The historic five points of Calvinism, simplified in the acrostic TULIP, distinguish Reformed theology at the key points of issue, but in no way exhaust the content of Reformed theology. These five points include:
T- Total depravity
U- Unconditional election
L- Limited atonement
I- Irresistible grace
P- Perseverance of the saints
Total depravity declares that all men are corrupted by the Fall to the extent that sin penetrates the whole person, leaving them in a state by which they are now by nature spiritually dead and at enmity with God. This results in the bondage of the will to sin by which the sinner is morally unable to incline himself to God, or to convert himself, or to exercise faith without first being spiritually reborn by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:5, Romans. 5:12, Colossians 2:13, John 3:5-7).
Unconditional election refers to God’s sovereign and gracious work of election by which, from all eternity, God determines to exercise saving grace to a particular group of people chosen from out of the mass of fallen humanity. God gives this saving grace according to the good pleasure of His will, and not according to some foreseen actions, responses, or conditions met by men. God’s election is based purely on His sovereign grace and not upon anything done by humans. The elect are brought to true repentance and saving faith by the work of the Holy Spirit. The elect receive special saving grace from God. The non-elect receive common grace, experience the common benefits of sun and rain, but in the end are passed over, remain in their sin, and receive the justice of God (Deuteronomy 7:6,7; Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 2:8,9; John 6:44; Matthew 5:45).
Limited atonement means that though the value and merit of Christ’s atonement are unlimited and sufficient to save the whole world and are offered to all who repent and believe, the efficacy of the atonement is applied only to the elect, and that, by God’s design. This means that in God’s eternal plan of salvation the atonement was designed to accomplish redemption for the elect and that God’s plan of redemption is not frustrated by the refusal of the impenitent to avail themselves of its benefits. In this sense all for whom the atonement was designed to save, will be saved (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; Galatians 3:13; John 11).
Irresistible grace refers to the grace of regeneration by which God effectually calls His elect inwardly, converting them to Himself, and quickening them from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regeneration is the sovereign and immediate work of the Holy Spirit, working monergistically. This grace is operative, not cooperative, meaning that those who are regenerate always come to saving faith, as they are made willing to come to Christ to Whom they most certainly flee and cling for their redemption.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27; Romans 8:30; John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:1-10).
Perseverance of the saints means that those who are truly regenerate and truly come to saving faith will never lose their salvation. They may fall into manifold temptations and spiritual weakness, even into radical sin but never fully and finally because God, by His grace, preserves them. The intercession of Christ for the elect is efficacious unto eternity (John 3:16; John 10:27-30; Romans 8:35-39; 1 John. 5:13).