October 29, 2006

Opening Statement for the Pulpit Magazine Review

Dear Visitors:

Addendum (08/20/2014) Please refer to Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page for a succinct description of the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the gospel.

What follows is an opening statement I wrote on Sunday (10/29). I prepared this in anticipation of the review of my book In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answer to Lordship Salvation. I felt it was important to set some groundwork for the discussion that will accompany the review of my book.

I want to make clear that I have no axe to grind and my concern with Lordship Salvation is not due to a personality clash with Dr. MacArthur or any advocate of Lordship Salvation. There is much about the ministry of John MacArthur that I can appreciate. His stand against the charismatic movement, for example, has been commendable.

That Dr. MacArthur is a sincere man of God I have no doubt. With all due respect extended to Dr. MacArthur, and others who are sympathetic to his position, I wrote In Defense of the Gospel to alert Christians about the serious doctrinal errors found in the interpretation of the gospel commonly known as Lordship Salvation. With that said I want to emphatically state without hesitation or apology that John MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation is a false interpretation of the gospel. Much of what John MacArthur has written on the gospel is doctrinally sound. Even in his books that are apologetics for Lordship Salvation there is much we can agree to. What Dr. MacArthur does, however, is weave the contrary doctrine of Lordship Salvation into an otherwise orthodox message.

Based on what I have read in Dr. MacArthur’s various books on the subject, and comparing his Lordship position with Scripture, I came to a definite conclusion that Lordship Salvation is indeed a departure from the gospel. If I did not write openly on what I came to believe about Lordship Salvation, and Dr. MacArthur’s interpretation of it, I would have been dishonest with myself and compromised my convictions. This was not an easy thing to do, especially when the man we are speaking of, is in most other areas, doctrinally sound.

Dr. MacArthur is not the only man who advocates the Lordship gospel of submission and commitment in exchange for salvation. Walter Chantry, John Stott, John Piper and Kenneth Gentry are other recognizable advocates of Lordship Salvation. Dr. MacArthur, however, is the most recognizable and prolific apologist for the position. This is why I primarily cite and address Lordship Salvation from his printed materials.

My book comprehensively addresses the Lordship controversy. Within my book of nearly 300 pages you will find how I allow Dr. MacArthur to define Lordship Salvation from his own works on the subject. This way there is little chance for my having misrepresented his position. I then follow with Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation.

Among the most serious errors with John MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation that are addressed in my book are:

*Redefining faith (Eph 2:8) and believe (Rom. 10:9) to suit a gospel that demands upfront promises of commitment, surrender, cross bearing and self-denial for the reception of eternal life.

*Presenting the results of salvation as though they are the requirements for salvation.

*Presenting passages meant for the born again disciple of Christ as though they are conditions that must be committed to, to become a born again child of God.

My chief concern with Lordship Salvation is over what constitutes the gospel message that results in eternal life. Many men on both sides of the issue agree to a large degree on what should be the natural results of salvation. The agreement is that a genuinely born again Christian should have a desire to and exhibit, to some degree, a life that is in submission to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please understand that I am not going to get bogged down or distracted by a discussion over what we agree on.

The debate and controversy is over what the Bible says is the gospel message that leads to and results in the reception of eternal life, the free gift of God. This is the main concern and central theme of my book. In previous discussions I have attempted to keep the Lordship advocates focused on this topic, but most preferred to move off topic for a discussion of the results of salvation. I intend to hone in and stay fixed on dealing with how John MacArthur defines the way in which a lost man becomes a born again child of God. I do not intend to deviate from that theme for a discussion of peripheral issues.

For several weeks I have been discussing Lordship Salvation with Nathan Busenitz. Our disagreement has been, at times, sharp, but we have disagreed without resorting to some of the harsh rhetoric that often accompanies debates such as this. As I continue to dialogue with Nathan (and just as I noted above) I intend to focus the debate on how we define the gospel as it relates to the reception of eternal life.

Before I close this opening statement I want to mention that I do not feel compelled to answer every contributor and/or opinion expressed. Dr. MacArthur and men from the opposing view such as Zane Hodges do not enter these on line discussions about their books. For the most part their assistants do that for them. Dr. MacArthur wrote,

“But there’s no denying that these matters pertaining to the gospel are fundamental and therefore our disagreement on them is a serious matter. Surely everyone involved will agree that we cannot simply act as if nothing of importance is at stake…. Ultimately, the best forum in which to air this kind of doctrinal dispute is through careful, biblically reasoned dialogue, preferably in written form.” (The Gospel According to the Apostles, pp. 14-15.)

Dr. MacArthur is right: this is serious, there is much at stake, and the written forum is the best place to deal with this issue. John MacArthur and Zane Hodges write articles and books in which they address one another’s positions. Both of these men have had their works on the market for years. Their positions are widely known and have been widely debated.

My book In Defense of the Gospel is a newcomer to the debate. It has captured a great deal of attention because of its particular approach to the Lordship controversy. I am relatively unknown and I do not have a staff or organization around me. For that reason I have thus far chosen to personally address reviews, questions, and comments from both side of the debate. I have reserved the right, however, to respond to any persons or comments at my discretion.


October 26, 2006

Review of My Book at MacArthur's Site

Dear Friends:

I have just been notified by Nathan Busenitz, John MacArthur's personal assistant, that he/they will begin a series in which my book will be reviewed. It may start as soon as Monday morning.

To read the review go to www.pulpitmagazine.com

You may know that I have been in an on-going discussion with Nathan and others at their web site over the Lordship issue. They began a new series on Lordship Salvation in large part because my book made an impact. Dr. MacArthur wrote new articles for the current series. Until now they did not refer to me, preferring to stick with attacking the positions of their long time antagonists: Hodges and Ryrie. This review will be their response to my book.

I am sure my book is in for some tough criticism. I am going to use what I can to revise my book for a stronger defense of the gospel.

God bless you,

Lou Martuneac

October 24, 2006

The Transformed Life

Dear Friends:

I just posted the following at www.pulpitmagazine.com Matt Waymeyer wrote an article that appeared today titled, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and the Lordship Debate. I wanted to share this here.


You wrote, “This belief that regeneration inevitably results in a spiritually transformed life is one of the main tenets of lordship salvation.”

I would agree with the belief that genuine conversion (Eph. 2:8-9) should result in a transformed life and the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) of the believer.

Jenson asked two important questions:
1) “How much ‘fruit’ does one need to show in order to be considered ‘obedient’?”
2) “What about those who try to ‘show forth fruit’, but cannot seem to do so? What do they need to do, or not to do?”

Your article appears to make behavior, not believing, the key to eternal life and evidence of a genuine conversion. This is consistent with most Lordship teachers. The Bible is clear that all who are saved will show evidence of it (2 Cor. 5:17). So behavior is not the key to eternal life, but changed behavior is certainly an evidence of eternal life.

I understand that no one can see or judge the heart. Lordship, however, is making behavior the key indicator of whether or not a man is truly born again. How do you measure this? How and based on what tangible evidence do you declare that a man who professes Christ, but lives in rebellion to Him was never saved in the first place? To what degree of disobedience does a man have to go to when he arrives at the place where you can say, “Never truly saved?”

If he seems little interested in the things of the Lord, like “just Lot,” (2 Peter 2:7) was he never saved?

If he denies the Lord (Matt. 26:75), walks out on the ministry (John 21:3) and causes divisions (Gal. 2:11-13) like Peter did, was he never saved?

If he commits lust, murder, adultery (2 Sam. 11), and has struggles with pride (2 Sam. 24) like King David, was he never saved?

There are genuine believers in our churches today who struggle in their walk with God. They struggle to, “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us,” (Hebrews 12:1). “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat,” (Luke 22:31). There was plenty of chaff in Peter’s life. There is plenty of chaff in the life of every genuinely born again child of God.

One of my biggest concerns with John MacArthur’s Lordship gospel is that it conditions the reception of salvation on a commitment to live in obedience to the Lord’s commands. Once a lost person is born again and sets out to live for Christ he will soon find he is not able to live up to that commitment.

He then will have doubts and a lack of assurance.
He is looking at the decision he made to surrender his life to the Lord in addition to depending on the Lord. He will be conflicted when he finds he cannot live up to the commitment. He asks himself, “Is it my obedience to the Lord or my faith (depending) on the Lord that saved and keeps me?”

October 21, 2006

The Relationship Between God’s Grace & Lordship Legalism

Following is an excellent article written by Pastor George Zeller which appears in Appendix F of In Defense of the Gospel.

This brings us to a teaching of our day, common in Reformed circles, popularly known as LORDSHIP SALVATION.

Essentially Lordship salvation teaches that simple faith in Jesus Christ is not enough for salvation. Something else is needed. A solid commitment to Christ as Lord is needed. A person needs to surrender to the Lordship of Christ. A willingness to obey Christ’s commands is necessary. Also the sinner must fulfill the demands of discipleship or be willing to fulfill them. This includes loving Christ supremely, forsaking possessions, etc. (see Luke 14:25-33).

What do Lordship teachers do with Acts 16:30-31? [“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”] This verse teaches that the sinner must do the believing and that God must do the saving. It teaches that faith and faith alone is necessary for salvation. It does not say, “Believe and surrender to Christ’s Lordship and fulfill the terms of discipleship and thou shalt be saved.” It simply says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” What does it mean to believe? The hymn-writer has explained it in very simple terms, “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word, just to rest upon His promise, just to know THUS SAITH THE LORD!”

Those who teach Lordship salvation are forced to redefine saving faith. It means more than just simple, childlike faith in Jesus Christ. They might say something like this: “We believe in Acts 16:31 just as much as you do, but you need to understand what the word ‘believe’ really means. ‘Believe’ means more than just believe. Saving faith involves much more.” What does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Lordship salvation teachers would say that it involves the following: It means surrendering to His Lordship. It means turning from sin. It means submitting to His authority and to His Word. It means obeying His commands, or at least having a willingness to obey. It means fully accepting all the terms of discipleship.

Consider this last statement. Does saving faith really involve accepting all the terms of discipleship? Does saving faith really include such requirements as loving Christ supremely, forsaking all that one has, denying self, etc. (Luke 14:25-33, etc.)? A saved person should do all of these things, but he does not do these things in order to be saved. He is saved because he throws himself upon the mercy of a loving Saviour who died for him. One reason why he needs to be saved is because he does not love Christ supremely. He is guilty of breaking the greatest commandment! It is not our COMMITMENT that saves us, it is our CHRIST who saves us! It is not our SURRENDER that saves us, it is our SAVIOUR who does! It is not what I do for God; it’s what God has done for me.

Avoid the dangerous error of taking what should be the RESULT of salvation and making it the REQUIREMENT of salvation: It is because I am saved that I surrender to His Lordship (Rom. 12:1-2). It is because I am saved that I turn from sin and begin to learn what it means to live unto righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). It is because I am saved that I follow Him in willing obedience (1 John 2:3-5). It is because I am saved that I agree to the terms of discipleship and begin to learn all that discipleship involves (Luke chapter 14).

It is because I am saved that I submit to His authority over every area of my life (Rom. 6:13). I do these things because I am saved by the grace of God, not in order to be saved. Do not turn the results into requirements! Don’t turn the grace of God into legalism [adding unbiblical requirements to the gospel message].

Don’t confuse saving faith with that which saving faith ought to produce. Don’t confuse repentance with the fruits of repentance. Behavior and fruit are the evidences of saving faith but they are not the essence of saving faith. Don’t confuse the fruit with the root. Before you can “come after” Christ in discipleship (Luke 9:23; Matt. 11:29-30), you must “come unto” Christ for salvation (Matthew 11:28). Discipleship is not a requirement for salvation; discipleship is the obligation of every saved person.

Salvation involves Christ loving me (Rom. 5:8; Gal. 2:20); discipleship involves me loving Christ (Matthew 10:37). Because we are justified freely by His grace we measure up to the full demands of God’s righteousness in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). Because we are frail we often fail to measure up to the full demands of discipleship (Luke 14:25-33). The requirements of discipleship are many; the requirement for salvation is simple faith and trust in the Saviour.

October 15, 2006

Did the Apostles Preach Lordship Salvation?

Dear Readers:

I have been engaged in a helpful debate on the
Pulpit Magazine cite with Nathan Busenitz, the personal assistant to Dr. John MacArthur. In one reply to me Nathan wrote,While Scripture alone is our authority, not church history, it is important to emphasize that the lordship position has been the orthodox teaching of the church since the time of the apostles.”

Following (edited for my blog) is my initial reaction to Nathan’s discussion of whether or not the apostles preached Lordship Salvation.


You have stated above, “
While Scripture alone is our authority, not church history, it is important to emphasize that the lordship position has been the orthodox teaching of the church since the time of the apostles.”

A close examination of Lordship theology raises grave concerns over whether this is the gospel of grace as taught in the New Testament, and proclaimed by the Apostles. Is Lordship Salvation the New Testament gospel; or is it another deviation of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

In 1993 Dr. MacArthur released his sequel to
The Gospel According To Jesus titled The Gospel According to the Apostles. In this book he claims that the present day Lordship interpretation of the gospel is the very gospel message preached by the Apostles of Jesus Christ. Does the New Testament bear this out?

I have done a simple key word search of the New Testament (KJV) beginning with the Book of Acts through Revelation. The words I searched for are: “
commit,” “surrender” and “follow.” These words appeared 54, 0 and 45 times respectively. At no point in the New Testament from the Book of Acts through Revelation do any of these terms, commonly used by Dr. MacArthur to define the Lordship gospel, appear in a salvation context.

Of course we find the words “
faith” and “repent” frequently, but never in conjunction with or in the context of “commit, surrender and follow.” The cross is mentioned only 11 times. Just as with faith and repentance there is no connecting of the cross to commitment, surrender or following.

We do not find the Lordship gospel of commitment and surrender in the preaching of the Apostles. That is because when Jesus preached commitment, surrender and following He was not preaching salvation. He was preaching discipleship!

The gospel is defined by the Apostle Paul,

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4).
Just as with his first book, only by redefining the biblical terms of discipleship can Dr. MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation be found in the New Testament. The Bible does not support the contention by you or Dr. MacArthur that the apostles taught or preached the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel.


October 8, 2006

John MacArthur’s Costly Salvation

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

For Dr. John MacArthur a commitment to discipleship is the key element for the reception of salvation. MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation conditions the reception of salvation on the promise for what should be the expected results of salvation- discipleship.

Following is a quotation from a chapter titled, “
The Cost of Discipleship” from The Gospel According to Jesus:

Let me say again unequivocally that Jesus’ summons to deny self and follow him was an invitation to salvation, not . . . a second step of faith following salvation. . . . Those who are not willing to lose their lives for Christ are not worthy of Him. . . . He wants disciples willing to forsake everything. This calls for full-scale self-denial--even willingness to die for His sake if necessary.
The latter portion of the quotation, “He wants disciples willing to forsake everything,” would be fine if John MacArthur stated it in the context of those persons who already believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, were saved by grace through faith, and sought to live as fully surrendered disciples of Christ. He has, however, made the cost of discipleship a necessary expense for the conversion experience.

In one of the clearest expressions of portraying discipleship as though it is the key to salvation Dr. MacArthur wrote,
“Anyone who wants to come after Jesus into the Kingdom of God--anyone who wants to be a Christian--has to face three commands: 1) deny himself, 2) take up his cross daily, and 3) follow him.” (Hard to Believe, p. 6.)
That statement opens the door to some valid questions. Do I have to meet and agree to these commands for discipleship to become a Christian? Once I agree to these conditions do I have to remain true to these commands to guarantee my entry into Heaven?

These are at the heart of the problem when verses meant for discipleship of the believer are presented as conditional for salvation. One might conclude that MacArthur’s costly salvation does not guarantee Heaven for the Christian unless the price is continually paid over time throughout a lifetime. It sounds as though the initial commitment is a down payment on Heaven, and staying committed is the balance due on the agreement. Imagine the frustration of the Christian who does have lapses in his walk with God.

There is a Cost, But Where is it? In the original edition of
The Gospel According to Jesus, John MacArthur titled a section of one chapter, “The Real Cost of Salvation,” (p. 139). In the Revised & Expanded Edition he changed the title to “The Cost of Following Christ,” (p. 147). The content of that section (and the following section titled “Counting the Cost”) has not changed. It is simply a new, more palatable banner for the same teaching. In the Revised & Expanded Edition, just as in the first edition, John MacArthur has couched his interpretation of the gospel in the biblical terms of discipleship.

It should be remembered that the subtitle of his book,
What Does Jesus Mean When He Says, “Follow Me”? The Gospel According to Jesus reveals what he believes to be the gospel. When the Lordship advocate speaks of “following Christ,” he is speaking of the gospel. When John MacArthur refers to “The Cost of Following Christ,” he really means “The Cost to Receive Christ.” MacArthur believes there is a “Real Cost of Salvation,” or more accurately a “Real Cost for Salvation.” He believes that the gospel demands a commitment of one’s life, and a promise of surrender to the lordship of Christ as an up-front “exchange” for the saving grace of God.

The section entitled “
The Cost of Following Christ,” illustrates the extreme to which the Lordship advocates have taken the matter of a “costly” salvation. Understanding that Lordship advocates equate discipleship with salvation is very important. They require, from a sinner, an upfront promise to become a committed disciple of Jesus Christ as the condition for becoming a born again child of God.

In his revised and expanded version of
The Gospel According to Jesus please note how John MacArthur uses the term “saving faith” through this section (page 147). He is clearly referring to the salvation experience. The word “exchange” is used twice in the two sections (pp. 147-148), and also in connection with his definition of what constitutes “saving faith.”
That is the kind of response the Lord Jesus called for: wholehearted commitment. A desire for him at any cost. Unconditional surrender. A full exchange of self for the Savior. It is the only response that will open the gates of the kingdom. Seen through the eyes of this world, it is as high a price as anyone can pay. But from a kingdom perspective, it is really no sacrifice at all.”
The word “cost” is used repeatedly in the section. Remember it is the reception of the gospel, the reception of salvation that John MacArthur refers to as “costly.” In the quote above he says salvation comes at a “high price.” To the contrary, the Bible teaches that salvation is free; it is the “gift of God.”

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

The error, of course, is that the issue in salvation is a personal faith and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, not surrender or a promise to live a holy life.

John 20:30-31 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

As Dr. Ernest Pickering in his review of John MacArthur's book states,
Salvation is free; discipleship is costly. Salvation comes by receiving the work of the cross; discipleship is evidenced by bearing the cross (daily submission to the will of God). Christ here is not giving instructions about how to go to heaven, but how those who know they are going to heaven should follow Him.”


Impossible Decision: John 16:7-11

From a September 29 post on Pulpit Magazine Dr. MacArthur wrote:

We must remember above all that salvation is a sovereign work of God…. As a part of His saving work, God will produce repentance, faith, sanctification, yieldedness, obedience, and ultimately glorification. Since He is not dependent on human effort in producing these elements, an experience that lacks any of them cannot be the saving work of God.”
In The Gospel According to Jesus Dr. MacArthur wrote:
Thus conversion is not simply a sinner's decision for Christ; it is first the sovereign work of God in transforming the individual.” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 114.)
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged,” (John 16:9-10).
The Holy Spirit is come to convict the world of “sin” (note singular). What is the “sin” that the Holy Spirit will reprove the world over? That “sin” is explained in verse 10, which is the sin of “unbelief.” The lost man needs to be confronted with the Law to bring him/her to know the need for forgiveness through Christ. The book of Galatians is very helpful in this matter. The sin that is damning the lost man to hell is “unbelief” and the only act that will result in salvation is “belief” (John 3:16; Acts 16:31).

Lordship Salvation adds a commitment to discipleship (i.e. “take up your cross, losing your life for my sake, etc.”) which requires a decision from a lost man, which is impossible for him to make. (John 15:5). This kind of gospel message, which Dr. MacArthur advocates, frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21). The Holy Spirit does not yet indwell this lost man, he is not regenerated. He cannot make a decision of surrender to the Lord because he does not yet know the Lord.

Thus reformed theologians, like John MacArthur demonstrates above, must come to an extra-biblical, a rational view of the order of salvation: regeneration before profession of faith rather than simultaneous to it. After repenting of the sin of “unbelief” the newborn child of God enters into the life of sanctification and begins to repent of his “SINS” (1 John 1, etc.).


October 7, 2006

John MacArthur’s Discipleship Gospel

The following appeared at Pulpit Magazine on Septemeber 29th, 2006. This paragraph from Dr. MacArthur’s post titled True Faith and True Grace encapsulates the major elements in the Lordship controversy. Dr. MacArthur wrote:

Those who teach that repentance is extraneous to saving faith are forced to make a firm but unbiblical distinction between salvation and discipleship. This dichotomy, like that of the carnal/spiritual Christian, sets up two classes of Christians: believers only and true disciples. Most who hold this position discard the evangelistic intent of virtually every recorded invitation of Jesus, saying those apply to discipleship, not to salvation.”
One of the most significant errors with Lordship Salvation is the confusing of passages meant for the born again disciple of Christ (such as Luke 9:23-24, 14:25-33) and presenting them as though they are evangelistic appeals directed to the lost. It is from this error, where much of the Lordship interpretation of the gospel flows. This error leads to a faulty definition of faith, redefines the role of biblical repentance in salvation, both of which result in a gospel message that frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21). Following are three examples of how John MacArthur’s discipleship gospel redefines the faith that saves:
The gospel Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience. . . . Forsaking oneself for Christ’s sake is not an optional step of discipleship subsequent to conversion; it is the sine qua non of saving faith.” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 27, 142.)
Thus in a sense we pay the ultimate price for salvation when our sinful self is nailed to a cross. . . . It is an exchange of all that we are for all that Christ is. And it denotes implicit obedience, full surrender to the lordship of Christ. Nothing less can qualify as saving faith.” (The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 140.)
Let me say again unequivocally that Jesus’ summons to deny self and follow him was an invitation to salvation, not . . . a second step of faith following salvation….” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 221).
Lordship Salvation conditions the reception of salvation on a lost man’s upfront commitment to what should be the results of salvation. A commitment to perform the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) expected of the disciple of Christ is Lordship’s requirement FOR salvation. The lost man is expected to make a commitment toward what he will do, or become, in “exchange” for what Christ has done for him. John MacArthur states that position this way,
That is the kind of response the Lord Jesus called for: wholehearted commitment. A desire for Him at any cost. Unconditional surrender. A full exchange of self for the Savior. It is the only response that will open the gates of the kingdom.” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 148.)
In one of the clearest expressions of portraying discipleship as though it is the key to salvation Dr. MacArthur wrote,
Anyone who wants to come after Jesus into the Kingdom of God, anyone who wants to be a Christian, has to face three commands: 1) deny himself, 2) take up his cross daily, and 3) follow him.” (Hard to Believe, p. 6.)
The faith that saves is more than simple acknowledgment. Faith is basically a trust or confidence in someone or something. For salvation Jesus must be the object of faith. Faith goes beyond acknowledgement when the lost man transfers his dependence on Christ to save him from the penalty of sin. Mere acknowledgement of what Jesus has done does not save. When biblically defined- faith does not include upfront promises of commitment and surrender.

Discipleship comes at a cost, salvation (justification) does not! It is clear that Lordship Salvation requires much more than a faith that acknowledges one’s sin, a pending judgment for sin, and one’s need of the Savior. The Lordship position does not depend solely on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Lordship Salvation, according to John MacArthur above, is a barter system, an “
exchange” of what man must offer Christ to receive His free gift of salvation. To imply that receiving the free gift of God requires that man “pay the ultimate price” is a gospel of faith plus works.

My book,
In Defense of the Gospel does not contain errors that are so common in the works of other men who have written in objection to Lordship Salvation. Many have been alarmed at the increasingly meaningless presentation of a gospel that seems to ignore the Person of Christ, the sinfulness of man, the finished work of Christ and the pending judgment of God. This gospel calls men to salvation when they have been given only a vague idea of just what they need to be saved from. There is, furthermore, a reductionist interpretation of the content of saving faith, with which I strongly disagree. The most extreme example of this reductionist view is known as the “Crossless” gospel. This is a relatively new interpretation of the Gospel originated by (the late) Zane Hodges and is almost exclusively perpetuated by the Grace Evangelical Society’s membership.

My book does not minimize or reject the lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus is Lord and Savior throughout all eternity. We all agree that Jesus is the Savior; the only hope mankind has for eternal salvation from sin, death and Hell (
Acts 4:12). We all agree that Jesus is the Lord, the King of Kings, and all power belongs to Him (Rev. 19:16; Matt. 28:18). If He is not the Lord, He is not God. If He is not God, He is not the Savior. Christ’s lordship, however, should not be used to create a message where the reception of salvation is conditioned on a lost man’s upfront commitment to surrender and submission, which Lordship Salvation does.

Pastor George Zeller wrote an article titled,
The Relationship Between God’s Grace and Lordship Legalism, which appears in the appendix of my book. Following is a brief excerpt.
Don’t confuse saving faith with that which saving faith ought to produce. Don’t confuse repentance with the fruits of repentance. Behavior and fruit are the evidences of saving faith but they are not the essence of saving faith. Don’t confuse the fruit with the root. Before you can “come after” Christ in discipleship (Luke 9:23; Matt. 11:29-30), you must “come unto” Christ for salvation (Matthew 11:28). Discipleship is not a requirement for salvation; discipleship is the obligation of every saved person.”
When a man tries to carefully introduce verses about discipleship as part of God’s plan for salvation, remember that the Bible teaches we come to Christ for salvation and that we come after Christ in discipleship. It is wrong to present discipleship verses as salvation verses. We must not use verses intended to teach discipleship to try to lead a man to Christ. To do so creates confusion and frustration. It becomes a gospel of faith, plus works.

Lordship Salvation demands from a lost man a promise of what he will do, or become, to receive the gift of eternal life. Once man offers anything in addition to the finished work of Christ for salvation that message becomes false through the addition. A gospel that calls for man to do or offer anything in addition to what Christ has done is wrong!

Dr. MacArthur- I know you mean well, you believe you are being true to the Scriptures. Changing the terms of the gospel, however, to upfront demands for commitment and surrender in “
exchange” for salvation, will not make the problems of loose living carnality found in some professing believers go away.

In Defense of the Gospel fully defines and biblically answers the doctrinal and practical problems with Lordship Salvation. I wrote my book to alert Christians, across the broad spectrum of evangelical Christianity, about Lordship’s works based, man-centered interpretation of the gospel that frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).

There are many areas where one must balance soul liberty and Christian charity and agree to respect different views. The gospel, however, is not an area in which we can agree to disagree. The doctrine of Lordship Salvation and the Lordship advocates must be vigorously debated, and its spread biblically resisted.


Portions from the above are selected excerpts from In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation.