Some time ago, I wrote an article for RC Sproul’s little monthly magazine Table Talk. In it I wanted to stress some aspects of the so-called “Five Points of Calvinism.” As you know, the word T-U-L-I-P is used as a means of remembering each of the points. T stands for total depravity; U for unconditional election, L for limited atonement, I for irresistible grace, and P for perseverance of the saints.

Now, many people find no difficulty in accepting four of the five points, notably, the first and last two in the word. I wanted to stress the fact that in leaving out the L, they not only mess up the word TULIP, but their own theology, and at the same time, miss what is, in many respects, the main doctrine of the five. So, I devised the TULIPBURGER.

Let me explain. The T and the P are like the two pieces of bun that hold a burger together—absolutely essential, but, in themselves, hardly a burger at all. I liken the U and the I to the lettuce and the tomato. Better, but still not a burger. Lastly, I suggest that the L is like the meat in the center. Truly, the idea of limited atonement is the “meat” of Calvinism. To hold to the fact that Jesus didn’t die for “mankind,” or, as that means, persons in general—but for persons in particular, is essential to having a “Personal Savior.” I’m delighted, that with the apostle I can say, “He loved me and gave Himself for me.” I agree with Luther who, when commenting on the first verse of the 23rd Psalm said, “Thank God for personal pronouns.”

To realize that Jesus’ death was 100% effective; that He didn’t die for people in general, but that He knew His sheep, and called them by name, and gave His life for each one of them individually is a blessed truth, not to be omitted from the burger. Because He did, therefore, every one of them will have eternal life. It is a rich doctrine not to be lost by focusing on buns, lettuce and tomato alone, while forgetting the meat.

Jesus didn’t come to make salvation possible—He came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” God was satisfied with His death for everyone for whom He died. He didn’t die needlessly for millions who would reject Him. He knew all that the Father had given Him, and said that not one of them would be lost. They would all be saved. After all, if Jesus’ death for sin really did satisfy God’s justice for any, it would also do so for all. So, if He died for all—all would be saved. Of course, we know that isn’t true. Yet, if universal atonement were true, then God could hardly punish men and women for eternity for whom Christ had already suffered the punishment. There is no double jeopardy. And therefore, there is no burger unless it is a TULIPBURGER!

Grace Alone

Paul did not labor that he might receive grace, but he received grace in order that he might labor.
                              Augustine, De gestis Pelagii xiv, 36

No distinction could be more important to our salvation.

Augustine knew what many over the years have not known—salvation is not of works; it produces good works.

He speaks of grace. Grace is something unmerited. It is an enabling power. Romans 8: 8 says that those who are “in the flesh [unsaved persons] CANNOT please God” (emphasis mine).” Yet people are always trying to do so by their own ability. The fact is that they are not able to do so: “Not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

That’s why they need the grace of God, regenerating and giving them the ability to believe the Gospel. Prior to that grace which brings spiritual life, one is dead spiritually; he cannot believe.

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Do you believe the Bible?


Glad to hear that.  Then, that means you believe in predestination, right?

“Well . . .”

C’mon.  You’ve got to believe in predestination if you believe the Bible?

“How’s that? Nobody I know at church believes in it.”

That’s a very sad situation.

“How so?”

Because Arminianism (a view that hold an opposite of a belief) denies the biblical teaching about predestination—and to deny anything biblical is sad..  Especially, when one claims to believe the Bible.

“How do you know that the Bible teaches predestination?”

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Reading Calvin

ncd01583Now-a-days I get more time for reading—but nowhere near enough! I have been reading a bit of Calvin again, just to enjoy his application of expositions to contemporary (his day) issues. It’s interesting, though he was a bit prolix in what he said; and could allow himself to get on another path, to note the way on which he believed that the Scriptures were written not merely as a record, but as help and counsel for all generations, no matter how long the church remains on earth.

Unlike some today, Calvin knew, that sinful human nature doesn’t really change. That we make for ourselves the same old problems in homes, at work, and in church—to mention but a few areas.

So, he wrote for all times—assuming that the biblical writers had them in mind. You’ll even catch him, at times, saying such things as “Now Paul says to us . . .” meaning that his Spirit-inspired words were being composed for the church of all ages—including ours.

Now, there is not only a dearth of exposition behind many contemporary sermons, but also a strong antipathy in some circles to apply anything. What a shame. How much good it would do those who have such tendencies to read Calvin with what I am saying in mind—not only his sermons, where this practice is more evident, but (surprisingly) in his commentaries as well.

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They Aren’t Logical

“Who are you talking about?”

Those who claim that God is, what we used to call (before the days of political correctness), an “Indian Giver.”

“What does that mean?”

It means taking back again something you once gave to another. Because Indians were supposed to go back on their word: they’d give you something and then want it back, the expression was coined.

“Did they do that a lot?”

Have no idea. All I know is that’s what the expression means.

“How do some claim that about God?”

Well they think that after giving us life, God may take it away from us.

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There Are Not Enough Christians

That’s certainly true in one sense.

“What do you mean by ‘in one sense?’”

Well, because Jesus said that all that the Father would give him will come to Him, we know that there will always be all the Christians that there should be.

“That isn’t what I had in mind—besides you are thinking of your Calvinism I see.”

Another name for biblical Christianity. What did you mean?

“What I mean is if we had more Christians we could have a greater influence.”


“There are so many evil things happening in the world that we just don’t have enough believers to combat them all.”

Ah. Now I get your drift. But, frankly, I think that you’re entirely wrong.

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“‘What is it?’ I asked?”

A bobble-head of John Calvin.

[That’s what he told me as I tore open the box. Then I asked again in disbelief, “A what?”]

You heard me. A bobble-head (one that bounces around when you shake it) and the likeness to pictures I have of Calvin is rather good too!.What are you going to do with it?

“I’ll put it up on a top shelf in my library. I don’t have a bust of Calvin anywhere, even though I wrote about the preacher who nearly got beaned with one in one of my Greg Dawson counseling novels. So, it will now serve as my study’s ‘bust.'”

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A Word About Election

The word “elect” occurs often in the Bible. It means what we often call “selection” or “choosing.” That God chose Israel is clear and admitted by all. But that he chose individuals in Israel, like Jacob instead of Esau, isn’t so readily admitted by some.

Yet, they think strangely. If God chose Israel, He also chose individuals. Israel was composed of people—it wasn’t some corporate entity in itself that didn’t involve individuals. And, if you think twice about it, rather than getting upset, you will conclude that He also chose not to elect the Gentiles who were not a part of Israel. The Nations (Gentiles) consisted of people too! So God does choose and choose not to choose individuals.

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Five Hundred Years Ago

John Calvin was born July 10, 1509 (d. 1564). That is nearly 500 years ago! No one in the history of the Church, since the New Testament itself, has been so influential! It is worth remembering him and what he was able to accomplish for the Lord. There will be no pilgrimages to his grave, however, since he wanted to be buried in an unmarked grave, which remains unknown.

What did Calvin accomplish? He was the first to truly systematize the Reformation faith. The Institutes, to this day, are read with profit. They are a monumental piece of work that no Christian should neglect in his reading.

Until Calvin’s commentaries, there was only Chrysostom. But Calvin outstripped the former to become the father of modern commentaries.

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All the Way There

Human beings have been known to kill their offspring for any number of reasons. Recently, we have read of so-called ‘honor-killings’ that occur for behavior not becoming to one’s religion. But the last point of the Tulipburger affirms that when God gives spiritual life to a person, making him a member of His family, that person is secure forever—He will not kill him spiritually so that he will be assigned to the second death in hell. That last point in the Tulipburger is called, THE PERSEVERENCE OF THE SAINTS. When God declares one “holy” (what the word “saint” means) in Christ, his ultimate salvation doesn’t depend upon his own works, but upon the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus.

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