At PyroManiacs I was engaged in a discussion with Phil Johnson on the Lordship interpretation of the gospel. It is my understanding Phil Johnson is the senior editor for John MacArthur’s books. Most of Dr. MacArthur’s books are not actually written by him. They are primarily transcribed sermons compiled, edited and reproduced in book form. Phil is in charge of the editing process.
There were two main areas of discussion at Pyro between Phil and myself. One was in regard to regeneration before faith issue, which is an extreme extra-biblical error found among most Lordship advocates. The second was a discussion surrounding Luke 9:23-24. I am going to address the latter now, the former later.
I began the short exchange on Luke 9 by using the following post:
You can see I asked Phil if Luke 9:23-24 states conditions or demands for salvation. His response was, “Nope.”
“And He said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it,” (Luke 9:23-24).
Does Luke 9:23-24 state conditions man must satisfy to receive God’s free gift of salvation? Luke 9:24 is a conditional verse. Twice it says “for whosoever will . . .” Do you view the demands of Luke 9:23-24 as a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ to be believed for salvation?
Later Phil wrote,
“I believe Luke 9:23-24 is a call to salvation; but it's still not proper to regard it as a set of ‘conditions’ by which someone can merit salvation.”So, he believes Luke 9:23 is a salvation passage, but the commands for cross bearing, self-denial and following, which appear in the verse, are not conditions for salvation. Phil further substantiates his salvation interpretation of the passage by criticizing me for believing Luke 9:23-24 has to do with the daily life of a disciple.
Shall we review (which I provided for Phil) what Dr. MacArthur says about cross bearing, self-denial, and following in regard to the reception of salvation. He writes,
“Let me say again unequivocally that Jesus’ summons to deny self and follow him was an invitation to salvation…” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 221).
“Half-hearted people who were not willing to make the commitment did not respond. Thus he turned away anyone who was reluctant to pay the price, such as the rich young ruler,” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 222).
“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.)
Dr. MacArthur says to become a Christian one must face three commands found in Luke 9:23. They are, “…deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
Dr. MacArthur says anyone who is unwilling to make the commitment to the conditions of discipleship will be turned away. According to Dr. MacArthur the rich young ruler was “turned away” because he would not “make the commitment” to give up that he had. Dr. MacArthur says the lost man was turned away, not because of his sin (covetousness), rather because he would not make a commitment to discipleship. That is what Dr. MacArthur believes and he states it expressly. There is no misunderstanding of his meaning!
Dr. MacArthur is calling for lost men to make a commitment to the conditions of discipleship found in Luke 9:23. He believes the calls for cross bearing, self-denial and following are salvation appeals. He is, therefore, demanding these conditions be committed to for the reception of eternal life.
Phil sees the conditions of discipleship in Luke 9:23 as evangelistic in nature. In spite of this Phil wrote,
“I don’t think the word ‘conditions’ is appropriate here…. Luke 9:23-24 is a call to salvation; but it’s still not proper to regard it as a set of ‘conditions’ by which someone can merit salvation.”The Luke 9:23-24 passage is a conditional passage. Dr. MacArthur cites the three elements in Luke 9:23 as conditions for the reception of eternal life. Phil, however, says they are not conditions.
Just like Dr. MacArthur, Phil contradicts the Scriptures by redefining passages meant for a disciple of Christ, as though they are salvation appeals. Then I have shown how Phil unwittingly contradicts and compromises Dr. MacArthur’s message of commitment to the terms of discipleship for salvation.
In Luke 9:23-24 Jesus is speaking about discipleship, not on how to become a child of God. No one is saved because he takes up the cross and follows Jesus. No one is saved who makes, as Dr. MacArthur demands, a “wholehearted commitment,” to take up the cross and follow Jesus.
Confusing discipleship with salvation is one of the most serious errors in Lordship Salvation. A chapter in my book is dedicated to this doctrinal error. The chapter is titled, Salvation & Discipleship: Is There A Biblical Difference?
Dr. Joel Mullenix said,
“Salvation is free, discipleship is costly. Salvation comes by simply believing in Christ. By receiving by faith the free gift of salvation through His work on the cross. Discipleship is evidenced by daily submission to the will of God. They are two separate things. The Bible makes a distinction between salvation and discipleship.” (In Defense of the Gospel, p. 72.)Apart from redefining the biblical plan of salvation to suit the Lordship system there is no way Luke 9 can be construed as an invitation to salvation. Confusing discipleship with salvation leads to a works based gospel, which Dr. MacArthur and Lordship advocates propose. It also leads to the confused and contradictory statements we have seen from Phil Johnson.
Lordship Salvation, as defined by Dr. MacArthur, is a message of faith plus commitment to the conditions of discipleship, and this is a false, non-saving message that frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).
Later we will look at the regeneration before faith position and Phil’s defense of it. I will also address a few other note worthy items that came out through Phil’s comments and reactions.