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.”