Answering an Arminian on the Irresistible Grace of God
A while back, a reader in Georgia asked me to address and answer an Arminian, Dr. Curtis Hutson, on the “Five Points of Calvinism,” of which Hutson disagrees with all five. Today, we will address point four: irresistible grace.
Grace is the work of God that saves God’s chosen people (Eph 2:8–9). It is true that grace is unmerited because it originates from God’s free will and choice, to have mercy on whom He wills (Rom 9:15–16). It is also true that it is God’s favor upon His elect, for He works, and they are the beneficiaries.
When God sets out to accomplish His will, He does not fail to execute His will, by His work (Eph 1:11). If in the predetermined plan of God (Acts 2:23), He has elected one (Eph 1:4–5), then He will surely redeem him, and if He redeems one of His elect, He will surely regenerate him (1 Pet 1:3). Salvation is a work of God’s grace, and He is most gracious in doing what none of us could do of ourselves.
It is God’s prerogative to save someone, from God’s just wrath against sinners (Rom 1:18–32; 1 Thess 1:10). If He has chosen not to save someone, then, that is also His sovereign prerogative (Rom 9:22). He is God; and man is not God. Therefore, man has no rights in the matter because man is not just a creature, he is a guilty criminal (Rom 3:23; 6:23), already condemned, under the Law of God (Jn 3:18).
Curtis Hutson proposes that Calvin and Calvinists teach that “God simply forces people to be saved. “ He brilliantly observes that the word “irresistible” never once appears before the word “grace” in the Bible. One supposes that is like the word “free” never once appearing before the word “will” in the Bible. He furthers his silly argument by claiming, “The word, ‘irresistible’ doesn’t even sound right in front of the word ‘grace.’” Hutson probably thinks that is what the Apostle Paul means by “sound” doctrine.
Hutson forwards a notion, “Grace is an attitude, not a power.” Thus, we see the crux of the conflict. Arminians do not wish for God to be sovereign in will, nor in the power to accomplish His eternal purpose, which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph 3:11).
Hutson is wrong about God forcing salvation on people. But he is right that, “Calvinism teaches that man has no part in salvation.” Men are dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1), and the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for he cannot understand them (1 Cor 2:14).
Next, Hutson occupies most of this fourth point, making a case for man resisting God. No Calvinist would disagree with Hutson at this juncture. If Hutson thinks irresistible grace is refuted by the evidence of people resisting God throughout the Bible, then he truly does not understand the doctrine.
All day long, sinners are resisting God by their transgressions and iniquities. It is what sinners do, and it is all they do. There is none righteous among us, and there is no one that does good (Rom 3:10–12). Men love darkness (Jn 3:19), and they hate God (Rom 1:30), so there is nothing in them that even wants salvation. This is part of the doctrine in point one, on total depravity.
This, again, is the error of Arminian anthropology and hamartiology (doctrine of sin), now coupled with their wrong view of God and salvation, as evidenced when Hutson writes, “God offers salvation to all men.” As I have stated elsewhere, the Gospel is heralded as news, not peddled as a deal to be accepted or rejected.
Misinterpreting Titus 1:11, to mean something other than, “God has revealed the knowledge of salvation, universally, through the Scriptures,” is not helpful. Just because the Light of the world has come into the world, does not mean that blind men can see the Light (Jn 8:12; 2 Cor 4:4). This is where we witness grace in Jesus’ miracles. Jesus did not force the blind men He gave sight to. He gave them something they needed. Grace is God’s work, imparted as a gift. It is even said to be imputed, as in the case of righteousness (think: Narcan administered to a heroin overdose victim).
Hutson intimates that blind men must choose of their own free will to see the Light. He employs John 1:12 (a favorite verse of Arminians) to support his idea that blind men simply choose to see, and in like manner, dead men choose to make themselves alive, by accepting or rejecting Christ.
In this, Hutson commits the same interpretative sin he has already accused Calvinists of committing…stopping mid-way through a passage, in order to make one’s case. John 1:12, which he quotes, is followed by John 1:13, which he neglects to quote, “…who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Men are born again by the will of God.
Grace saves, which is why there is no such thing as common grace. Common grace makes sense to the Universalists, but it makes no sense to the Christian, who has defined the term correctly. Grace never fails to accomplish what concerns us. The reprobate is never concerned about salvation; otherwise, he would surrender, from his sinful rebellion against God. He is not willing, nor is he able to do so.
It takes a gracious act of God, to convert a sinner into a saint. That act is called “regeneration” whereby a spiritually dead soul is made alive by the work of the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13). Just as a baby does not accept or reject the prospect of being born of its mother, so the born again are brought forth by the irresistible grace of God, who has caused us to be born again (1 Pet 1:3).
This leaves us with Hutson’s final fallacy in point four. He writes, “That means that those who are not saved could have been saved.” When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He said, “Lazarus, come forth.” In the same way, God’s powerful Word brings forth God’s elect from sin and death. He calls to His own, and His own hear His voice and follow Him (Jn 10:28–29).
The goats, who do not belong to Christ, cannot believe (Jn 10:26) because faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:17), and not everyone has received the grace of God that allows them to have ears that hear. Today, if you hear His voice, in the preaching of God’s Word, then, rejoice and give thanks for the irresistible grace that gave you exactly what you needed for salvation. It is a gift of God, graciously given, not forced upon anyone.
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 16, 2022