We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without any respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by a just and blameless, but at the same time incomprehensible judgment. In regard to the elect, we regard calling as the evidence of election, and justification as another symbol of its manifestation, until it is fully accomplished by the attainment of glory.
John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion , trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2002), 571-572. (III, 21,7)
God by his eternal and immutable counsel-counsel
God does have eternal purposed but these purposes are not “immutable” in the sense of determining and preprogramming each person who will be saved. His purpose is that all men be saved. He has criteria that men must accept or reject, this is his gospel, to determine their salvation. His purpose does not change. He offers salvation to all but not all receive it.
10 Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure,’
A declaration is a statement of an intention of a future action. God declares the end from the beginning, leaving a lot in between which is not all declared. His counsel and pleasure is that all men should be saved. In this dispensation, God wishes all men to believe in him and be saved. If God alone determined who would be saved with no cooperation from the individual then all men should be saved. On the other hand if God created man capable of creating and making free will decisions, he offers salvation to all on the condition of belief, then those who do not believe will not be saved.
Part of God’s purpose, pleasure or counsel is that in the “time of the Gentiles” salvation by faith is the key to eternal life:
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.