Pastor David B. Curtis


The Five Points of Calvinism

Ephesians 2:1-9

Delivered 03/23/1997

What is God's purpose in man's salvation? Can you answer that question? Why does God save men?

Ephesians 2:5-7 (NKJV) even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

He saves men to display His own glorious grace. Salvation is a work of God, designed to bring glory to Himself. And this is precisely why the gospel is "good news." It would not be very good news to hear that God would save us if . . . anything. We shudder to think of any condition laid upon us as a prerequisite for salvation. God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, has done for us everything that God has required of us.

A Christian is one who, among other things, recognizes that only Jesus can save him. Jesus, after all, is the only one who could live a perfect life according to God's demands. Only Jesus could offer a sacrifice for sin and thereby pay the penalty of our sin. In His life and death, He did all that God required of us, and thereby He is the only savior. A Christian recognizes this and so trusts Him accordingly. Jesus Christ is the only hope. Salvation is a work of God from beginning to end. God is the active giver: He chooses, He draws, He saves, and He keeps. It is all His doing. Anything less is not the gospel.

Throughout the centuries many have confused this simple teaching. By adding ideas of human merit and the like, more and more of "us" has been added to the equation and less and less of "God." As we said last week most evangelical churches believe that man is the controlling party in salvation. His will is free to make the choice, and this is what determines the outcome. God leaves the matter with us.

This issue of "free will" was the main issue in the reformation. Martin Luther said that only Erasmus knew what the real issue in the Reformation was, and it was the issue of the bondage of the will. Erasmus was Europe's most famous philosopher and he and Luther debated the question of whether or not the human creature has the freedom to accept or refuse divine grace. In the issue of salvation is man's will free?

This debate was not new, in the fifth century Augustine and Pelagius debated the same issue and Pelagius' view was condemned at the Counsel of Ephesus in 431. Luther taught that man because of the fall was so bound by sin that he could not of himself do anything to avail himself to get out of the situation but that God must do it. Salvation was of the Lord.

The Reformers were all united on these truths: God and not man is the determining cause of salvation.

By the early seventeenth century, however, one Jacobus Arminus, a Dutch scholar, began to question it all; and his followers, called "Remonstrants" ("protesters") or "Arminians," challenged the church with their new beliefs: 1) The freedom of the human will; 2) Conditional election by God, based upon His foreseen faith in men; 3) Christ's death was designed to save every man, and whatever it accomplished it accomplished for all men equally; 4) Saving grace is resistible; it is generally given to all men equally and so may be refused; 5) Those who do exercise their will to be saved may later lose that faith and be lost.

In response, the Synod of Dort reaffirmed that: 1) Man is totally depraved; everything about him, including his will, is negatively affected by the fall of Adam. 2) God elects whom He will save unconditionally; He places no conditions upon those whom He chooses but acts sovereignly. 3) The death of Christ, while completely sufficient to save all men, was designed specifically to save the elect. 4) When God moves in a sinner's heart to bring him savingly to Christ, He succeeds infallibly; His saving grace proves irresistible. 5) All those who are saved will persevere in faith forever.

This response of Dort has been fashioned into an acronym after the state flower of Holland, the tulip.

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints

Oddly enough, although this matter of salvation as a work of God alone is a rather minority opinion today, it is a point of repeated emphasis in the Scriptures. Lets look at the different points of the TULIP and see if they can be biblically supported.


Luther believed that after the fall man's will was selfish sinful will. It was free -- uncoerced, but man fallen had no desire for anything except the evil and as long as he is inclined only to evil, he chooses only evil. Fallen man loves darkness and hates light. So whenever he is confronted with a choice between darkness and ligh,t he chooses darkness. He chooses what is attractive to him.

John 3:19-20 (NKJV) "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

A person always chooses according to his inclination, he is in bondage to choose what he loves. Where is the bondage in choosing what we want? The bondage comes in the result of the sin he loves, the consequences of sin he doesn't like. He wants to live forever, he wants joy, love, peace, but he hates righteousness.

Zechariah 1:3 (NKJV) "Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Return to Me," says the LORD of hosts, "and I will return to you," says the LORD of hosts.

Commenting on this verse Luther said, "It is not in your power to turn to God. If you think that it is in your power to turn to God you have missed the whole Reformation and don't understand total depravity. It is not in your power to turn to God. You are a sinner, you're dead, you're eaten up with corruption. Every free choice of yours is evil and not good. So how can we turn to Him who is light , righteousness, holy and good?"

You have a duty to return to God, but you do not have the ability. Responsibility does not imply ability!

John 12:36 (NKJV) "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.

Jesus said "believe in the light" most believers today would say that because Christ commands us to believe, we must be able to believe. That is not correct! Look at the following verses.

John 12:37-39 (NKJV) But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" 39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them."

They did not believe because they could not believe. Scripture states dogmatically some things that a lost man cannot do:

Man cannot see - until he first be born again. John 3:3.

Man cannot understand - until he first be given a new nature. I Cor. 2:14. Man cannot come - until he first be effectually called by the Holy Spirit. John 6:44,45. A sinner absolutely cannot (notice it is not "will" not) come to Christ until God first does something in that sinner's nature. That "something" is what the Bible calls regeneration, or the new birth, and it is the exclusive work of God the Holy Spirit. Man has no part whatever in regeneration. In John 11 Jesus commands Lazarus to come forth out of the grave.

John 11:43 (NKJV) Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!"

Did Lazarus have the ability in himself to obey that command? No he was dead! He had no ability at all. Unsaved man, natural man has a duty to believe the gospel but he does not have the ability. Why does God command us to do what we cannot do? To show us how depraved we are, to show us the depth of our depravity. When God commands us to return and promises that if you do return to Him he will return to you , you won't do it, you can't do it. You are in bondage to what you love, which is darkness and evil. And you reject what you hate which is light and goodness and God. You should be able to turn to God but you are not because of your choice to disobey God in the garden. We all chose in Adam to turn away from God.

Romans 5:12 (NKJV) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned;

The very fact that God commands you to do that which you are utterly unable, morally unable to do shows how totally depraved you are. And if salvation is going to come at all, it's going to be applied sovereignly. This overthrows self-confidence and convinces sinners that their salvation is altogether out of their hands and shuts them up to a self-despairing dependency on the glorious grace of a sovereign Savior.

Luther was committed to total depravity as was Calvin. As we go backward in time we see that Augustine taught the same thing in the fifth century. Augustine said, "Man's will is entirely corrupted by the fall so that he must be considered totally depraved and unable to exercise his will in regard to the matter of salvation." The reformers taught it in the 16th century, Augustine taught it in the 5th century, and the apostles taught it in the 1st century.

Romans 3:10-12 (NKJV) As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. 12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."

"There is none who does good." People will admit their sinners, but not many will admit sin is this serious. Is there really none who do good? We see unbelievers doing good every day, obeying laws, providing for their families, giving to the needy. Is Paul using hyperbole here? Is he exaggerating to make his point? No! This is God's judgement on fallen man. What is the standard for good, the standard by which we shall all be judged? God's law. In biblical categories a good deed is measured in two parts, outward conformity and motivation. We look at outward appearance but God reads the heart. For a work to be considered good it must not only conform outwardly to the law of God, but it must be motivated inwardly by a sincere love for God. From this perspective it is easy to see that no one does good. Our best works are tainted by our less than pure motives. God doesn't grade on a curve. He demands perfection. We do not do what God commands ever!

Romans 3:11 (NKJV) There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.

Do you believe that? Have you ever heard someone say, "they're not a Christian but they are searching." I've got a secret to tell you-- God is not hiding. In the garden of Eden who hid? God? No! Adam and Eve hid from God, he was looking for them.

Luke 19:10 (NKJV) "for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Jesus is the one seeking and saving. People don't seek God. They might seek after the benefits that God can give them, but they don't seek God Himself.

Romans 3:18 (NKJV) "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

Men have no fear of the Holiness and justice of God.

Ephesians 2:1-6 (NKJV) And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Verse 5 teaches that we were dead. Dead men can't make themselves come alive. It is God who quickens us from spiritual death. Non-reformed analogies: Mortally ill man must take the medicine of the gospel to live. They say man must make the choice, he must take the medicine. The problem with that analogy is that the Bible doesn't speak of mortally ill man. It speaks of dead man. I guess you understand the difference between being mortally ill and dead.

Genesis 2:17 (NKJV) "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely (get very sick, mortally ill?) die."

Let me ask you a question? Did Adam die when he ate the fruit? When did he die? He lived physically another 930 years. But he died spiritually the day that he ate of it. Man's problem is a spiritual problem, he is spiritually dead, separated from God.

Romans 6:23 (NKJV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Is this referring to physical or spiritual death? Spiritual. We already saw that Ephesians 2:5 says we were dead in our sins. Sinners are not mortally ill, they are spiritually dead. There is not one ounce of spiritual life in them.

Other analogies that are used are: the man drowning in sin must take the life preserver of the gospel. Or unsaved man is in a pit and he can't get out by himself, he must be thrown the rope of the gospel. I hope that you can see that these analogies are not biblical. Man is not drowning, he has already drowned. He not only needs to be pulled out of the water he needs to be given life. Man in the pit of sin must be thrown the rope of the gospel. God doesn't throw a rope into the pit so unsaved man can crawl out. A rope won't help a dead man; he jumps into the pit and pulls the dead man out, giving him life.

1 Corinthians 2:14-15 (NKJV) 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.

Natural man is dead and totally unreceptive to the gospel. He must first be given life before he can understand the gospel.

Romans 8:7-9 (NKJV) Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

There is nothing good in the flesh, it can do nothing good. We cannot believe the gospel until God gives us life. The teaching of the reformation is that "Regeneration precedes faith."

We must have life before we can believe. The Scriptures clearly show that faith is the evidence and not the cause of regeneration.

1 John 5:1 (NKJV) Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is ( has been ) born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.

Suppose a man who had been dead for many years greeted you on the street one day. Would you conclude that the man had gotten tired of being dead and "decided" to ask a great doctor to perform a miracle and give him life? I'm sure you would instead, exclaim in amazement, "Man, what happened to you? Who brought you back to life?" You would see he was alive because he was walking and breathing, but you would know these were evidences of a miracle having been performed on him from without and not the results of his own power of will. Just so, when a spiritually dead man begins to perform spiritual acts such as faith and love, that shows that the miracle of the new birth has taken place.

Spiritual death brings an insensitivity to the things of God. It is a spiritual slavery, the prisoners of which are helpless. This is the doctrine of total depravity. It does not mean, as many have misunderstood, that man is as bad as he can possibly be. It means that man is as bad off as he can possibly be. The bottom line is this: our hope does not lie in our own will. It is our will that has got us lost! We are all sure for condemnation unless God would somehow incline our wills in the opposite direction. We must have a savior who is mighty enough to rescue us from ourselves. Clearly, God must do something. We've made our choice; our will has spoken. We are hopelessly lost -- unless God will choose otherwise. This is the doctrine of total depravity.


This means that our election is decided by God according to his purpose, according to his sovereign will. It is not based upon some foreseen condition that some of us meet and others fail to meet. Anyone who believes the Bible must believe in election. The disagreement is over what is the condition for election, why does God elect people?

Ephesians 1:4-5 (NKJV) just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

Ephesians 1:7-9 (NKJV) In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,

Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV) In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

The Scriptures clearly teach that God sovereignly chose of his own free will. Verse 4 teaches that he chose the elect before they existed. We looked at this point in depth last week.

Some say that God chose based upon what he foresees the people will do. This is called the Foreknowledge View. What they are saying is that God learns by empiricism, which means that he is not omniscience. People who hold this view obviously don't believe in total depravity. There is nothing good in man for God to look into the future and see. We're all dead and could never in ourselves choose Christ. God did not leave us to our own will. He saved us despite our contrary will. Nor did He save us by accident; He did it on purpose. If we are saved, we owe it to His electing grace.

IRRESISTIBLE GRACE. Would probably be better refereed to as Sovereign Grace. It is not that God drags those who don't want to come. It is that God makes willing by his grace. In regeneration, God gives us spiritual life which includes a desire for him. If God gives us a desire for Christ, we will act according to that desire and we will choose Christ.

Romans 8:29-30 (NKJV) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

This is often referred to as the golden chain of salvation. All whom he foreknew he predestined to be like his son. All he predestined he called, all he called he justified, all he justified he glorified. These verses teach us two things 1. God must not call everybody -- everybody will not be justified. 2. The call must be irresistible -- everyone who is called is justified.

John 6:44 (NKJV) "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

The Greek word for "draw" is elko. Strong says it means to drag. Kittle says to compel by irresistible superiority. Its force can be seen in its use in:

James 2:6 (NKJV) But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?

Acts 16:19 (NKJV) But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.

God draws the elect by an irresistible superiority.

John 6:37 (NKJV) "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

All those that the Father gives to Christ come to Christ.

The non-reformed view is that of Prevenient Grace. It is normally defined as a work that God does for everybody. He gives all people enough grace to respond to Jesus. That is, it is enough to make it possible for people to choose Christ. If this prevenient grace is merely external, than it fails in the same manner that the medicine, rope, life preserver analogies fail.

What good is prevenient grace if offered outwardly to spiritually dead creatures? If it doesn't give life, it's no good. But if it did give life, than everybody would be saved. The 10 dollar question for advocates of prevenient grace is why some people cooperate with it and others don't? Are they smarter, or better people? Why? The 10,000,000 dollar question for advocates of prevenient grace is, does the Bible teach such a doctrine of prevenient grace? If so where? It sounds nice, but it's not biblical.

Since the reformation, people have departed from the sovereignty of grace. Most professing Christians are liberal, but of those who really are Christians most have departed from the reformation in this way. All of the Reformers -- Luther, Calvin, Zwingly, Knox, Cramner. The German reformer, the Swiss reformer, the French reformer, the Scottish reformer, the English reformer -- everyone of them believed not only in Grace but sovereign grace. The majority of believers today try to have the grace without the sovereignty of the grace. All the reformers believed that grace was not only provided but applied. Evangelical Christianity is trying to hold on to grace provided, while rejecting grace applied. Grace proves irresistible just because it destroys the disposition to resist.

I received Christ because I wanted to! And I wanted to because God gave me a new heart!

Let's skip the "I" for a moment and go to "P."


Now then, if God has done all this for us, could we ever again become lost? Is it possible that God would include us in His eternal, redeeming plan and then allow us to be condemned? Believers are kept by grace and will all be glorified, Romans 8:30. This is what most people call eternal security. The saved will never be lost. Many people are one point Calvinists -- all they really believe in is the perseverance of the saints. It is my opinion that you are either a one point or a five point Calvinists because the TULI -- are inseparable. I don't think there are any four point Calvinists. But the reason that many say that they are four pointers is because they have a problem with the L, which stands for:


If you believe in T.U.I. you must believe in L. For whom did Christ die? Did he die for everyone or for the elect?

Now of course election is not enough to save us by itself. There is this matter of divine justice -- which must be satisfied. That is, God cannot merely take sinners into His fellowship. Their sin must be dealt with first. In fact, they must be punished. This is the very heart of the gospel, that Christ came and in the place of sinners offered a sacrifice to God for their sin. In Jesus' words, "I lay down my life for my sheep" (Jn.10:11). Because His death was in their place and for their sin, they will go free. They are punished in Him, their Substitute. This, again, is the whole essence of the gospel, the very hallmark of Christianity.

It is for this reason that we say, further, that Christ died with the intention of saving His elect. He gave His life "for his sheep" (Jn.10:11). To be sure, the value of Christ's person and work is infinite. His death therefore, was entirely sufficient to atone for all the sins of all the men who ever lived. But of course, it was not designed to do that. We know this, very simply, because not all are saved. His mission, as He defined it, was to save "those whom the Father had given Him" (Jn.6:37-39).

The O.T. represents the Father as promising the Son a certain reward for his suffering on behalf of sinners.

Isaiah 53:10-11 (NKJV) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. 11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.

John 5:2-8 (NKJV) Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. 5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" 7 The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me." 8 Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk."

There was a great multitude of sick folks there but Christ healed only one. Why? He could have healed them all.

John 5:21 (NKJV) "For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.

John 6:37-39 (NKJV) "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 "This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.

Christ died not merely to make possible the salvation of all mankind, but to make certain the salvation of all that the Father had given to Him -- the elect.

John 10:26-29 (NKJV) "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.

Christ died for "his" sheep.

John 17:2 (NKJV) "as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.

John 17:9 (NKJV) "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.

Notice that Christ doesn't pray for the world but only for his sheep-- the elect.

Matthew 20:28 (NKJV) "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

His life was a ransom not for all, but for many.

Hebrews 9:28 (NKJV) so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

Again, Christ bore the sins of many, not all. The essential issue here concerns the nature of the atonement. Jesus' atonement involved both expiation and propitiation. Expiation -- Christ removing our sins. He paid for them. Propitiation -- satisfaction of sin before God. If Christ bore in His own body on the tree the sins of all men without exception, then none will ever go to Hell. Payment cannot be twice demanded by God, first by Christ and then again by those in Hell. People go to hell because of their sin, but why would they if Christ paid their penalty? For example if you break the law and I go down to the court house and pay your penalty for you -- then you cannot be made to pay it again. Either Christ paid for your sins or you spend eternity in hell paying for them yourself. Payment cannot be demanded of both Christ and you. Christ's atonement was only for the elect, it was limited.

It is my conviction that the five points of Calvinism are biblical and are the true gospel. The church today is being flooded with a new gospel, a humanistic gospel.

The gospel is always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgement. It is a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and grace. Its center of reference is God. But in the new gospel the center of reference is man. You choose, you decide, you initiate salvation. The chief aim of the gospel was to teach men to worship God, but the concern of the new gospel seems limited to making them feel better.

Our minds have been conditioned to think of the cross as a redemption which does less than redeem, and of Christ as a savior who does less than save, and of God's love as a weak affection which cannot keep anyone from hell without their help, and of faith as the human help which God needs for his purpose. This is not the gospel, the gospel is "God saves sinners."

GOD -- the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power, and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people; the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father's will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing.

SAVES -- does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies.

SINNERS-- men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God's will or better their spiritual condition. This is the gospel, God saves sinners.

The gospel of the reformers was "God saves sinners." We need to return to our theological roots.

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