Perseverance of the Saints

“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” John 6:39

This is what the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints or also known as the Preservation of the Saints, the last point in the Five Points of Calvinism speaks of. Those who are elected by God will never lose the salvation given to them nor fall away. So how is this doctrine a comfort to believers?

Preservation of the Saints

God by His grace eternally preserves those whose hearts He has regenerated. In John 10:28 “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Without any condition, our gracious God gives us eternal life! Not only that, our Most Highest God pledges that He will preserve His sheep and nothing can stop God from bringing His people to heaven.

In the Old Testament, God didn’t forsake Israel even when Israel turned their backs on God, sinning against Him countless of times. In the book of Jeremiah, in chapter 32, Israel worshipped idols openly, provoking God to wrath! God called them to repentance again and again but Israel ignored God, the One who had been diligently “rising up early and teaching them”. As a result of Israel’s disobedience and sin, they caused Judah to sin too. But, God who is graciously merciful to His people, promised restoration to Israel and Judah and He will “cause them to dwell safely”. Despite Israel’s and Judah’s sins, God still brings His people back to Him. Why? Because He is their God! And in verse 40, God declares “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” God works in the elect sinners’ hearts that we will always go back to Him. The fear that God puts in our hearts isn’t the kind of fear that causes us to be afraid of Him, but it is the kind of fear that causes us to look to Him in awe and in reverence and acknowledge Him as a merciful God. Also, we know we can come back to Him when we sin to ask for forgiveness. We will not continually sin and fall away but come back to Him to seek forgiveness and repent. (Jeremiah 32:29-40)

Here’s an analogy: Our life is like a rock wall. The rock wall has many different kinds and types of rocks mounted onto the wall. There are rocks which are easy to grab on which represents the prosperity in our lives, while there are rocks which are difficult to grab on represents the tribulations in our lives. When we are holding on to those rocks which are easy to grab, we find that ascending up the wall is easy; we are not tired at all. However, when we are holding on to those rocks which are difficult to grab, we find ourselves struggling to ascend. But whichever rock we hold on to, it helps us to ascend to the top of the wall, which is Heaven. As we mount higher, the climbing gets harder. We are faced with strong winds which try to blow us down, and we start to lose our strength and stamina. The wind blows us hard and our grip starts to slip. This is like our pilgrim journey on Earth. The battle with Satan gets harder each day. At times we find ourselves spiritually down, tired, and at the losing end; we think there is no hope left. However, we are not blown away from the wall; we know we will not fall. Why? Firstly, because we are supported by our Be layer. God is our Be layer! He is always supporting us, making sure that we never fall. Secondly, like the Rope that joins the Be layer to us, Christ death on the cross reconciles us with God. Christ is the Rope! We have the assurance of a sure and steadfast anchor (Hebrews 6:19). What a comfort we have!

We are actually fighting a winning battle! We know we have won because when Christ comes again, God by His great power will defeat Satan once and for all (Genesis 3:15)!

Perseverance of the Saints

On the other hand, although God sovereignly preserves His elected saints, His people are still responsible to live holy and thankful lives.

In 1 John 3:2-3 “Beloved, now are we the sons of GOD, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” As children of God, we ought to ‘walk by faith and live in hope’ – taken from Matthew Henry. Walking by faith means trusting and having the assurance that God will deliver His promises – God will give us grace to press on until the second coming of Christ. Living in hope means believing that when Christ comes again, we will be glorified and be brought back to our Heavenly home. We know that our Lord is holy and pure. God and sin can never dwell together. Therefore, while waiting for Christ to come again, we should strive to lead holy and acceptable lives by using God’s word as the principles of our lives and fleeing from sin and temptation (2 Peter 2:11), thus growing in grace and holiness. In addition, the Bible teaches “…Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16 and Leviticus 11:44) This is what the Lord commands us to do. As regenerated children of God, we ought to “put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;” (Ephesians 4:22-23). Also, we will be inclined to do so (2 Peter 1:10).

In Psalm 119:33 “Teach me, O Lord, the ways of thy status; and I shall keep in unto the end.” David is certain that when God teaches him His   commandments,   God   will   also give David grace and strength to keep them. Likewise, whether in times of prosperity or in times of tribulation, God will always give us grace to keep His statues. By God’s infinite grace, we are able to persevere!

Applications

After knowing the doctrine of Perseverance/Preservation of the Saints, how should we apply it in our lives? We know that we are preserved by God’s grace and we are only able to persevere by God’s grace too. Every day we are battling with sin. In Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit is indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We need to constantly look to God in prayer, asking Him for grace to help us say no to sin. Thus, when we pray according to God’s word and seek to do His will (Luke 11:9, Jeremiah 33:3), God delivers us and we see His power and glory and His love for us. This strengthens our faith as we trust on Him more. However, this takes time. We have to continuously study God’s Word to seek His will and pray without ceasing. And God according to His sovereign plan will answer us. It is through prayer that God helps us. Therefore, prayer is apt in a Christian’s life.

Secondly,   by   listening   and   reading the word of God, God preserves His people. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” God’s exhortations, admonitions, encouragements, are all used to keep us from straying. Thus, reading of God’s word is important. In addition, listening to the preaching of God’s word during worship services or through audio sermons is equally important. In John 10:27-28 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Therefore the more we should be diligent in doing daily devotions and keeping the Sabbath day holy.

Relation to the other four points

God preserves the elect because He, by His sovereign will, without any condition chose them (The Doctrine of Unconditional Election). God preserves those whom He has chosen because Christ has died for them (The Doctrine of Limited atonement). God preserves them by giving them an efficacious and irresistible grace so that nothing at all can separate them from having eternal salvation (The doctrine of Irresistible grace). They need this grace because without it, they are unable to do any good at all, much less able to obtain everlasting life because they are totally depraved (The Doctrine of Total Depravity). May we guard this truth dearly in our hearts.

Conclusion

Press on! We have this peace and comfort which assures us that by God’s grace, He will preserve us and we will be able to persevere in whatever circumstances we face (Philippians 4:7). Psalm 18:49 “Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.” All praise and glory go to our one and only sovereign Lord! Soli Deo Gloria!

Written by: Lim Tze Yan | Issue 7

Irresistible Grace

Does our salvation depend on god’s grace or on the sinner’s free will? Can god’s will to save His elect be made void eventually? Can it happen that god’s grace can actually be resisted?

These are essential questions, and in this article we shall try to explore these issues.

The doctrine of Irresistible Grace (or efficacious grace) is the fourth point of the Reformed faith which teaches that the saving grace of God cannot be resisted. When God in eternity elects a man, that man is saved. And nothing, not even the devil, can prevent his salvation. However, it is important to note that the crux of the issue is when we say that God’s grace is irresistible, we are also acknowledging that God is also indeed irresistible. God is sovereign, and in essence, His will cannot be made void. “He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and none can stay his hand.” (Daniel 4:35)

Saved by grace alone

When a sinner is being saved, God calls him first through the preaching of the gospel which is an external calling. However, for the sinner to be saved, there needs to be an internal call where through the Holy Spirit, regeneration happens in the innermost recesses of the man. God opens and softens his heart and changes him from a dead, unbelieving sinner to a living and believing adopted child of God. It is only the power of grace that can cause this radical change in him.

Salvation is by grace alone! There is no denying this as the Scriptures clearly teach this. In Ephesians 2:8, the apostle Paul teaches,   “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” This means that our works make no contribution whatsoever to our salvation. Even what we consider as our best works do not merit our salvation because we are already dead in sin and nothing we do can save ourselves. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) Moreover, in Titus 3:5, Paul declares, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Thus, without a doubt, we can see that the grace of God is indeed the force and energy that converts the sinner’s heart and makes it willing to repent and believe in the Saviour.

An Irresistible Grace

The grace that enters our soul and converts our stubborn will cannot be resisted. There is nothing that can stop God’s will and plan to save a sinner. Because God is an irresistible and sovereign God, thus His saving grace is irresistible and sovereign too. Even the most obstinate sinner cannot resist this grace. When God chooses to give saving grace to a sinner, it is by His almighty power that it will triumph in the heart of the sinner. He will definitely be saved. Moreover, when grace is given by God to the sinner, it is already effective before man can act. Hence, man cannot even act to resist it. This grace is so effective that it will work faith in the sinner to draw the sinner to Christ. There are many verses in the scripture which teach the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. God does not merely try to save sinners, depending on how they respond; no, He saves sinners sovereignly, efficaciously and irresistibly.

John 6:37 “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” In this text, the “shall come” shows indication that the sinner will definitely come to Christ when God has chosen him. This shows that when God has chosen him, he cannot resist God’s will and the power of God is an irresistible force.

Romans 8:29-30 “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 text shows that once a sinner has been elected in God’s eternal counsel, he will surely proceed to being justified and glorified. Nothing can stand in the way of the sinner obtaining salvation and the final glorification of those being called.

There is no doubt that this doctrine of Irresistible Grace is the teaching of the Scriptures. To deny this doctrine is akin to calling our God an ineffective, weak and powerless God.

Practical Importance

For reformed Christians like us, it is important that we wholeheartedly believe in this doctrine. Our assurance of salvation depends on the truth of Irresistible Grace. If indeed we can resist and lose grace, how can we be assured that our salvation is certain? We would then be living in constant doubt and fear if we will ever be saved. The thought of it is indeed frightening and depressing!

In addition, our belief in Irresistible Grace parallels our confession that salvation is by grace alone, and not by a mixture of works and grace. We know the latter is the false doctrine and hence we need to hold tightly onto this doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

Another point we can note is that by believing in Irresistible Grace, we can then pray for the conversion and repentance of ourselves and our loved ones. If grace is not irresistible, we do not have the comfort of knowing that a backsliding Christian may one day turn back to God. Our prayers for his conversion and repentance would then be in vain because grace can be resisted and that makes God powerless to do anything. Hence, through the doctrine of Irresistible Grace, we can have the blessed assurance that wayward or straying members of the church can indeed come back to God, through His grace.

Relation to the other points of TULIP

Total depravity teaches that man is totally dead in sin and because of this, we are unworthy of salvation. Therefore, our salvation must be by grace alone. Since man has no good in him, and no ability to do good, this grace must be irresistible.

Unconditional election is the basis for Irresistible Grace. Since election does not occur due to any merit of ours, therefore, our salvation is not by our works. This works parallel to Irresistible Grace.

The teaching of Irresistible Grace preserves the truth of limited atonement. If free will and resistible grace holds true, then Christ would have died in vain. Although Christ died for the man and wants to save him, He cannot because the grace was resisted and the sinner is unwilling to be converted.

Irresistible Grace also guarantees the preservation of saints. Since we cannot resist grace, we also cannot prevent God from ensuring that we are saved till the very end. Those who are brought to salvation by the Irresistible Grace of God are by the power of that same grace preserved in salvation.

Written by: Jemima Lee

Limited Atonement

The doctrine of Limited Atonement is the third of the Five Points of Calvinism, and is represented by the letter L in the acronym TULIP.

What is the implication of the word limited? The word limited implies that Christ died for only a limited number of people. John 17:9 says, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me; for they are thine.” This clearly shows that Christ’s atonement is for His elect only, and He prays for them continually. This is not because His power is limited, but because it was God’s sovereign will that it be so. The only thing limited is the number of people for whom Christ died.

What does the word atonement mean? The word atonement means “a payment for.” It suggests “making one out of that which has been divided.” Christ paid for His people’s sins on the cross, and this payment resulted in His people becoming   at one with God, while previously they were separated from Him by sin. The word atonement also implies that Christ’s death actually saves, instead of merely making salvation     an available option. Matthew 1:21, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people   from their sins.” Christ shall save His people from their sins.

So, what does limited atonement mean? Limited atonement means that Christ died only for His elect, and His death was totally efficacious for them, so they are definitely, 100% saved. John 6:37-39 says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” And John 10:14-15, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Christ loses none of His sheep, for whom He lays down His life. He accomplished the Father’s will. That is, He saved every single one of those whom God had given to Him, and these who are Christ’s shall never be separated from His love (Romans 8:38-39), and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of His hand, but they will follow Christ and obey His voice  (John 10:27-28). Whereas those who are not among Christ’s elect will not believe (John 10:26), and thus will never be saved.

Limited atonement shows the sovereignty of God in that those, and only those, whom God elects, will be saved, and others whom God   has   sovereignly   reprobated, will be condemned to everlasting damnation. This shows that God, and God alone, is in control of all things. Total depravity is the reason why the atonement of Christ for His people must be efficacious for them; because total depravity teaches that man has no ability in himself to accept Christ (Romans 3:9-12; Romans 5:12; John 6:44,65), so we need the atonement of Christ as our only means of salvation. Those who put their trust in Christ only do so because God graciously grants them the gift of faith. Unconditional election teaches that man’s faith is not a condition to his salvation, but that salvation is all of grace (Ephesians 2:8), and God elects those who will be saved. Thus, atonement is limited due to God’s sovereign election. Limited atonement can only happen through irresistible grace, the unmerited favor of God upon those whom He will. The atonement of Christ for His people can never expire, and they will never fall away, but God will preserve them to the end (Psalm 37:28).

In summary, the doctrine of limited atonement teaches   four   things: First, that Christ’s death is the only atonement for sin (Colossians 1:14, John 14:6, Romans 5:8-10); second, that all those for whom Christ died are really and completely saved, and their salvation is guaranteed (John 3:16b); third, that Christ died for only a particular number of people (Ephesians 1:5,11, Titus 2:14, Romans 11:5); and last, these people are those whom God has ordained in eternity to be His people (Ephesians 1:4).

Limited atonement gives believers full assurance of their salvation, and in this truth, we see the absolute sovereignty of God over all.

Written by: Koh Ming Hui | Issue 7

Unconditional Election

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.

Difficult Passages

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.

Practical Application

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

Total Depravity

Total depravity, or total inability, describes man’s absolutely sinful and corrupted fallen state as a result of original sin. When Adam, the representative head of the whole human race fell into sin, the entire human race fell too. This is clearly shown in Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Hence, eve- ry single man, head for head is totally depraved. Since the fall, every single person, even a newborn baby, is depraved as he is born in sin. This is seen in Psalm 51:5 which says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This implies that sin is deeply embedded into man’s nature. He is totally ruined and willingly turns to evil from the very day that he was born.

Because man is born into sin, every part of him is totally depraved. Man is wicked, corrupt, perverse and opposed to God in his nature. He is inclined to serve his own will and desires and to reject the rule of God, as proven in Genesis 6:5 “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” He is also unable to serve and love God wholly with all his heart, mind and strength. Man rests under the curse of sin and is wholly incapable of loving God or to do anything which merits salvation. Even the good which man may intend to do have false motives. This is seen in Romans 3:10-12 “As it is written, 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.”

This doctrine of total depravity, however, is denied by most Christians today and avoided by many as it is not seen as a “friendly” doctrine. Many of them cannot accept that they are totally depraved such that they are unable to do any good by themselves. They assert that there is a difference between total depravity and absolute depravity. Their understanding is that man is totally depraved, but not absolutely depraved. They falsely claim that man, although sinful, is still able to do some good, such as to do good works, or to choose God. This is absolutely wrong as since the fall, man is completely unable to do any good. Psalm 14:1-3, The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the  children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their belief further emphasizes their wickedness, as the nature of fallen man is such that he readily listens to any theory which makes him even partly independent of God as he wishes to be the master of his fate and the captain of his soul. This is seen in many other beliefs too.

Total depravity also proves to man that all his claims of goodness are unfounded, and it shows him that his only hope of a change in life lies in the sovereign and divine grace of the Almighty God. The old man is constantly opposed towards God. It is only the power of the Holy Spirit, which works in man’s cold and hardened heart, which allows him to be saved.

This alone proves the eternal and infinite love of God when he sent his only begotten son Jesus Christ to die on the cross so as to provide redemption for His people. John 3:3, Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

From this, we are to learn that there is no room for pride. We owe everything that we have to God. We ought to be thankful for and appreciate God’s unconditional   grace,   and     further rely on Him and use the means of grace that He has given us, such as the preaching of His Word, family devotions, prayer and youth group activities so that we can grow more in Him. Furthermore, we are not to look down on others. By comparing ourselves to others and deeming ourselves better, we are full of pride, and as we are warned in Proverbs 16:18, pride goeth before destruction. In fact, we have absolutely nothing to be proud of, as the scriptures clearly says that we are all equally depraved, dead, and wicked, and we have all gone astray.

Only through understanding our depravity, are we able to comprehend how great the measure of God’s love is for us when he unconditionally elects us,   wretched   sinners,   and saves us from eternal damnation in hell even though we are such unworthy creatures who continue to sin against Him time and again. Our lost, ruined and helpless state must be constantly set before us so that we can comprehend our depravity and thank God for the gift of salvation that He has bestowed on us.

Written by: Koh Hui Qi | Issue 7

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