Efficacious or Irresistible Grace, as it is known in Catholic and Reformed schools respectively, it is a theological term that describes God’s assistance to certain chosen people in order to preserve them for the mission or purpose they have been selected for.
The term Irresistible Grace must not be confused with the Calvinist doctrine that teaches that salvation is compelled by God on the elect in a way that they cannot resists his call to come to Him. Efficacious or Irresistible Grace within a Scriptural context, is the preservation of certain people elected for specific vital missions in order that the possibility of them desisting from the mission does not occur for the sake of a higher purpose. To understand this in proper perspective we need to analyse the types of God’s knowledge.
TYPES OF GOD’s OMNISCIENCE
It is the knowledge God has of all existent truths or realities, as they are.
Example: The planet Earth is inhabited by intelligent, free willed, sentient beings.
The knowledge God has of all possible truths and realities that can happen given all possibilities or circumstances.
Example: If a man fires a weapon to an attacker, he will kill the attacker; if he does not fire the weapon at the attacker, he will be killed by his attacker; if the man does not fire the weapon to his attacker and runs away from the attacker, he will survive his attacker, etc.
This type of knowledge is similar to the intermediate knowledge, but dependant on God’s intervention. It is the knowledge God has about all truths or realities that will come as a result of his deliberate intervention over the circumstances and probabilities, that would not happen if He did not intervene.
Example: What will happen if God stops the firing of a man’s weapon against an attacker; what will happen if God sends someone to help the man from his attacker before he fires a weapon; what will happen if God stops the man from running away if the man decides not to fire his weapon and run away from his attacker, etc.
EFFICACIOUS GRACE OR IRRESISTIBLE GRACE
Contrary to the doctrine of Monergism, in all those realities known to God, human free will remains present in the created participants of these actual or potential realities.
Efficacious Grace acts over the person chosen in a way that eliminates all external and internal compelling factors, through Prevenient Grace and Regeneration without touching the free will. As an example, we have the case of St Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It understood by most Christians that St Mary was preserved in all possible ways in order that she may fulfil her mission as mother of the Son of God and channel of the Incarnation, so that the Plan of Salvation may not fail in case St Mary desisted at some point of her willing participation.
1 - In this case, before God elected Mary for the role of Mother of the incarnated Logos; He foreknew that given Prevenient Grace; she will accept her call out of free will. In this case, Prevenient Grace conditions the person to make a free choice, but does not compel the person to make the choice.
2 – Under this Contingent knowledge, God destines Mary to be the Mother of his Son in the flesh, and regenerates and sanctifies her from her mother’s womb, as He did with other prophets before her. (Luke 1:15). This Regeneration and Sanctification process from the time of conception, frees Mary from all concupiscence and natural inclination to sinfulness, and not only that, but also makes her strong spiritually, which will make it easier for her to resists temptation. However, through all this, free will remains, and Mary needs to exercise this free will to accept her mission and to remain within God’s will. Even though the road is flattened for her, she is still not compelled to accept and persevere. This remains her choice.
3 – After working within the person of Mary, God preserves her surroundings and circumstances, in a way that St Mary is not placed in situations where unrequired temptation or adversity comes her way.
4 – All of these factors are brought about in the right measure, time and manner that will enable Mary to persevere in the path she was chosen for, and she willingly accepted, while preserving her free will.
5 – This type of assistance becomes efficacious or irresistible not because it compels the person overpowering the free will; but because it is given in basis of a previous knowledge of the persons responses to it, so that when that Grace becomes effective in time and space, it will be efficacious without a possibility of failure.
It is in this sense as well that Lord Jesus, speaking about the Great Tribulations said:
“For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”