Of course I love tulips! Each spring, I look forward to meandering through the tulip beds in Boston’s Public Garden, admiring all the different colors as they joyously herald an end to another harsh (and very long) New England winter. I also love seeing them, mixed in with white lilies, adorning the pulpit area on Resurrection Sunday as we celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death. Tulips, in both cases, represent new life.
But the acronym TULIP has an even deeper meaning. Each letter stands for one of the five points in Calvinism, or Reformed theology.
Perseverance of the saints
What on earth, you probably wonder, do those terms mean? Rather than taking the time to explain each point myself, I’d like to quote from What Is Reformed Theology on the GotQuestons.org website:
T – total depravity. Man is completely helpless in his sinful state, is under the wrath of God, and can in no way please God. Total depravity also means that man will not naturally seek to know God, until God graciously prompts him to do so (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18).
L – limited atonement. Also called a “particular redemption.” Christ took the judgment for the sin of the elect upon Himself and thereby paid for their lives with His death. In other words, He did not simply make salvation “possible,” He actually obtained it for those whom He had chosen (Matthew 1:21; John 10:11; 17:9; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32; Ephesians 5:25).
I – irresistible grace. In his fallen state, man resists God’s love, but the grace of God working in his heart makes him desire what he had previously resisted. That is, God’s grace will not fail to accomplish its saving work in the elect (John 6:37,44; 10:16).
I firmly believe that, while Reformed theology encompasses a lot more essential doctrines, these five main points draw attention to the basic Gospel message. Furthermore, I believe that, although the vast majority of people will reject the Lord in favor of their own selfish desires and man-made philosophies, Christians have an obligation to proclaim the Gospel as clearly and as frequently as possible. The TULIP acronym helps me remember why I need to constantly return to the Gospel.
I do love the tulips that usher in springtime. But more than their cheerful colors that contrast winter’s bleakness, I take delight in how they call my attention back to the Lord Jesus Christ. Quite simply, I love tulips because I love Him.