"All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." John 6: 37
Is Four-Point Calvinism Possible?
Some brothers claim that they are four-point Calvinists or they deny the doctrine of limited atonement while simultaneously claiming to embrace total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints. But is such a position possible?
To say that limited atonement is not necessary is to misunderstand it. Everyone involved (Five-point Calvinists, four-point Calvinists and Arminians), actually believes in a limited atonement since we can all agree that Christ did not actually redeem everyone who ever lived. According to all evangelical positions, there will be some who end up in the eternal lake of fire. The question, therefore, is not whether there is a "limit" to the extent of the atonement, but rather, what is the nature of the limit and who limits it? Is it limited by God's choice and design or by free human choices? Did God, from eternity, sovereignly determine to whom He would apply the benefits of the atonement, or did God leave it to man's autonomous free will?
In other words, to reject limited atonement is to reject total depravity and unconditional election. The four-point Calvinists, therefore, do not really believe in election, but rather, that the natural man still has the moral ability to turn to God on his own without regenerating grace (as if faith was somehow a contribution on our part). Therefore, it is impossible to be a four-point Calvinist and remain consistent. The other points of the doctrines of grace cannot stand without it. In fact, all of the points stand or fall together since it is either God or man determines whether the atonement will be effectual.
Some may say that there is a universal element in the atonement. Indeed it could be successfully argued that there ARE at least two intentions in Christ's work of the atonement. The first one is for the elect, in whom God has decreed that the atonement is certain and eventual, therefore it is necessary that it will be dispensed and applied on His people at a time of the Spirit's choosing. The second is for the non-elect, in which God has decreed that the atonement will only be a potentiality and never an actuality. This is why we freely hold out the gospel to all unbelievers and tell them that Christ died for all who would believe. His death also has God to withhold his wrath for a time as another benefit. The value of Christ's atonement is obviously enough to save 10,000 times 10,000 so the question is not its sufficiency but, rather, God's intent. The following passage explicitly shows that Jesus understands the Father's intent:
"This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day."
Jesus shows His intent here is to save all that the Father has given Him, those He has set his affection on from eternity, and no others. We ask, then, in His sovereignty, did God, before the foundation of the world, in His eternal counsels know and determine to whom He would apply the benefits of the atonement? If not, then is the effectiveness of the atonement left to sinful man to ultimately determine? Do the Persons of the Trinity have conflicting goals in accomplishing and applying salvation? No, the Persons of the Trinity work in harmony - The Father elects a particular people, Christ dies for those the Father has "given Him" and the Holy Spirit likewise applies the benefits of the atonement to the same. That is the meaning of limited atonement or particular redemption. I conclude therefore that so-called four-point Calvinists either do not understand this doctrine or they really do not believe in election to begin with.
Still, some evangelicals insist that fallen man's faith (prior to regenerative grace) is key that ultimately opens the door to God's favor. But look what John Piper, in the clear light of Scripture (Eph 2:5, 8), explains about our faith:
"And when you believe as you ought to believe, you will discover that your belief -- like all other spiritual blessings -- was purchased by the death of Christ. The sin of unbelief was covered by the blood in your case, and therefore the power of God's mercy was released through the cross to subdue your rebellion and bring you to the Son. You did not make the cross effective in your life by faith. The cross became effective in your life by purchasing your faith". - John Piper
In other words, Jesus has already paid that price in full for us since His love for His people is unconditional. Faith is the infallible supernatural result of the Spirit working the new birth in His people. This is an important concept: Regeneration is a part of what Christ purchased for us on the cross so faith is not something that the sinner contributes towards the price of his salvation. When unregenerate we could not help ourselves (when we were still helpless Christ died for sinners) Therefore, He did everything necessary for our salvation. While unregenerate, no one could possibly submit to the humbling terms of the gospel, but the Holy Spirit sovereignly applies regeneration to the elect. Christ obviously did not do this for everyone in the world or else all persons would be saved. So we are not partly dependent but WHOLLY dependent on the work of Christ for our redemption, which includes our ability (through regeneration) to have faith in the Redeemer. Since we do not have the power in ourselves to do anything redemptively good, apart from the work of God's Son on the cross, He must also give, as one of its benefits, the Holy Spirit for our conversion. Our redemption in Christ is the wellspring out of which flows regeneration, faith, repentance, justification and sanctification. So although the atonement may have more than one intent, its central purpose is for the redemption of elect (Titus 2:14).
To conclude then,Christ died in a way for the elect that he did not for the non-elect. He obviously does not regenerate all people, therefore he did not die for all men in the same way.
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God" 1 John 5:1 ESV (emphasis mine)