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The question of what the Biblical basis is in favor of Irresistible Grace has been asked here. However, the question regarding the Biblical argument against it does not seem to have been addressed yet. So, that's the question.

What is the Biblical basis or argument against the Calvinist doctrine of Irresistible Grace--that is, the doctrine that God's grace to the elect prior to their conversion is irresistible. The elect person can't help but be drawn into salvation and a relationship with God.

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The short answer would be that "irresistable grace" is not taught explicitly anywhere in Scripture. It (like all theology) is an attempt to "fill in the blanks" or "connect the dots" where Scripture is not explicit. The passages that are used to support "i.g." are used as illustrations or evidence of the doctrine; they do not explicitly teach the doctrine. The passages can easily be interpreted in other ways, and are also used as illustrations and evidence of opposing views by those who deny "i.g." is a Biblically sound theology. –  Jas 3.1 Dec 5 '12 at 20:43

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The argument against irresistable grace is centered in the Biblical teachings that, on the one hand, God desires everyone to be saved and has made his grace available to all people.

1 Timothy 2:3-4

This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

Titus 2:11

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.

On the other hand, we are asked to make a choice and salvation is said to be contingent on our response.

Joshua 24:15

Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Ezekiel 18:21-22

But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live.

John 1:12

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.

Romans 10:9

[I}f you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

The flip side of this coin is that if we don't respond or don't follow through, we won't be saved.

Matthew 7:21

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

Matthew 24:12-13

And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

1 Corinthians 9:26-27

I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

If we can "be disqualified" or fail to "endure to the end", it stands to reason that God's grace can be resisted.



  • God wants everyone to be saved, and
  • He has made his grace available to everyone, and
  • He asks us to respond to his grace, and
  • He promises salvation to those who respond but not to those who fail to respond or fail to follow through, then

it's hard to make the case that God's grace is irresistible.

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Bruce expresses a lack of a response to his argument, so let me provide. First, it does not account for the fact that it is God who put the decision to accept Jesus into our hearts (e.g. John 6:44&65, 3:34, Ephesians 1:5&11). So our choice is merely a reflection of God's plan for us. Secondly, our choice is not the cause of our salvation, so even if grace were not irresistible, it would still not matter, because God's choice of saving us is his own decision (John 6:37-40). The knowledge that leads to our choice is the result of God wanting to bring unity on Earth and Heaven (Ephesians 1:9-10) –  jcohen79 Dec 12 '12 at 5:12

Here's a simple one:

II Peter 3:9 KJV:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

So, if the Lord is not willing for any to perish and His grace were truly irresistible, then why hasn't he extended it to all humanity, and why are we not all thereby elect? Could it be because we have the will to choose Christ's grace or reject it?


Titus 2:11 states that, the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. Assuming you are not willing to limit "all people" to mean "just the elect," this verse implies that (a) anyone may be saved and that (b) this salvation comes through God's grace.

With that in mind, is it not contradictory to concurrently believe all the of the following points at face value:

  • God's grace is irresistible to man
  • By his grace anyone may receive salvation (the Titus verse)
  • He wants all to be saved (the II Peter vesre) and He (as good old John 3:16 states) loved the world enough to have sent his Son to die on the cross, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but to have everlasting life.

For how could God want the whole world to be saved, and have sent his son to die for the whole world but ultimately only select certain, elect few by irresistable grace? These three views are incompatable with each other, and I reject the non-Biblical one -- that of irresistable grace.

Aside from rejecting some set of these three views, I can see two other options for making them compatable:

  1. When the Bible is saying that God does not want for anyone to perish and that He sent his son to die for whoever would believe in Him, it is exclusively refering to the elect. In my mind this would be a distressing misinterpretation of the scripture. Or, alternatively
  2. God has split-personality disorder. Although he wants everyone to be saved through Christ's freely available grace, his contending personality just can't let that happen and has to choose certain individuals to call, based on his pre-genesis disposition towards in differentating between people whome (at that time) did not yet exist.
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Could you provide a more complete answer? That is, is this verse the only passage in the Bible that you can use to argue against Irresistible Grace? –  El'endia Starman Dec 8 '12 at 4:34
He wants all to be saved, and but that would require all people to accept Jesus as lord and savior, which they won't do on their own. So it is up to God to decide whom to save and whom not to. All people did exist when he made his choices. They simply were not yet in a form we could recognize. He made those choices for his own purposes. Unless you also are omniscient, you can't say that his plan is not a wise one. I'm not saying your position is not a correct answer to the question. I'm just trying to point out that Calvinism does not have the contradiction that you seem to think it has. –  jcohen79 Dec 9 '12 at 2:22
@jcohen79, thank you for your insight. I still can't see how God would want all to be saved and then only choose some. It seems to me as though the choice is, thereby not God's but is ours. I'm not sure what you mean by "All people did exist when he made his choices." Could you elaborate on this and/or possibly provide scripture? –  mjgpy3 Dec 9 '12 at 15:31
"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." Ephesians 1:4. God could see our entire lives, even though we could not yet see ourselves. Verse 12 "in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory," means he chose the ones who it would be most fitting to praise him. The Bible does not explain why he did not chose to bend the rest to his will also. It just says it is his right to do with us as he sees fit.Perhaps the arrogance of those who want to tell God what to do is too much to put up with. –  jcohen79 Dec 9 '12 at 16:15
@warren: That depends on how you understand sovereignty. –  Bruce Alderman Dec 11 '12 at 17:24
  1. Agapē does not compel ("It does not insist on its own way" – 1 Cor 13:5b ESV)

  2. Irresistible grace insists on its own way.

  3. God's means of loving us is grace.

  4. God's form of love is agapē.

  5. Irresistible grace is not agapē.

  6. That God saves us is his ultimate expression of love.

  7. This expression of love cannot utilize irresistible grace.

  8. Irresistible grace is not how God saves us. □

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Welcome to the site, but I need to point out that "who is right and who is wrong" is off-topic here. See: the help page, How we are different than other sites? –  David Stratton May 24 '14 at 21:51
@DavidStratton, is what I did not an extremely straightforward way of showing one biblical basis against irresistible grace? I never said it doesn't contain any errors. Instead, the way I laid it out offers very easy avenues of criticism. –  labreuer May 25 '14 at 3:59

Ezekiel chapter 18 is a good refutation.

It's also a refutation of the Pauline theology:

  • There's no such thing as original sin.
  • It's within everyone's power to be righteous.
  • Furthermore, in order to be righteous, one does not need any Jesus.

Some explanation of the above:

The doctrine of Irresistible Grace is a radicalization of Pauline theology. So if you refute the latter, you immediately refute the former. Basically Ezekiel 18 says that God's attitude towards you is solely based on YOUR actions, and only on your actions - not on OTHERS' actions (others might be Jesus, first Adam, your dad, etc): according to Ezekiel, if Jesus really was such a nice guy, it cannot help you - you will have to be nice too. Paul started with the idea of doing no works, since "it's hopeless anyway if you want to change God's attitude towards you." Instead, Paul suggested to believe in Jesus as savior. Calvin went one step further, and removed that requirement too - God will make you believe, you have to do absolutely nothing.

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The question has no relation to Pauline theology, so that part of your answer is irrelevant in the context of this question. If you take that out, you have just one line, which is hardly enough substance for an answer. Care to expound on how Ezekiel 18 is a good refutation of the doctrine of Irresistible Grace? –  El'endia Starman Dec 8 '12 at 5:38
The doctrine of Irresistible Grace is a radicalization of the Pauline theology. So if you refute the latter, you immediately refute the former. Basically Ezekiel 18 says that God's attitude towards you is solely based on YOUR actions, and only on your actions - not on OTHERS' actions. Paul started with the idea of doing no works, since "it's hopeless anyway if you want to change God's attitude towards you." Instead, Paul suggested to believe in Jesus as savior. Calvin went one step further, and removed that requirement too - God will make you believe, you have to do absolutely nothing. –  Judah Dec 8 '12 at 6:08
Great, use the edit button to add that into your answer. That is, explain your answer. –  El'endia Starman Dec 8 '12 at 6:22
Ezekiel 18 is a good start, but I think it's an over-simplification to suggest that Paul taught faith without works. –  Bruce Alderman Dec 11 '12 at 18:06

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