Irresistible Grace: The Gauley River & God

In my adult years, I have enjoyed whitewater rafting.  Several years ago, my wife and I decided to do the Gauley River.  Every fall, the Somerville Dam is released and the River turns into a world class white water adventure!  If my recollection serves me, when water is released from the dam, eight class five rapids  develop.  It is thrilling!  However, it is not a time where one thinks he is “in control”.  One of the most basic of rafting rules is “never try to stand up if you are thrown out of the raft, rather float on your back, feet crossed and pointed downstream”.  Why?  If your foot were to become caught in a rock, the force of the water would compel you under water!  You would not have the strength or the power to withstand the current.  The river would be irresistible.

The American College Dictionary offers the following definitions of the word “resist”:  1)  to withstand, strive against, or oppose  2)  to refrain or abstain from an action.  3)  To make efforts to oppose.   When the prefix “ir” is added it negates the verb.  Irresistible describes something that we are unable to withstand or oppose.

Reformed Theology teaches that God’s grace is “irresistible”.  Jesus presents God’s grace as “irresistible” in John 6:44 when he states:  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day.”  The English word translated “draws” is defined simply as drag, pull, draw in Greek lexicons.[1]   R.C. Sproul talks about the verb meaning:  “to compel by superior force”.  Think of trying to stand against the Gauley River and you still haven’t come close to the omnipotence of God Almighty!   Irresistible Grace logically flows from the rest of the Calvinistic acrostic “T.U.L.I.P.”  Those who are “dead” in the sins and trespasses would “seemingly” present the greatest possible resistance to “life”!  It is however the same power that raised Christ from the dead that is at work in and toward those who are alive in Christ.[2]  Even the dead cannot resist this power!  God, the great “I AM”[3], the one who holds the power of existence is the one who holds the power of life.  He is the one who spoke in creation and all things came into existence by the word of His power.[4]  When God almighty chooses to raise a sinner from the dead and give them new life in Christ, His power cannot be resisted. 

The doctrine does not need defense, it is plain in the pages of Scripture.  The question is “so what?”  Of what help to a believer is this understanding of God’s grace?  Several:

First:  We are the creatures.  God is the Creator.  Only He has the power to regenerate people.  The perfection of my example, the wisdom of my words, and the persuasive nature of my rhetoric are, in the final evaluation, insufficient to overcome spiritual death in another.  This lifts a great responsibility from the shoulders of the believer and gives him the freedom to simply proclaim the gospel. 

Second:  When freed from a personal pressure to perform, the believer finds the thrill of proclaiming the truth of the word in the authority of God.  Jesus says:  “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.  Go therefore…”[5]  We do, we proclaim, but it is in His authority, not ours.  The believer no longer need apologize – he proclaims, knowing the authority of God stands behind him.  If God is calling the hearer to faith (unconditional election/limited atonement) He will exert that same power that raised Christ from the dead, and the one you are speaking to will “come to life”, will be “born again”.  Yours is the joy of being used by God as an ambassador, proclaiming with power and authority the truth of the gospel.

Third:   The tools that God uses to implement his “irresistible grace” are His Word and Spirit.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches that “The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling”[6]  Paul teaches that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God”[7].  The word of God is the “Sword of the Spirit”[8] which is “living and active” and “discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart”[9]

Fourth:  The weapons that we use, (His Word and Spirit) have “divine power” and this power destroys arguments and opinions that stand against the knowledge of God.  His Word and Spirit cannot be resisted.  God uses His word, in those He is calling to Himself, as a conduit for His “irresistible grace”.  This then calls believers to a couple of applications:

We must know the word in order to be able to use it.  We must “do our best to present ourselves to God as those approved, workers who have no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”[10]

We must “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us; yet do it with gentleness and respect,[11]

 Finally:  We must simply “proclaim Christ”.  To fail to simply use the power of the word of God in the authority of the LORD Jesus, renders our witness ineffectual.  Do not rely on “Man’s salvation” for as Psalm 108 states, it is “vain”.[12]  It does not yield fruit or benefit or the result that is sought after.  Only the gospel, proclaim using the word of God is the power of God unto salvation.  The Word of God, used by the Spirit of God, carries His “irresistible grace” to those He is calling to Himself.

Martin B. Blocki has served since 2003 as the Associate Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North Hills in Pittsburgh, PA since 2002.  He is a counselor at the Biblical Counseling Institute in Pittsburgh.  Rev. Blocki graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington (BME), Arizona State University (MM), and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological  Seminary (MDiv).  Martin and his wife, Kathy, have two married sons, one daughter, and 2 grand children.

[1] Bibleworks 8 – Gingrich Lexicon

[2] Ephesians 1:19-20

[3] Exodus 3:14

[4] Genesis 1; Col 1:16; Heb 1:3

[5] Matthew 28:18-20

[6] Westminster Short Catechism Question #30

[7] Romans 10:17

[8] Ephesians 6:17

[9] Hebrews 4:12

[10] 2 Timothy 2:15 (Italics adapt the verse to be plural)

[11] 1 Peter 3:15  (Italics adapt the verse to be plural)

[12] Psalm 108:12


Martin Blocki