WALKING AMONG THE TULIPS: REFORMED THEOLOGY IN JOHN SERIES (PART SEVEN)

By Colton Corter

Irresistible Grace (1)

I’d like to begin this section by stating the necessity of this doctrine. The effectual calling of God to life from death is the only way that a sinner may be saved. Regeneration must, must, must precede faith. Have we not seen our true state? John Newton, the hand behind the hymn “Amazing Grace,” once quipped saying that if men were left to come to Christ on their own accord then he would assume preach to cows and horses. Newton is getting at the impossibility of anyone to come apart from the monergistic new birth. Regeneration is not a team effort. It is single handed, an act of free grace necessitated by our depravity with its aim that the glory of the Holy One would go to no other.

The light of the world has come in the person of Christ Jesus. John1 begins with the reality, indeed the scandal, of the coeternal Son of God taking on human flesh. This glorious, unique event was to display the “admiral conjunction of diverse excellencies” of Christ, as Edwards put it. Christ became man to save those accursed by the law by being born under the law. It is belief that the gospel demands. Faith is a receiving Christ as He is. But we have seen that faith is impossible for man. Yet John says that many have believed and have received Him (1:12). How does this happen? Verse 13 says that those who are children of God were not born of blood or by the will of the flesh. The will of man was not a coconspirator in the new birth. It is God, according to verse 13c, that is the only active agent in this being born of God. John does not say “not only of blood” or “not only the will of the flesh.” What I mean to say is that John goes out of his way to show that the being born of God is the work of God alone. This monergistic regeneration; being called effectually, without a choice because of the surpassing glory of Christ seen and savored for the first time.

Irresistible Grace (2)

The section on Total Depravity set the stage for John 3:8. We have seen that Christ did not have to come and condemn the world because the world stands condemned already. Man is in rebellion, a hater of light and so a hater of God. This whole discourse centers on John 3:8. Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night thinking that he knows who Christ is (v.1-2). Jesus responds by saying that no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born from above (v.3). Nicodemus scoffs and compares the new birth Jesus is talking about to the physical birth. However, just as one does not control the circumstances of their physical birth, neither does one control the circumstances of the spiritual birth. The flesh can only bear flesh. The Spirit is the only one that cannot birth spiritual life. Jesus is telling Nicodemus of his inability to see unless God regenerates him. This is made clear in John 3:8. It reads: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” There is a play on words present in this verse. The word from “wind” is the same as “spirit.” John is highlighting the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. Just like the wind, you cannot control the Spirit. He regenerates whomever He pleases, whenever He pleases. The winds effects are discernable though. It is obvious when the wind has wreaked havoc on a land. The effects are obvious. There is always a radical change when something is confronted with the power of the wind. It cannot help but being changed. So it is with the Spirit. The Spirit’s effects are breathtaking. One-time enemies are made worshippers by the sheer power of the gospel. This is how people who love darkness (v.19-20) come to love the light!

John 5 has been discussed a couple of different times thus far. In verse 21 we see the imagery of death and life again. Irresistible grace is nothing other than God giving life where only death resided. The dead physically are compared to all natural men. They are unresponsive, dead in the grave. But God makes them alive. This calling must be effectual because a heart that is alive has no choice but to run to what it loves. In verse 25 Jesus says that the dead will heart the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. The latter part of the passage most assuredly speaks to when God will raise up from the dead those asleep in Him. But that life begins when man is raised from his spiritual grave unto life in Christ.

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