Q: How can I invite "all" sinners to Christ when the Reformed concept of "irresistible grace" implies that for some to be elect some must be nonelect?
—Craig Skinner, Georgia
A: Perhaps the adjective "irresistible" causes more problems than it's worth. The Synod of Dort (161819), in defending God's gracious initiative in regeneration, begins where Scripture does: the image of God, the fall from righteousness, original sin, total inability, the inadequacy of natural light, the inadequacy of the Law.
This bad news (which sets up the good news in the next article from Dort) emphasizes human responsibility—that we willfully reject God's commands and are therefore held accountable. The corruption of our own hearts keeps us from coming to Christ, while God's sovereign grace unshackles our imprisoned hearts and leads us out of our inherited but also chosen dungeon. "I was sought by those who did not ask for me: I was found by those who did not seek me," says the Lord (Isa. 65:1; all references are from the NKJV unless otherwise noted). Those who receive Christ do so "not … of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13). "For [God] says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.' So it depends not upon man's will or exertion, but upon God's mercy" (Rom. 9:1516; RSV).
Since the individual is by nature "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1), willfully resisting "the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him" (1 Cor. 2:14), what choice would any of us make if God merely offered faith in Christ rather than giving us that faith? But God has guaranteed that, despite our collective rebellion, he will raise many of those spiritually ...1
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