THE BIBLICAL THEOLOGICAL VIEW OF TULIP IN SALVATION
TOTALLY GROUNDED ON THE GRACE OF GOD
“And I will go as far as Martin Luther, in that strong assertion of his, where he says, ‘If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright.’ It may seem a harsh sentiment; but he who in his soul believes that man does of his own free will turn to God, cannot have been taught of God, for that is one of the first principles taught us when God begins with us, that we have neither will nor power, but that He gives both; that he is ‘Alpha and Omega’ in the salvation of men,” these are adamant words declared from the “Prince of Preachers” Charles H. Spurgeon.
The study of salvation, also known as the doctrine of soteriology, is very important to study as believers. Understanding the nickname “Calvinism,” also known as “The Doctrines of Grace” furthers our comprehension of God’s grace to us. It is the purpose of this paper to argue that a Calvinistic theology of salvation is Biblical and rooted in the acronym T.U.L.I.P.: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. This theology exists for the glory of God.
In order to prove this, Calvinism will be examined by breaking up T.U.L.I.P. and examining each letter at a time in light of Scripture. First, total depravity will be examined in contrast to Scripture regarding the problem of the spiritual deadness of man. Second, unconditional election will be examined in contrast to Scripture in relation to the subject of God’s predestined plan for man’s salvation. Third, limited atonement will be examined in contrast to Scripture to the matter of whom did Christ’s atoning sacrifice cover. Fourth, irresistible grace will be examined in contrast to Scripture showing how God has supernaturally worked in man to bring about his/her salvation. Fifth, perseverance of the saints will be examined in contrast to Scripture to prove that everyone who has come to know Christ will in fact not fall away from the faith. Lastly, all points combined bring to display the glory of God in salvation. Each point must correlate with God’s word or else it’s erroneous and must be disregarded.
The first underlying principle in Calvinistic theology of salvation biblically includes total depravity. Total depravity indicates that man is completely touched by sin in all that he is, but is not as bad as he could be. Furthermore, this total depravity implies that the unregenerate will not, of their own free will, choose to receive Christ. Another way total depravity can be understood is by absolute inability-helplessness and hopelessness or total corruption. Understanding total depravity is foundational to understanding the Calvinistic theology of salvation. As theologian R.C. Sproul states, “In Reformed theology total depravity refers to the idea that our whole humanity is fallen. That is, there is no part of me that has not been affected in some way by the Fall. Sin affects my will, my heart, my mind, and my body. Sin reaches to the core of our being.” Total depravity is the nature of a human being before conversion.
It is clearly evident that all of the biblical authors were aware of the depraved nature of humanity. The prophet Jeremiah wrote in regard to man’s condition that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Only God knows exhaustively the sinful state of man and He is deeply grieved. David confesses in Psalm 51:1, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Jesus speaks about the heart of a man, that it is full of evil: containing evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness (Mark 7:21-23). John states, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19). No one is righteous and no one seeks for God (Rom. 3:10-12). Human beings are ungodly (Rom. 5:6).
One of the passages that best describes Total Depravity is Eph. 2:1 which says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.” Human beings, sons and daughters of Adam, enter the world spiritually dead. They have no inclination or responsiveness toward God and no ability to please God. Stated in Scripture is that humans come into the world and by nature are children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). Unregenerate human beings cannot understand spiritual things: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). Man is naturally born a slave to sin (Rom. 6:16-20). These are only some of the many passages that address the problem of the human nature, which is total depravity.
The second underlying principle in Calvinistic theology of salvation biblically includes unconditional election. Unconditional Election implies the notion that God elects a person, not based on what he or she does or who he or she is, because the person is not worthy of being chosen. Rather, God’s election is based upon himself, that is, upon his person. God chooses believers, deciding to bestow his love and grace upon them, not because of their worthiness in and of themselves. Before God created the world, he chose to save some people according to his own purposes and apart from any conditions related to those persons he predestined them to salvation. In order to understand this one has to understand that there is no partiality with God (Rom. 2:11; Acts 10:34). If God elected someone based on what was in him or her that would be showing partiality. It would mean that God was judging a person worthy of salvation because of what is in him. God does not show such partiality as the Scriptures state, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16). Partiality means to look into the future to see who’s good enough to pick God and then God chooses them. That is God showing partiality because it has God picking someone because of something in them.
John says in his gospel, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”( John 1:12-13). Understanding the doctrine of regeneration really helps one to understand unconditional election. As Yarbrough states,
They were ‘born of God’ (1:13) – and not vice versa. More specifically, they cannot attribute their saved status, if they posses it, to ‘natural descent,’ their Jewishness or descent from Abraham. They cannot ultimately attribute it to ‘human decision,’ their own act of belief alone, or their parent’s decision to have a child who would eventually declare belief in Christ.
It is God’s supernatural work that brings about salvation in a person’s life and not oneself. Reading John 3:3, Jesus declares that, “You must be born again.” Can someone bring about their own birth? It is totally dependent upon God. It is dependent upon God’s word as James says, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” (James 1:18). God’s word is powerful to bring about new life! What did God do through his word? One reads in Ephesians, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:4-7). There are many more passages in favor of unconditional election. Why does this matter? As White states,
It leaves no room for man’s accomplishes, works, rituals, sacraments, or (and this is the main issue), the exercise of his allegedly autonomous will. In Biblical Theology, it is God’s free will, not man’s that determines the outcome of the work of salvation. As with each of the doctrines of grace, the foundation is to be found in the careful, fair, contextual exegesis of the inspired Scriptures.
God has predestined, “he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:5).” The Bible is filled with many passages that discuss how God Unconditionally elects his people in the Calvinistic view of salvation.
The third underlying principle in Calvinistic theology of salvation biblically includes limited atonement. Limited atonement is a term used to describe that Christ died for the whole world, not just the Israelites, and that he specifically bore the sin of the elect only. Another way limited atonement can be understood is by the term definite atonement or particular atonement. As John Murray states,
Did Christ come to make the salvation of all men possible, to remove obstacles that stood in the way of salvation and merely to make provision for salvation? Or did he come to save his people? Did he come to put all men in savable state? Or did he come to secure the salvation of all those who are ordained to eternal life? Did he come to make men redeemable? Or did he come to effectually and infallibly to redeem?
These are important questions to ask because one’s understanding of the atonement has a direct effect on the gospel. Christ did not come to make God reconcilable. He reconciled his own people to God by his blood. As Murray again states, “Whether the expression ‘limited atonement is good or not we must reckon with the fact unless we believe in the final restoration of all men we cannot have an unlimited atonement.” The Bible clearly does not teach a universal salvation quite contrary a particular salvation.
John 10:10 Jesus states that he is the good shepherd, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Also in John 10:15, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” The question is who are the sheep? The sheep are ultimately those who are saved, it’s not universal but rather exclusive. In Acts 20:28 it’s stated, “To care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood”, the church was itself bought with the blood of Jesus. In John 6:37-39 its stated, “All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out…this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given to me, but raise it up at the last day.” Jesus makes his atonement definite or particular in the lives of those who come to salvation.
The opposite position, that Christ death actually paid for the sins of the entire world who ever lived, is called “general redemption” or “unlimited atonement.” Usually people have a big problem with this because they can’t think about God not loving everyone equally. As stated in the book Why I Am Not A Calvinist,
Our case against Calvinism is that it doesn’t do justice to the character of the God revealed in Scripture. It does not accurately portray the holy One who is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Ps. 103:8), the God for whom love is not merely an option or a sovereign choice, but who is such that his eternal nature is love (1 Jn. 4:8)…Does God love all of us and desire our well-being? We have shown that Calvinists cannot answer this question in the affirmative without equivocation and inconsistency.
God is love and he has decided to save some not all. If he did die for all every single person and all their sins then it’s almost necessary to become a Universalist and the Bible is clear that is not an option. It is clear that God has chosen some and not others, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30). God is at work from beginning to end in the salvation of his elect from Alpha to Omega; limited atonement is biblical and definite.
The fourth underlying principle in Calvinistic theology of salvation biblically includes irresistible grace. Irresistible grace is a term that unfortunately suggests a mechanical and coercive force upon an unwilling subject. This is not the case; instead, it is the act of God making the person willing to receive him. Irresistible grace is also known as efficacious grace is a theological doctrine that teaches that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save, the elect and, in God’s timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to faith in Christ. As Cowan writes,
The Holy Spirit must first regenerate his heart and so give him a desire for God. This Spirit-given desire the sinner is drawn irresistibly to God. In no way is man’s freedom impaired. He always chooses what he desires most: in the one case sin, in the other God.
Who can resist God? The answer is of course no one can, because God can do what he is pleased to do. Ultimately it is God who wants the best for the person whom he is bringing to salvation. This is grounded in Scripture.
John 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day” and John 6:65, “…no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.” Peterson and Williams comment on this passage,
Jesus means that no one can believe in him unless the Father draws him. Drawing here means bringing people effectively to Christ. People are not able to choose God on their own; the Father has to draw them, to enable them to believe in his son.
God is the one who draws the people to himself. God has spoken before through Ezekiel that he would work in the person’s heart in the future, “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances.”(Ezek. 36:26-27) It is God who is doing it, he is at work supernaturally! As Spurgeon would state,
Since every man who is saved confesses this, since every true believer in the world acknowledges that something special has been done for him more than for the impenitent, the fact is established that God does make a difference. No one ever heard it laid as an impeachment against the Lord that he has made such a difference, so I cannot see why he should be impeached for intending to make that difference, which is just the doctrine of election.
Ezekiel 11:19-20 says,” And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances, and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.” Ultimately it is God who is working, Phil. 2:13 says, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” As one can see that it is God who ultimately works in a person’s heart to bring about salvation in their life. The Bible is filled with many passages that discuss how God irresistibly draws people to himself and that is a part of the Calvinistic view of salvation.
Perseverance of the Saints
The fifth underlying principle in Calvinistic theology of salvation biblically includes perseverance of the saints. Perseverance of the saints is a term that a believer is secure in Christ, that he or she cannot fall away. As Louis Berkhof explains, “Perseverance is that continuous of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart is continued and brought to completion.” It is a beginning to end work of God in the life of a believer. God will lose no one! It is a doctrine that brings comfort and assurance to the true believer. The life of a Christian is marked by them walking in the Spirit and growing in the grace of God.
Jesus says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that of all that He has given me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:38-39). It is emphatic that everyone the Father has given to Jesus, He will lose none. Jesus says again, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand”( John 10:28). Those who belong to Jesus’ flock are those who are chosen by him and they are secured. They are those who believe and the reason people do not believe is because they are not part of Jesus flock, “but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock” (John 10:26). There is an implication that God must first give them the ability to believe and make them part of his people with a new heart. Can a Christian perish? If you can lose your salvation, then the Christian, the sheep can perish. But, Jesus said that the sheep will never perish. Although if one has been a Christian for a long time but falls away there is a passage that explains what occurred, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19)” One may ask well how then shall I know if I’m going to continue? Scripture is clear that, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:13)” The Bible is filled with many passages that discuss how perseverance of the saints gives assurance and comfort to the believer which is a part of the Calvinistic view of salvation.
The Glory of God
The binding underlying principle of all is the glory of God. It is the primary reason for writing a paper on Calvinistic theology of salvation. As Hamilton states,
The centre of biblical theology, I contend, is the glory of God in salvation through judgment. I am not the first to claim that the glory of God is central in the Bible. Systematic theologians of both covenantal and dispensational persuasion have emphasized the glory of God in their theology.
The topic of soteriology, the study of salvation, has been argued for over two millenniums and will probably continue to be argued until Jesus Christ returns. As one continues to study this topic one should keep a spirit of humility and an open mind to hear both sides of the argument whether it is for Calvinism or not. The purpose of our studies in theology is to do it for the glory of God.
It has been argued that Calvinism is rooted and grounded in God’s Word. The purpose of this paper was to argue that a Calvinistic theology of salvation is biblical and rooted in the acronym T.U.L.I.P.: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. Equipped with this knowledge and having a clearer understanding of the Calvinistic theology of salvation should greatly humble the Christian and push the believer to take joy in glorifying God for his goodness toward, undeserved sinners!
Berkhof Louis. Manual of Christian Doctrine. 2nd edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.
Cowan, Steven B. “Common Misconceptions of Evangelicals Regarding Calvinism.” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 33, no. 2 (June 1990): 189-195.
Hamilton, James M, Jr. “The Glory of God in Salvation Through Judgment: The Centre of Biblical Theology.” Tyndale Bulletin 57, no. 1 (2006): 59.
Hunt, Dave, and James White. Debating Calvinism. Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2004.
Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.
Peterson, Robert A., and Michael D. Williams. Why I Am Not an Armenian. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2004.
Schreiner, R. Thomas, and Bruce A. Ware. The Grace of God and The Bondage of the Will. 2 Vols. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995
Sproul, C. Robert. Chosen by God. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1986.
Spurgeon, H. Charles. Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia Sermons by Charles H. Spurgeon. Vol. 7. 1862 Reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1985.
Spurgeon H. Charles from the sermon “Free Will A Slave”, Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 1: 1855. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2002.
Walls, L. Jerry, and Joseph R. Dongell. Why I Am Not a Calvinist. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2004.
 C.H. Spurgeon from the sermon “Free Will A Slave”, Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 1: 1855(Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2002) 504.
 R.C. Sproul, Chosen By God (Carol Stream IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1986), 103.
 Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware, The Grace of God and The Bondage of the Will, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995), 49.
 Dave Hunt and James White, Debating Calvinism (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2004), 92.
 John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 63.
 Ibid, 64.
 Jerry L. Walls and Joseph R. Dongell, Why I Am Not A Calvinist(Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2004), 220.
 Steven B. Cowan, “Common Misconceptions of Evangelicals Regarding Calvinism,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Vol. 33 no. 2 (June 1990): 196.
 Robert A. Peterson, and Michael D. Williams, Why I Am Not an Arminian (Downers Grove IL: Intervarsity Press, 2004), 186.
 Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia Sermons by Charles H. Spurgeon, vol. 7. 1862 Reprint (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House 1985), 10.
 Louis Berkhof, Manual of Christian Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company 2003), 111.
 James M. Hamilton Jr., “The Glory of God in Salvation Through Judgment: The Centre of Biblical Theology,” Tyndale Bulletin Vol.57 no. 1 (2006): 59.