The doctrines summarized by the acronym “TULIP” have become to many the hallmark doctrines of the Reformed faith, even called the “Five Points of Calvinism” by some. In reality, this acronym is rarely heard in Reformed churches or found in Reformed literature. To the Reformed, Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints are not the core of Christianity, nor even the core soteriology of Christianity, but rather five doctrinal clarifications produced by the Synod of Dordt in response to a group of Dutch ministers questioning important suppositions of the Heidelberg Catechism. While they are indeed very important truths, they do not eclipse the total system of doctrine as received in the Reformed Confessions.
But, as pervasive as this caricature of the Reformed Faith is, even more troubling is that these doctrines themselves are often presented as but poor caricatures of the actual Canons produced at Dordt—even by many who claim to profess them. I have thought it helpful here to write a few quick reminders of what TULIP is not, historically speaking.
“The law was a schoolmaster unto Christ” (Gal. 3:24) and contained “the shadow of things to come” (Heb. 10:1), whose body and express image is in Christ. (Francis Turretin, Elenctic Theology, Bk. 2, p. 226)
In our endeavor to show how the one redemptive work of Christ was administered or dispensed to the saints of the Old Testament, we have shown that the Law of God, including the Ten Commandments, was no exception. In our last post, we have shown from the Scriptures that Christ Himself was He Who promulgated the Law from Mt. Sinai. Here we will show that not only was He the giver of the Law, but also the very content and substance that the Moral Law of God imaged and pictured.
He who is the foundation of the covenant of grace, held also the highest rank in the giving of the law. (Calvin on Galatians 3:19)
As we continue our study of how Christ was administered to the Saints in the Old Testament, we move now to the Law of God. We have so far discussed the Seed, the Land, Circumcision, and the Sacrificial System, all of which were shown to be “for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 7.5). Of course, each of these are included in God’s Law as broadly defined, so we have done much of our work already.
But I would here like to begin a study of how even the moral aspect of the Law, the very “handwriting that was against us” (Col. 2:14), including the Ten Commandments, was also integral to the administration of the one redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, this administration can be seen most clearly in the Sacrificial system and the many promises, but I believe it can also be shown that the Whole Law of God was part of the sufficiency and efficaciousness of Christ’s redeeming work in the Old Testament. After all, that is the underlying thesis of this whole series—that Christ’s work was dispensed by means of the Old Covenant, not in spite of it.