Several people have asked me about the 5 points of Calvinism. While a theological system cannot be reduced to a few points, the 5 points of Calvinism are a useful aid to help us understand the way in which our salvation is brought about by God. The acronym TULIP is a way of helping us remember the 5 points as follows:
T stands for Total Depravity. This means that, although no one is bad as they could be, sin has affected every part of us - our will, our mind, our heart. Consequently, we cannot please God or save ourselves. Nor indeed can we choose the gift of salvation offered to us through Jesus Christ in the Gospel. Rather we are biased against God and veer away from righteousness.
U stands for Unconditional Election. We did not choose God, but he chose us to salvation before the foundation of the world. This was not conditional upon anything that God foresaw in us. His choice was not made on the basis of what we would be or do. Rather He chose us according to his own good pleasure and purpose in Christ.
L is Limited Atonement. Although there is no limit to the merit of Christ or the saving efficacy of His blood, God sent his Son for the definite purpose of saving His elect. Thus while Jesus died for the world of mankind - people from every nation and language - He died specifically to save His people - those whom the Father had given to Him before the world was. His death is efficacious for their salvation and no one for whom the Saviour died will ever be lost.
I is Irresistible Grace. Those who were chosen by God before the foundation of the world, for whom the Son made atonement upon the cross, are called to new life by the power of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel. Just as Lazarus was called from his tomb by the voice of the Son of God, so God calls those who are dead in trespasses and sins by the irresistible work of the Holy Spirit who re-creates us in newness of life.
P stands for the Perseverance of the Saints. Having chosen us, atoned for our sins and regenerated us, God preserves us unto his eternal Kingdom. Thus all God's elect people will persevere in grace to the end of their lives and will share in the inheritance of God's children in His eternal Kingdom.
Thus the 5 Points of Calvinism teach us that we are saved by grace alone, from first to last, to the glory of God.