In the past three weeks, we covered the first three points of Calvinism, namely –
1. Total Depravity – Man in his fallen state, is sinful and undone. He will not seek after God: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Rom 3: 10-11). Left to himself, his depraved nature will lead him down the road to Hell and eternal ruin: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom 5: 12 cf Rom. 6: 23a).
2. Unconditional Election – Since man is totally unable to save himself, then salvation can come only by the grace and sovereign election of God (Eph 2: 8) – “not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2: 9). The Bible tells us that God “hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” not because we deserve to be saved but “according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph 1: 5 cf I Pet 1: 2; Jn 1: 12-13).
3. Limited Atonement – Christ’s redemptive work on the cross is sufficient to save every sinner, but it is efficacious only for the elect. In His high priestly prayer, our Saviour affirmed that He is the Mediator for the elect: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (Jn 17: 9).
In our study today, we will conclude with the final two points: 4. Irresistible Grace, and 5. Perseverance or Preservation of the Saints.
4. Irresistible Grace
The fourth point – “Irresistible Grace” – is a logical outcome from the first three doctrines. “If men are unable to save themselves on account of their fallen nature, and if God has purposed to save them, and Christ has accomplished their salvation, then it logically follows that God must also provide the means for calling them into the benefits of that salvation which He has procured for them” (The Five Points of Calvinism by W J Seaton).
This doctrine asserts that the elect – whom God had foreordained to saving faith according to His sovereign will – will infallibly respond to the Gospel and believe in Christ. They will not be able to resist His divine call unto salvation.
The Lord Jesus Christ affirmed this truth in John’s Gospel: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (Jn 6: 37); “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6: 44); “And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (Jn 6: 65).
It is important for us to understand that there are two calls to salvation – the outward call and the inward call. The outward call is made by the preacher of the Gospel to all who hear. This call may work in different ways in the hearts of the individual hearers, but it does not save.
For the outward call to be effectual, it must be accompanied by the inward call of the Holy Spirit Who convicts the hearer of his sin and draws him to saving faith in Christ Jesus. While the outward call can be resisted, none can effectively resist the inward call (Rom 8: 14, 30).
“And when the Holy Spirit calls a man, or a woman, or a young person by His grace, that call is irresistible: it cannot be frustrated; it is the manifestation of God's irresistible grace” (ibid).
The elect sinner will yield to the irresistible call of divine grace. A classic Biblical illustration of God’s irresistible grace is found in the salvation of Lydia who responded to Paul’s preaching (the outward call). The Holy Spirit convicted her and caused her to respond to the Gospel (the inward call): “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).
Thomas Watson, explained this doctrine clearly: “God rides forth conquering in the chariot of His Gospel … He conquers the pride of the heart, and makes the will which stood out as a Fort Royal against Him, to yield and stoop to His grace; He makes the stony heart bleed. Oh! It is a mighty call!”
5. Perseverance or Preservation of the Saints
A born-again believer will never lose his salvation because it is the Almighty God Who preserves him to the very end: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philp 1: 6). God will keep him in the faith and guide him safely to Heaven as He has promised. “If salvation then from the beginning has been of God, the end will also be of God and the saints will persevere to eternal joy” (ibid).
The Westminster Confession of Faith states: “They, whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ assured His disciples of His power to preserve them: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (Jn 6: 39); “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (Jn 10: 27-29).
In his epistle to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul reiterated this glorious truth: “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1: 13); “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph 4: 30).
While the true Christian may yield to temptation and fall into sin, the Lord will preserve him in his faith. “The salvation that begins in the mind and purpose of God must end in the fulfillment of His unthwartable purpose that those ‘whom he did foreknow’ are eternally united with their Saviour” (ibid).
We thank God for these foundational doctrines of Calvinism that comfort and encourage our hearts. God’s election of His people is an election unto holy living. It should not be misconstrued as a license to sin. Let us not take God’s grace for granted by thinking, “Since I am God’s elect, I will never be lost; I can therefore sin all the more.” To such, the apostle Paul responded: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? … Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom 6: 1-2, 13). Beloved, let us give all diligence to make our calling and election sure (II Pet 1: 10).