There seem to be some Scripture verses that are hard to reconcile on this subject. For example, (a) you have verses (actually, I would submit, almost the whole of Scripture) that say God elects and we don't. (b) You also have verses that clearly uphold the lostness of men in sin. (c) You have verses that indicate that man is held responsible for his own sin. Finally, (d) you have verses that say that any who will come, let him come to Christ and they shall be saved. What to do with these?
- You can uphold only #3 and #4, which means that you must find ways of explaining away #1 and #2, usually by redefining them. Thus, you become a full Arminian or worse (semi-Pelagian, Pelagian, etc.) This includes the folks who say "All means all, and that's all it means," etc.
- You can uphold only #1 and #2, which means you must find ways of redefining #3 and #4. Thus, you become a hyper-Calvinist.
- You can uphold #1 through #4, and try to find some way of understanding them that make sense in the overall frame of mind of Scripture. This requires recognizing that God is God and we are not: we are both finite and sinful. Thus, there will be things that we cannot ultimately understand 100%.
Finally, anybody who hears and wants to accept the Gospel CAN freely accept it. But how can all these things be (echoing Nicodemus)? I submit that the monergist understanding of a will held down or "fettered" by sin (as expressed by Jonathan Edwards) best explains it. Anybody can, in theory, accept the free gift of Christ's sacrifice; but because our wills are fettered by sin, only those who have been regenerated by God WILL accept it.
Is the gospel offer then not a real offer? Not at all. Anybody who is willing, can accept it. You may have read the thoroughly bogus bus stop analogy where Nelson Price argues against Calvinism. Well, I have news for you, Dr. Price: your "missionary couple who with zeal have served Christ all their lives" and your "persons who from youth have loved and ministered in Christ’s name" ARE among the elect, and they have proved it by their actions. Of course, some people may be missionaries though they are not actually regenerated: God knows their hearts, not us. But, if those missionaries truly did it because they loved Jesus Christ, then that is the de facto evidence that they are in fact saved/regenerated/one of the elect. The bus stop analogy may be a "graphic understood by many Baptists regarding predestination," but it's so poor it should not be used unless one is arguing against hyper-Calvinism.