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T. U. L. I. P.
I have written this to be neither an all-inclusive treatment nor a full defense of the doctrines, but rather a brief summary of how it all fits together. My hope is that you will see why Calvinists rejoice in our salvation, which is by His grace alone.
First though, let's look at a foundation and starting point:- the will and decrees of God. It's important to remember that all God designs and determines will happen. Nothing can stop Him or stand in His way. He is sovereignly in control and it is not just that He desires to bring our salvation to pass, but will ultimately accomplish it.
So says God: "so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isa 55:11) and "I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please." (Isa 46:10). It is in light of God's eternal decrees and knowledge that Paul tells us "in him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will...." (Eph 1:11).
What about man and where does he stand in relation to a holy God? This is where we start, with the "T," total depravity. What total depravity does not mean is that man is as bad has he can get, but rather that man's spiritual and moral nature is totally dead as a result of the Fall of Adam. We have inherited Adam's spiritual nature of death. In that state, we do not desire to even want to know the true God, are at war with Him, and can only be so1. For we are told of the unregenerate person "the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so." (Rom 8:7). Adam, as our representative, sinned against God and brought about our just path to hell. Each and every one of us then, as part of our human nature, will have nothing to do with God even to our eternal peril.
Since we will have nothing to do with God and it will take no amount of persuasion, we are hopelessly damned unless God Himself will do something for us and in a sense to us. He must, by His own grace and power choose some to eternal life2. He will make that choice independent of any other reason than His good pleasure (as far as is revealed to us). For "he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--" (Eph 1:5). There is no other condition (the "U," unconditional election).
Praise God! He has decided to save some who deserve no mercy! How does He do it? The only way that loving salvation can be bestowed is if a perfect human sacrifice is given to atone for our sins. The answer of course is in His Son, Jesus Christ. Since the Father has chosen some, then it is only for the some that this sacrifice is needed. And so Jesus came, not to offer salvation to everyone, but to accomplish salvation for the elect (the "L," limited atonement)3. Jesus himself says "just as the Father knows me and I know the Father -- and I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10:15). Jesus' death was to definitely accomplish what was intended - the salvation of his people. Matthew 1:21 tells us, "she will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
The means by which God chooses to bring his elect into relationship with himself is through the preaching of the word of the gospel. At some point in time the individual who hears will have his heart changed from stone to flesh; from death to life. That person will gladly trust in the person and work of Christ Jesus because God's grace will accomplish it (the "I," irresistible grace)4. Jesus encourages us with "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44). What He has decreed will happen and even our rebellion is not enough to stop Him. Praise God for His holy grace.
Lastly we come to our hope for the future, the "P," perseverance of the saints. Since God has chosen, and God has provided, and God has irresistibly changed our hearts, then it only follows that God will keep us. He has promised to bring us home to glory5. "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." (John 10:28-29). And again, "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day." (John 6:39).
1 Rom 3:10-11. As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. (NKJV)
John 5:40. yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (NIV)
Eph 2:1-5. As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, .... Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, ... made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-- (NIV)
2 Rom 9:11-12. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad-- in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls-- she was told, "The older will serve the younger." (NIV)
2 Tim 1:9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, (NKJV)
3 Gal 1:4. who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, (NIV)
1 Peter 2:9. But you are a chosen people..., a people belonging to God (NIV)
4 John 5:21. "the Son gives life to whom He will. (NKJV)
John 6:37. "All that the Father gives me will come to me. (NIV)
5 1 Peter 1:4-5. and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (NIV)
2 Tim 4:18. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)