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  • Writer's pictureDexter Bersonda

What is TULIP?

TULIP is simply an acrostic summarizing reformed theology’s beliefs about salvation. It is simply a label to help us easily remember the five points of God’s grace, but each of the five points have very solid and strong foundations in scripture. The five letters each corresponds to five points. These are sometimes called the “Doctrines of Grace” or “The five points of Calvinism” although Calvin didn’t invent the term TULIP. For this reason, those who believe in TULIP are sometimes called Calvinists. However, it doesn’t mean we are followers of Calvin or that we believe in all of the teachings of Calvin.

Let me make it very clear from the outset that TULIP summarizes our beliefs about how God saves us, but is not a requirement for salvation itself. This means that one does not have to understand TULIP nor believe or follow it in order to be saved. We believe that there are numerous elect (chosen, saved people) among the non-reformed and among the many groups and denominations that make up the body of Christ. We certainly welcome to SFCC anyone whether they believe in these five points or not, as long as they are not offended by them. These biblical doctrines will certainly come up through our sermons and bible lessons from time to time.

There are many benefits to knowing about these doctrines, and certainly there are profound effects on how we live, how we think, and how we love and more.

The doctrines of grace are summarized as follows:

Total depravity (also called "total inability")

We believe that man, in his fallen nature, is enslaved to sin and neither has the power or the will to reform himself. By our fallen nature people are not inclined to love God but rather to reject Him and serve their own interests. We believe that "free will" is an illusion, because given the choice between God and evil, apart from the work of God planting faith in their hearts, people will naturally choose evil. The "mind of the flesh" is the mindset of natural man that does not and cannot submit to God. The heart of the natural man is full of evil and does not and cannot desire God. We believe that all our natural efforts at "goodness" can never reach the standard of God, and that even our “good” acts are part of our rebellion and are not “good” in the sense that really counts in the end — in relation to God. We believe that all things done apart from faith is sin, even those that we consider goodness. We believe that because of this total depravity, man is under the wrath of God and deserving of eternal punishment.

Unconditional Election

We believe that God has chosen from eternity those whom he will bring to himself, and this is not based on any foreseen virtue, merit, quality, standard or faith in those people he will save, but through His mercy alone and in His sovereign will. God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual . This is not based on God's foreknowing of the future on whether certain people will choose to accept Him or not. Rather, God has chosen from eternity to extend mercy to those he wants to extend mercy and to withhold mercy from those he wants to withhold mercy.

Limited Atonement (also called "particular redemption" or "definite atonement")

We believe that Jesus died only for the elect. Though Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, it was not efficacious for all. This does not mean that the atonement is limited in its value or power, but rather that the atonement is limited in the sense that it is intended for some and not all. We believe that in the cross God had in view the actual redemption of his children. And we believe that when Christ died for them, he did not just create the opportunity for them to save themselves, but really purchased for them all that was necessary to get them saved.

Irresistible Grace (also called "efficacious grace")

We believe that when God calls the elect into salvation, this call cannot be resisted. It does not mean that the work of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that when it comes to the elect, the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance and make His call irresistible. It means that God offers to all people the gospel message and this is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God.

Perseverance of the Saints (also called "assurance of salvation" or "eternal security")

We believe that those whom God elected and atoned for will persevere in the faith until the end. We believe that God is faithful and will be able to finish the work He began in us. The Father has elected, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Spirit has applied salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure in Christ. We believe that the foreknown are predestined, the predestined are called, the called are justified, and the justified are glorified and among these and along the way none will be lost. The saving work of Christ will also work in us to change us as evidenced in a life of obedience caused by inner renewal. We are not left to ourselves and our assurance is very largely rooted in the sovereign love of God to perform that which he has called us to do.

Since studying these five points will be one whole course by itself, here are two recommended readings:

It would be helpful to read these resources, but if you have any questions or concerns, please comment or send us a message.

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