God is sovereign in his gracious salvation of sinners. These doctrines have been summarized by the popular acronym, TULIP.
T– The “Total Depravity” of the Sinner
Sinners are so completely sinful that they are unwilling and unable to do anything good to prepare themselves for salvation, let alone save themselves by good works. They do not always do the most sinful thing they possibly could, but no work of any kind that they perform can merit the righteousness they need to avoid eternal condemnation. This doctrine is also called “Radical Corruption.”
as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” (Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3)
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive (Psalm 5:9).”
“The venom of asps is under their lips (Psalm 140:3).”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness (Psalm 10:7).”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known (Proverbs 1:16; Isaiah 59:7-8)”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes (Psalm 36:1).”
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
U–The “Unconditional Election” of the Father
Before creation, God graciously chose a remnant of fallen humanity and gave them to his Son as his Bride. No righteous merit of any kind in them serves as the basis of God’s gracious choice of these sinners; only God’s own pleasure and will.
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
…though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
L–The “Limited Atonement” of the Son
On the cross Jesus Christ paid the ransom to the Father and effectually redeemed the remnant of fallen sinners which God graciously chose to give to him as his Bride. Sinners whom the Father has not graciously chosen are not redeemed by Christ on the cross. Christ’s atonement is necessarily “limited” in one way or the other: either it is limited in extent (Christ dying for the elect alone), or it is limited in power (only able to redeem sinners who by their own free will decide to receive this redemption). Also called “Particular Redemption.”
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…
…since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him…
I—The “Irresistible Grace” of the Spirit
Those fallen sinners whom the Father has graciously chosen according to his sovereign will and whom the Son has redeemed on the cross will not fail to come to faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit effectually gives spiritual life to the spiritually dead and in this way enables the chosen sinner to see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3), and enter it (John 3:5) through faith alone in Christ alone. Also called, “Effectual Calling” (see also 2 Peter 1:10; Romans 11:29)
1 Corinthians 1:9
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws (literally, “drags”) him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
P—The “Perseverance” of the Saints
Those whom the Triune God has saved in this effectual way according to his sovereign grace and power he will keep, and they will persevere in faith and repentance until the end, be it his own death or the return of Christ.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
The Lamb of God (John 1:18-34)
John the Baptist points away from himself to Christ, so that all may know that Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
I. Who Are You? (1:19-21)
A. Leaders’ First Question
1. “Who are you?” (1:19)
a. Not asking for genealogy—they likely know of his father, Zechariah.
b. Jewish leaders would be remiss to not examine John the Baptist.
B. John the Baptist’s First answer (1:20)
1. Confesses Christ by denying being him.
2. There were many itinerant claimants to Messiahship.
C. Leaders’ Second Question (1:21a)
1. “Are you Elijah?”
a. Matthew’s description of John the Baptist an allusion to Elijah (Matthew 3:4)
b. Rabbis frequently expounded on Elijah’s expected return (Malachi 4:5)
D. John the Baptist’s Second Answer
1. “I am not.”
E. Leaders’ Third Question (1:21b)
1. “Are you ‘The Prophet’?” (Deuteronomy 18:15)
F. John the Baptist’s Third Answer
2. Christ himself is ‘The Prophet’ (Acts 3:22; 7:37).
II. The Voice (1:22-28)
A. Leaders’ Fourth Question (1:22)
1.“Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
B. John the Baptist’s Fourth Answer
1. “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (1:23)
2. Prophesied in Isaiah 40:1-8; see v. 3
3. A metaphorical call to repair the roads to ease the return of repentant Jews from Babylonian Captivity—the literal near fulfillment.
4. John the Baptist and his baptism of repentance (Luke 3:3) is the spiritual and ultimate far fulfillment.
5. John the Baptist is like a pre-battle bombardment to soften a target before an attack.
C. Leaders’ Fifth Question (1:25)
1. “The why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
D. John the Baptist’s Fifth Answer (1:26-27)
1. “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
2. Like his confession by denial above, John the Baptist magnifies Christ by diminishing his own importance (John 3:30).
3. Christ was there, yet remained unrecognized (cf. John 1:10).
III. That He Might Be Revealed (John 1:29-34)
A. John 1:32-34 takes place after Jesus’ baptism.
B. “The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’
1. John 1:29 is the gospel in a nutshell.
a. John the Baptist refers to Christ in terms of the Passover Lamb.
b. “The world” in John 1:29 does refer to all people in the world, but not all people without exception (see John 1:12).
C. John the Baptist’s twofold ministry
1. Negatively, he calls the Jews to his baptism of repentance.
2. Positively, he points to the Lord Jesus Christ to bear witness that he is the Son of God that they might believe.
D. If you believe in Christ, he has borne your sins; therefore, repent of your sins and reaffirm your faith in him in Christian worship.
Time for our first break from Brown’s Self-Interpreting Bible. How about if we dabble in the doctrine of particular redemption?
I ran across, once again, the famous quote by Puritan theologian par excellence, John Owen (1616-1683), from his book, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Among statements in defense of the Reformed doctrine of particular redemption, this one is literally viral in the Reformed blogosphere. This quote is Owen’s logical critique of general redemption, and is worth thinking through and searching the Scriptures about if you’ve never taken the time.
Anyway, here’s a breakdown of his complex argument from Reformed.org:
The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:
- All the sins of all men.
- All the sins of some men, or
- Some of the sins of all men.
In which case it may be said:
- That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
- That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
- But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?
You answer, “Because of unbelief.”
I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!”
I’ve looked at this many times and have until now always had trouble keeping the whole train of thought on the rails in my head, if you know what I mean. Finally, the other day, I decided I’m going to have to do with this what I do with Scripture verses and catechism questions that I want to memorize–put it to music!
The following is the result. It’s roughly based on the tune to the children’s song “I’m in the Lord’s Army,” although there are some divergences. Do what you will with it. So, without further ado, I give you . . .
by John D. Chitty
Did Christ die for
all sins of all men
or all sins of some men
or some sins of all men?
If Christ died for
some sins of all men,
then all die
for those he did not.
But if Christ died for
all sins of some men,
that’s what we believe,
all th’elect of all the nations!
But if Christ died for
all sins of all men,
why are not
all men saved?
You will answer
“Because of unbelief”–
Is unbelief a sin or not?
If not, why then,
for it give account?
Either for it
Christ was punished, or not!
If he was, then,
why does unbelief
more than other sins he died for?
But if he did not
die for unbelief,
then for all sins of all men
Christ did not die!
So Christ died for
all sins of some men,
those the Father
gave to His Son!
I’m from Geneva, and I’m here to help!
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation  under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23)
This passage clearly implies the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, or as I renamed it, Persevering Grace for the Saints. It basically says that Jesus actually reconciled a professing believer if he continues, or perseveres, in the faith. Simple enough, those who persevere are the ones who were truly reconciled to the Father in Christ’s death on the cross.
But look what happens when you read its opposite:
if you shift from the hope of the gospel that you heard, are unstable, waver and do not continue in the faith, then Christ has not reconciled you in his body of flesh by his death in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.
Do you read what I read? When I think of it in this way, my logic tells me that lack of perseverance may be evidence for limited atonement. In other words, if you don’t persevere in the faith, then Jesus didn’t die for you.
What say you? Am I reading limited atonement into this passage, or am I properly drawing limited atonement out of the text? Eisegesis or exegesis? You be the judge (That means post your opinion!).