Lordship Salvation



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  • Lordship Salvation

    The past 30 years has seen an ongoing debate within the evangelical community on the issue of Lordship Salvation rooted in two historical views. I personally find the Calvinists and Arminians have valid views, but one can easily slide too far in one direction and loose a grasp on the core teaching of Christ. There have been a number of works published addressing the subject but there is still much confusion within the evangelical Church concerning this issue.

    What is “Lordship Salvation?” It is a teaching in Christian theology which maintains that good works are a necessary consequence of being declared righteous before God. This teaching is advocated in many of the creeds of Protestantism, but is not universally accepted. Advocates and opponents of the doctrine within Protestantism all agree that acceptance before God is through faith alone by grace alone, but they differ on whether true justification can ever be maintained by leading a worldly life or when given to complete apostasy.

    The controversy is not over the essential nature of Christ, but whether submission to him, as Lord of one’s life, is a necessary aspect of saving faith. There are those who claim that lordship is a betrayal of the Reformation in that it undermines the vital reformation principle of sola fide or "by faith alone." And there are those who state that rather than a betrayal, the teaching of lordship is, in fact, an affirmation of both the biblical gospel and the historic Protestant faith. There is even confusion among those who consider themselves ‘reformed’ in theology. While we all agree that justification is by faith alone, we do not all agree on the meaning of saving faith.

    The teaching of Jesus is particularly germane to this whole controversy and is ultimately the definitive answer to the question of lordship. The controversy over lordship is not an academic issue. It hits right at the heart of the gospel and the meaning of true salvation. Nothing less than the eternal destiny of men and women is at stake. When teaching on salvation Jesus has a great deal to say about hell, the kingdom of God, his atonement, union with himself, conversion, faith, repentance, sanctification and discipleship. Surprisingly, he has little to say about justification.

    The biblical teaching on repentance means that a person recognizes their guilt of sin (Romans 3:19); Lordship Salvationists teaches that a person must cease from living a sinful lifestyle to enter in or remain in God's favor. Eternal life is the gift of God (Romans 6:23). Salvation is a receiving, not giving. God gave us His only begotten Son, Jesus, to pay our debt of sin. What we do is come as we are, we must acknowledge our guilt of sin, coming to God on that basis; believing on Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, to forgive our sins (Acts 10:43).

    In 2nd Peter 3:9 we read, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The Greek word for “repentance” here is “metanoia” and literally means “a change of mind.” Not a change of lifestyle. However, the changed lifestyle should naturally follow afterwards as part of the sanctification process.

    "And saying the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." Mark 1:15.

    Notice in the above passage that Jesus didn't say “repent ye, and turn from your sins.” No, Jesus clearly stated, “repent ye, and believe the gospel.” It is plain to see that Biblical repentance is a change of one's mind concerning sin and unbelief, which causes that soul to turn in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation. Jesus never said to a person, “Give up your sin and I'll save you.” No, rather, Jesus said “Go, and sin no more” after making them whole (John 8:11). Initially, God requires we come for salvation through His dear Son (John 3:16) by receiving the Good News.

    Lordship Salvation is often labeled works self-righteousness. The premise is, if committing sin can cause a born-again believer to lose salvation, then we were all lost shortly after conversion. But as scripture teach in I John 2:1, "My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." It is solely by Christ's gracious gift that we are saved (2nd Corinthians 5:21). The initial repentance which God requires of a man to be saved is for that man to acknowledge his unbelief in Christ and; thus, recognize his desperate need for a Savior. Salvation comes through childlike faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; nothing may be added. This does not condone "Easy Believeism" or "Free Grace theology" that implies you can live as you please, because salvation is a gift. Such a erroneous teaching is an opposite extreme found in Antinomisanism.

    We are all sick with a sin nature of rebellion (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:10). The penalty of sin is death and eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23, Revelation 20:15). Jesus paid the price for our rebellion through the act of selfless sacrifice. (Acts 10:43, Romans 5:8, 1 John 2:2, John 5:24). When a sinner goes to the Savior he has realized these things:
    1. He is aware of his sin and condemnation under God's law, deserving of death (Romans 3:19-20, Galatians 3:24, Mark 9:45)
    2. He knows that he can't do anything on his part to cure himself.(Galatians 2:16, Galatians 2:21, Galatians 3:1-3, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 11:6, Titus 3:5)
    3. He trusts the Savior to save his soul (Romans 4:5 , Romans 10:9, Romans 10:13-14, John 3:16, John 3:18, John 3:36, John 7:28, 1 John 5:13 ).
    How much faith is necessary to be saved? Enough to call upon the name of the Lord! "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Acts 2:21

    In any study of Jesus’ teaching on salvation what is striking is his constant focus upon himself as the source of salvation. "Come to me, follow me, believe in me, drink of me" (Mt. 11:28–30; Mk. 8:34–38; Jn. 6:35; Jn. 7:38) are his constant cries. He says, “I am the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (Jn. 14:6). According to Jesus, it is through a personal relationship with him that one comes into the experience of salvation. He preaches the absolute necessity for the new birth (Jn. 3:3–6), for conversion (Mt. 18:3) and for sanctification (Mt. 7:21–24). He tells men that it is only those who do the will of God who will enter the kingdom of heaven, that those who truly belong to him will manifest the reality of that relationship by bearing the fruit of obedience in their lives (Jn. 15:1–8; 8:31).

    He teaches that justification is not by works but based solely on the mercy of God (Lk. 18:9–14). He emphasizes faith in himself and his atoning sacrifice as the sole basis for salvation and complete deliverance from judgment and condemnation (Jn. 3:14–16; 6:35, 47–58, 5:24, 10:27–29), but he also equally emphasizes his authority as Lord, as clearly seen in his call to discipleship. His teaching on discipleship is his definitive teaching on the kingdom of God and what it means to enter into a relationship with himself. There is perhaps no greater confusion within evangelicalism in our day, however, than that which relates to this subject.

    Discipleship by Submission to Lordship

    In Luke 14:26, Jesus gives the following conditions of discipleship: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” To properly interpret the meaning of the Lord’s words, especially his use of the word ‘hate’, we need to refer to Matthew 10:37: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” What Jesus is dealing with here is love and devotion. Jesus demands first place in the heart of an individual. He must be preeminent in the life. All other relationships are to take a secondary place in relationship to himself.

    Jesus also said “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be My disciple” (Lk. 14:27). This is about self denial! A man may practice self denial all his life and never deny himself. A man may practice self denial in this and that respect, and all the while his self-centeredness is strengthened. Jesus did not say exercise self denial in externalities. He said deny self, have done with choosing, wishing, planning, arranging for self. Choose no more, will no more, except to will that God shall will. I deny self when I hand over the keys of our heart to the king and say, Enter and reign in every room of my heart.

    “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy–laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). What Jesus is saying is that he can give us rest but it requires a certain kind of commitment. We must bend our necks under his yoke and come into submission to his authority and teaching. If we would come to him and find rest we must repudiate self and selfish interests and submit ourselves to Jesus as Lord—to yield to his yoke, his authority and control.

    “So therefore, no one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Lk. 14:33). Meaning, a wholehearted devotion, all–out loyalty, complete self denial, so that one places himself, his time, his earthly possessions, his talents etc., at the disposal of God through Christ.

    It is clear that Jesus is not talking here about a process of discipleship, but a commitment of discipleship. Deny Self – Take Up Cross – Take My Yoke - Follow Me. While a biblical commitment to Christ results in a process of growth, in this particular passage Christ is talking about an initial commitment to himself. Jesus has enunciated unalterable and absolute requirements which he says must be met or one cannot become his disciple. Discipleship by submission to His Lordship is a spiritual awareness that follows conversion, this does not occur at conversion, nor can it be ascertained. Whereas we are born as spiritual babes, with no awareness beyond the realizing that all things have become new.

    Unbelief is the Sin the Separates Us from the Good News

    The first sin a lost sinner must turn from to be saved is the sin of unbelief about the Good News:
    • "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21).
    • "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).
    • “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1: 14,15).
    • “…solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:20,21).
    • "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us...." (Titus 3:5).
    Paul in summing up the gospel that he preached to both Gentiles and Jews (Acts 20:19-20) said it consisted of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    What is the Good News? "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son" (John 3:16-18). There is nothing here that commands moral purity for the justification process of salvation. Moral purification is part of the sanctification process after salvation. Our justification before God is based on our belief in Christ alone (Grace).

    Lordship Salvation teaches it is the sin of moral conduct that we must turn from to realize and sustain salvation. However, first and foremost, we must repent of unbelief in God’s provision, for it is that veil that darkens the mind from receiving the Gospel message. "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing" (2 Corinthians 4:3). It is possible to conform to the code and conduct of an outwardly conformed Christian, but inwardedly not at all accept the provision made through Christ, thus still be lost to the sin of unbelief. If our faith in Christ is not quickened to life by means of the Holy Spirit, we could be still dead in our trespasses of sin. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44). Salvation in Christ does not mean we will walk sin free, but rather means our inward heart is so radically changed, that we conform to the pattern of discipleship outlined above. "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (John 14:23). It is by the Spirit that we put to death the sin nature our own efforts are works righteousness. "...if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:13).

    Life according to the Spirit, deeply permeates the whole Pauline doctrine on justification. With exceptional force of conviction, the Apostle of the Gentiles proclaims that justification is carried out in Christ and through Christ. Man obtains justification in "faith working through love" (Gal 5:6), and not only by means of the observance of the individual prescriptions of Old Testament law (in particular, that of circumcision). Justification comes therefore "from the Spirit" (of God) and not "from the flesh." Paul exhorts the recipients of his letter to free themselves from the erroneous carnal concept of justification, by conformity to the external standard of moral purity. He rather tells them to follow the true one, that is, the spiritual one. In this sense he exhorts them to consider themselves free from the law, and even more to be free with the freedom for which Christ "has set us free."

    It is by the law that our moral sins reveal we are destitute (Romans 7:7), but it is the unveiling of the mind that reveals the remedy through Christ (2 Cor. 4:3-4). The sins of our selfish nature must be confessed "But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong." (1 John 1:9) and subjected to death in Christ, with a submissive realization of needed change. "Knowing this, that your old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin" (Romans 6:6-7) The success of the Master's pruning will be defined by our submission to the standards of discipleship, not by external conformity to a pure lifestyle. To lament our failures and fear loss of salvation due to our weakness is a miserable way to live the Christian life. If you lack the free-spirited joy as a Holy Spirit gives, it may be because you are under the yoke of slavery to a system of religious works-righteousness.

    As early as 1948 Lewis Sperry Chafer treated the concept of Lordship Salvation in his Systematic Theology, Volume 3 Soteriology, pages 384-388. In this work, he denounces this teaching as an Oxford Movement heresy. The controversy moved to the forefront of the evangelical world in the late 1980s when Calvinist John F. MacArthur argued against the doctrine of carnal Christianity in his book "The Gospel According to Jesus." In response, in 1989, Charles Ryrie published "So Great Salvation" and Zane C. Hodges published "Absolutely Free! A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation." John Piper sought to clarify why good works are necessary, not only for faith to be real, as MacArthur argued, but also for final salvation from Hell. Two of the most recent contributions to the Lordship debate are Lou Martuneac's "In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation," 2006 and J.B. Hixson's "Getting The Gospel Wrong", 2008.

    The teaching of Lordship Salvation comes primarly from independent fundamental Baptist churches. Teachers who reportedly adhere to the legalistic Calvinist tangent of Lordship Salvation are John MacArthur, Randy Taylor, Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, John Piper, Jack Chick, David Cloud and many others.

    “The Gospel is not a call to repentance, or to amendment of our ways, to make restitution for past sins, or to promise to do better in the future. These things are proper in their place, but they do not constitute the Gospel; for the Gospel is not good advice to be obeyed, it is good news to be believed. Do not make the mistake then of thinking that the Gospel is a call to duty or a call to reformation, a call to better your condition, to behave yourself in a more perfect way than you have been doing in the past... Nor is the Gospel a demand that you give up the world, that you give up your sins, that you break off bad habits, and try to cultivate good ones. You may do all these things, and yet never believe the Gospel and consequently never be saved at all.” Dr. Harry A. Ironside, from the sermon: "What Is The Gospel?"

    Expositions that further document this teaching:
    The Enemies of Soul by Dr. Jack Hyles
    Salvation Crystal Clear by Dr. Curtis Hutson
    Lordship Salvation: Is it Biblical? By Christian N. Temple

  • #2
    I firmly believe that the unbeliever needs to be confronted with the law to enter into a place of contrition.

    Ps 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

    Isa 57:15 For this is what the high and lofty One says—he who lives for ever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.

    The law is what exposes the unbelievers' guitly conscious, through making them aware of what sin is in the first place. This in turn leads to a true repentance and a true belief in Christ Jesus.

    Jas 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

    1Timothy 1:8-10 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

    Ga 3:24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

    Ro 7:7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet."

    Jesus Himself exposed unbelievers to the law to expose their wrong doing a) The woman at the well b) the example of the woman caught in adultry, in which Jesus exposed the sin of the men trying to stone her.

    Joh 8:34-36 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it for ever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

    Joh 16:8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:

    So essentially the Holy Spirit is able convict the unbeliever of their sin through the use of the law, which in turn will lead to a contrite heart open to hear the good news of the gospel!!!!


    • #3
      There is no contest in the Lordship Salvation debate that I know of, regarding the letter of the Law being the motivating dynamic that makes a soul aware of their need of the Savior.

      It is good that you pointed out how the law is involved in the salvation process. I had to keep deleting content from my post, whereas the discussion is vast in scope. Your final sentence is well stated!


      • #4
        SERAY wrote in his orginal post:

        "Lordship Salvation teaches it is the sin of moral conduct that we must turn from to realize and sustain salvation."

        Did not know that the authors that you mentioned in your article taught this. I have listened to Mr. Comfort on a few occasions and read a bit of Piper's work and have not heard it phrased like that. Are you sure they really teach that? That sounds like a "salvation through works" theology. From what I heard from Ray Comfort it seems as though he teaches this:

        Exposed to the law------->Repent from our sins and be baptized -------->Saved through the grace of Jesus because of our faith in Him as our only means of escaping from our sin and gaining eternal life. The Holy Spirit is now a gift from God, residing within us to help us to "work out our salvation" (sanctification)

        As a result we will see fruit from the Spirit that is living within us. This is a lifelong process. We will often fall into sin, but sin will not have dominion over our lives.

        Deborah wrote:

        "Those who adhere to this emphasize "repentance" before salvation happens, and they mean to stop sinning first. But that isn't what the Bible teaches at all, is it?"

        Repentence does not mean to stop sinning, but it is a change in our minds. I believe when we truly repent from our sins that we are truly sorry for the damage that we have created in seperating ourselves from God.

        "In my own life, I saw my guilt of a sinful nature and gave my life to the Lord, but I didn't actually "repent" from my lifestyle right at first because I didn't know it was a wrong lifestyle."

        Sounds like an authentic conversion to me, but who am I to say? I think the statement "I saw my guilt" is a measure of repentance, confessing through guilt that you knew what you were doing was wrong and you did not like that. Your willingness to actually turn away from your sinful lifestyle, in God's timing, demonstrates that you turned away from sin in your mind duing your conversion. Your ability to turn away from your sinful lifestyle is a powerful example of God's grace through sanctification. I think that you are confusing the word repentance with the process of sanctification. Repentance does come first:

        Mr 1:15 "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

        Mt 21:32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

        Eze 18:30 "Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offences; then sin will not be your downfall.

        1Ki 8:47 and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their conquerors and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’;

        Ac 26:20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.

        Ac 3:19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

        Ac 2:38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.


        • #5
          I think you might have overlooked the keywords in the paragraph, thus your thinking that I personally may not approve of certain leaders.

          Quote: "Teachers who reportedly adhere to the legalistic Calvinist tangent of Lordship Salvation" The bolded word is key here. These leaders take a rap for being incorrect regarding salvation doctrine, but I personally do not substantiate these claims. I think all these teachers have substance, and none should be wholly rejected based on this debate.

          However, it is necessary that every genuine student of the Word come to terms on this issue, because it is not going away anytime soon. If you we don't deal with it now, we will have to deal with it later


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