Sovereign grace, also known as irresistible grace, is the teaching that God's grace will eventually save every person God has sovereignly appointed for salvation regardless of his or her resistance to the gospel message. This doctrine is often associated with Calvinism or Reformed Theology, though it is not limited to these theological systems.
Sovereign grace – What is it?
Two primary passages in the New Testament are used as the basis for the teaching of sovereign grace. First, Romans 8:29-30 includes a strong foundation for the doctrine, stating, "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." This progression of predestined/called/justified/glorified covers the entire spectrum from God's initial choice or election to a person's eternal glorification with Christ.
In addition to this unbreakable chain described in Romans 8, Jesus speaks directly to this issue in John 6. Verses 37-39 teach, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day." The Father "gives" (election) people to Christ, they "come to me" (conversion/salvation), and are never again separated from Christ (perseverance). Those the Father has chosen will be with Him in eternity.
John 6:44 makes this claim even stronger: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day." No one comes to faith in Jesus unless God the Father draws Him. This is what is referred to as irresistible grace. The person drawn by God cannot ultimately resist. Further, the person God draws will be with Him forever.
This chapter interestingly concludes with many disciples or followers leaving Jesus. When they did, He asked the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" (John 6:67). Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69). Jesus then noted that Judas would betray Him, highlighting that even among His closest followers would be one who would turn away and reveal himself as an unbeliever.
Sovereign grace offers an intriguing look at two of God's important attributes—His sovereign knowledge and His grace. Through a look at the Scriptures, glimpses of these attributes can be learned, offering a deeper understanding of how God has brought sinners to redemption and promises them eternity with Him.
How do man's free will and God's sovereignty work together in salvation?
Saving grace – What is it?
What is the doctrine of predestination?
What is the connection between predestination / election and foreknowledge?
What does Ordo Salutis mean? What is the Order of Salvation?
Truth about Salvation