We have seen this in regard to our humanity-wide depravity (point one of Calvinism), and in regard to Christ’s atonement of a people from every race and tribe (point three of Calvinism), and in regard to God’s gracious, unconditional election of a people out of this depravity and through this atonement (point two of Calvinism). And we have seen that the way we participate in that salvation is through justification by faith alone. This faith comes into being through conversion—that is, through being united with Jesus by faith so that we die with him and rise with him to a new life of faith and love.
… God overcomes our depravity and our rebellion and grants us the gift of faith and repentance. This is often called irresistible grace. We believe that when Christ died to obtain his church (Eph. 5:25), he obtained for her not only the grace that results from faith (like forgiveness and justification and sanctification and eternal life), but also the grace that produced the faith in the first place.
This grace is called “irresistible” not because we can’t resist it, but because God overcomes this resistance at the point of our conversion. He overcomes our unbelief and grants that we see Christ for the irresistibly glorious Savior that he is. He makes Christ look compelling—as he really is—so that we follow him. In the moment of our coming to Christ we are decisively drawn by God and more free than we have ever been (John 6:44; 8:32).
God may allow resistance for a long time (Acts 7:51). For example, even though Paul said that God set him apart before he was born (Gal. 1:15), nevertheless, between Paul’s birth and conversion he was in total rebellion against God. He was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). All this God tolerated in Paul before the appointed time came for God to take Paul captive on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1–20).
Irresistible grace means that since no human being can submit to God because of our hardness of heart and rebellion and spiritual deadness (Rom. 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14), the only way any of us is saved is by sovereign, irresistible grace. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father . . . draws him” (John 6:44). “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (v. 65). We are saved by grace through faith, Paul said, and that is not of ourselves; it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8–9; cf. Phil. 1:29). Our faith is a gift from God. And so is repentance, as Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:25: “God may perhaps grant them repentance.”