Is Calvinism biblical? Many people ask this question when they run into the doctrines of grace. These doctrines run against the church teachings most people have been taught since childhood. Here are a few long held beliefs people have heard their entire church life: “People are basically good.” “God does not choose who goes to heaven.” “Jesus died for everybody.” “People can lose their salvation.” “People can equally choose good and evil.” The doctrines of grace run contrary to these long held beliefs.
The question believers have to ask themselves is, “Are my beliefs biblical?” Another way to put this question is, “Which truths are supported by Scripture?” Believers need to root their thinking in the Word of God. This article seeks to show if the Bible supports the doctrines of grace.
The doctrines of grace, Calvinism, are summed up in the acronym T.U.L.I.P. The “T” stands for total depravity. Letter “U” stands for unconditional election. The “L” stands for limited atonement. Letter “I” stands for irresistible grace. “P” stands for preservation of the saints. These doctrines will be defined and shown if they have biblical support below.
A good definition of total depravity can be found in our What We Believe section on the website, “Every person has a sin nature and is totally depraved in that they lack the proper affection and love toward God and do evil. Total depravity also refers to the complete man having been corrupted by sin, including man’s will.” In other words, man is not as depraved as he could completely be. Mankind is corrupted by sin in the mind, heart, and will to the point no one can please God apart from the saving, regenerating work of God.
- “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2: 17, ESV).
- “And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8: 21a, ESV).
- “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15: 18 – 20).
- “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64: 6).
- as it is written:“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless, no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin (Romans 3: 10 – 20).
- And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2: 1 – 3).
There are numerous more passages which support this doctrine that cannot fit in this document. Read the gospel of John and the epistle of Romans to get a better understanding of Total Depravity.
Unconditional election is the doctrine that teaches God chose people to be saved before the foundation of the world. It is not based upon ethnicity, skin color, sex, or any quality in mankind, but solely by the grace of God. This is also known as election or predestination. Our belief is, “Election is the act of God by which, before the foundation of the world, He chose in Christ those whom He graciously regenerates, saves, and sanctifies.” This doctrine does not negate the responsibility to repent and believe.
- “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1: 12 – 13).
- “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10: 29).
- “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4: 27 – 28).
- “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8: 28 – 30).
- “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’” (Romans 9: 11 – 13).
- even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1: 4 – 12).
- “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2: 13).
- “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2: 10).
- “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1 Peter 1: 1 – 2).
It is probably best to define this doctrine as actual atonement. The atonement Jesus provides actually forgives and removes sin from those to whom it is applied. This doctrine also teaches there is no one in Hell for whom Christ died. The atonement is only limited in its breadth. It is unlimited in its scope. This is because the nature of the atonement is that of a penal substitution. Jesus bore the sin of those who trust in Jesus, the elect; paid for that sin on the cross; and gives believers his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5: 21). As John MacArthur says, “Jesus Christ died and paid in full the penalty for the sins of all who would ever believe, so that His atonement is an actual atonement and not a potential one that can be disregarded.” The passages which say Jesus is the atonement for he whole world shows the elect will come from all around the world, and his sacrifice is the only atonement the world will ever receive.
- “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26: 28).
- “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8: 24).
- “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5: 21).
- “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5: 9).
- “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8: 1).
- “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8: 33).
- “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8: 34).
- “he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9: 12).
- “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9: 14).
- “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1: 7).
This doctrine teaches God will effectually save those who he has predestined to be saved. He will effectually bring his chosen to saving repentance and faith. God wins – His will won’t be thwarted. John MacArthur says, “It is the divine summons. It is the divine subpoena, not for judgment and not for punishment, but so that you can be declared righteous, free from condemnation, forgiven. It is the call to salvation.” This doctrine shows God is sovereign over all things, including salvation.
- “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8: 30).
- “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9: 22 – 23).
- “remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” (Isaiah 46: 9 – 10).
- “correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2: 25).
- “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2: 8).
- “for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17: 28).
- “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21: 1).
- “Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people!” (Psalm 3: 8).
- “all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4: 35).
- “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10: 27).
Preservation of the Saints
This doctrine is also known as eternal security. Our stance on eternal security is:
All the redeemed, once saved, are kept by God’s power and are thus secure in Christ forever (John 5:24; 6:37-40; 10:27-30; Romans 5:9-10; 8:1, 31-39; 1 Corinthians 1:4-8; Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 7:25; 13:5; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24). It is the privilege of believers to rejoice in the assurance of their salvation through the testimony of God’s Word, which, however, clearly forbids the use of Christian liberty as an occasion for sinful living and carnality (Romans 6:15-22; 13:13-14; Galatians 5:13, 25-26; Titus 2:11-14).
Once a believer is saved they are always saved. It is important to remember this is not a license to sin (Romans 6). The mark of a genuine believer is they will endure to the end (Matthew 24: 13).
Due to the nature of the quote above, I will ask you to look up those verses yourself. There are over ten passages which are used to support eternal security. Yet, I want you to look at the last part of Romans 8:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8: 31 – 39).
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
It is clear from the evidence given above that the doctrines of grace are biblical. It is a shame that people call it Calvinism. It should rather be called biblicism because it merely is what the biblical writers taught on salvation and the sovereignty of God. It did not originate with John Calvin but from Matthew, John, and Paul. Since these men were inspired by God, these doctrines came from God himself.
This brings us to the harmony between the doctrines of grace and the responsibility of man. Andrew Rappaport has presented a convincing case that salvation works the same way as the writing of Scripture. God superintended the biblical writers to write Scripture in such a way to use their writing styles, experiences, and thoughts to bring about God’s Words inerrantly and infallibly. In the same way, God uses the elects’ lives, experiences, and wills in such a way they repent and trust in Jesus. This way it is our responsibility to repent and trust in Jesus, but God gets all of the credit. These doctrines of grace should comfort the believer that God is for them, loves them, and will keep them for all eternity.
If you want more biblical resources on studying the Scriptures, check out the store at strivingforeternity.org/store. There are also a lot of other articles on the website to encourage you to dive deeper into God’s Word. Please also check out Apologetics Live at ApologeticsLive.com, where Andrew Rappaport, Dr. Anthony Silvestro, and Justin Pierce answer your questions and teach you how to defend the faith. It is on from 8pm – 10pm EST. Also, do not forget to check out the Rapp Report, where you can hear the teaching of Andrew Rappaport and the Christian Podcast Community. Lord bless you.
 Andrew Rappaport, “What We Believe,” Striving for Eternity, Accessed December 15, 2022, https://strivingforeternity.org/about/what-we-believe/.
 Unless otherwise indicated all passages will be quoted in the ESV.
 Rappaport, “What We Believe.”
 Also see the rest of Romans 9.
 John MacArthur, “The Doctrine of Actual Atonement,” Grace to You, November 7, 2004, Accessed December 16, 2022. https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-277/the-doctrine-of-actual-atonement-part-1.
 John MacArthur, “The Doctrine of God’s Effectual Call,” Grace to You, September 18, 2005, Accessed December 16, 2022, https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-296/~/about.
 Rappaport, “What We Believe”