We’re going to move on in the analysis of this document outlining the tenets of the doctrine of Lordship Salvation. Here’s the portion of the text we are examining today:
There are many articles of faith that are fundamental to all evangelical teaching. For example, there is agreement among all believers on the following truths: (1) Christ’s death purchased eternal salvation; (2) the saved are justified by grace through faith in Christ alone; (3) sinners cannot earn divine favor; (4) God requires no preparatory works or pre-salvation reformation; (5) eternal life is a gift of God; (6) believers are saved before their faith ever produces any righteous works; and (7) Christians can and do sin, sometimes horribly.
The other day I went out with my son to see about buying him a car. We called about one, and set up a time to go take a look. They told us it was a Honda Accord, a bit old but in great shape and well maintained. We drove a good ways out, and when we got there, there was a hulk of an old car covered with peeling paint, with bald tires and no hub caps. A toothless fellow who looked like the “after” picture in an anti-meth campaign poster came out to talk to us about the car. Since we had come all that way, we asked if we could at least give it a test drive. He said, no, it needed a new alternator and the battery was dead, so it wouldn’t start. He said that if we had some jumper cables he wouldn’t mind if we started it. Needless to say we felt a bit cheated.
I think that my toothless friend and I would agree that a car that was in great shape and well-maintained was a great thing. I think we would very much disagree on whether or not this particular car was an example of a well-maintained car in great shape. In the same way, the MacArthurites have put a wonderful and hopeful paragraph into their document. It is a beautiful and even breathtaking statement of incredible grace and freedom. They are absolutely correct, every true and normal Christian body believes these wonderful things; this is Bb vanilla standard Christianity. The only thing is, the rest of the document before and after contradicts every statement in this paragraph. They put this in here so they can’t be accused of being outright heretics, because they are worried about the approval of men. They are correct, there is agreement among all believers on these truths; I suppose when they go on to contradict every one of these statements in their explanation of the Lordship Salvation perspective, it is an indication that they may not be believers.
So, in this installment of refuting the strange fire of “Lordship Salvation”, we are going to easily show how the rest of their document refutes this one little island of sanity that they were compelled to throw in.
“(1) Christ’s death purchased eternal salvation;”
“Faith therefore involves personal commitment to Christ (2 Cor. 5:15). In other words, all true believers follow Jesus (John 10:27-28). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that saving faith is simply being convinced or giving credence to the truth of the gospel and does not include a personal commitment to the person of Christ.”
The implication is that if we don’t have personal commitment to Christ, if we don’t follow Jesus, we have not attained to eternal salvation. That means, Christ’s death is not what purchases eternal salvation, because our “personal commitment” can trump that. Therefore it is our “personal commitment” to Christ that really purchases our eternal salvation, since Christ’s death is not in the end the ultimate factor. That is a pretty big contradiction! This is why mere belief, pure and unadulterated by the necessity of works, is so important. I don’t save myself, Jesus saves me. That is Christianity 101. There is therefore now no condemnation (Romans 8:1) – especially when our “personal commitment” wanes (Romans 7:15).
“(2) the saved are justified by grace through faith in Christ alone;”
“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).”
I’ve already gone on record explaining why their take on Matthew 7:13ff is possibly the greatest irony in the universe. It is a narrow way because it is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Their obvious meaning in the second quote is that they think that if we don’t follow Him pretty much perfectly, we have left the narrow way, and our entrance into the kingdom of heaven is forfeit. This is very different than saying we are justified by grace through faith in Christ alone. So, which is it?
Normal gospel believers in Christ, on the other hand, really do believe that we are justified by grace through faith in Christ alone. We believe that JESUS saves us. We believe that His blood is sufficient. We believe that any true walk in Christ flows from absolute 100% safety and assurance, from love and not from threat (1 John 4:18).
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe ; for there is no distinction ; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus ; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed ; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting ? It is excluded. By what kind of law ? Of works ? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
Romans 3:21-28 (NASB)
(3) sinners cannot earn divine favor
Scripture teaches that Jesus is Lord of all, and the faith He demands involves unconditional surrender (Rom. 6:17-18; 10:9-10). In other words, Christ does not bestow eternal life on those whose hearts remain set against Him (James 4:6). Surrender to Jesus’ lordship is not an addendum to the biblical terms of salvation; the summons to submission is at the heart of the gospel invitation throughout Scripture.
Apparently, if we do not unconditionally surrender, we do not merit divine favor. Our hearts must be set (not against?) Him or else He won’t bestow eternal life on us. So, how is that not doing something to earn divine favor? It is double-speak pure and simple. It seems confusing because it is nonsense.
“(4) God requires no preparatory works or pre-salvation reformation”;
“To put it simply, the gospel call to faith presupposes that sinners must repent of their sin and yield to Christ’s authority.”
If the gospel call to faith presupposes that sinners must repent, then how is that not a preparatory work or pre-salvation reformation? The “easy=believism” people are supposed to be the loony ones, the terrible exegetes. I think the emperor’s clothes are looking a little spare.
(5) eternal life is a gift of God
Scripture teaches that God’s gift of eternal life includes all that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3; Rom. 8:32), not just a ticket to heaven. In contrast, according to easy-believism, only the judicial aspects of salvation (e.g., justification, adoption, and positional sanctification) are guaranteed for believers in this life; practical sanctification and growth in grace require a post-conversion act of dedication.
So, if eternal life is not “just” a “ticket” to heaven, but it requires adherence to the things the Lordship people imagine are referenced in 2 Peter 1:3 as a condition to receiving eternal life, then eternal life is not a gift. If it were a gift, it would be easy believism. It is something you have to deserve and earn by doing the right things with His “gift”. If you don’t have self-control and perseverance, for example, then you must not have the “gift” from 2 Peter 1:3 and so you don’t have eternal life. I don’t know why they put #5 in here if they are going to refute it left and right later in this rather small document. Just throw it out if you don’t believe it!
(6) believers are saved before their faith ever produces any righteous works
To put it simply, the gospel call to faith presupposes that sinners must repent of their sin and yield to Christ’s authority.
Do I even need to comment on how contradictory this is?
(7) Christians can and do sin, sometimes horribly.
Scripture teaches that genuine believers may stumble and fall, but they will persevere in the faith (1 Cor. 1:8). Those who later turn completely away from the Lord show that they were never truly born again (1 John 2:19). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that a true believer may utterly forsake Christ and come to the point of not believing.
First, if Christians can and do sin, sometimes horribly, then how is it that “Lordship Salvation” is actually a true doctrine? It isn’t, because they’re right: our degree of adherence to His “Lordship” doesn’t matter, we are saved quite apart from all that. There’s no such thing as “Lordship Salvation”, there is just “Salvation.” If “Lordship” matters, it isn’t really salvation after all, is it? Secondly, I’ve never heard an “easy-believism” person say anything like they are saying here. If it is “easy-BELIEVISM”, then most certainly it is believism. If you are only pretending to believe, like the Lordship Salvation people, then you don’t believe. You think it is what you do that saves you, not what Jesus does for you that saves you. I maintain that it is Christ and Him crucified, and nothing else ever, which saves us. Our deeds have absolutely no place in that equation, it cheapens Jesus’ sacrifice.
There may be great value in thinking of Jesus as our Lord, but wedding this to our salvation is a horror and a heresy. It is the blood of Jesus plus nothing which cleanses us from all sin. It is the blood of Jesus plus nothing which makes His throne a throne of grace. He doesn’t stand on the throne a king as if reigning, he stands on it a lamb as if slain. This is strange to us because in our flesh we want a “Lordship” tone to our saving. We want to have a hand in things. We want to “make” Jesus Lord, which ironically makes us His Lord-maker. But He is a lamb as if slain who takes away the sin of the world. This is all His doing, it is His initiative. His commands are not burdensome. At all. Our obedience doesn’t save us; it is the consequence of a life set free from sin through FORGIVENESS. Godliness isn’t about obedience. It is about the receiving of a gift; it is about love and grace and gratitude.