February 26, 2007

IFCA Statement on: The Nature of Saving Faith

To All:

In 1990 the IFCA International, of which John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church is a member, had several scholars do a study to interpret their statement of faith on salvation. It is my understanding that this statement was drafted in response to Dr. MacArthur's original edition of The Gospel According to Jesus, published in 1988.

The title of the IFCA statement is: The Nature of Saving Faith.

The IFCA statement appears to be very balanced and to speak against MacArthur’s Lordship interpretation of the gospel. The study committee is listed at the end of the paper. It is very impressive.

Dr. Robert Thomas of The Master’s Seminary was on the committee. Dr. Thomas is considered a world class New Testament scholar, he taught at Talbot for years (1959-1986) where John MacArthur was one of his students. Dr. Thomas has been at The Master’s Seminary since 1987.

This is just a sample from the statement:

Some suitable expressions equivalent to the reliance on Christ that brings salvation include “believe in,” “trust in,” and “depend on.” Other terminology that may be misleading in representing this relationship include “submit to,” “yield to,” “dedicate [oneself] to,” and “make Jesus Lord of one's life.” These are better reserved for a stage of sanctification that usually comes subsequent to saving faith. Two additional phrases, “make a commitment to" and “become a disciple of,” are ambiguous because they could or could not refer to reliance on Christ, depending on how they are defined. “Repent” is not a suitable way to describe saving faith, because it only partially represents what it is to rely on Christ alone.
That paragraph addresses several of the controversial terms/phrases that are inherent in the Lordship gospel. They appear in The Gospel According to Jesus and in the later works by MacArthur on Lordship Salvation.

The sentence in bold is the key to the Lordship error. As I demonstrate in my book and in various articles here and at other sites John MacArthur, and the Lordship advocates he represents, conditions the reception of salvation on the upfront promise from a lost man to "submit, yield, dedicate" his life in "exchange" for eternal life. Lordship Salvation places demands on a sinner (requirements for salvation) that belong to the born again child of God in regard to growth as a disciple of Christ.

This IFCA statement was adopted by the Executive Committee (Board of Directors) in November 1990 and was affirmed by 93% of the individual members participating in a straw poll.

Incidentally, another Master’s Seminary faculty member, Dr. James Rosscup (retired June 2005), also wrote about his reservations with MacArthur’s expressions of his Lordship theology. See post #10 on page 2 by Bob Topartzer at Sharper Iron in my response to Pastor Todd Wood’s review of my book.


February 18, 2007

An Example of Lordship’s Man-Centered Message

At his blog site Tim Challies was doing what I might call a play-by-play from the Resolved Conference held Feb. 16-19 and sponsored by John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church. I had no particular reason for visiting Tim’s site Sunday evening, just clicked on it and found the Resolved Conference (VI) report.

The VI report is a review by Tim Challies of a sermon by Pastor Steve Lawson (Christ Fellowship Baptist Church).

The text Pastor Lawson chose to speak from is Luke 14:25-33 and the title of his message was The Cost of Discipleship (It Will Cost You Everything).

At face value that title is direct and can be supported biblically. The problem is that Pastor Lawson is not only talking about the cost of discipleship for a believer, he teaches, just like John MacArthur, that there is a cost FOR salvation.

In the Bible Luke 14:25-33 is a message directed to those who are born again. This sermon is an example of taking a passage, such as Luke 14:25-33) meant for instructing the born again child of God on how to grow as a disciple of Christ, and reinterpreting it as though it is a gospel message directed to the lost.

Remember the problem with Lordship Salvation is not in regard to the results of salvation. I am in agreement with any Lordship advocate who believes that a genuine conversion should evidence itself in genuine results: a desire to live for Jesus Christ.

It is what Lordship advocates insist are the requirements for salvation that is the error in their system. In Pastor Lawson’s text when he speaks of following Christ, self denial and cross bearing in the context of a born again believer needing to make those commitments to his Lord and Savior he is on biblical ground. When, however, he takes those same commands and presents them as conditions which must be agreed to in exchange for salvation he has checked out on the Scriptures and is preaching a works based message that frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).

Here are three excerpts from Lawson’s sermon:

If you want to receive this gift it will cost you the total commitment of all that you are to the Lord Jesus Christ. There are many here who think they are saved, but are not; they have never really done business with God.”
I want to single you out in the midst of this crowd. Have you taken up a cross in order to follow after Christ? Have you recognized your own sinfulness, acknowledged that God's judgment is true, have you acknowledged Christ's right to rule your life? Have you submitted to the Lordship of Christ? Have you really come to the end of self? Because Jesus does not begin until you end.”
You can read how Pastor Lawson conditions the reception of “this gift” (the gift of eternal life) on an upfront “total commitment” from a lost man. In the second quote Pastor Lawson is saying that a relation with Christ cannot begin until the lost man has come to the end of himself. That sounds pious, but that is not the gospel.

And then this astounding statement:
You need to make terms of peace with this king or you will be subjected in damnation forever. Christ has made terms of peace and you need to settle out-of-court with him. You do not want to go into that final day of conflict with Christ, for He will be ruthless in the execution of justice. He offers mercy today. He will agree to terms of peace and surrender, but they are His terms of peace, not ours. His terms are this: you must love Him more than anything. If you cannot do this, you will meet Him in the final judgment and glorify God in your destruction.”
Whether Lawson is speaking to the believer or the lost the quote above (in context with the balance of the message) is probably one of the most biblically unsound I have heard in the last ten years.

Tim Challies confirms that Lawson’s sermon was an evangelistic appeal meant to reach the lost. At his site this is the final paragraph of Tim’s review of Pastor Lawson’s sermon.
I was glad to see an evangelistic message, even three days into the conference. I think it is wonderful that the speakers are not simply assuming that everyone here is saved, but are continually pushing, continually asking people to examine their hearts and to determine if they are truly saved. Lawson's message was as convicting an evangelistic appeal as I've heard in a long time. And what's more, it was a call for Christian commitment as well.”
Lordship advocates see no distinction between salvation and discipleship. That is one of the ways in which they wind up in what is the false gospel commonly referred to as Lordship Salvation. In my book there is a chapter dedicated to this specific issue. The chapter title is- Salvation & Discipleship: Is There A Biblical Difference?

Pastor Lawson’s gospel is a man-centered message and thereby frustrates the grace of God (Gal. 2:21). Pastor Lawson’s sermon is a stark example of the extreme to which the Lordship advocates have twisted the Gospel of grace into a works based message.


But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ,” (2 Cor. 11:3).