Summary: Can a man resist God's laws? Can he resist God's grace? Two different questions...
Can a man resist God?
Now that too, on the surface, seems like an easy question to answer. God’s Word has been published lo these many years. The Judaeo-Christian value system has been proclaimed all over. Why, the very creation cries out about who God is and how He ought to be feared! But men resist these messages every day, every minute! Surely men resist God! This is how man exercises his “free will.” All men turn away from God, by nature. There is none righteous, no not one! We are all corrupt, depraved. We established that in point one.
So let’s move on to the next point.
Whoa! Not so fast, not so fast. All we are talking about so far is justice. God as law-giver and Judge. Man as law-breaker and condemned. Man has resisted God’s law. But there is another process going on at the same time as justice, in the world. It is grace. Can a man resist grace?
God knew from before the beginning which way man was going to go. He knew that man was incapable of fellowshipping with Him, if He did not receive supernatural assistance. All men were given the chance to believe, to obey. All men refused.
But case not closed. Grace was operating in that pre-world era too. When God was doing all His deciding and planning. And grace said that some would be saved. Grace said, did it not, that God’s Son would die for that group?
You say, why just that group? Why can’t all come to know Him? They have all decided against Him, and are worthy of what they will receive. But grace is a different world, based on His own purposes and desires, not yours or mine. And when that grace enters a man’s heart, He is overwhelmed. He cannot kick against the goad any longer. His will yields to this powerful Lover from Heaven. It is irresistible.
Yes, I have just given the classic Calvinist position. But is there not strong Scriptural support?
John 6:44. “No one can come to Me (Jesus) unless the Father Who sent Me draws him…” How does He draw? Through the Gospel, you say? But many are “called” by the Gospel, and many refuse it, because the Gospel message is external only. It cannot penetrate the hard heart of man unless there is a “drawing” that comes from the Father. Internally.
These Pharisees to whom Jesus was speaking, were prime examples of hardness. And Jesus allowed it to be so. He even told His disciples that the Pharisees could not understand parables because it was not “given” to them to do so. It had been “given” to the disciples (Matthew 13:10-17). Why? I have no idea. Nor does anyone, that I know of.
We’re talking grace here. Amazing grace. Made all the more amazing because not founded on our normal expectations. Jesus prayed all night, and the next morning He chose 12 disciples. Why those 12? I don’t know. They seem like ordinary men to me. Oh, we call them saints now, and so they are, but look at them before Jesus. Fishermen. Tax collectors. You know the list. Not random choosing, but surely choosing known only to God. None of them refused the call of God.
Why you? Why me? No clue. But I do remember the time when the Gospel was so clear to me that there was no way I could have refused it! Irresistible. The words came from outside, from the preacher, from the Bible. The “drawing”, the tears, the clear invitation, from within.
The same theme is earlier n John 6: “All that the Father ‘gives’ to Me will come to Me. And Him that comes to Me I will in no wise cast out!” Just as all those chosen disciples came to Jesus, chosen disciples of all ages still come to Jesus. They can’t help it. They don’t want to help it.
From the foundation of the world, a group of believers has been assigned to Jesus. They will come to Him. Some in tears, some groaning, some jumping for joy, some with serious professions of faith, but they will come. They will come. And they will not be cast out. (More of that concept in the last point.)
I made mention of “kicking against the goad” above. That’s from the conversion story of Saul of Tarsus. Saul was dead set against Jesus. One doesn’t get more venomous in his attacks against Christians. He was so very sure that his place in life was to annihilate the Christian name and witness.
Then Jesus came. Quietly at first, it seems. A little nudge here and there. Viewing the victorious death of the first martyr, Stephen, surely helped. The shepherd’s stick began to cause greater and greater pain. What’s happening to me, Saul must have thought? Why am I losing my enthusiasm for this? Why the doubts and fears about Moses and the law and the Pharisaic way of life?