
Grace is the work of God through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit to transform us from spiritually dead men to new creations in Christ in order for us to receive the gifts of faith and repentance. The gift of faith enables us to trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ to forgive our sins, and the gift of repentance enables us to forsake sin to love God and serve God with all of our hearts (1 Thessalonians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 7:10).
Let’s think for a moment. If it was left up to you to generate the faith necessary to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you would have something to boast over your neighbor who might fail to generate saving faith. Would it be a matter of your intelligence, logic, or ability to make the best decision for yourself given the data? If so, what would be absent in the mind of your neighbor who did not make the best decision for himself given the same data? According to this synergistic understanding of salvation, no matter how one tries to slice it or explain it away, the credit for making the right choice to believe must rest with man . The Bible, however, clearly shows we can only boast in the Lord when we have a biblical understanding of the doctrine of salvation (study 1 Corinthians 1:18-31).
This brings us to the final article in this series that presents 10 Reasons Believers Are Sovereignly Sealed. Just as our election, redemption, and sanctification are absolute sovereign works of God, so to is His preservation of His children to guarantee that which He promised us before the foundation of the world.
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