In a new installment at Pulpit Magazine John MacArthur identifies his Lordship Salvation interpretation of the gospel as fundamental doctrine of the faith. See What Doctrines Are Fundamental,? (Part 2) from December 28, 2006.
In the foreword from The Gospel According to Jesus, Dr. James Montgomery Boice says, speaking of the opponents of Lordship Salvation:
“...they are mistaken--dreadfully mistaken and they need to be shown their error from Scripture, which is what this book does. They also need to be shown that their view has never been the view of any major Bible teacher or theologian in the church until our own weak times.”
Dr. Boice is not speaking merely of the Easy-Believism proponents. He indicts anyone who does not share Dr. MacArthur’s Lordship interpretation of the gospel. In this article by Dr. MacArthur he identifies his lordship position on the gospel as exclusive truth. The consequence is: If you do not believe in Lordship Salvation’s plan for eternal life, as defined by Dr. MacArthur, then you do not hold to the fundamentals of our faith.
In what is typical fashion, however, Dr. MacArthur’s Lordship position is not fully defined in this article as he believes it. The Lordship position is mixed in with what is otherwise orthodox truth. At face value Roman numeral III above appears sound, but when the terms he uses are defined by him from his other writings the real meaning and subsequent error is exposed.
If I were to take the time there is much that I could discuss about the article. I am, however, going to limit myself to just one subject from the article. That subject is Dr. MacArthur’s reference to “saving faith” as a fundamental.
In Roman numeral III above he identifies “saving faith” as a fundamental. It is important that we be reminded how Dr. MacArthur defines “saving faith.” We will look more closely at this in a moment.
For just a moment I want to refer to this quote in the article above, “Romans 10:9 confirms that the resurrection is a fundamental doctrine, and adds another: the lordship of Christ. ‘If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.’”
The deity and resurrection of Christ are indeed fundamentals. Jesus is the Messiah. The Sonship of Jesus is a fundamental, but ironically Dr. MacArthur once erred gravely on the eternal Sonship of Christ, but later acknowledged his error. In this quote on Romans 10:9 Dr. MacArthur identifies “the lordship of Christ” as “a fundamental doctrine.”
Romans 10:9 is speaking of salvation, therefore, when Dr. MacArthur speaks of the lordship of Christ from the verse he is speaking of what he believes a man’s response must be to the lordship of Christ in order to be born again. This is important because Lordship’s “saving faith” has primarily to do with what they believe must be man’s response to the lordship of Christ to result in salvation.
Just before I quote Dr. MacArthur’s definition of “saving faith” we need to be reminded that in the article above, and in the quotes to follow, he is speaking of the reception of eternal life, not the results of a genuine conversion.
In defining “saving faith,” Dr. MacArthur has written,
“The gospel Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience. . . . Forsaking oneself for Christ’s sake is not an optional step of discipleship subsequent to conversion; it is the sine qua non of saving faith.” (The Gospel According to Jesus: [Revised & Expanded Edition], pp. 27, 142.)The indispensable condition of “saving faith,” according to Dr. MacArthur, is following Christ, “submissive obedience” and “forsaking oneself.” Following is John MacArthur's definition of saving faith from the original edition of The Gospel According to Jesus: “Saving faith is a commitment to leave sin and follow Jesus at all costs. Jesus takes no one unwilling to come on those terms.” (p. 87.)
From the Revised & Expanded Edition, John MacArthur reworked the above statement as follows,
“Saving faith does not recoil from the demand to forsake sin and follow Jesus Christ at all costs. Those who find his terms unacceptable cannot come at all.” (p. 95.)Again from his original edition, MacArthur writes,
“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.)To reiterate, Dr. MacArthur is defining the terms or conditions for the reception of eternal life. When he speaks of “saving faith” he is defining what he believes is required for the reception of eternal life. He believes salvation is conditioned upon “wholehearted commitment, unconditional surrender, a commitment to leave sin."
Dr. MacArthur states salvation (the gift of eternal life) is based on, “A full exchange of self for the Savior.” These are the terms he uses to define the Lordship interpretation of “saving faith.”
Lordship Salvation requires much more than a faith that is depending on Jesus Christ to save from sin, death and Hell. The Lordship position does not depend solely on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Lordship Salvation, according to John MacArthur requires an “exchange” of what man must offer Christ by way of commitments to obedience, surrender, and following, to receive His free gift of salvation.
To define “saving faith” as though receiving the free gift of God requires a lost man to make upfront commitments in “exchange” for salvation is a departure from the fundamentals of our faith!