You will not find tulips mentioned in the Bible. But TULIP is a very useful acronym, and it stands for the five doctrines which together comprise what are known as the Doctrines of Sovereign Grace.
Here are the doctrines of the TULIP:
T stands for Total Depravity;
U stands for Unconditional Election;
L stands for Limited Atonement, or Particular Redemption;
I stands for Irresistible Grace, or Effectual Calling;
P stands for Perseverance of the Saints.
This acronym is most helpful. It enables one to easily bring to remembrance these scriptural doctrines. Man is totally depraved, dead in trespasses and sins; but God, in eternity, elected a definite number of the human race to salvation, and did so unconditionally, meaning His election was not conditioned on anything foreseen in men, but was by His free grace alone; Christ died only for the elect, and so in this sense His atoning death was limited; each one of the elect is drawn, by God’s irresistible grace, at the appointed time, to Christ for salvation; and the elect, having been saved by the Lord, are never again lost, but persevere to the end of their lives.
These are precious truths; scriptural truths. And let me be quite clear: I love these doctrines of grace as much as any believer does. I believe in them with all my heart. I preach them. But even so, and as precious and important as these doctrines are, the TULIP is not the only flower in Holy Scripture!
Of course it is essential that the false doctrines of man’s supposed “free will” – the doctrines known as Arminianism – need to be firmly opposed, and the scriptural truths known as the doctrines of grace need to be fully and frequently proclaimed; but as important as these scriptural truths are, they are not the only doctrines in the Bible. Yet in some circles they are treated as if they are. More is written about them, and more is said about them, than any other scriptural doctrines, by those who reject Arminianism; and one is left to assume that many preachers and writers are under the impression that there are no other doctrines in the Bible! Or at least, that there are no others so worthy of their notice.
But the fact is that the five doctrines which are known as the doctrines of grace are not the only doctrines in the Bible! And there is a great danger, into which many have fallen, of thinking that the proclamation of these doctrines is the proclamation of “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27); that these five doctrines are essentially all there is to “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” for which we must contend (Jude 3). This is a great error with serious consequences, but tragically it is one which many make. There are many who can wax eloquent about the doctrine of Election, who are unable to properly expound, explain or defend such doctrines as (to name just a few) Justification, or the Trinity, or Christ’s eternal Sonship – all of which, among various others, are doctrines just as important as the doctrine of Election.
The “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) is not the TULIP! There are believers who are so busy studying this TULIP, dissecting it, exclaiming about its beauty, etc., etc., that they do not fully see “the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys” (Song of Sol.2:1)! The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys – a rose for His beauty and His blood, a lily for His whiteness or purity – and He is the centre of the doctrines of grace; but there is so much more to be known about Christ than is revealed even by the doctrines of grace! And yet there are those who seem to want to hear nothing more, learn of nothing more, than these five doctrines.