Introduction to TULIP

Over the past year, Covenant Keepers (CK) has been learning about the Five Points of Calvinism. It can be said that this doctrine is the dividing line between the reformed and the non-reformed and thus it is important that the young people of the church are taught this doctrine from young and maintain the reformed heritage that has always upheld the truth of God’s effectual grace and that all things are to the glory of God alone.

The Five Points of Calvinism is a body of doctrines concerning Soteriology, or “Salvation” with its emphasis on the sovereign good pleasure and working of God in choosing and saving certain people unto salvation as well as man’s utter helplessness and wickedness. It is identified by namely, Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and the Perseverance of the Saints; also known as TULIP. Each individual aspect will be discussed more thoroughly in the coming issues but for now, an overview will suffice and such would be the scope of this article.

The Five Points and God’s Attributes

Those who think little of this truth or any other truths for the matter would usually think that belief over this doctrine ought not to disrupt the “unity” among professing Christians. However, this doctrine is crucial because it concerns the attributes of God. Every work of God comes forth from who He is or i.e., His attributes. How much more important is this truth since it involves the work of salvation itself? Since we know God by His attributes, thus, if a person denies this doctrine of salvation, the god he worships differs from the one true God whom we reformed believers worship and is nothing but an idol made up by the fancy of men’s carnal heart.

The Sovereignty of God

Underlying this doctrine is the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God begins with God being the decider of good and evil, of love and hate, of what exists and what does not, etc. In all things, He decides and it originates from His good pleasure. This is only be tting as He alone is king and ruler of all creation. Being the creator, does He not have the right to decide?

Regarding salvation, He alone, in His eternal counsel, decides who He will save and leaves the rest in their sins to their own condemnation. Using the language of the Bible itself, “Behold the goodness and severity of God…” (Rom 11:22)

While Paul could have used all sorts of soothing, nice-sounding words to soften the reality of God’s sovereignty in salvation, under the inspiration of the Spirit, he was telling the Romans to accept it for He is God and has every right to do so. “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?

Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Rom 9:20-21)

Though this reality is frightening and ought to strike fear in every person, yet this truly is good news to the child of God who in all things seek first the glory of God and is in every way God-centred (cf The Five points of Calvinism and Good News).

The Love and Zeal of God

“O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” – Ps 107:1

Those who deny this doctrine of salvation must necessarily deny the everlasting virtue of the love and mercy of God. For they have to certainly claim, after having claimed that God loved everyone but condemns those who refuse to believe to hell, that the love of God ends for those people because of their unbelief. That is certainly untrue of the love of God. Alternatively, there are also those who claim that God only begins loving a person when they exercise faith to believe in Christ. That is untrue too. To those whom God has set His love on, he loves them to the very end (Jn 13:1). I.e., either God has loved a person and will love him or her to the end, or He has never loved that person.

Many would like to think that love is but a sentimental feeling and think that to be true of God. “O how God would love to save you and has done everything he can but he is waiting for you to choose him.” Truth is, God is zealous for those He loves and His love is a working love that is real and will de nitely bring salvation to those whom He loves. “For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.” (2 Kings 19:31) and “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Mat 1:21)

[These are just a few examples of the attributes involved and other attributes which are not discussed includes the omnipotence, omniscience of God etc. which may be discussed in the later articles]

The Five Points to the Glory of God Alone

God is a being of reason and thus everything that He does is for the highest reason possible — that is, Himself and His glory. TULIP teaches man’s utter ruin in sin, and helplessness regarding his salvation that not even his will would wish that he be saved in Christ (total depravity) while teaching also, that God certainly saves those whom He for His good pleasure and glory has chosen before the foundation of the world was laid. Since God begins and finishes His work of salvation, TULIP rightly teaches that all glory belongs to God in the work of salvation.

The Five Points and History/Worldview

Why do nations rise and fall? Why do the things on Earth, despite the tremendous pain and suffering, occur throughout world history? Only a Calvinist can answer, and that is for the salvation of the Church.

Although TULIP does not explicitly teach that everything in history existed to save the church, yet it teaches that all who Christ had died for must certainly be saved and so therefore everything that happens in the world happened by the sovereign will of God that the means of grace (i.e. Preaching of the gospel etc.) will reach the elect and through them, God irresistibly calls the elect to Himself.

The Five Points and Good News

Although previously mentioned that the sovereignty of God is frightening, yet to His people it is of great comfort.

“…or that decree of election and reprobation, revealed in the Word of God, which though men of perverse, impure and unstable minds wrest to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls affords unspeakable consolation.” (Canons of Dordt 1st Head art.6)

This is due to the certainty of salvation as taught by TULIP. For the world, the devil and his hosts, and even our sinful flesh constantly wages war against us and if we had to rely on our own will to be saved, we would be eternally lost. That, however, is not so as God promises otherwise that He would secure the salvation of His people.

Furthermore, the sovereignty of God is for, and not against, us. God loves His people in Christ and thus works all things for the good of His people. (Rom 8:31-39)

Also, in the sovereignty of God, God only gives us what is best for our salvation and His glory. As God does all things on the account of Himself (as previously mentioned), He, out of His own nature, can only give us what is best and anything less than the best would be contrary to His nature and His glory.

The Five Points and Other Doctrines

TULIP does not stand alone and as any other doctrine, it exists as part of a larger set of intertwining doctrines such as atonement, sanctification, justification, the assurance of faith and covenant theology etc.

Anyone who debates against those who deny TULIP will often find themselves debating against other doctrines as well, such as the disproving of dispensationalism or defending the perfect substitutionary atonement of Christ.

The Five Points and the Five Solas

The five Solas of the reformation was pointing towards a certain direction; the sovereign work of salvation by God alone. For if TULIP were to be denied, the five solas cannot stand too:

“Grace alone” and “Christ alone” would have to be denied since an external condition would be required.

Faith would then become a condition for salvation and that is not the true meaning of “faith alone” since faith has always been the means, and not the requirement, by which we are saved.

Thus, the denial of TULIP would not have been the teaching of “scripture alone” as it no longer teaches salvation to the glory of God alone since man has to fulfil certain requirements and crediting some glory (however little), to himself.

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11: 33-36)

Written by: Woon Tian Loong | Issue 6