Taken from the blog “Heavenly Springs” By Christina Langella.
The doctrines of grace are most commonly associated with the acrostic TULIP. Let us briefly touch upon each of these doctrines that, when joined together, form the basic framework or structure for God’s great plan of salvation for sinners!
Total Depravity: I used to think that I was a good Christian with a few problems here and there. The scriptures tell a different story. In fact, not only do they confirm a few problems, they make clear I am the problem! The doctrine of total depravity teaches that as a consequence of “The Fall” every aspect of our being has been infected by sin. Even our seemingly good and honorable actions cannot be understood apart from the context of a will that is bondage to sin. Did you know that even the ability to even respond in faith to the gospel is a gift of grace? It was not until I began to understand my own depravity that I could start apprehending the grace and mercy of God. In this doctrine God has demolished and utterly obliterated any possibility of boasting. Salvation is of the Lord!
Unconditional Election: Many of us think that we found God because we were searching. As lovely as this may sound, this thinking doesn’t square with scripture. If any of us are ever searching for Truth, we can be sure that it is the power of God at work in us and certainly nothing of our own. John Newton, author of Amazing Grace said it best. “Ah! Sir,” he said, “The Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else He would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards.” The doctrine of unconditional election teaches that God elected us unto salvation before the foundation of the world. God chose us before we ever did anything good or bad. He did this because He is sovereign and He has declared, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy” (Romans 9:15). Why, in eternity past, He ordained that I should be an object of mercy and not wrath, I will never know. All I know is that it humbles me to the dust. Salvation is of the Lord!
Limited Atonement: Jesus did not die on the cross so that I would merely have the opportunity to one day be saved. He did not die on the cross to make my salvation merely possible. He did far more than that! As C. H. Spurgeon said, “The doctrine of Holy Scripture is this, that inasmuch as man could not keep God’s law, having fallen in Adam, Christ came and fulfilled the law on the behalf of his people; and that inasmuch as man had already broken the divine law and incurred the penalty of the wrath of God, Christ came and suffered in the room, place, and stead of his elect ones, that so by his enduring the full vials of wrath, they might be emptied out and not a drop might ever fall upon the heads of his blood-bought people.” (Sermon 310 – “Christ our Substitute – New Park Street, Southwark). What does that mean? It means that when Jesus said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), he meant exactly that. We can add nothing to his finished work. Salvation is of the Lord!
Irresistible Grace: I have heard it said somewhere that the only ones who don’t get what they want are Christians! Oh, how I bless God for that! The doctrine of irresistible grace teaches that all those who have been predestined for eternal life will come freely because they have been made willing by His grace. John Piper says it like this, “What the sovereignty of grace and the sovereignty of the Spirit mean is that when God chooses, he can overcome the rebellion and resistance of our wills. He can make Christ look so compelling that our resistance is broken and we freely come to him and receive him and believe him.” (Online Source). Because it is God’s almighty power at work, and not my own, I can be sure that the grace of God unto salvation in my life will not be without effect. Salvation is of the Lord!
Perseverance of the Saints: Of the five doctrines of grace, this one has proven to be the most stabilizing. This doctrine teaches that if God redeemed us then He will keep us! The great Puritan William Secker said it well, “Though Christians be not kept altogether from falling, yet they are kept from falling altogether.” Yes, various kinds of troubles and temptations will come but this our confidence: “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Our perseverance does not depend on our good works but on God who never changes and who is faithful! Isn’t that good news? Salvation is of the Lord!
Do you see how these doctrines teach that God is sovereign over our salvation? Do you see how they exalt Christ and dethrone man? Pastor John Samson of King’s Church, Phoenix, and writer at reformationtheology.com and of his own blog at effectualgrace.com, captures the simple and elegant glory of these great doctrines. He writes, “Grace at the start, grace to the end, grace in the middle, grace without fail, grace without mixture, grace without addition, grace that allows no boasting, grace that precludes all glorying but in the Lord.” Isn’t that beautiful? It is, in every sense of the word, at all time, in all places, all of grace.
There was a time when embedded deep within my theology, was the proud and lofty notion that there was something inherently good in me that merited salvation. Maybe He saw my “heart” or perhaps He saw me “searching.” Subsequent to salvation there was the sense that if I wanted to maintain His pleasure my efforts and my performance were what mattered most. If that’s not a terrifying thought, I don’t know what is! Not only does such thinking lend to an unstable and schizophrenic kind of Christian experience, but it is an absolute affront to the sovereignty and grace of an almighty God!
Today, I can look back, even upon my darkest days, and see the sovereign hand of God at work. The sovereignty of God encompasses everything that comes to pass — including sin. These precious doctrines assure me that there was never a time when I was outside of the perfect knowledge and will of God for my life. Even if my deliverance from error to truth took longer than I would have liked, I know that even that is of the Lord. If He kept my eyes closed for as long as He did, well, then it was for His sovereign and gracious purposes, and I can say that it is good.
The journey has not always been easy. He has taken every idol in my “Christian” world and smashed it to smithereens. What has been left in the aftermath – what has been left in the wake of all of this ripping and demolishing is nothing but the cross of my crucified Savior.
It is my prayer that you too, will come to know and fall in love with these beautiful doctrines that, when brought together, point to one gracious and glorious truth: Salvation is of the Lord!
“For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,”
1.A.W. Pink, Practical Christianity, (Michigan: Baker House, 1974) 183.
2. C.H. Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism, (Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008) 15.
3. C.H. Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism, (Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008) 23-24.
4. William Secker, The Nonsuch Professor in His Meridian Spledor or, the Singular Actions of Sanctified Christians. (New York: Fleming Revell) 114.