If you look at the “five points” of Calvinism as a timeline or storyline of how salvation works, then I believe they are easier to understand and appreciate than if you look at them in a disjointed or segregated way. Consider that “Total Depravity” describes our disposition as sinners before regeneration, that “Unconditional election” is the Father’s choice to engage in our lives, that “Limited Atonement” honors the effective and purposeful death of Christ, and that “Irresistible Grace” is the Spirit’s sanctifying work within us to author the state of being “born again” within us.
The Scriptures paint a very clear picture of predestination, redemption, and the Spirit’s never-failing transformation of those whom He called. David Steele said it best in the book I often quote from (The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented):
The gospel invitation extends a call to salvation to every one who hears its message. It invites all men without distinction to drink freely of the water of life and live. It promises salvation to all who repent and believe. But this outward general call, extended to the elect and non-elect alike, will not bring sinners to Christ. Why? Because men are by nature dead in sin and are under its power. They are of themselves unable and unwilling to forsake their evil ways and to turn to Christ for mercy. Consequently, the unregenerate will not respond to the gospel call to repentance and faith. No amount of external threatenings or promises will cause blind, deaf, dead, rebellious sinners to bow before Christ as Lord and to look to Him alone for salvation. Such an act of faith and submission is contrary to the lost man’s nature.
Therefore, the Holy Spirit, in order to bring God’s elect to salvation, extends to them a special inward call in addition to the outward call con tainted in the gospel message. Through this special call the Holy Spirit performs a work of grace within the sinner which inevitably brings him to faith in Christ. The inward change wrought in the elect sinner enables him to understand and believe spiritual truth; in the spiritual realm he is giving the seeing eye and the hearing ear. The Spirit creates within him a new heart or a new nature…”
So the general call of the gospel is God’s way of demonstrating to us that nothing saves outside of the power of the Spirit utilizing the tools of election and His Word and redemption to create a new heart within us! The lack of ability of the non-elect to respond to the gospel and the irresistible nature of the Spirit’s work within the elect demonstrate the nature of Sin and the power of God!
Some of my favorite Scriptures that help paint the picture:
II Corinthians 3:17-18 – “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Ezekiel 36: 26-27 – “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.”
John 5:21 – For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.”
Matthew 11:25-27 – At that time Jesus declared, ‘I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.'”
Luke 8:10 – “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”
I Corinthians 2:14 – “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
[Interesting how Acts 5:31 and Acts 11:18 describe conversion as being given or granted repentance…]
Acts 18:27 – “And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed.”
Romans 9:16 – “So then [it is] not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”
I Corinthians 3:6-7 – I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
There are countless other Scriptures that place the work and responsibility for regeneration squarely on the shoulders of God. Why would we, when there is no evidence in Scripture for it, place any responsibility on ourselves or other men or pretend that we have the power to approach God in our depravity or resist the power of God when He has determined to redeem and regenerate us?