And was the Apostle Paul’s Experience on the road to Damascus an example of Irresistible Grace at work?
First question first. The standard principle in Reformed churches is: “by grace you have been saved through faith … it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). To paraphrase the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, this “gift” is the undeserved acceptance and love received from another. It refers to the undeserved favour of God in providing salvation for those deserving condemnation. In the more specific Christian sense, it speaks of the saving activity of God which is manifested in the gift of His Son to die in the place of sinners.
What about “irresistible”? Is Paul’s experience an example of this?
This is a bit more complicated. The views proffered by men, much more learned than I am, fall on both sides of the fence. I would be brief and simple here.
First, let’s be clear what “irresistible grace” means. It is sole supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of sinners. Very simply put, it means that whatever God decrees to happen will inevitably come to pass, even in the salvation of individuals. The Holy Spirit will work in the lives of the elect so that they inevitably will come to faith in Christ.
This is what we see in Paul’s experience. He was an enemy of Christianity, an aggressive persecutor of Christians – a “chief” or “foremost” sinner in his own words (1 Tim 1:15). To him, the Christians were heretics, apostates who believed the resurrected Christ to be the long-promised Messiah and Saviour. Well, on that road, Paul saw and spoke with the resurrected Christ! In an instant, his whole point of view changed. He now knew that Jesus had come back to life and was his Master.
That grace was irresistible and it became an important part of his story. He told it to an angry crowd in Jerusalem (Acts 22:1- 21). He told it again when defending himself before King Agrippa and the Roman governor Festus (Acts 26:1-23). And he also wrote often about the importance of God’s calling for every Christian.
Each follower of Christ has a unique story of God’s calling, but essentially Christians have the same calling. As Paul wrote, God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim 1:9).
Pastor Robert Chew