What is the Reformed Flower? The acronym TULIP is sometimes used as a summary of certain points of Reformed teaching on salvation.
‘T‘ stands for Total Depravity.
God created man in his own image. But when Adam first sinned, all humanity fell in him and with him. The image of God in humanity is now defaced and corrupted (Rom. 3:10-12, 23; 5:12-14). This is true of us without exception. By nature, we are all now morally bankrupt and under God’s judgment. To say that we are totally depraved means that there is no part of our being that sin has not ruined. While man retained the knowledge of God’s moral law, he lost the ability to perform the true righteousness it requires. Outward civil virtue is possible for fallen man but our mind, heart and will now naturally incline toward evil and cannot naturally love God, exercise saving faith, offer genuine worship or choose spiritual good (Eph. 2:1-3; 4:18-19). We are incapable of humbling ourselves in order to repent and believe in Christ in order to recuperate our lost condition.
‘U‘ stands for Unconditional Election.
Out of the mass of fallen humanity, God has chosen to save some, electing them to be reconciled to God, and to receive eternal life (Acts 13:48). This choice of some to be saved is based only on the sovereign will and good pleasure of God (Eph. 1:4, 11). It is not rooted in any righteousness in us or foreknowledge of what we would do. The elect receive grace from God and this “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16).
‘L‘ stands for Limited Atonement.
This doctrine, sometimes called ‘definite atonement’ or ‘particular redemption,’ teaches that while Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to save all, it is only efficient to save the elect. Christ died with the pre-determined intention to save a specific people and therefore he made a definite atonement only for those people (Eph. 5:26). As high priest of the new covenant, he mediates only for the people the Father has given him (John 6:37-39; 17:2, 6, 9). This is called “the blood of the eternal covenant” which is the fount of God’s saving purpose (Heb. 13:20).
‘I‘ stands for Irresistible Grace.
If left to ourselves, sinful men and women would never come to God in faith and repentance. As Scripture says, “no one seeks for God” (Rom. 3:11). God in his mercy, however, draws those that he elected in eternity past and brings them to Christ (John 6:44). This is the effective call of the Spirit of God which always produces a response of saving faith in the one who receives it (Rom. 8:30). God unites us to Christ, renewing our hearts, so that we may believe in him and be justified in his sight.
‘P‘ stands for Perseverance of the Saints.
True Christians continue to follow Jesus by faith until God brings them to glory. This is also sometimes referred to as the “preservation” of the saints since it is because of God’s grace that a true Christian perseveres to the end. As Jesus said, “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22; 24:13), and again, “by your endurance you will gain your lives” (Lk. 21:19). A true Christian will never fully and finally fall away from the faith and will never be relinquished from God’s hand of mercy. God’s steadfast love endures forever (Ps. 100:5) and no one will snatch a Christian out of his hand (John 10:29).