I wrote a chapter titled, Salvation & Discipleship: Is There a Biblical Difference? This is one of the most thorough chapters in the book. I spent many hours on this subject because confusing the acts of discipleship (expected of a believer) with the requirements for salvation is where much of the Lordship Salvation error is found.
Dr. MacArthur says the Sermon on the Mount contains, “pure gospel.” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 203.) In the Sermon on the Mount you find overtones to salvation. I believe Matthew 7:13-14 would be an example.
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.Dr. MacArthur, however, specifically cites Matthew 7:13-14 as, “…the Savior’s own presentation of the way of salvation…In fact, these closing verses are pure gospel.” (Ibid, p. 203.) He speaks of this passage through subheadings titled, "Two Gates, Two Ways, Two Destinations, Two Crowds."
In each section he is speaking of the way or entrance to heaven; “a narrow path that leads to life,” (p. 208). He is speaking in terms of salvation. Choosing the right road leads to Heaven, the wrong road leads to Hell. I would, of course, agree that the Zane Hodges/Bob Wilkin “Crossless” interpretation of the Gospel is a shallow, reductionist message that is void of vital truths. MacArthur's answer, however, is a message of upfront commitment to walk the narrow path for the reception of salvation.
We find in the chapter a continuation of blending the results of and the requirements for salvation. MacArthur does speak of salvation producing a changed life. He wrote, “This is the whole point of salvation: it produces a changed life,” (p. 207). No responsible Bible believing Christian would disagree with that thought. A “changed life,” may not be the “whole point,” but it is an important point, and should be an expected result of salvation. In the same chapter, however, we also read that lost men must “understand the commitment that is required,” (p. 208).
MacArthur continues to explain the commitment that is required, and remember he is speaking of a commitment, which must be promised by the lost man to receive eternal life.
“The road is hard. But Jesus never presented Christianity as a soft option for weak-kneed, feeble souls. When a person becomes a Christian, that person is then and there declaring war on Hell. And Hell fights back. Following Christ can cost your life, it certainly costs your life in a spiritual sense. The fainthearted need not apply.” (pp. 208-209)I believe many of us would agree the gospel might be best defined in 1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4:
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand…For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that He was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”The gospel, therefore, according to the Scriptures is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Do we find any mention of His death, burial and resurrection in the Sermon on the Mount? Do we find the cross, justification by faith, or new birth? Do we find any clear John 3:16 messages in the Sermon on the Mount?
Dr. MacArthur says the Sermon on the Mount is “the way of salvation.” Is Dr. MacArthur suggesting the Sermon on the Mount be given to a lost man as the plan of salvation?
The Sermon on the Mount can reveal to a lost man his sin condition. The Sermon on the Mount will show all men that they are not righteous and fall short of the glory of God. The Sermon on the Mount may bring conviction. Where, however, in the Sermon on the Mount do we find, as Lordship advocates claim a “pure gospel” message?