Grace, Obedience, and God’s Call


For some reason, I have decided that today’s post will be controversial. Now that wasn’t my intention at first. In fact, I wasn’t even planning to blog today. But I was reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I found myself puzzling over a few things. Bonhoeffer was discussing the balance between God’s call of grace and our obedience. Having spent several years learning about Calvinism–though not myself a Calvinist–I always find such topics intriguing. Today I found myself once again faced with the same conundrum that has bothered many Christians for centuries. After I had read a few pages, I was struck by a thought. So I sent a Facebook message to my roommate, making my case. What you will find in the rest of this post is a fleshing out of what I wrote to her. The topic is irresistible grace. Not being a Calvinist, I don’t agree with this doctrine (just for full disclosure and clarity before I go on). However, I am interested in what you all think–Calvinist or not.

Jesus called people, right? He called his disciples. He called others. But not everyone He called came. Jesus offered grace to the rich young ruler, to the guy who wanted to bury his father, to Judas. In fact, let’s back up to the guy who wanted to bury his dad. He wasn’t the only one who talked to Jesus in this account. In Matthew 8:18-22, we find that another man also comes to Jesus. Luke 9:57-62 records the same events and informs us that there was a third man there. We’ll start with the first man Matthew mentions.
This guy was a scribe. He came up to Jesus and promised to follow Him wherever. But Jesus warns the scribe that life won’t be easy if he follows the Messiah: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8: 20). That’s the last we hear of the scribe.
Next, we have the man I first mentioned. This guy was clearly called by Jesus. In Luke 9, we read that Jesus turned to him and said, “Follow Me.” Jesus had given the same call to His apostles. Each of those men had hopped up and followed. However, this man asks Jesus to wait for him to bury his father–then he will follow. Jesus’ response leaves no room for misinterpretation: “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9: 60). That’s the last we hear of the man who wanted to bury his father.
Finally, we have the third man. He tells Jesus that he will follow Him, but the man has one request. He wants to go home and say goodbye to his family, to his home. As with the others, Jesus answers the would-be disciple: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” That’s the last we hear of the man who wanted to say goodbye.

Okay, one more example. Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. This man was clearly called by Jesus and given authority as one of the apostles. In Matthew 10:4, we find his name in a list of the apostles who were given authority to exorcise demons and heal diseases. However, this same Judas will not only leave Jesus but will also betray Him and hand Him over to the men who want to kill Him. In Matthew 26:14-25, 47-49, and 27:3-10, we can read the tragic end to Judas’ story. He hanged himself, overwhelmed by guilt. And that’s the last we hear of Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus Christ.

People didn’t take the grace offered. Some even ran toward Jesus or spent years with him, but in the end they didn’t live in the grace offered. The way I see it, there’s only a couple conclusions we can draw from this.
1) Jesus’ call wasn’t actually an offer of grace. He just faked it, knowing that these were not the elect.
2) Grace is not irresistible.
I don’t think Jesus faked a call to anyone. That doesn’t seem to serve a purpose or be consistent with God’s character. Further, in Judas’ case, it’s hard to believe that Jesus would give authority and high position to a man He did not genuinely call–even though He knew Judas would betray Him.
Therefore, I do not believe in irresistible grace.

All that being said, I’d like to hear your thoughts. Does what I wrote make any sense? To my friends who disagree with me, please respond to me! I really am curious about your thoughts on this. I’d love to have some good discussion.

Dios te bendiga. =)


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