The Five Points of Calvinism are a summary of the difference between Calvinism and Armenianism, as a point-by-point response to the five points of the Armenian Remonstrance. Identified by namely, Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and the Perseverance of the Saints, TULIP, in short, is the doctrine that the Covenant Keepers (CK) was studying over the past year.
As a start, the Five Points of Calvinism, commonly known as TULIP, were set forth by the Synod of Dort back in the years 1618-1619. These points came as a rejection to the controversial Armenian objections raised by Dutch churches to the Belgic Confession which were documented in The Remonstrance of 1610. As a result, the Canons of Dort was published, being the judgment of the National Synod, containing the five essential points that are crucial to the Reformed doctrine till today.
One of the points, Unconditional Election, will be what this article aims to shed some light on, sharing briefly what CK has learnt with respect to this topic and providing some insight to the reader. As many are now discarding this doctrine and embracing falsehood, hopefully through this article, the reader might be spurred on to research more into Unconditional Election and the Reformed faith, and embrace the truth which God has inscribed in the Scriptures.
The Meaning of Unconditional Election
So, what is Unconditional Election? What seems like a very complicated doctrine can be easily broken down into its two key words, “Unconditional” and “Election”. Election is basically the eternal choice by God of certain definite individuals in Jesus Christ unto salvation. Unconditional then means that this election took place without any need for man to fulfil any conditions to inherit that salvation. This means that man by no means have to do any good works to enable him to be saved. The Reformed doctrine is one that says that all the election in itself has nothing to do with man, but is only reliant on the sovereignty and will of God.
With that comes great scepticism that the doctrine is biblical. You might ask, If God is love, why does he save some and hate others without any criteria? How on earth can Unconditional Election be a teaching of scripture? With that, here are some Bible verses that do support the judgement concluded by the Synod of Dort against the followers of Jacobus Arminius.
Ephesians 1:11. “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Ephesians 2:8. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
These verses expound on the truth of the Scriptures that God indeed does choose His people through predestination. This means that He determined, before the foundation of the world, who would be His elect and be saved unto eternal salvation. This ordination is definitely not one that man chooses, but rather a gift of God.
Romans 9:15-16. “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”
With this Unconditional Election comes reprobation which is the display of God’s justice. The reprobate are due for destruction, one example being Esau as taught by Apostle Paul in Romans 9:11-13. “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Reprobation is not a denial of a loving God, but rather it displays the justice required by God’s holiness and His intolerance of any sin. There is no compromise to His righteousness and sovereignty, resulting in the coexistence of reprobation and man’s responsibility for his own sin.
Some passages provide certain ambiguity and at first glance might not seem to support the Reformed stance:
Romans 8:28-30. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
This verse seems to support the Armenian stance that God has a crystal ball which he uses to see into the future of who will accept Him and believe in Him. However, the Bible cannot possibly be contradictory by having differing doctrines. At a second look, we can then interpret “foreknow” to be one of love like how “Adam knew Eve” in Genesis 4:1. This love must precede predestination as seen in Ephesians 1:3-5 where God, “in love, having predestinated us (His elect) unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself (God), according to the good pleasure of His will.” Thus with accurate interpretation, we see that the Reformed faith is the true reading of the Word of God.
Denials – Free Will
Along with these difficult passages come denials that teach falsehood with regards to doctrine. One such denial is Freewill which teaches that ordinary man, man outside of and apart from the grace of God, is able to choose Jesus Christ and salvation. Those that believe in this, namely the Pelagians and Arminians are compelled to reject predestination. According to those who hold to this doctrine of free will, the decisive choice for salvation is not of God but of man. Consequentially, Election becomes conditional and apparently God in eternity simply looks down the corridors of history, sees who will choose Him and who will not, elects those who do and rejects the rest. Predestination is reduced to mere prescience. God chooses those who choose Him.
The folly of this teaching ought to be apparent. If salvation depended on man’s choice, no man would be saved: “There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10-12). The teaching of the free will not only denies the total depravity of fallen man, but it is also an assault on God’s sovereign predestination. In the clearest possible language Jesus declares in John 15:16, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you…”
Other denials include the doctrines of common grace and the free offer of the gospel that also contradict the Bible and the teaching of the Reformed faith. As Reformed Christians, we must always be on guard against any heresies and false teaching that might infiltrate the church.
Knowing the truth is not enough. Knowing how to apply it to one’s life is equally important. Only through application can we then see a change in one’s spiritual health, everything owing to God’s sovereignty. The doctrine of predestination and the consistent maintaining of this doctrine are of the greatest practical importance for the church. It is not true, as the enemies allege, that this doctrine is cold, lifeless, and of no practical value. For a doctrine that is essential to the gospel, Unconditional Election does have learning points.
The faithful confession of the doctrine of predestination is vital for the life of the antithesis to which every child of God is called. Denial of predestination, as history shows, inevitably leads to a breakdown of the antithesis. Antithesis means the separation between the church and the world, and the spiritually separate life the Christian is called to live over and against the world. We are to be in the world but not of the world.
The practical implication of the doctrine of predestination forbids the church to have common cause with the world. To use the words of the prophet to King Jehoshaphat, who had sinfully made an alliance with wicked Ahab, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?” (II Chron. 19:2) Whether it is being unequally yoked or having a common cause with unbelievers, Christians should definitely shun away and not partake of what the ungodly do.
With this implication, hopefully this article has impressed upon the reader the truths of the doctrine of Unconditional Election, that one might live an antithetical life, giving all glory to God alone.
Written by: Elias Tan | Issue 7