The Gospel According to TULIP

Posted: August 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

220px-Tulip_-_floriade_canberra

With caution, I enter into the blog world once again.  I enter with no promises to post frequently.

There is no more important message than the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Christian has the one message of hope for every human being on the planet.  And like watchman of old, the Christian is to proclaim the reality of the impending danger while declaring that help has come in the person of Jesus.  What a message and mission we have!

For years now Christians have come up with creative ways to summarize the gospel message in hopes that we can carry out our mission to share the gospel more effectively.  We can speak in terms of Creation-Fall-Redemption; or God-Man-Sin-Christ-Response; or we can use an acronym such as FAITH.[1]  After teaching a summer class for The Bethlehem Institute on TULIP, I am convinced that this acronym is a helpful summation of the gospel message. Although these points of Calvinistic theology are often associated with theological debate and are sometimes seen as finer points of theology better left to the seminary classroom (if there is a place for these doctrines at all!), I would rather see these points as doctrinal summaries that help us understand the gospel message in deeper and more profound ways.   As we understand this message at deeper levels, we are better prepared to carry out our mission to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth.

In the following paragraphs we shall see the gospel according to TULIP with the hopes that we see more clearly what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.  And seeing more clearly, may we live more faithfully to the glory of God our Father.

The gospel message itself is for those who are sick and in need of a physician (Matt 9:10-13, Mark 2:17).  It is a message specifically for those who stand at odds with the God who has created them (Rom 5:10; Eph 2:3).  It is for the spiritually dead and blind (Eph 2:1; 2 Cor 4:3-4).  In other words, the good news of Jesus Christ comes to men and women who are Totally depraved.  That is, it is a message for those men and women that are born into this world dead to God (Eph 2:1) and without any good in them (Rom 7:18), and thus do not to seek after the God who has created them (Rom 3:11).  Indeed, because of our depravity, it is impossible if left to ourselves that we could choose to love God and thus please Him (Rom 8:8).  As it stands, this describes every person who has ever been brought into this world except for the Lord Jesus Himself (Rom 3:23, c.f. Heb 4:15).

Yet, despite the bad news of our total depravity, the rest of the acronym spells out the good news!  God has looked down upon the mass of depraved humanity and chosen to save some.  He has Unconditionally elected some to salvation (Eph 1:5; 1 Thess 1:4-5).  In other words, God has chosen to set His affections upon certain sinners not because they have deserved or merited His affection in any way, but simply because of His good pleasure.  Just as God chose Jacob over Esau, before they had done anything good or bad (Rom 9:11), God has chosen to save individuals not conditioned on what they have done or not done.  His electing purpose is conditioned on His own divine will and nothing else (Eph 1:5).  How great this news is!  Even though all deserve divine justice, in His mercy God has chosen to save some.

The good news continues to run through the acronym as the depraved sinners that God has chosen to save find that God has sent His Son into this world to “give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28, Mark 10:45).  Jesus has come into the world and lived the life the sinner could not live and died the death the sinner should have died and was raised from the dead to defeat the enemy of death for the sinner and now sits at the right hand of God making intercession on the sinners behalf.  The atoning work of Jesus has satisfied the demands of divine justice (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10) .  This Limited atonement has not simply made salvation possible, but has secured the salvation of those whom God has chosen as Christ has in actuality satisfied the wrath of God on the elects behalf.  “It is finished” is indeed the victory cry as we preach the gospel far and wide!

Yet, this good news would be superfluous if God never worked in the hearts of dead sinners to bring them to life.  As God has chosen some to save, and sent His Son to die, He sends His Spirit to awaken the elect from their slumber and bring them to Himself (John 3:5, 8; 6:37; 44).  The good news of Calvinism is that those God has chosen to save are the very ones God effectually and Irresistibly calls to Himself (Rom 8:29-30). Just as Jesus called Lazarus to live and he subsequently came forth from the tomb, so God through the Spirit calls the dead to life (Eph 2:5; 1 Peter 1:3-5).  We see Christ and we savor Christ because we have been given eyes to see!

So the elect, being dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1), find that God has chosen to set His affection upon them according to His own good pleasure.  He has sent His only Son into this world to pay the debt that stood against them (Col 2:14).  They have been effectually called and subsequently justified by their faith in Jesus (Rom 5:1).  And yet there is more.  TULIP ends by declaring that once God has reconciled the sinner to Himself, nothing—not a particular sin, or a person, or the devil, or even themselves—can snatch them out of His hand (John 10:28-29).  The saints will Persevere! Those whom God calls, He will glorify (Rom 8:29-30).  If we are saved, we are always saved.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:35-39).

This is the gospel.  Calvinism is the gospel.  That means that these doctrines of grace, these doctrines summarized by the acronym TULIP, are helpful summations of how God through Christ, by the power of His Spirit and to the glory of His grace, saves sinners such as you and me.  May we preach these doctrines to every person on the planet.   And may God sovereignly awaken His own to see and savor Jesus for eternity.

[1] A whole evangelism strategy for local churches has been developed by Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. http://www.lifeway.com/FAITH-Evangelism/c/N-1z13ztb

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