This is the third installment of my analysis of the online document explaining the doctrine of “Lordship Salvation“. I am continuing very slowly through the initial matter in the article to lay a good foundation. Let’s look at the article again:
The gospel that Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience, not just a plea to make a decision or pray a prayer. Jesus’ message liberated people from the bondage of their sin while it confronted and condemned hypocrisy. It was an offer of eternal life and forgiveness for repentant sinners, but at the same time it was a rebuke to outwardly religious people whose lives were devoid of true righteousness. It put sinners on notice that they must turn from sin and embrace God’s righteousness. Our Lord’s words about eternal life were invariably accompanied by warnings to those who might be tempted to take salvation lightly. He taught that the cost of following Him is high, that the way is narrow and few find it. He said many who call him Lord will be forbidden from entering the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matt. 7:13-23).
So, were our Lord’s words about eternal life invariably accompanied by warnings that you could lose it if you took “salvation” too lightly? Unlike the article, I’d like to take the time to look at some scriptures and see if that is true.
The Rich Young Ruler
Matthew 19:16 ESV
[The Rich Young Man] And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
Actually, this man came up to Jesus, asking what he could do to acquire eternal life. Eternal life is a gift and not to be earned (Romans 6:23). This is similar to Simon the magician when he tried to purchase the Holy Spirit with money (Acts 8:18,19,20); it is ridiculous and nauseatingly wrong. Jesus divests him of this idea and away he goes. So, this passage is not a warning about the cost of eternal life, it is a warning to those who think there is a cost to eternal life.
The Sheep and the Goats
Matthew 25:46 ESV
[The Sheep and the Goats] And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
For what reason would someone withhold help and blessings from prisoners and homeless people? Because their deeds are not worthy of our resources. We judge them. To the redeemed who are under grace, none are worthy and everything is given as a gift despite that fact, and this is the mindset we carry into real life situations. Let me give an example.
There was a woman who started attending our church who had been homeless and was going through a rehab program in a halfway house. For a particular offense that did not have to do with drugs, she was kicked out and was faced with homelessness again. (As an aside, she was discarded to homelessness by them without warning because of a strong Lordship stance.) I was moved to tears and love for her, and so we offered to take her in until she was able to figure out something to get on her feet, and to teach her about the the Lord’s tremendous love for her. We were warned by the leadership that she was dangerous, that she would seduce my sons, that we needed to count the cost, that we really maybe shouldn’t do this. In other words, she was in these circumstances because she was a sinner and we righteous should keep our distance. We took her in anyway and it was a tremendous blessing, and of course none of these ridiculous and terrible things happened that were feared. I would do it 1000 times over. So it is radical strong grace that led to practical mercy (duh), and the Lordship salvation proponents would have smugly and self-righteously left her on the streets. Even if not, it would have taken her in with judgment and distance and caution, as a self-justification project and not with a mind for her welfare, ready to eject her again at the slightest provocation. So people under strong grace tend to show strong love. People under law tend to draw tight boundaries and reject people. In real-life that’s how it works people.
Jesus certainly operated this way! Here is an example which demonstrates how wrong it is to say that “our Lord’s words about eternal life were invariably accompanied by warnings to those who might be tempted to take salvation lightly.”
Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman
36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Also, I want to note, at the end it says her FAITH has saved her, and He simply tells her to go in peace. He doesn’t warn her invariably about taking her salvation lightly! What was she supposed to do? Here is what: be forgiven much, and believe it. What do you think she went on in her freedom to do? Think about that!
I could go on and on with this little game, but I have a job and a wife and 4 sons and I just don’t have time. In every instance, you can choose to see grace, or you can choose to see harsh condemnation and law. It is the way of grace which fits with the whole of scripture and with the main mission of Jesus: mercy and salvation for sinners. I’m the woman who was forgiven much, weeping at His feet. I have little to give, but being forgiven much, I hope to love much. I love to find opportunities to express grace and mercy to people; these kinds of stories are the things that make life beautiful and tender and joyous. Not a demand to submit to Christ’s Lordship; even He didn’t do that. He loved us. His love is my transforming fire.