I am oftentimes asked the question of whether I am a Calvinist. I do consider myself a Calvinist; however, I understand Calvinism a little differently than most Calvinists. Calvinism is generally recognized by its five points or more popularly known as TULIP. Here is what I believe Calvin was trying to say:
1. Total Depravity. Man is totally depraved in that man does not know the love of God apart from Christ. Since mankind has rejected God, mankind rejected love itself which makes us totally depraved. This doesn’t mean that we can’t have feelings that we call love; however, love based on the chemical make up of your body can and will change as your body and environment changes. The love of God on the other hand does not change. Total depravity is being totally devoid of the love of God.
2. Unconditional Election. Due to God being eternal and knowing all things, God knows those who will come to know Him. While we are unable to conceptualize how God knows this, we do know that He does know all things. God knows all those who will accept the free gift of salvation because he knows us perfectly! As a result, the command to, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” is something God knows you will do from eternity since He knows you perfectly. As a result, His election is unconditional in that His knowledge of your decision is not conditional.
3. Limited atonement. While Christ died for all, only those who know the love of God will be saved. God knows all those who are His and has always known. God created the world knowing what His plan was from the beginning. God is in the process of building a kingdom that will reflect His very nature which is love. Those who want to participate in the life of God for eternity will have to know His love. As a result, a person’s knowledge of the love of God is the key that opens the door to an eternal life with God. The choice to accept or reject the love of God remains the responsibility of each person.
4. Irresistible Grace. The grace of God is irresistible once known since His love fills us and keeps us within His love. God’s knowledge which includes His perfect knowledge of each person knows all who will believe making your salvation certain. When the love of God fills your heart, your only response to God is to begin loving Him. While knowledge of the love of God grows over time for the believer, the fruit of the Spirit is the natural result of irresistible grace since God is the father who trains up His children.
5. Perseverance of the Saints. God’s love when known through Christ fills us and keeps us within His love forever. It is the love of God that binds us to the life of God for eternity. When you know the love of God, this bond cannot be broken. In fact, it is knowledge of this love which the Bible calls the seal of the Holy Spirit that ushers us into the life of God for eternity.