Is It Another Gospel?
I.) The Issue
A. The Issue Is NOT:
1. “Is Jesus Lord?” (Of course He is Lord.)
2. “Should a believer submit to His Lordship?”
a. We all agree that saved people need to be dedicated. But dedication is not a requirement for becoming saved!
b. Can you think of some Bible verses? (Rom.12:1-2; 6:13)
3. “Is repentance required?” [All agree that repentance is required, but what does repentance mean!!! That is the real issue]
* There is a difference between “repentance” and the “fruits” of repentance!
4. One of semantics. [two different messages – two different requirements]
a. Either salvation is absolutely free, or it costs everything!
b. Those are two very different positions!
c. “The present conflict is not one merely of semantics. The differences are real and the consequences are far reaching”. ( Sin, Salvation, and the Savior, Robert Lightner)
d. “It should be obvious that these are real doctrinal differences; the lordship controversy is not a semantic disagreement. The participants in the debate hold widely differing perspectives.” (Faith Works, MacArthur)
Both sides agree on all four of these facts.
B. The Issue Is:
1. What must a man DO in order to be saved?
a. Must the unsaved promise to make Jesus Lord of every area of their life PLUS trust Him as Savior in order to be saved? Is it faith PLUS making Jesus Lord of every area of one’s life?
b. OR is faith plus nothing enough to save a soul?
c. That is the ONLY issue.
II.) Two Views of Salvation
A. Two Views
1. Non-Lordship view: Salvation is a free gift of grace received by faith plus nothing.
a. This view states that salvation is by faith alone and the issue of surrendering to the Lordship of Christ today is God’s plan for the Christian only and not a requirement to become a Christian.
b. This view believes that adding “commitment of life” to the plan of salvation is adding a human work.
c. Salvation takes place at the moment of faith. Commitment of life is part of the growth process that lasts a lifetime.
A clear distinction must be made between justification & sanctification.
Repentance = a change of mind, and is therefore nearly a synonym for “believe” (change your mind from unbelief to belief)
2. Lordship view: Salvation is a submission & surrender of every area of your life to the Lordship of Christ & a willingness to obey.
a. Salvation takes place only if a person surrenders to Christ’s Lordship at the moment of saving faith. No surrender = no salvation.
b. This view states that Christ must be made Lord of one’s life at the moment of faith or salvation does not occur.
c. The lordship view expressly states the necessity of acknowledging Christ as the Lord and Master of one’s life in the act of receiving Him as Savior.
No clear distinction is made between justification & sanctification.
Repentance is stressed as a necessary element of salvation, and it is defined as “turning from sin”…even as “stop sinning”. (“He was calling for a 180 degree turning from sin. That is repentance”. “If we fail to call people to “turn from their sins” we are not communicating the same gospel” – “Repentance turns from sin to Christ”. – MacArthur, Faith Works)
B. Two Requirements
1. Grace View: Terms of salvation: Believe; faith plus nothing
a. The grace answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” is “believe”. (safe Biblical grounds!)
2. Lordship View: Terms of salvation: believe; repent; surrender; follow; make a commitment; resolve not to sin; willingness to obey; pray, etc. [They even tell sinners to pray that God would grant them the gift of repentance!]
a. This is a disturbing trend. Sinners are told to “pray”… “Mourn”… “turn”… “stop sinning”… “make a commitment”… “surrender”… INSTEAD OF simply believe!
C. The importance of the issue:
1. Both views cannot be right.
a. Ryrie: “The message of faith only and the message of faith plus commitment of life cannot both be the gospel”. (Balancing the Christian Life)
b. Lightner: “These views- the absolutely free gift view and the lordship view cannot both be right. They are mutually exclusive. The Bible teaches one or the other or neither, but it cannot teach both without contradicting itself”. ( Sin, Salvation & The Savior)
2. The consequences of misstating the gospel message are far reaching!
a. MacArthur: “Several who disagree with my views have said in print that the lordship controversy is a matter of eternal consequence. This means that whoever is wrong on this question is proclaiming a message that can send people to hell. On that we agree…. The two sides in this argument have distinctly different views of salvation.” (Gospel According to Jesus, pg.xiv)
b. Ryrie: “Confusion about salvation means disaster, for the message of the gospel is a matter of eternal life or eternal death”!
c. MacArthur’s book jacket – “The Gospel According to Jesus clearly teaches that there is no eternal life without surrender to the Lordship of Christ.”
d. II Cor.11:3-4 – There is such a thing as “another gospel”!!!
e. Consider Paul’s thoughts concerning those who misstate the gospel: Gal.1:6
f. Words are important. The gospel must be expressed in words that are accurate. Fuzzy wording results in fuzzy understanding. That does not produce conversion.
3. It is dividing fundamentalism.
a. Biblical Evangelist – supports Lordship salvation. The Sword of the Lord rejects is as a false gospel. [two fundamental Baptist magazines]
b. There are good men on both sides of the issue.
c. Lordship: J.I. Packer; MacArthur; James M. Boice; R.C. Sproul
d. Non-Lordship: Ryrie; Chafer; Pentecost; Renald Showers; Roy Zuck – acedemic Dean at Dallas & editor of Bibliotheca Sacra…Ernest Pickering… etc…
e. Men in the GARBC are divided on the issue
f. Men in the IFCA are divided on the issue
g. For the most part the Lordship view is shared by Covenant Theologians and the Non-Lordship view is shared by Dispensationalists… but man on each side cross over the line.
h. Recently, John MacArthur, a dispensationalist has made it an issue among dispensationalists by embracing this view and promoting it.
i. Another group called the “Reformed Baptists” have crossed over.
III.) Two Problems; Two Solutions
A. Two problems
a. There are thousands today who respond with a flurry of excitement over the gospel message, but whose lives never change.
b. Many “raise their hands”, “walk the aisle”, “Fill out a card” or “come forward after a service” and assume that they are saved.
c. “Easy believism”; “cheap grace”.
d. Many so called converts show no signs of life whatsoever!
e. All agree on the problem.
2. Sloppy Gospel Presentations
a. People use such terms as “accept Jesus”; walk the straight & narrow path; invite Jesus into your life; put your hand in the nail-scarred hand; ask Jesus into your heart; make a decision for Jesus; surrender to Christ; commit your life to Jesus; turn from your sin to Jesus; Deny yourself; follow Jesus; Repent; give your heart to Jesus; pick up your cross;
b. Presenting the gospel is like giving directions. If your facts are off by a little, the people are never going to arrive at the right place! Words matter! Right must mean right, and left must mean left!
c. All agree on this problem too.
B. Two Very Different Solutions
1. Lordship solution: Make the requirements of salvation “harder”.
They make the terms of “discipleship” a requirement for salvation.
They re-define faith as “surrender; commitment; obedience; etc…”
2. The “Non-Lordship” solution: Use Bible terms!!! (Acts 16:31; John 3:16)
Keep on preaching grace, and expect to see “tares” growing among the wheat in this age! (Matt.13:24-30)
Expect to see seeds sprout up and then dry up! (Matt.13:20-21)
The answer is NOT to make the gospel harder. Rather, the answer is to teach those who profess Christ what God expects of their lives once saved. That will separate the “wheat from the tares” in time.
3. Does the Bible describe our responsibility in salvation as something that is “hard” ? [gospel of John was written that men might come to have eternal life]
a. Walk through a door! (John 10:9)
b. Eating & drinking (John 6:35,53; 7:37)
c. Drinking water. (John 4:10,13-14)
d. Looking! (John 3:14-16)
e. Receiving a gift (John 1:12)
f. Coming (John 6:37) (Come just as you are! He casts none out! )
g. Hardly difficult tasks! What a contrast to “bearing a cross”… and “forsaking mother & father”… and “forsaking all possessions”… etc.
C. Perceived Flaws
1. The “flaw” in the “Non-Lordship” gospel from the perspective of one who supports Lordship salvation:
a. “Products of modern evangelism are often sad examples of Christianity. They make a profession of faith and then continue to live like the world. Decisions for Christ mean very little. Only a small proportion of those who ‘make decisions’ evidence the grace of God in a transformed life… All of this is related to the use of a message in evangelism that is unbiblical”. Walter J. Chantry, Today’s Gospel, Authentic or Synthetic .
b. James Alexander Stewart wrote in The Biblical Evangelist in 1989 that the contemporary deviation from Lordship salvation is a “complete perversion of the blessed evangel” which leads to “an adulterated gospel” and amounts to “Satan’s Masterpiece”.
• That is strong language!
• Proponents of “Lordship salvation” blame those who preach salvation by faith plus nothing for the problem.
• Jesus traces the problem to the work of Satan sowing “tares” among the wheat.
2. The “flaw” in the Lordship-gospel from the Non-Lordship perspective:
a. It adds works/dedication/commitment/surrender as a prerequisite to salvation.
• “A promise to live for God and obey His word is doing something more than receiving God’s salvation, and to that degree, it is a human work, no matter vociferously it is said not to be. In defense of faith alone, and contrary to lordship salvation advocates’ claims, receiving God’s precious gift of grace does not make it cheap or easy.” [ Robert Lightner, Sin, the Savior, and Salvation ]
• Speaking of salvation by choosing Christ by faith Samuel Waldron from Reformed Baptist Church in Grand Rapids Michigan, wrote “It is in error also because it lowers the demands of the gospel and obscures the difficulty of the true conversion”.
b. It changes the meaning of “faith”.
• Samuel Waldron wrote that the essence of Biblical faith is “supreme commitment to Christ”.
• Adding to the concept of simple, pure faith as God’s only prerequisite is a massive flaw! (Gospel According to Jesus, pg.140 – “True faith is humble, submissive obedience”.
• “Lordship advocates attempt to make behavior and fruit essential ingredients of, rather than evidences of, saving faith”. (Miles J. Stanford)
• MacArthur wrote, “Forsaking oneself for Christ’s sake is not an optional step of discipleship subsequent to salvation. It is the sine qua non of saving faith! (Gospel According to Jesus, pg.135)
c. It confuses Christ’s function as Lord with His function as Savior .
IV.) Scriptures Which Speak of Jesus as Lord
A. Usage of the Term “Lord”
1. John 4:11 – means “sir”
2. Matt.8:6 – means “rabbi”
3. John 20:28 – “Deity” – Thomas recognized His full Deity!
4. I Cor.8:5 – idols
5. Luke 19:33 – owners of an animal (kurios = owners)
6. Acts 10:14 – certainly did NOT mean that He was the Master of every area of Peter’s life! Peter did not mean that. Peter was saying NO to Him!
7. Acts 22:10 – Paul called Jesus Lord – and submitted to His command. It had nothing to do with becoming a Christian, but rather had to do with obedience to the One who was now Paul’s Savior!
B. Lord (Kurios) Is A New Testament Term For Deity
1. In view of the fact that “Lord” ( kurios ) is used over 6000 times in the LXX to translate the name of Israel’s God (Yahweh), it is clear that Paul when using the word of Jesus, is ascribing deity to Him.”
a. Clearly this term was a familiar one to the Jews as the Greek for GOD!
2. The term refers to Jesus as the Sovereign God! That is the point.
C. Salvation Passages
a. What is the meaning of Lord in this passage?
b. Paul is not dealing with the issue of Christ’s Lordship here, but rather of His Deity & resurrection. That is the sense in which he uses “Lord”.
2. Acts 16:30-31
3. The real issue
a. Of course He is Lord! No one denies that! But the reference to Jesus as Lord is to identify WHO HE IS and what HE has done. (not what we are to DO)
b. We are to BELIEVE on Christ Jesus the Lord – that is the PERSON in whom our faith is to rest!
c. This Person is the Sovereign God! And there is no salvation apart from trusting in One who is the Sovereign God as our Sin-substitute!
d. No one will ever be saved without believing that Jesus is the Sovereign God! Anyone less than that will never be able to save! (Mormons; JWs; liberals will never be saved unless they truly believe WHO HE IS!)
e. Do these passages change the meaning of “believe”???
D. Passages Dealing With Surrendering to the Lordship of Christ
1. Rom.12:1-2 – addressed to “brethren”!
a. Paul urges this of those who have been saved for quite some time! He pleads with these men to submit to the Lordship of Christ.
b. Evidently, some of them had not settled this issue in some areas of their lives
c. If Lordship were a requirement for salvation, then these men in Rome would not have been saved until the moment of dedication! (Yet Paul called them saints!)
d. MacArthur wrote, “Forsaking oneself for Christ’s sake is not an optional step of discipleship subsequent to salvation. It is the sine qua non of saving faith!
2. Rom.6:13 – yield your members to God! (cf. Gospel According to Jesus – ps.135)
3. James 4:7 – James urges believers to submit to God. Evidently, not all had submitted to Him!
4. These are calls to dedication and submission and surrender to the Lordship of Christ. But each time, the appeal is to one who already knows Christ as Savior – not a gospel appeal to become saved!
V.) There IS Such a Thing as an Uncommitted Believer
1. Were it not for II Pet.2:7-8 we would never have guessed that he was a true believer!
2. His was a life that was un-yielded for long periods of time, yet he was “just”.
3. He was justified, but not sanctified very well… not mature…
B. Ephesian Believers
1. Acts 19:18-19 – During Paul’s third missionary journey many were saved from a life of paganism & witchcraft.
2. More than 2 years went by after Paul had gone to Ephesus. It took 2 years for some of them to burn their books & other witchcraft paraphernalia. This burning did not take place as soon as they believed. It took time for them to learn and see how evil it really was!
3. Their salvation did not depend upon their “willingness to give up” all of their pagan practices immediately.
1. Acts 19:14 – “Not so Lord!” Peter was certainly NOT submitted to His Lordship at that point!
2. Nor when he denied the Lord 3 times! (John 18:15-18,24-27)
3. Cf. with Matthew 10:33 – “Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father”.
4. This does not mean that Peter was never genuinely saved. Rather, it means that true believers are not immediately and continuously committed to Christ!
D. Carnal Believers
1. I Cor.2:14- 3:3
2. Carnal men were called “brethren” and babes “in Christ”.
3. They had been “born” into God’s family but were “sick babies”!
4. Truly born again people CAN be characterized by “flesh”.
5. The Corinthians were “saved, cleansed, justified”, but some were coming to church drunk, suing one another at law, and committing incest! Hardly a “spiritual” bunch! BUT, their salvation is NOT dependent upon their behavior! It rests upon faith… not works!
6. If salvation rested upon our commitment, faithfulness, and good works, none of us would ever make it to heaven. None are worthy, no not one!
7. Beware: recognizing the existence of carnal believers is NOT an endorsement for that kind of a life! It is wrong! It is sinful! But, unfortunately, it exists! It is NOT an excuse for carnal behavior! It does NOT absolve a carnal believer from responsibility. It IS his fault if he is carnal! God commands him to repent and be filled with the Spirit.
a. Recognizing the existence of carnality among believers is equal to admitting the existence of physical disease among those who have been born physically.
b. It exists. We do not like it. We wish it were not so. We do not promote it. We do not desire anyone to BE sick, but to deny its existence is foolish.
c. So too in the spiritual realm. We could WISH that all believers were spiritually minded all the time. But, unfortunately, some people who are alive spiritually are not very healthy spiritually!
VI.) Lordship Salvation Confuses Doctrinal Issues
A. Confuses Salvation With Discipleship
B. Confuses Justification With Sanctification
C. Confuses Repentance With The Fruit of Repentance
D. Confuses the Gospel of the Kingdom & the Gospel of God’s Grace
E. Confuses “Requirements” For Salvation With “Results” of Salvation
F. Confuses “Becoming” a Christian With “Being” a Christian
G. Confuses “Security” and “Assurance” of Salvation