This Sunday a topic is going to come up in our study of Romans that has caused quite a bit of confusion and trouble in the church for years. That topic is predestination! I can remember when I was in high school and college being involved in very heated discussions over this doctrine. What I primarily remember about those discussions and debates as I look back on them is that none of my arguments, nor those with whom I was engaging, used the Bible to support our positions. It is a shame that many simply are unaware or have never taken the time to study and read the Scriptures to learn about this important doctrine. Some are even surprised to learn that the word is even in Scripture.
So why make such a big deal about it? Well I’ve said before and it’s worth repeating – it is because predestination is at the very heart of the Gospel. It is, in fact, the love you’ve always wanted – it will never let you go, you did not earn it and you cannot lose it. At the heart of the Bible’s teaching on predestination is really the question of who gets to be in charge of salvation. Is it man’s choice? Or is it God’s?
This argument is not new. It is has been debated for hundreds of years, but reached its peak in the time of John Calvin. The beginnings of the debate arose in Holland in the early 1600’s. The debate was between Arminians and Calvinists. The founder of the Arminian party was Jacob Arminius (1560–1609). He studied in Geneva under Calvin’s successor, Theodore Beza, and became a professor of theology at the University of Leyden in 1603. Over time, Arminius came to reject certain Calvinist teachings and drafted five articles that placed man as the primary driver in choosing salvation.
The Synod of Dort, which was held November 13, 1618 to May 9, 1619, met to consider the Five Articles. At this meeting were those who followed the teachings of Calvin. The Synod wrote what has come to be known as the Canons of Dort. As a result, the Five Points of Calvinism were written in response to the Five Articles of the Arminianism. It is important to remember that the Five Points of Calvinism were not written to be a summary of Calvin’s teaching but rather a response to Arminianism.
Over time, the Five Points of Calvinism has been taught in the Reformed Church to glorify God as the sovereign Lord over everything, especially man’s salvation. Teachers and theologians came up with the acrostic TULIP to teach the Five Points. Below is a summary of each of the five points.
- Total Depravity (T) — The unregenerate man is in absolute bondage to sin, and wholly incapable of exercising his own will freely to trust in Christ. Salvation, therefore, is dependent upon the work of God who must will to give man life before he can believe in Christ. (Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 2:13; John 3:5-7; Romans 8:7,8; Jeremiah 13:23; John 6:44)
- Unconditional Election (U) — “Foreknowledge” was based upon the purpose of God, so that election had no basis in some fancied “condition” on the part of man, but was the result of the free will of the Creator apart from any foreseen “work of faith” in spiritually-dead man. (Psalm 33:12; Matthew 11:27; Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; Revelation 13:8)
- Limited Atonement (L) — or Definite Atonement. Christ died to save particular persons who were given to him by the Father in eternity past. His death actually secured salvation for the elect. (Matthew 1:21; Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21,22; Hebrews 9:12; John 6:35-40; 10:11, 14-18, 24-29, 17:1-11, 20, 24-26; Romans 5:12, 17-19)
- Irresistible Grace (I) — The Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The Lord gives his chosen ones the Spirit of Life. Once children of Satan, they are now oriented to God and come freely and willingly to Christ. (Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Titus 3:5; Acts 13:48; Philippians 1:29; Romans 8:30; 2 Peter 1:3; James 1:18)
- Perseverance of the Saints (P) — Since salvation is the work of the Lord, all who were chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of God and thus persevere to the end. (Isaiah 43:1-3; Matthew 18:12-14; John 6:35-40; John 10:27-30)
This is simply a summary. There is much more to learn and study on these doctrines. If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to check out the resources linked below to gain some very helpful insight in these teachings.
So why is it we make such a big deal out of all this? It because we believe it is the teaching of Holy Scripture. Calvin may get the credit for being the father of Systematic Theology, but it is the Bible’s clear teaching on these matters which we must herald. It is the sovereign grace of God in all things … especially salvation … that makes Him more wonderful and worthy of our praise. Thank God for His great love that is demonstrated in His sovereign choosing!
See you Sunday!
by His grace and to His praise,