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.