God chose the elect and Christ died for them in a special way, but this redemption must be applied to them in order for them to be saved. This leads us to the Fourth Point of Calvinism. First, let us get the general picture and then the precise focus. As we have shown, there is a general sense in which God loves all men as His creatures (Matt. 5:44-45; Luke 6:35-36; Psa. 33:5,145:9, 14-16). We call this Common Grace. God gives them the bounties of life on this planet. Moreover, there is a sense in which God wills all men everywhere to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), and so He offers them salvation indiscriminately.
We call this the Free Offer of the Gospel, and it is seen in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). God issues a general “call” to all who hear the Gospel (Matt. 22:14). All who hear are invited. But because all men are totally depraved and hate God, they resist this call and the work of the Spirit (Acts 7:51).
Evangelicals agree so far, but again Calvinists go a step further. God has a special love for the elect and will do more than simply give an external invitation. He does something that guarantees that they will accept this invitation. He overwhelms them with what we call Irresistible Grace. In addition to the general call to all men, God gives them a special call (Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Pet. 1:10), or what Paul describes as a “holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9). It is a calling by special grace (Gal. 1:15). God thereby draws the elect irresistibly to Himself with special loving-kindness (Jer. 31:3; Hos. 11:4; Song 1:4). He causes the elect to come to Him (Psa. 65:4) by turning our wills around (Prov. 21:1). This is irresistible, for God “drags” us to Christ (John 6:44) and “compels” us by divine omnipotence to come (Luke 14:23). He actually changes our wills so that we come willingly (Phil. 2:13; Psa. 110:3).
Now, exactly how does God do this? There is much mystery in how God works grace in the hearts of the elect, but the Bible tells us some definite things about the process. God sovereignly opens the dead hearts of the elect (Acts 16:14). It is not that they opened their hearts to receive Christ; Christ opened their hearts that He might enter. Only as a result can it be said that they opened the door. So, He opens our hearts, and with the doors of our hearts being opened we can hear His voice (John 10:16,27). This is not, of course, a literal voice but rather the special call of Christ in Scripture. In the process, God sovereignly gives the elect the new birth (John 3:1-8; 5:21; James 1:18). They did not regenerate themselves; they were regenerated sovereignly by God’s free grace (John 1:13). No spiritually dead man can make himself alive any more than a corpse can. Matter cannot create itself, and the new birth is a new creation that is sovereignly given by God’s grace (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal 6:15). It is a spiritual resurrection (Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13).
The elect are not born again because they believe; rather, they believe because they have been born again (1 John 5:1). The new birth is a sovereign gift, and so is faith (2 Pet. 1:1; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 1:29; John 3:27, 6:65; 1 Cor. 3:6; 4:7; Rom. 12:3). Repentance is also a free gift that is sovereignly bestowed (2 Tim. 2:25; Acts 5:31; 11:18). Because the elect now have faith, God justifies them and they are saved.
The distinctive of Calvinism on this point is that “Salvation is of the Lord”(Jonah 2:9). If any man is ever to be saved, it is only by God’s free grace from first to last. Evangelicals in general will agree that salvation is by grace and not by works (Eph. 2:8-9), but Calvinist go a step further and state that this saving grace is sovereignly given to the elect. It is not merely offered, for it is offered to all. It is sovereignly and irresistibly given to the elect and to them alone. It is not given to the non-elect.