One of our Sunday school teachers emailed me a question about the doctrine of irresistible grace. The teacher wrote:
I have a quick question for you. I teach 9th grade catechism. The curriculum is the Five Solas and the Canons of Dort. We have just finished discussing “Irresistible Grace” and are beginning “Perseverance of the Saints.” We were talking about how God gets what He wants and how we cannot resist the effectual call of the Holy Spirit. One of the kids asked, “If God gets what He wants, why do we sin? He doesn’t want us to sin.” I answered, “I’m not completely sure, but it’s with regard to our salvation that God gets what He wants….I told the kids I would talk to you, so that’s why I’m emailing you.
Here’s my brief answer to the question:
Children often ask simple and yet profound questions that we, adults, sometimes find difficult to answer in a way that they can easily understand. I think your reply was excellent. Indeed, the doctrine of irresistible grace means that if God has chosen you to be saved, you cannot resist His choosing-saving grace. When I teach this doctrine I explain the distinction between the decretive and preceptive will of God.
In God’s decretive (decree) will, God always gets what He wants. That is, whatever He has ordained to happen from eternity past will surely come to pass. It is in this context that we should understand the doctrine of irresistible grace. God will always get all that He has chosen to be saved before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-6).
In God’s preceptive (precept) will, however, God does not always get what He wants. For instance, God in His precept (or Word) wants us to be holy (not to sin), but because of our indwelling sin, we sin against God (1 Pet. 1:15). In this sense, God does not always get what He wants. God wants us to obey His Law, but we willfully resist Him. Thankfully, someday we will be incapable of resisting His preceptive will, for we will be perfect in Christ. This glorious truth will happen either when we die or when Jesus comes again. If we die in Christ, then we will be with the Lord forever in perfection (Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8). Likewise, when Jesus comes again, we who are alive will “meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).