How does the Holy Spirit providentially govern the lives of individual human beings?

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It's important that whenever you hear theologians talk about "irresistible grace" to understand what they mean and to keep several factors in mind. The first thing I'd have to say would be that Romans 8 verses 7 and 8 tells us that the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God and it does not submit to God's law. But more than that, it says it cannot submit to God's law. So there's an inability that the human nature has, or the human mind has, when it comes to responding positively, especially in a saving way, to the law of God or to the commands of God, one of which would be to believe in Jesus. But at the same time, when you hear the term irresistible grace, it's also important to understand that we mean by that something very narrow and very specific. In Acts chapter 7 verse 51, we read the call or the accusation, the rebuke, why do you constantly resist the Holy Spirit? There are ways in which the work of the Holy Spirit can be resisted. And at the same time, in Romans chapter 9 verse 19 we learn that "who can resist the will of God?" So, there are ways in which the Holy Spirit can be resisted, ways in which Holy Spirit cannot be resisted, and that's where this term irresistible grace becomes very important. It's not just that all the work of Holy Spirit cannot be resisted, because obviously the Holy Spirit can be resisted, according to Acts chapter 7 verse 51. And people do that all the time. Anytime the Holy Spirit makes offers to people — he leads them, he guides them, he gives them information about things, tells them about the commands of God — that can be resisted. The only time that the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted is when God has decreed specifically that he is not to be resisted at this time. And so, when you hear people talk about irresistible grace, that work of the Holy Spirit is a very special thing. It has not to do with the general call of the gospel. It doesn't even have to do with the less general but still nevertheless resistible calls of the Holy Spirit to obey him, even in the lives of believers, but has to do with that specific time when God has decreed that his will will be accomplished in a special, specific way. And that, when God has so decreed it, is irresistible work from the Holy Spirit.

Answer by Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. is Co-Founder and President of Third Millennium Ministries who served as Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary and has authored numerous books.