Can man resist the grace of God? Yes. We do it all the time. In fact, as a result of the Fall (Genesis 3), we are by nature inclined away from God’s grace…and everything else about God. Our desires are contrary to God and we act according to those contrary desires. Necessarily.
So what do we mean by the phrase “Irresistible Grace,” the I in TULIP? Simply speaking, it means that God can and does override our resistance to his grace with his grace in order to change us from being enemies of God to being children of God. In fact, if we are to become children of God, it is necessary that he overcomes our deadness and hatred of him.
This is when most raise the “free will” objection. Assuming that the whole matter of salvation is based upon personal choice, this doctrine becomes an affront to something basic in their understanding of man. But if the doctrine of Total Depravity (Radical Corruption) is true, then the will is not free. Rather, it is in bondage and subject to the same corruption as the rest of man’s being. This does not mean that we don’t act according to our desires. We do. But our desires are not holy desires, they are desires that are tainted by the same sin that has produced death in us. If we choose according to our true, fallen desires, we will choose death and destruction over God every time. We are, after all, children of wrath by nature (Ephesians 2).
When Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” he makes the sweeping statement that we are incapable of choosing him…that is unless the Father “draws” him. The common understanding of the word “draw” here is something like a “wooing.” It is important to note, however, that the Greek word doesn’t mean that. The word “draw” is the same word used when Peter drew his sword in defense of Jesus at his betrayal and arrest (John 18:10). It is used in John 21:11 when Simon Peter “went aboard and hauled the net ashore….” In Acts 16:19 Paul and Silas were “dragged…into the marketplace before the rulers” after casting out a demon from a profit-generating slave girl. Acts 21:30 uses the word also: “Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut.” It seems unlikely in any of these uses of the word that “wooing” is what is being spoken of.
Another objection is that God saves people against their will. According to this objection, people are dragged kicking and screaming into the kingdom of heaven, even though they may not want any part of it. “God would never impose himself on someone against their will,” the objection goes, “it just isn’t gentlemanly.” While this is really a significant category error, Spurgeon answered it best when he said that “God does not save us against our will, but he does make us willing.”
Not only can God do what he pleases, he does.
“Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.” Psalm 115:3
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all tings according to the counsel of his will…” Ephesians 1:11
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:11
Unless God, in his sovereign grace, does overrule our hatred and death and evil desires and bent toward destruction, we’re hopeless. Unless God’s saving grace is irresistible, none can be saved.