We’re in the middle of a series analyzing John MacArthur’s ministry’s article on Lordship Salvation. Starting in Part 8, we have been digging into the nine items listed as the theological distinctives of Lordship Salvation. Here is distinctive seven:
Seventh, Scripture teaches that those who truly believe will love Christ (1 Pet. 1:8-9; Rom. 8:28-30; 1 Cor. 16:22). They will therefore long to obey Him (John 14:15, 23). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that Christians may fall into a state of lifelong carnality.
If I harshly demand that my spouse love me and I grade her degree of love daily, and I threaten to divorce her if she falls below a certain standard of compliance, surely she will love me all the more. But if I love her freely without demands, that surely means that she will take her freedom and do her worst and cheat on me and ignore me and hate me. It sounds ridiculous, right? However, according to the Lordship Salvation proponents, that is how God works: in the worst sense, He lords it over us. In their world, grace and mercy and assurance and acceptance and free gift could never produce the love that coercion and threat and demand would produce. “Easy-believism” (otherwise known as normal protestant Christianity) teaches that men are sinners in constant need of mercy and love and confession, and that God is constantly there as the love-torn father welcoming the prodigal son back home with tears and joy.
Why do so many Christians hate Jesus?
The reason they see this point to be a necessary part of their theological distinctive in defining their doctrine of salvation is that they never offer people true grace. They paint a harsh and bullying picture of God and then wonder why people have trouble loving him! The blood of Jesus shed for sinners has no real place in their theology of justification. When sinful people in their circles don’t measure up to the transaction of salvation with “unconditional surrender” and “submission” to finally surrender and turn to something else, they look over the fence at these broken people and declare them “carnal” — that way it doesn’t damage their pharisaical man-centered failed two-way doctrine of salvation. For them, Christ didn’t die for sinners, He died for fully repentant saints. If you prove to be only partially repentant, if you prove to be a sinner, you are rejected. That leaves only the liars in their congregations; the honest people either want to leave or have left. This is not perfect love casting out fear, it is imperfect love wielding fear as a weapon to bully people into compliance.
Herding Evil Cats
Love really doesn’t work that way does it? Love isn’t about demanding obedience. How irritating we all must seem to the Lordship Salvation preacher. Pastoring a church full of actual people must seem like herding cats — evil ones. What a terrible platform for leading a church! No wonder so many pastors are depressed and committing suicide and dropping into gross sin and leaving the ministry. God have mercy, really.
Everyone Agrees: We’re All Lifelong Carnal Christians
Notice that they say that true believers will long to obey Him. Even for them, this means that for true believers, there is a purification process that is ongoing (1 John 3:3), which implies that there is an ongoing level of imperfection and impurity. Let’s call this “imperfection” what it really is: sin. If they “long” to obey Him, it means they don’t, which means they are basically disobedient wannabes. So the Lordship people confess within their own document that there will always be a degree of lifelong carnality, and that we will always stand in need of hearing that there is therefore now no condemnation (Romans 8:1). We will continue to experience the struggles of Romans 7. I quite agree!
Saying we Should, vs. Real Practice
Here is the question. Do you want to see imperfect yet sincerely believing people genuinely love Christ, or do you want to be seen as publicly demanding that people should love Christ? These are two wildly different things. Actually the very hallmark of the false Christian is the claim to love God while being full of pride and hatred:
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:5,6,7 (NASB)
20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20 (NASB)
The truth is, the Lordship guys have this all backwards. Love for each other is found in belief that God first loves us, sin and warts and even idolatrous lack of love and all. His one commandment is that we believe in Jesus Christ (easy-believe!) and so love one another (1 John 3:23). Easy-believism is what opens the door to love for God and for others; the way is narrow and He is the door (John 10:1-18).
10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us.
1 John 4:10,16-19 (NASB)
Jesus is looking for you, Imperfect One!
Are you an imperfect failing sinner who longs to obey yet continues to sin, sometimes horribly? Do you seem to have no love for God? Have you thrown in the towel and given up on your walk with God? Welcome to the fold! You are just the one Jesus is looking for! How greatly He loves you! Enter into your rest and your joy! You have been eternally and unbreakably accepted and loved. You can do nothing which can trump the precious blood of Jesus shed for you. The Lordship guys are the pharisees, and they are truly and desperately wrong. Rejoice!