Predestination or Freewill Part 6: Can Saving Grace be Resisted?

Acts 7:51; John 6:28, 29
       Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost.
       Then they said unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God. Jesus answered and said unto them, This is work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

JOHN OWEN (1616-1683): The work of conversion itself, and especially the act of believing, or faith itself, is expressly said to be of God, to be wrought in us by Him, to be given unto us from Him. The Scripture says not that God gives us ability or power to believe only, namely, such a power as we may make use of if we will, or do otherwise, but faith, repentance, and conversion themselves are said to be the work of God.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): The Spirit puts forth an act of renewing whereby He does sweetly but powerfully incline the will―which before was rebellious and refractory―to accept of Christ, and make a free, deliberate choice of Him, for his Lord and Saviour.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): No man can believe in Christ, unless God give him power: He draws us first, by good desires. Not by compulsion, not by laying the will under any necessity; but by the strong and sweet, yet still resistible, motions of His heavenly grace…Nor were they who then believed constrained to believe. But grace was then first offered them. And they did not thrust it away.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Were God only to ‘invite,’ every one of us would be lost.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): Certainly, we are not obliged to our free-will for our conversion, but to His Spirit; nor to our pre-dispositions for His applying of it, but to His own grace…The power that works in believers is God’s omnipotent power, which works effectually and mightily.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost. This text [is a] fearful proof that the Holy Spirit―the almighty energy of the living God―may be resisted and rendered of none effect. This Spirit is not sent to stocks, stones, or machines, but to human beings endued with rational souls…it works upon their understanding, will, judgment, conscience, etc., in order to enlighten, convince, and persuade. If, after all, the understanding, the eye of the mind, refuses to behold the light; the will determines to remain obstinate; the judgment purposes to draw false inferences; and the conscience hardens itself against every check and remonstrance―and all this is possible to a rational soul―then the Spirit of God, being thus resisted, is grieved, and the sinner is left to reap the fruit of his doings.

JAMES DURHAM: Wherever the Lord applies His grace, He effectually [accomplishes] the work of faith and conversion, and there is no soul that can utterly resist it…These are two main truths: the utter inability that is in men’s hearts by nature to exercise faith in Christ, and the efficacious and irresistible power of the grace of God, in the begetting of faith, where it is begotten.

JOHN WESLEY: Although there may be some moments wherein the grace of God acts irresistibly, yet, in general, any man may resist, and that to his eternal ruin, the grace whereby it was the will of God he should have been eternally saved.

ADAM CLARKE: To force the man to see, feel, repent, believe, and be saved, would be to alter the essential principles of His creation and the nature of mind, and reduce him into the state of a machine…Now, man cannot be operated on in this way, because it is contrary to the laws of his creation and nature; nor can the Holy Ghost work on that as a machine which himself has made a free agent. Man therefore may―and generally does―resist the Holy Ghost; and the whole revelation of God bears unequivocal testimony to this most dreadful possibility, and most awful truth…Those who wilfully resist and grieve that Spirit must be ultimately left to the hardness and blindness of their own hearts, if they do not repent and turn to God.

A. W. PINK: The great majority of Calvinists erred when they denied the contention of their opponents that there is a power of God which works in the hearts of men that can be so resisted―“Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost” must not be “explained away,” but honestly expounded in harmony with the Analogy of Faith.
      Speaking after the manner of men, we may say that God proportions His power, according to the work before Him, as we only put forth the utmost of our strength, when faced with a more than ordinary occasion…The Spirit puts forth different proportions of power, according to the various ends before Him. Those spoken of in Hebrews 6:4,5 and II Peter 2:20 were the subjects of His inferior or lesser operations, but not of His regenerating power. Many are enlightened by the Spirit―as Balaam―their corruptions are restrained, their consciences pricked―yet without His making them new creatures in Christ Jesus.

JOHN WESLEY: Felix being terrified, Acts 24:25. How happily might this conviction have ended, had he been careful to pursue the views which were then opening upon his mind! But, like thousands, he deferred the consideration of these things to a more convenient season.

A. W. PINK: Thousands of people have been drawn by God to sit under a faithful preaching of His Word, been convicted by the Spirit of their sinful and lost condition, found something in their souls of “the powers of the world to come”―but were not brought from death unto life. Yet while we believe many are the subjects of God’s power working upon and within them―which power they resist and quench―yet, we emphatically deny that a single soul ever did or will defeat or defy “the working of His mighty power,” Ephesians 1:19. Such power He does not put forth in His lesser and lower works. That such a distinction is a necessary and valid one is surely indicated [by] the Holy Spirit [declaring] that God’s work in bringing us to believe holds proportion with that stupendous power when He “raised [Christ] from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places!” Ephesians 1:20. Such power He does not put forth in His less and lower works. This “working of His mighty power” is effectual, prevailing, invincible, and cannot be withstood.

JOHN L. GIRARDEAU (1825-1898): The distinction is lost sight of between the common operations of the Spirit, which are illuminating, and His regenerating grace. The former are resistible, the latter is not. The Spirit may be resisted when He instructs the sinner in his duty and moves him to its discharge. Nothing is more common. But to talk of resisting the creative power of the Spirit is to speak without meaning. As well talk of a feather resisting a hurricane, or a straw a cataract, or a hillock of sand a stormy sea. The sinner may be unwilling beforehand that regenerating grace should be exercised upon him; but it is idle to speak of his resisting it when it is exercised. What can resist the creative power of God? Is it not almighty? Can finite power resist infinite, acting infinitely? Now, regenerating grace is creative power. It is, therefore, irresistible. There is no sense or degree in which it can be resisted.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): It is a new birth, a new creation.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): The fact that anybody at all believes the gospel is a great miracle, which can only be explained adequately in terms of this surpassing greatness of the power of God.

RICHARD BAXTER (1615-1691): Heart-work must be God’s work.


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