TULIP: The Five Points of Calvinism

Understand the role of God's sovereignty in the salvation of sinners, historically known as Calvinism.



Course Description

The purpose of this course to teach the role of God’s sovereignty in the salvation of sinners. This teaching is historically referred to as “Calvinism” and briefly summarized by the following points: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. The following course provides a brief historical overview of Calvinism followed by an explanation of the five points, sometimes referred to as “TULIP.” The primary guide for this course is a series of seminar lessons taught by John Piper. In this course, the five points are covered in a non-traditional order, starting with irresistible grace. Ultimately, the goal of this course is that God’s sovereign grace in salvation would be clearly seen.

Downloadable Resources
  • DownloadThe Five Points of Calvinism (Student’s Workbook)Filetype: .pdf
  • DownloadThe Five Points of Calvinism (Instructor’s Guide)Filetype: .pdf
  • DownloadWhomever He Will (Preface) by Fred G. ZaspelFiletype: .docx

Recommended Books

History & Overview

The History & Theology of Calvinism
Amazing Grace Documentary
  • Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism (Part 1)

  • Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism (Part 2)

  • Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism (Part 3)

Summary Overviews
  • DownloadThe Five Points of Calvinism by Fred G. ZaspelFiletype: .pdf
  • DownloadWhy We Like Tulips by Fred G. ZaspelFiletype: .pdf
  • DownloadThe Fairest Flower in God’s Garden by John H. GerstnerFiletype: .pdf

1. Irresistible Grace

The Bible has lasted for over 2,000 years and has stood against countless attacks. Therefore, it is the superior authority in matters of faith, practice, and doctrine. In this lesson, John Piper begins by sharing five assumptions a person should have as they look to the Bible for answers. He then gives a brief overview of Calvinism and Arminianism. Finally, Piper introduces the concept of Irresistible Grace (38:10): God’s work of renewal in our hearts which necessarily brings about saving faith.

Important Biblical Passages on Irresistible Grace

Matthew 11:25; 16:15-17
John 1:13; 3:1-13; 5:21; 6:29; 37, 44; 17:2
Acts 2:39; 11:18; 13:48; 16:14
Romans 1:6; 8:28-30; 9:16
1Corinthians 1:8, 18-31
Galatians 1:6
Ephesians 1:19; 6:23
Philippians 1:29; 2:13
1 Timothy 1:12-17
2 Timothy 1:9; 2:25
1 Peter 2:9; 5:10
1 John 5:1
Jude 1:1

Discussion Questions
What is Irresistible Grace?

Irresistible Grace is God’s work of renewal in our hearts, which necessarily brings about saving faith.

Can God’s grace be resisted?

Grace can be resisted until God wills to overcome resistance. As soon as he chooses God is able to overcome your resistance.

What are the six arguments for Irresistible Grace?

Argument 1: Faith and repentance are a gift of God.

Argument 2: We cannot come to Christ unless God draws us.

Argument 3: God’s effectual calling overcomes resistance to the gospel.

Argument 4: The new birth enables us to receive Christ.

Argument 5: The New Covenant promises grace that will triumph over resistance.

Argument 6: Who then can resist his will?

Recommended Video
Additional Resources
Downloadable Resources
  • DownloadOvercoming Grace by Dr. Thomas SchreinerFiletype: .mp3
  • DownloadEffectual Calling and Regeneration (PDF) by A.A. HodgeFiletype: .pdf

2. Total Depravity

In this section, we move from irresistible grace to the condition that makes it necessary, namely total depravity (Video One – 23:30). If grace were not irresistible, we would not incline to God. In this lesson, John Piper explains the importance of viewing our depravity in relation to God. He then walks through five senses in which man is totally depraved and concludes with a brief introduction to unconditional election (Video Two – 23:15), which he will continue in the following lesson.

Important Biblical Passages on Total Depravity

Genesis 6:5; 8:21
Psalm 14:1-3; 51:5; 58:3
Proverbs 22:15
Ecclesiastes 7:29
Isaiah 53:6
Jeremiah 4:4, 22; 6:10; 9:26; 13:23; 17:1, 9
Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26
Matthew 12:33-35; 15:19
Mark 10:27
John 3:3, 5, 19-20; 5:44; 6:44, 65; 8:43-45, 47
Acts 7:51
Romans 1:18-3:20; 5:10; 7:5; 6:6, 12, 14, 17; 8:7-8
1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:14
2 Corinthians 4:4
Ephesians 2:1-3; 4:17-19
Colossians 1:21
2 Thessalonians 2:7
2 Timothy 2:26
Titus 1:15
2 Peter 2:14, 19

Discussion Questions
What is Total Depravity?

Total Depravity means that apart from any enabling grace from God, our hardness and rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sin, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are therefore totally deserving of eternal punishment.

Human depravity Is total in at least five senses. What are they?

1. Depravity affects every human.

2. Our rebellion or hardness against God is total, that is, apart from the grace of God there is no delight in the holiness of God, and there is no glad submission to the sovereign authority of God.

3. In his total rebellion everything man does is sin.

4. Man’s inability to submit to God and do good is total.

5. Our rebellion is totally deserving of eternal punishment.

Why is it important for a person to see themselves as totally depraved?

If we think of ourselves as basically good or even anything less than totally at odds with God, our grasp of the work of God in redemption will be defective. However, if we humble ourselves under this terrible reality, we will be in a position to see and appreciate the glory and wonder of the work of God. 

Recommended Videos
Additional Resources
Downloadable Resources
  • DownloadRadical Depravity by Dr. Thomas SchreinerFiletype: .mp3
  • DownloadFree Agency and Inability (PDF) by A.A. HodgeFiletype: .pdf

3. Unconditional Election

In the last lesson, John Piper ended the discussion on total depravity by introducing the reality of unconditional election. All of us have proven guilty; all of us justly deserve punishment. Therefore, unconditional election is gracious, free, and owing nothing to a person’s merit. In the following videos, Piper describes the purpose of unconditional election — that no one may boast. He then concludes by explaining God’s justice in unconditional election.

Important Biblical Passages on Unconditional Election

Deuteronomy 7:7-8
Isaiah 40:13-14
Matthew 11:25-26
John 6:37; 10:15-16, 24-28; 15:16, 19; 17:2-4, 8, 9, 24; 18:9
Acts 13:48; 16:14; 18:9-10
Romans 8:28-30; 9:11, 16; 11:5
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Ephesians 1:3-5, 11
1 Thessalonians 1:4-5
2 Thessalonians 2:12-13
2 Timothy 1:9; 2:10
Titus 1:1

Discussion Questions
What is Unconditional Election?

Definition From the Westminster Confession of Faith (Unconditional Election)

3.5 Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.

3.6 As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ; are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

Is election based on foreknown faith or does faith happen because of election?

When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)

How can God justly hold a person responsible for something he is morally unable to do?

1. God’s justice or righteousness is his unwavering commitment to uphold and display the worth of his glory. 

2. His freedom from all external constraints is an essential aspect of his glory. 

3. Therefore, to act in freedom is essential to his glory and thus to his righteousness. In exercising that freedom for the upholding of his glory, in choosing Jacob over Esau, he is acting in complete justice. He was doing what justice demands of him — what the infinite worth of his glory requires. If he would not have acted in freedom here he would have been unjust; he would not have justly acted in accordance with the worth of his glory. 

Recommended Videos
Additional Resources
Downloadable Resources
  • DownloadSovereign Election by Dr. Thomas SchreinerFiletype: .mp3
  • DownloadDoes God Desire All to Be Saved? by John PiperFiletype: .pdf
  • DownloadDecree and Predestination by A.A. HodgeFiletype: .pdf

4. Limited Atonement

God’s ultimate goal in the universe is to magnify and display the supreme greatness and value of his glory. All of creation, from the smallest atom to the largest galaxy, was created to declare the glory of God. And yet, God’s glory is most clearly seen in the substitutionary death of Jesus. The doctrine of limited atonement affirms that when Christ died, he secured faith and repentance for God’s elect. In this lesson, John Piper defines and defends the doctrine of limited atonement.

Important Biblical Passages on Limited Atonement

Matthew 1:21; 20:28; 26:28
John 6:35-40; 10:10-11, 15-18, 24-28; 12:32; 17:1-4, 9, 19-22, 24; 18:9
Acts 20:28
Romans 5:8-9, 12-21; 8:32, 34
2Corinthians 5:14-15
Ephesians 1:7, 14; 5:25-27
Hebrews 7:22; 9:12, 15, 28
Revelation 1:5; 5:9

Discussion Questions
What is the atonement?

The atonement is the work of God in Christ, by his obedience and death, by which he cancelled the debt of our sin, appeased his holy wrath against us, and won for us all the benefits of salvation.

Who limits the atonement?

Both Calvinists and Arminians.

Arminians limit the effectiveness of the atonement by denying that it purchased the promises of the New Covenant for irresistible grace.

Calvinists affirm this purchase of the promises of the New Covenant for irresistible grace, and therefore limit the full blessings of the atonement to those God irresistibly brings to faith.

If both Calvinists and Arminians limit the atonement, what is the dispute?

Calvinists believe that the death of Christ accomplished or purchased something more than Arminians believe it did, namely, the effectual grace to believe and come to Christ. All the irresistible grace (or effectual calling) that we saw in previous lessons, Calvinists believe, was purchased by the death of Christ.

Recommended Videos
Additional Resources

5. Perseverance of the Saints

The Bible describes the Christian life as a life-long fight of faith. Believers are called to “fight the good fight,” “continue in the faith,” “stand firm,” and “persevere.” But, what hope is there that we will win this fight? In the following video, John Piper argues against a “mechanical” understanding of eternal security, which claims that a person is saved no matter what they do. Instead, he shows that true believers must persevere and true believers will persevere. Those who are justified will win this fight.

Important Biblical Passages on Perseverance of the Saints

Jeremiah 32:40
John 5:24; 6:37-40; 10:27-29
Romans 5:10; 8:23, 28-38
1 Corinthians 1:8; 10:13
Ephesians 1:13-14
Philippians 1:6
2 Thessalonians 5:23-24
2 Timothy 1:12
Titus 1:2
Hebrews 7:24-25
1 Peter 1:3-5
1 John 2:1-2
Jude 1:24-25

Discussion Questions
What is Perseverance of the Saints?

Definition of Perseverance from the Westminster Confession of Faith

17.1 They, whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

17.2 This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

17.3 Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalence of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve His Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts; have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.

What is the difference between “mechanical security” and perseverance?

The doctrine of perseverance does not mean, you are saved no matter what you do — that’s not what the Bible teaches. This is a “mechanical” understanding of eternal security. Instead, perseverance teaches that you’re secure because he keeps you; you won’t make shipwreck your faith because he is holding on to you. 

What does the Bible teach about those who walk away from the faith?

Falling away from faith and holiness shows that we never belonged to Christ. 

They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19)


Recommended Videos
Additional Resources
Downloadable Resources
  • DownloadThe Perseverance of the Saints by Thomas SchreinerFiletype: .mp3
  • DownloadPerseverance by A.A. HodgeFiletype: .pdf


In this final video, John Piper shares ten implications of being a Calvinist. These ten points are his personal testimony to the effects of believing in the five points of Calvinism. May they stir you to search, Berean-like, to see if the Bible teaches what he calls “Calvinism.”

Discussion Questions
What is Hyper-Calvinism?

Hyper-Calvinism is a technical phrase from the 18th century. It referred especially to people in England who carried the doctrine of election and irresistible grace to an unbiblical conclusion, namely that the only to whom you should preach the gospel and offer its benefits are those in whom you see evidence of election. Hyper-Calvinism is an example of human logic trumping Biblical clarity. 

What are the ten effects of believing in the five points of Calvinism?

1. These truths make me stand in awe of God and lead me into the depth of true God-centered worship.

2. These truths help protect me from trifling with divine things.

3. These truths make me marvel at my own salvation.

4. These truths make me alert to man-centered substitutes that pose as good news.

5. These truths make me groan over the indescribable disease of our secular, God-belittling culture.

6. These truths make me confident that the work which God planned and began, he will finish – both globally and personally.

7. These truths make me see everything in the light of God’s sovereign purposes – that from him and through him and to him are all things, to him be glory forever and ever.

8. These truths make me hopeful that God has the will, the right, and the power to answer prayer that people be changed.

9. These truths remind me that evangelism is absolutely essential for people to come to Christ and be saved, and that there is great hope for success in leading people to faith, but that conversion is not finally dependent on me or limited by the hardness of the unbeliever.

10. These truths make me sure that God will triumph in the end.

What about Hyper-Calvinism?

Additional Resources

Resource curated for The Gospel Coalition by Fred Zaspel and Nick Harsh.