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.


  1. bhedr:

    I am hopeful that many will come to my site, read what I have posted and come to understand the serious of the errors in Lordship Salvation. It is not easily detected for some, and I believe my work is going to help many realize just how wrong the Lordship interpretation of the gospel is.


  2. I like how you understand that repentence is repenting of unbelief as unbelief is the origination of sin in the garden when eve stopped believing God and trusted the word of Satan instead. Essentially we are coming back to God the same way Eve went to Satan and that is taking God at his word and trusting what he says is true and it starts with repenting of our ideas of who Satan has allowed us to believe God isn't so that like the forbidden fruit we make our sin seem good and so this essentially is where repentance is...Simply a change from an unbelieving mind to one of faith...Faith alone in Christ alone in grace alone to the glory of God alone. Essentially we are reversing from believing the lie of Satan to believing the truth of God. So God rattles our cage with the call to repentance and the law and gives us an earthquake so to speak and wakes us up as he did the Phillipian Jailer so that we believe the only possibility for our salvation is to, "Believe On The Lord Jesus Christ"

    What a simple and most blessed truth that a child has no problem believing. It is we adults that have to repent of not trusting that Gods simple plan of grace is the only plan. It is to hard on human pride. So we must invent contracts and stipulations in order for it to fit our demands for saving ourselves. If we make it more difficult then we give ourselves a challenge to embrace. That is a forbidden fruit of its own.

  3. First of all, may I say that there is no way that a sinner can understand all about the Lordship of Christ until he is regenerated. It is, in my opinion, the greatest weakness of the case for this so-called "Lordship salvation".

    Secondly, just what exactly does "believe" mean. Please don't quote a song for Scriptural definitions. While I love that song, it has nothing to do with the Greek word, translated "believe". It is more that just "simple belief".

    Thirdly, what is repentance? By the way, no where in the Scriptures are we told that repentance is "from unbelief". That is a man-made interpretation. The Bible says "repentance from sin" "repentance from dead works" "turning from God to idols", etc.

    Fourthly, the reason we are having this conversation today is a result of shallow preaching on salvation and repentance. These "reformed Baptists" or "deep-water Presbyterians" have struck a nerve with us because of our own failings in being true to God's definitions of "believe" and "repent".

    If salvation were as "easy" as some proclaim, then the Lord Jesus did an injustice to the rich young ruler. Jesus never asked him to repent of unbelief. He asked him to be "willing" to give up all.

    Art Dunham

  4. Unbelief stood in the Rich Young Rulers way brother. He was nickel and dimming Jesus with exalting himself and his works over Jesus who had left all to feed us poor folk and give us salvation. It is always unbelief brother. It was unbelief that led Eve to sin. Why do you think Jesus calls us to fear the one who can cast into hell and in the same sentence says fear not. It is a matter of trust. It has always been a matter of trust. And it starts with transfering the anxiety of your sin to God at the cross. You can try to turn from sin and belief all you wish to, but until you repent of receiving the free grace of God transferring that trust to His account and believing your debt has been paid, you have no foundation to walk. No grace to stand on to give you strength and hope to turn from sin.

    Keep studying that Rich Young Ruler and see why Jesus said, "With Man this is impossible but with God all things are possible." and then remember what it was that the people were trying to do when they built the tower of babel and you will see what the Rich Young Ruler was doing and how God takes the Law to give you the opportunity to try to prove yourself and reach your goals and try to get the big A on your test, but until the Law shatters you to where you see you cannot lift even so much as a head to heaven then it has not had its way in man.

  5. Remeber the great question when the Rich YOung Ruler walked away. Who then can be saved?

    Jesus had taken an almost perfect man and shattered his hopes and had demonstrated to everyone around that was no where near as good as he that it was impossible to hope in what the Rich Young Ruler hoped in.

  6. Pastor Art:

    You raise vaild issues. I am going to come back with some notes for you. Busy right now.

    For now in regard to regeneration, many LS advocates believe regeneration must precede faith.

    I had a discussion on this matter with Nathan at Pulpit Magazine, see the thread which follows the October 11th article, Can You Be A Christian and Not Follow Jesus?

    Regeneration before faith is an form of extreme Calvinism. Here is a statement written by John Piper.

    “The native hardness of our hearts makes us unwilling and unable to turn from sin and trust the Savior. Therefore conversion involves a miracle of new birth. Thus new birth precedes and enables faith and repentance…. And so when we hear the gospel we will never respond positively unless God performs the miracle of regeneration. Repentance and faith are our work. But we will not repent and believe unless God does his work to overcome our hard and rebellious hearts. This divine work is called regeneration…. New birth comes first and enables the repentance and faith of conversion.” (Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, pp. 65-66


  7. Brother Lou,

    I agree with you totally about the Calvinistic viewpoint. They do teach regeneration before salvation, which is unscriptural.

    However, is it not also unscriptural to teach salvation without repentance, salvation which does not produce a new creature?

    I am no Calvinist, and I am not a LS proponent, as you say. But, Biblical terminology is important.

    Art Dunham

  8. Brother Brian,

    I have studied the Rich Young Ruler a lot, and may I tell you that again Jesus never tells this man to repent from unbelief.

    As to the question raised by the Disciples, the answer is with God all things are possible.

    Jesus then goes on to teach that those who have truly given up all will reap in this life and eternally. This context of Scripture says nothing of repenting from unbelief. In fact, if you're not careful, it will make you a LS guy yourself. :-)

    Art Dunham

  9. Pastor Art:

    I too believe repentance is a necessary part of salvation. Also agree that a genuine conversion should result in the "good works" ordained for and expected of a believer.

    If you go to my book at Amazon through the link on my home page you can view the table of contents. Amazon has the Search Inside feature which allows you to read portions. You will find my chapter on Repentance and its sub headings.

    Thanks for commenting.


  10. Brother Art,

    Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness. I am not saying the call to repentance must not go out, but clearly you have demonstrated that you believe a person must do what Jesus commanded the Rich Young Ruler to do in order to be saved. I can only encourage you to go a head and try it and sell all of your goods and annuities and make Mother Theresas vow of poverty and give to the poor the same way Jesus did when he left everything to save us and then perhaps you might make it if you turn from all sin and never commit sin again and commit yourself to God will all of your heart soul and mind.

    I encourage you to try it and anyone else that thinks heaven can be found this way. Perhaps then one day you will see that it is unbelief.

    "Do you believe I can?" Jesus once told a man and it is also translated "If I can?"

    "All things are possible to the one who believes!"

    "Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief"

    Unbelief is the sin factory.
    "Now, to reject the law of God shows an evil heart of unbelief; but who shall say what a depth of rebellion must dwell in that heart which refuses not only the yoke of God but even the gift of God. The provision of a Savior for lost men is the free gift of God, by it all our wants are supplied, all our evils are removed, peace on earth is secured to us, and glory for ever with God: the rejection of this gift cannot be a small sin. The all-seeing One, when he beholds men spurning the supreme gift of his love, cannot but regard such rejection as the worst proof of the hatred of their hearts against himself. When the Holy Spirit comes to convince men of sin, the especial sin which he brings to light is thus described: "Of sin, because they believed not on me." Not because the heathen were licentious in their habits, barbarians in their ways, and bloodthirsty in their spirit. No: "Of sin, because they believe not on me." Condemnation has come upon men, but what is the condemnation? "That light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." Remember, also, that expressive text: "He that believeth not is condemned already;" and what is he condemned for! "Because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God."
    Let me remark, further, that in the rejection of divine mercy as presented in Christ, the unbeliever has displayed an intense venom against God, for observe how it is. He must either receive the mercy of God in Christ, or he must be condemned—there is no other alternative. He must trust Christ whom God has set forth to be the propitiation for sin, or else he must be driven from the presence of God into eternal punishment. The unbeliever in effect says, "I had sooner be damned than I would accept God's mercy in Christ." Can we conceive a grosser insult to the infinite compassion of the great Father? Suppose a man has injured another, grossly insulted him, and that repeatedly, and yet the injured person, finding the man at last brought into a wretched and miserable state, goes to him, and simply out of kindness to him, says, "I freely forgive you all the wrong you ever did me, and I am ready to relieve your poverty, and to succor you in your distress." Suppose the other replies, "No, I would sooner rot than take anything from you;" would not you have in such a resolve a clear proof of the intense enmity that existed in his heart? And so when a man saith, and everyone of you unbelievers do practically say so, "I would sooner lie for ever in hell than honor Christ by trusting him," this is a very plain proof of his hatred of God and his Christ. Unbelievers hate God. Let me ask for what do you hate him" CH

    The Unbelievers Unhappy Condition

    Boy I tell you this debate gets kind of wacky everywhere. Well anyway...it is unbelief. It has always been unbelief and it always will be. Please, believe it.

  11. Brother Brian,

    Of course, unbelief is the culprit, but sinners go to Hell because of their sins. Do you not also believe in degrees of punishment in Hell?

    If a person does not believe who Jesus is, that person cannot be saved. There is no argument there.

    But, again, I did not say that I believe you have to sell everything to be saved. This is what Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler to do to test whether he wanted a quick religious "fix" of if he was serious.

    What I am saying is that we should use "Biblical" terminology when we speak about the Gospel. When the Bible tells men to repent, it is a command to repent of "sins" plural, not just unbelief.

    I believe that if a person has no desire to leave his old life, he has not truly repented. That is not LS, it is repentance "from dead works."

    To the self-righteous (the vast majority of the people we all deal with), the Lord Jesus was hard with His message.

    Don't quote Spurgeon to back up anything in this argument, unless you are willing to quote his messages on repentance as well.

    Art Dunham

  12. Pastor Art & Brian:

    In my book is an extensive treatement of the Rich Young Ruler. Some well known theologians feel it is among the three best chapters in the book.

    I may post a brief discussion of the Rich Young Ruler here in the next few days.


  13. >Don't quote Spurgeon to back up anything in this argument, unless you are willing to quote his messages on repentance as well.<

    Who made this rule brother. What is the penalty for my violation here?


    I have quoted much of spurgeons teaching on repentanc on my own blog. I recognize the tension and accept it, but readily recognize that Jesus did not tell the woman at the well to repent, but to believe. The call to repentance and the law break a man or woman or that destitute man or woman made low is told to believe and metanoia is then fulfilled by the command for man to only look to the Cross and see the saviour there and believe that you are forgiven and that he has risen and you to in Him.

    Essentially Phil and the Lordships have a monopoly on Spurgeon and you are trying to make another monopoly on him...thats fine. I only need the bible. Unfortunately I am not convinced that the Lordships are recognizing what Spurgeon fully taught. Some are.

    I do part hairs in some of his Puritan endeavors and recognize that all of us are human and he too was being cultivated by God.

    I hope that in the future you will give more bloggers opportunity to think biblically before you lay down another legislation of your own making for him to live by.

    Peace to you brother. Remember to remind yourself everyday that we are saved by Grace.

    I may post some more thoughts on repentance by Spurgeon. have you ever read his message "Jesus Only"?

  14. bhedr:

    Keep Colossians 4:6 in mind as you post. We can get exercised in debates over subjects that we are passionate about. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt... (Colossians 4:6).

    I have found you can say difficult things if you put them in the form of a question. That leaves room for you to be giving the benefit of the doubt



  15. Brother Brian,

    I do not wish a "monopoly" on Spurgeon, but you quoted a long passage from one of his messages, and I was commenting on that. We can quote Spurgeon all day, but it doesn't make any real difference what any man, even a great preacher has to say.

    I haven't quoted any preachers in my posts, and I probably won't. But, the devils "believe and tremble", so "simple" belief is not enough. To believe on the Lord Jesus is to place your entire trust on Him, and Him alone. There are many unsaved people in our churches who "believe", but they do not believe in Christ completely.

    As to the woman at the well, I respectfully disagree with you on what Jesus said to this woman. He showed her her sin precisely so that she could recognize how horrible it was, and to stop doing it.

    The Lord dealt with the woman taken in adultery in a kind and loving way, but did he not say, "Go and sin no more."? Is not this an expectation of repentance?

    I am afraid that we have too many in our churches who will be in the crowd mentioned in Matthew 7:25.

    That is my concern and my burden...

    Art Dunham

  16. Brother I understand your burden but Grace and faith are not the enemies bro. The Judiazation of Christianity is. The fact that people are trying to please God on their terms without receiving his grace and accepting forgiveness is.

    The woman at the well was first told that she could have living water and that her sin was her broken cistern.

    >"Go and sin no more."? Is not this an expectation of repentance?<

    I'll borrow some advice from Lou....Wasn't she delievered from her accusers and the law that condemned her and then told to go and sin no more?

    Could this be a wonderful promise he was giving her instead of a threat. She now had the power to leave her old life....but she had to be delivered from her accusers and condemnation first.

    The law helps us see our hopelessness and drives us to condemnation. We must be rescued from that.

  17. Brother Art,

    In answer to your call to quote Spurgeon on repentance...well, here is some thoughts from him:

    There are few who abide in the seeking, repenting, and preparing state, and come not to "Jesus only." I am not myself fond of even using the term "preparing for Christ," for it seems to me that those are best prepared for Christ who most feel themselves unprepared; but there is no doubt a state of heart which prepares for faith- as sense of need, a consciousness of sin, a hatred of sin, all these are preperations for actual peace and comfort in Christ Jesus, and oh! how many there are who continue year after year merely in that preliminary condition, choosing the candle and refusing the sun. They do not become believers, but are always complaining that they do not feel as yet fit to come to Christ. They want Christ, they desire Christ, they would fain have Christ, but they stay in the desire and longing, and go no further. They never get so far as to behold "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." The voice of heaven to them they always interpret as crying, "The axe is laid unto the root of the trees; bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance." Their conscience is thrilled and thrilled again, by the voice that crieth in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." There souls are rent and torn by Elijahs challenge, "If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him;" but they remain still halting between two opinions, trembling before Elias and not rejoicing before the Saviour. Unhappy men and women, so near the kingdom and Yet out of it; so near the feast, and yet perishing for want of the living bread. The word is near you (ah how near!), and yet you receive it not. Remember I pray you, that merely to prepare for a Saviour is not to be saved; that to have a sense of sin is not the same thing as being pardoned. Your repentance, unless you also believe in Jesus, is a repentance that needs to be repented of. At the girdle of John the Baptist the keys of heaven did never hang; Elias is not the door of salvation; preparation for Christ is not Christ, despair is not regeneration, doubt is not repentance.

    .... A sight of Jesus, of what he is to sinners, of what he makes sinners, of what he is in himself, will more tend to make you feel your need of him than all your poring over your poor miserable self. You will get no further there, look to "Jesus only." "Ay," saith another, "but I want to read my title clear, I want to know that I have an interest in Jesus." You will best read your intrest in Christ by looking at Him....

    ...Today I personally can read my title clear to heaven, and shall I tell you how I read it? Not because I feel all I wish to feel, nor because I am what I hope I yet shall be, but I read in the word that "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, " I am a sinner, Even the Devil cannot tell me I am not. O precious Saviour, then thou hast come to save such as I am....

    ...See the sweat drops bloody as they fall in Gethsemane, see his heart pierced and pouring out blood and water for the sins of men upon Calvary!
    There is Life in a look at Him!

    Oh look to him, and though it be Jesus only, though Moses should condemn you, and Elias should alarm you, yet "Jesus only" shall be enough to comfort and to save you. CH Spurgeon- From the message "Jesus Only"