Whenever you engage the theology of Lordship Salvation (LS) you can count on mantra like cries of “misrepresentation” from many of its advocates.* You can quote verbatim and in context the advocates of LS, allowing them speak for themselves without commentary, letting the stark truth of their message unfold in their own terms and still you are going to hear cries of misrepresenting what they teach and/or believe.
From the writing of its chief advocates you can demonstrate Lordship’s message of eternal salvation through an upfront commitment to discipleship and surrender of life expected of a born again Christian to BECOME a Christian. Lordship’s commitment and surrender in “exchange” for salvation message for example **runs like a thread through all three editions of John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus and still the LS people cry, “misrepresentation” when this is demonstrated.
Last week I posted the personal salvation testimony of Charles Spurgeon. See- Lordship Salvation: Charles Spurgeon’s Personal Testimony Speaks Against It. In his testimony there is no hint whatsoever of the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel. In the comment thread I followed Spurgeon’s personal salvation testimony with quotes from John MacArthur, Lordship’s most recognizable apologist. Predictably, an advocate of LS (in public and in private) complained that LS and Spurgeon were being misrepresented and that the use of selective quotes from Spurgeon misleads readers about Spurgeon’s thinking.
Brother George Zeller shared some thoughts with me on the complaint raised by that LS advocate in regard to Spurgeon’s personal testimony article. The complaint was that posting Spurgeon’s salvation testimony does not accurately reflect Spurgeon’s “entire train of thought.” With Brother Zeller’s permission I am sharing his response to that concern. He wrote,
“It was a lengthy quotation from Spurgeon himself. It was not taken out of context. It is his conversion account in his own words. His main point is that he was saved by simply looking to Christ (not to himself), and by simply trusting Christ. In his account, there is not a hint of Lordship Salvation (though Spurgeon certainly taught Lordship sanctification, as we all should). This is in complete agreement with his teaching elsewhere, as the following quotation shows.”Following the “quotation” Zeller referenced above I will close with some personal commentary.
Then, dear Friends, remember, if we begin to preach to sinners that they must have a certain sense of sin and a certain measure of conviction, such teaching would turn the sinner away from God in Christ to himself. The man begins at once to say, “Have I a broken heart? Do I feel the burden of sin?” This is only another form of looking to self. Man must not look to himself to find reasons for God’s Grace. The remedy does not lie in the seat of the disease—it lies in the Physician’s hands. A sense of sin is not a claim, but a gift of that blessed Savior who is exalted on high to give repentance and remission of sins. Beware of any teaching which makes you look to yourself for help! You must, rather, cling to that doctrine which makes you look only to Christ! Whether you know it or not, you are a lost, ruined sinner, only fit to be cast into the flames of Hell forever. Confess this, but do not ask to be driven mad by a sense of it. Come to Jesus just as you are and do not wait for a preparation made out of your own miseries. Look to Jesus and to Him alone.The personal testimony of Spurgeon “is in complete agreement with his teaching elsewhere” as Zeller just demonstrated.
If we fall into the notion that a certain sense of sin has a claim upon God, we shall be putting salvation upon other grounds than that of faith—and that would be false ground. Now, the ground of salvation is—“God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” A simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the way of salvation! But to say, “I shall be saved because I am horribly convicted of sin and driven to desperation,” is not to speak like the Gospel, but to rave out of the pride of an unbelieving heart. The Gospel is that you believe in Christ Jesus; that you get right out of yourself and depend alone on Him! Do you say, “I feel so guilty”? You are certainly guilty, whether you feel it or not! And you are far more guilty than you have any idea of. Come to Christ because you are guilty, not because you have been prepared to come by looking at your guilt! Trust nothing of your own, not even your sense of need. A man may have a sense of disease a long time before he will get healing out of it. The looking-glass of conviction reveals the spots on our face, but it cannot wash them away. You cannot fill your hands by putting them into your empty pocket and feeling how empty it is! It would be far wiser to hold them out and receive the gold which your friend so freely gives you. “God be merciful to me a sinner” is the right way to put it, but not, “God be merciful to me because I sufficiently feel my sinnership, and most fittingly bewail it.”
His conversion testimony devastates Lordship Salvation’s message of faith, plus commitment of life to receive the gift of eternal life. There is no hint of Lordship’s promise to perform plan of salvation anywhere in Spurgeon’s account of how he was born again. Spurgeon’s personal testimony and his later works are consistent with the Scriptures in that Spurgeon insisted that a sinner is saved by looking only to Jesus, and not to SELF.
The true crux of the controversy lies in what LS insists are the REQUIREMENTS FOR (justification) salvation, not what the natural results (sanctification) of a genuine conversion should be. Man is not saved by becoming a disciple of Christ or promising to become a committed disciple of Christ; that is works salvation! That is Lordship’s assault on the simplicity that is in Christ and a message that frustrates the grace of God.
“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).The egregious errors of LS flow from a variety of doctrinal mis-steps, one of which is the failure to distinguish between the doctrines of salvation and discipleship. Pastor George Zeller wrote an article titled, The Relationship Between God’s Grace and Lordship Legalism. Following is a brief excerpt.
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain,” (Gal. 2:21).
“Don’t confuse saving faith with that which saving faith ought to produce. Don’t confuse repentance with the fruits of repentance. Behavior and fruit are the evidences of saving faith but they are not the essence of saving faith. Don’t confuse the fruit with the root. Before you can “come after” Christ in discipleship (Luke 9:23; Matt. 11:29-30), you must “come unto” Christ for salvation (Matthew 11:28). Discipleship is not a requirement for salvation; discipleship is the obligation of every saved person.”When a man tries to carefully introduce verses about discipleship as part of God’s plan for salvation, remember that the Bible teaches we come to Christ for salvation and that we come after Christ in discipleship. It is wrong to present discipleship verses as salvation verses. We must not use verses intended to teach discipleship to try to lead a man to Christ. (See- John MacArthur’s Discipleship Gospel)
The effects and danger of LS is far more pervasive than many might realize. Wherever you are, in whatever sphere of ministry and/or influence you have, determine take your stand against Lordship Salvation. Stand in defense of the one true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Alert, warn and teach others so that they will recognize the errors of LS then teach and warn others also.
*A new article gives every advocate of Lordship Salvation the opportunity to name any writer, commentator, preacher who openly rejects Lordship Salvation, but he believes also accurately represents LS in his refutation of it. To date (8/25) there has been one offsite taker. See that discussion at Lordship Advocates, Tell Us: Who Defines LS in Way You Would Agree With?
**Summary of Lordship Salvation on a Single Page is an irrefutable example of the recurring theme.