I have been reflecting on, and want to return to a part of the discussion I had last week with Nathan Busenitz at Pulpit Magazine.
In reply to one of my concerns with Dr. MacArthur's stated position, Nathan wrote,
“When John MacArthur speaks of an ‘exchange’ he is not saying that I offer God my obedience and he, in return, offers me His salvation. That is works salvation. It is a false gospel.”
Now I read this quote from The Gospel According to Jesus:
“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.” (p. 140.)
An objective, unbiased reading can lead to just one conclusion: Dr. MacArthur demands a promise of life long obedience in “exchange” for salvation. This is man being told he must “offer” what he will do or become in “exchange” for salvation. This is “works salvation.”
The Bible presents a much better, and a much different view of salvation than creating demands for life long obedience for the reception of eternal life.
Following is the original note I posted at Pulpit Magazine
“When John MacArthur speaks of an “exchange” he is not saying that I offer God my obedience and he, in return, offers me His salvation. That is works salvation. It is a false gospel.”
“The full title of John MacArthur’s original book is What Does Jesus Mean When He Says, Follow Me? The Gospel According to Jesus. The title alone should raise concern even before one opens the cover. The point made in the title is that John MacArthur and those who advocate Lordship Salvation believe the Lord’s words "Follow Me" are a necessary component of the gospel and must be acted upon for salvation.” (In Defense of the Gospel, pp. 37-38.)
What Dr. MacArthur does is demand from a sinner the upfront, or as Pastor Mike Harding noted, “frontloaded” promises of surrender, self-denial, commitment to follow, to be willing to die for Jesus’ sake, in “exchange” for salvation.
“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 Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 148.)
“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. . . . 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 Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], pp. 221, 226.)
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: The High Cost and Infinite Value of Following Jesus, p. 6)
These conditional elements of Dr. MacArthur’s gospel are inconsistent with your assertion that a sinner must come to God “empty and broken.” If a sinner comes to God with a promise for the kind of behavior and acts of a born again disciple that Dr. MacArthur demands, he has come with an offer of works.
There is no straw man! There is no way around it, no way to paint it in a different light. Dr. MacArthur says it plainly: without the frontloaded promise of “good works,” there is no “exchange” for salvation. This is a works based message. Lordship Salvation is a false gospel!