Rebecca Stark is the author of The Good Portion — God, the second title in The Good Portion series, a series written specifically to encourage women to immerse themselves in the depths of Christian doctrine.

The Good Portion — God explores what Scripture teaches about God in hopes that readers will see his perfection, worth, magnificence, and beauty as they study his triune nature, infinite attributes, and wondrous works. 

Rebecca also blogs at Out of the Ordinary.


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Theological Term of the Week

irresistible grace
The teaching that God’s saving grace is effectually applied to those whom he has chosen to save, causing their natural enmity toward him to disappear so that they willingly repent and believe in Jesus. See also effectual call.

  • From scripture:
    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 6:44 ESV)
    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.  (Acts 16:14 ESV)
    And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 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. (2 Corinthians 4:3-6 ESV)
  • From The Canons of Dordt, Head III-IV, Article 11:
    [W]hen God … works true conversion in [his chosen ones], he not only sees to it that the gospel is proclaimed to them outwardly, and enlightens their minds powerfully by the Holy Spirit so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but, by the effective operation of the same regenerating Spirit, he also penetrates into the inmost being of man, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is uncircumcised. He infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant; he activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds.
  • From Living for God’s Glory by Joel Beeke:

    Unfortunately, the term irresistible can suggest capricious force or violence to a sinner’s will. To some, it conveys the picture of a mother sitting her child at the kitchen table with spinach and liver and saying, “Eat!” But that is not the meaning… Though the irresistible grace of God in calling sinners is forceful and compelling, it works in such a way that the sinner’s will is so renewed that he comes to Christ gladly and willingly. If you are a believer, you know that when grace took hold of you, it brought you willingly and lovingly to what God had predetermined for you. No one in history has ever done anything more willingly and more lovingly than those who receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Think of Lydia (Acts 16:14-15) and the Philippians jailor (Acts 16:30-34); they were not saved against their wills.

    On the other hand, God must work within the sinner to make him willing to come to Christ. John 6:44 says that unless the Father “draws” him, a sinner will not believe the gospel. The original word for draw implies a certain compelling force. Is is used in John 21:6-11 of fishermen dragging a net. Elsewhere, it is used of Paul and Silas’s being “dragged” by a mob. (Acts 16:19) and of the “dragging” of poor men into court by rich men (James 2:6). The idea is that a superiour force is so exerted upon an object or person the the one doing the dragging is successful.

Learn more:

  1. Irresistible Grace - is it Biblical?
  2. John Piper: Irresistible Grace
  3. John Murray: Irresistible Grace
  4. Brian Schwertly: Irresistible Grace
  5. Sinclair Ferguson: Irresistable Grace (audio)

Related terms:

Filed under Reformed Theology.

Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it.

I’m also interested in any suggestions you have for tweaking my definitions or for additional (or better) articles or sermons/lectures for linking. I’ll give you credit and a link back to your blog if I use your suggestion.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms organized in alphabetical order or by topic.

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Reader Comments (2)

Should not the apostle Paul be the prime example here? When he first encountered God's grace he was totally unrepentant, dedicated to persecution, very much like the incorrigible child kicking and screaming before a plate of spinach and liver. There certainly was no subtle infusion of softness into the heart of Paul. God's dealings with Paul were anything but "subtle."

May 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Barrett

Hello Robert,

I'm thinking Paul's conversion is exceptional and not something we should make normative.

Still, I'm not sure where in this post it is implied that God's dealings are "subtle". Or maybe I'm misunderstanding you?

May 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

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