T U L I P
P = Perseverance of the saints (aka true followers)
This is the 5th and final point of the 5 points of Calvinism and of the teaching tool TULIP.
Keeping the previous points in mind, P points to how an individual that is part of the elect will not fall away. In other words, they won’t lose their faith. They will persevere through every obstacle to the very end of life.
This perseverance does not come from the elected believer but from God. The work he does in the believer is effective such that they will not fall away from Him despite that it may appear as only barely making it through.
As this perseverance is ultimately from God, some would reword P to stand for “Preservation of the saints” as God is effectively preserving every follower of Him. I would admit that I prefer this wording as it appears to put the emphasis of staying in the faith of Jesus Christ back in line with the idea of being elect and a work of God. Perseverance seems to tilt toward the elected individual doing everything which Scripture does not show to be accurate. Yes, every believer takes an active part in their walk in Him, but it would never come to be without Him nor would the necessary changes have come that keep us in Him.
If you wish to dig into this topic further, it also goes by a fewer other titles/references:
– eternal security, “Once Saved, Always Saved”
Recommended further reading:
T U L I P, ‘I’ being Irresistible for Irresistible Grace.
This is my favorite as it is through God’s grace extended to us that we even come to Him. It is through this extended grace that we become empowered to saving faith, without which we would only choose to continue in our depravity.
So what about the irresistible part?
This adjective connects us back to God’s election of those who come to Him. It is by His irresistible grace that God effectively calls the elect to Him. Now, this is Not some sort of mesmerizing effect or anything like that (the kind that would force an individual to come to faith in God) but an influencing pull that eventually overcomes all resistance. For some people, their resistance to God is overcome early in life while others later.
The point is that if a person is one of God’s elect, His irresistible grace will prove one day to be truly irresistible to that person. At which point, they will acknowledge God as the Lord of their lives and come to saving faith.
Further recommended reading:
T – total depravity
U – unconditional election
L – limited atonement
The third point is often most contentious bringing about two groups, the 4-pointers and the 5-pointers. The 4-point Calvinist would reject limited atonement whereas the 5-point accept it.
The point of contention is on whether or not the atonement for sin paid by Christ’s death was effectively paid for all or was just paid for those who are the elect. All would agree that Christ was more than able to pay for the sins of all; however, only the elect effectively come to salvation.
What am I referring to with the word ‘atonement’? Well, thinking back to T for total depravity, mankind has become totally depraved and is focused on self first and foremost. As we see throughout the old testament, to make restitution for these sins, blood had to be regularly spilled. These sacrifices were but a foretaste of the ultimate sacrifice given in Jesus Christ. His sacrifice was enough to be the final sacrifice, an atonement for sins.
Limited atonement (a.k.a. particular atonement) states that this atonement made by Christ’s death was only for the elect as they are the only ones who effectively come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Now, I point out the points of contention because I have no intention of being dogmatic and I don’t want people to think that somehow one side or another is the true Christian and the other not. Both the 4-pointer and the 5-pointer are true Christians despite how we may argue one of the two to be inconsistent. These points summarized in TULIP show the inner workings of salvation as we find them in the Scriptures. None of us needed to understand these things to become true believers in Him. Even so, it is not Christ’s desire for us to remain ever infants in the faith. Always seek out God’s truth and grow in maturity (1 Cor. 14:20), but always remember to be compassionate and far from legalism (e.g. reducing faith down to works-centered following of rules and a pride that looks down its nose at all who do not appear to follow – the Pharisees of Christ’s time are great examples).
Verses for further reading that are often used for this point: Matt. 26:28 (use of ‘many’ rather than ‘all’); John 10:11, 15; Matt. 25:32-33; John 17:9; Acts 20:28; Isaiah 53:12
For further study on Limited Atonement, go here.