November 4, 2009

The Gospel and Separation: Is the TermFinal SalvationNecessarily Wrong?

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

In my previous article I included the following edited excerpt from IDOTG: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation.

It would seem reasonable to me that men who claim the Bible as their sole authority should be willing to openly discuss their doctrinal positions. This at least allows for a better mutual understanding, if not reconciliation of any differences. The Bible teaches that doctrine is the basis for all unity and practice. How then can men call for unity (or biblical separation) if there exists an unwillingness to openly discuss their doctrinal positions and define their terms with precision?
Today we are returning with the third in the series in which I am reviewing select excerpts from Dr. Dave Doran’s series, The Gospel and Separation, Part 3. In the first installment of this review, among other important considerations, I discussed his usage of the term, “final salvation.”

Dr. Doran recognized clarification of the term was sought and he responded with a brief reply here from his blog, Glory and Grace. I have read and also referenced his reply in my previous article, Interim Discussion and Primer for the Balance.

The following is a compilation of my thoughts on the subject plus discussion points drawn from several men I communicated with who have considered Dr. Doran’s Part 3 of The Gospel and Separation and his clarification article on the usage of “final salvation.”

Is Dave Doran in Error When He Uses the Phrase “the promise of final salvation?”

I would say the term “final salvation” in itself is not necessarily wrong, but I have been noticing a tendency of Calvinist/Lordship Salvationists using this term in such a way that raises a red flag. John Piper used it in his book What Jesus Demands From the World, in such a way that disturbing implications are evident, which will be referenced below.

An analogy to “final salvation” might be the term “full gospel.” While “full gospel” may be a valid concept in that nothing should be detracted from the gospel, that term has found a common usage among Pentecostals who claim their version of “tongues” and “spiritual gifts” should be included in the preaching of the gospel. In the same way “full gospel” raises a red flag, so may the term “final salvation.”

Biblically, there is a salvation, which we await (Rom. 13:11; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 1:5). This is not salvation from Hell, but salvation from everything involved in living under the curse (Rom. 8:18-23) including sufferings, unglorified bodies, *possession of the sin nature (Rom. 7:23), living under corruption, and even the time of wrath that is coming upon the earth unto glorification with Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:9). In other words, this “final salvation” is “glorification.”

In recent days I have been communicating extensively with a friend about various elements of the Gospel, Dr. Doran’s commentary and my initial review. Knowing I would post at length on “final salvation,” in his most recent e-mail he shared the following with me, which I appreciate:
It sounds like Dr. Doran is espousing the basic doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Arminians taught that the saints would be saved if they persevered. Calvinistic men teach that since believers are justified, they will persevere in the faith. Salvation is a term that covers foreknowledge – glorification and everything in between those two items. Final salvation, therefore, is another term for glorification. All justified people will persevere and be glorified = final salvation.”
Scripturally, glorification is inherent to the package of blessings guaranteed with our salvation from hell or justification. In other words, glorification is guaranteed with salvation from hell with no other conditions (Rom. 5:9; 8:29-30; 8:32-39; 1 Cor. 15:51-57; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:1-5; Eph. 1:13-14; 2:5-8; 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:4-10; 2 Thess. 1:10). It is simply a matter of time before the blessing is actually realized-- partially realized upon death (Phil. 1:23) and fully realized at Christ’s return for the church (Phil. 3:20-21).

The problem is when Lordship Salvation advocates say or imply there are conditions, requirements, or things necessary leading up to “final salvation” in addition to the person’s initial faith through which he was saved, i.e., born again (Eph. 1:13-14; 2:5-8). For example John Piper wrote:
There is no doubt that Jesus saw a measure of real, lived-out obedience to the will of God as necessary for final salvation.” (What Jesus Demands From the World, p. 160).
Since glorification is part of the package deal of salvation and is guaranteed along with justification, which is by grace through faith apart from works, how can “lived out obedience to the will of God” (i.e., works) be “necessary for final salvation?”

Piper’s statement clearly implies obedient Christian living is “necessary for final salvation.” The implication being if the foreordained “good works” (Eph. 2:10) are not performed then “final salvation, i.e., glorification will not be realized. While I appreciate Dr. Doran’s clarifying response to the question(s) raised here he might consider distancing himself from, rejecting Piper’s expression of “final salvation” and admonishing him for it.


There are Calvinists, who advocate Lordship Salvation, that think they have escaped the charge of works based salvation by saying the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) are required for “final salvation,” but not “initial salvation.” If the works of a disciple **promised or performed are required in any sense to reach Heaven with Jesus Christ, how can one truly say salvation is “by faith…not of works”?
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Eph. 2:8-9).


Please continue to Does “Final Salvation” Serve as a Cover for Works Salvation?

*In one sense, all believers have already realized salvation from the sin nature in that we’ve died to it so that it no longer has the right to control us (Romans 6:2; 11), but at the same time we still possess it and may give into it (Romans 6:7; 12) until death or rapture.

**See- John MacArthur’s Performance Guidelines for “Lordship” Salvation


  1. Lou,

    Piper's comment

    “There is no doubt that Jesus saw a measure of real, lived-out obedience to the will of God as necessary for final salvation.”

    does clearly imply that works are a necessary part of, and therefore a causative agent in, glorification. This is a distortion of the relationship between salvation and works. Even if he only wanted to say that a born again believer will show some kind of proof of being born again, I am sure he is articulate enough to find a way to say that without being confusing. However, when he says that obedience to the will of God is necessary FOR final salvation he goes too far. He has moved from discussing works as a result/evidence of salvation to works as a cause/ingredient of salvation.

    His way of framing the matter causes a false separation between justification and glorification that Romans 8:30 and Ephesians 2:6 do not allow. He forces works in between the two and then directs the hearers attention only to future final salvation rather than back to previous justification. There is no rational conclusion to draw from this other than that he wants us to regard works as an ingredient of salvation and not merely a result of salvation. Unless he is just being irresponsible and careless, which I doubt, this is what he is saying.

    This is even more troubling when considered in light of the back cover copy of MacArthur's Hard To Believe, which reads:

    The hard truth about Christianity is that the cost is high, but the REWARDS are priceless: abundant and ETERNAL LIFE that COMES only FROM faithfully following Christ. (Emphasis mine)

    Here eternal life is not a gift (Romans 6:23). It is a REWARD.

    Piper's idea and MacArthur's idea compliment each other very well.


  2. Jan:

    These extreme statements, including the one you quoted from MacArthur’s Hard to Believe run like a thread through virtually all of their apologetics for the Lordship Salvation (LS) interpretation of the Gospel.

    You got it just right when you wrote, “There is no rational conclusion to draw from this other than that he wants us to regard works as an ingredient of salvation and not merely a result of salvation.”

    The crux of the Gospel controversy, which should lead to separation from men who advocate this kind of teaching, is over Lordship’s justification. The growth (sanctification) of the believer is an important discussion, but it is justification where the Gospel is being assaulted by the LS advocates.



    PS: Even though we cite these men in context and quote them verbatim, the mantra cries of “misrepresentation” are sure to follow.

  3. Hi Lou,

    The extraction of assurance from faith deflates faith into a meaningless head knowledge of something that ought to inspire faith.

    Abraham was assured by God's promise, not his reaction to God's promise.

    I'm so shocked that more Christian's aren't up in arms over this movement in Christ's Church.

    When Moses lifted up the snake those who looked at it were saved, those who looked at ANYTHING else perished.

    "Final Salvation" is an escape clause for Closet-Catholicism.

    My dear friend (who frustrates me endlessly, and attends Mr. Piper's church) Bridget has little or no assurance of her Salvation. She diligently preaches Christ to the lost, herself not completely sure that she is not also one of them.

    What a terrible shame.


  4. Jan (Kev):

    You have expanded on Piper’s quote, which was: “There is no doubt that Jesus saw a measure of real, lived-out obedience to the will of God as necessary for final salvation.” (What Jesus Demands From the World, p. 160).

    You cited MacArthur from the back cover of Hard To Believe (HtB), which reads: “The hard truth about Christianity is that the cost is high, but the REWARDS are priceless: abundant and ETERNAL LIFE that COMES only FROM faithfully following Christ.” (Emphasis yours)

    Here are three more from HtB:

    If you want to follow Christ right into heaven, then here's the message: Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him.” (HtB, p. 11.)

    And he needed to be willing to submit to the Lord Jesus, even if it meant he had to give up all his earthly possessions. He might not ask, but the requirement for eternal life is the willingness to give it all up if he does.” (Hard to Believe, p. 9.)

    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.” (p. 6.)

    You see here we have JM and Piper for Lordship Salvation (LS) suggesting that if one does not perform those things expected of a Christian he/she will not enter Heaven. That is conditioning “final salvation,” which is understood to be “glorification” on performing the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) expected of a Christian.

    It is statements like these (there are many more) where some men find MacArthur and Piper in their LS message treading dangerously close to a Roman Catholicism like message. I don’t believe they have gone there, but these statements are very alarming and by and large given a complete pass by Reformed men in IFB circles.

    Not one of these extreme statements have ever been explained, edited or eliminated. They have in fact been reiterated and reinforced by the men who make them such as Macarthur, Piper, et. al., for two decades.

    It is this kind of LS coming from Macarthur and Piper that I have hoped Calvinists in IFB circles like Dave Doran would distance themselves from, repudiate and admonish those men over. However, with the movement of IFB men like Dr. Doran inching toward embracing and formalizing fellowship with the so-called “conservative” evangelicals like MacArthur in particular- plus Dever, Mohler and Piper, I think it is highly doubtful we’ll see any open criticism of these extremes.

    IMO, LS as defined by MacArthur is a false, non-saving message that frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21). Why men will not separate from men who make such statements and do not repent of them, let alone admonish them, has IMO three possible explanations:

    1) He has not yet recognized LS’s assault on the Gospel of grace and will, Lord willing, in time see it that way.

    2) Possibly much like the conservative evangelicals, he does not embrace biblical separatism or...

    3) He has adopted the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel as his personal position, which would naturally negate any thought of admonishment or separation.


  5. I would be interested in reading a level-headed explanation of these statements by the men who are on the fore-front of LS preaching.

    Lou, I'm inclined to be a lot more harsh with these men (and the implications of the things they say) than you are.

    I would like to see someone from these men's ministries (if not themselves) explain how these statements are anything but Catholicism.


  6. Kev: "Final Salvation" is an escape clause for Closet-Catholicism.

    Lou: It is statements like these (there are many more) where some men find MacArthur and Piper in their LS message treading dangerously close to a Roman Catholicism like message. I don’t believe they have gone there, but these statements are very alarming and by and large given a complete pass by Reformed men in IFB circles.

    Kev: I would like to see someone from these men's ministries (if not themselves) explain how these statements are anything but Catholicism.


    In this small exchange you have demonstrated a huge problem that men like Piper and MacArthur cause. I agree with you, Lou, that Piper and MacArthur have not crossed the line into Catholicism. However, whether or not they have actually crossed the line into Catholicism, they are not well within the bounds of orthodoxy, where they belong. Consequently, they foster confusion, ambivalence, and disagreement about what their positions are. This is almost worse than if they did come out as works salvationists because it does offer a cloak for a softer error. And so they continue to get away with it and are even strongly defended by their supporters because "they are not actually saying thus and so".

    I find them to be like that obnoxious neighbor who plays his stereo too loud to be polite, but not so loud that you can call the cops.


  7. Jan & Kev:

    I appreciate the input and insights you’ve brought to this discussion.

    To a friend I recently wrote some things that I’ll insert here for consideration by all.

    I am deeply troubled by some of the Piper/MacArthur “final salvation” related statements such as I have cited at my blog in the current thread. The way they phrase their conditions for salvation are very clear and run like a thread through many of their writings over the years. There is no ambiguity in what Piper wrote and he should be called on it by men who know he has checked out on Scripture with this kind of extreme statements. There are just too many of these coming from Piper and MacArthur to give them benefit of the doubt or call these mere, “overstatements.”

    I’m not absolutely convinced LS men call on the saved or the lost to perform, to obey the commands of Christ in order to earn or merit eternal life, but they are very, very close. LS does, however, insist on a lost man’s commitment to obey to become a Christian. (What I call *Promise to Perform salvation.) That is when LS becomes works-based, man-centered through a commitment to behavior expected of a discipleship to become a born again disciple. The root of this error is in mistaking and treating salvation and discipleship as one and the same.

    There are so many of these so-called “overstatements” from MacArthur, Piper, Lawson, et. al., that it is irrefutable these men have corrupted the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3). Not only have they never edited, explained or eliminated these statements they have reinforced and reiterated them for two decades.


    *See- John MacArthur’s Mandatory Performance Guidelines for “Lordship” Salvation

    For further reading see-

    The Relationship Between God’s Grace & Lordship Legalism

    John MacArthur’s Costly Salvation

  8. Lou, Jan, Kev,

    I am so grateful that this topic of "final salvation" is being addressed here. This is a critical subject. So often this phrase serves as a cover for Works-salvation.

    Bible-believing Christians need to be far more discerning these days than we have been.

    It is truly disturbing to read the statements of so-called "evangelical", "fundamental" or "Protestant" leaders these days that sound perilously close to Romanism.

    Kev raises a great question, isn't this usage of "final salvation" by Lordship Salvationists just the "escape clause for closet Catholicism"?!

    I would say, technically "No" but practically "Yes"!

    As one who was saved out of Catholicism and who was definitely trusting in his own works and righteousness before being born again by God's grace, I will tell you it sure hits me as diluted Catholicism when I read the Lordship Salvation statements of leaders like John Piper, John MacArthur, and even David Doran.

    Here is an interesting spiritual exercise. Try to guess whether the following quotes come from a Calvinist author, Arminian, or Roman Catholic(the answers are found at the bottom):

    1)"Endurance in faith is a condition for future salvation. Only those who endure in faith will be saved for eternity."
    Roman Catholic?

    2) "The Scriptures repeatedly exhort us to persevere, to "hang in there." It is only the one who endures to the end who will be saved."
    Roman Catholic?

    3) "There is no cleansing from sin, and no salvation, without a continual walking in God's light."
    Roman Catholic?

    4) "We cannot "earn" our salvation though good works, but our faith in Christ puts us in a special grace-filled relationship with God so that our obedience and love, combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal life."
    Roman Catholic?

    5) "The kingdom is not for people who want Jesus without any change in their living. It is only for those who seek it with all their hearts, those who agonize to enter. Many who approach the gate turn away upon finding out the cost. Lest someone object that this is a salvation of human effort, remember it is only the enablement of divine grace that empowers a person to pass through the gate." . . . "While justification and sanctification are distinct theological concepts, both are essential elements of salvation. God will not declare a person righteous without also making him righteous."
    Roman Catholic?

    And now for the answers:
    1)(Calvinist), R.C. Sproul, Grace Unknown, 198.

    2)(Roman Catholic), Joseph Kindel, What Must I Do to be Saved?, 79.

    3)(Arminian), Guy Duty, If Ye Continue, 141.

    4)(Roman Catholic), Tract, Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth, p.23

    5) (Calvinist) John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 183, 187.

    By showing this, I don't mean to deny that legitimate differences exist between Protestants (Arminian or Calvinist) and Roman Catholics, especially over the role of the sacraments in salvation, but I think any honest reading of these quotes also shows that their respective doctrines of salvation ultimately end up in the same place: you better have works that go with your enduring faith if you want to arrive at "final salvation."

    The modern state of affairs among Evangelicals (such as Piper & MacArthur), Fundamentalists (Doran), and Catholics is so abysmal and confusing these days regarding salvation, perhaps a new theological term ought to be coined to lump them all together:

    Roman Calminians!

  9. Wow!

    I had seen a comparison between Calvinist and Arminian quotes from Laurence Vance in his "The Other Side of Calvinism" but it never occurred to me to compare them to Catholic quotes. That is pretty scary.

    The only one I recognized as distinctly Catholic was #4.


  10. I recognized 5 as a quote from Dr. MacArthur.

    This is also clearly the problem "While justification and sanctification are distinct theological concepts, both are essential elements of salvation. God will not declare a person righteous without also making him righteous."

    If this were so then most of the New Testament doesn't make sense. You don't exhort people who are gracefied into being righteous to watch how they walk out their faith.... you don't tell good people they better be good...


  11. Tom/Jan/Kev:

    As much as I agree with your comments above and as much as I am personally distressed with the egregious statements by MacArthur, Piper, et. al., over what they insist should take place leading up to and for “final salvation” (glorification), my greatest alarm is over how LS men define their requirements for justification.

    LS conditions the reception of the gift of eternal life on the lost man’s upfront commitment to do the God “foreordained-good works” (Eph. 2:10) expected of a Christian to BECOME a Christian.

    IMO, the single most penetrating observation of what motivated LS men to (unwittingly?) corrupt the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3) was penned by Dr. Ernest Pickering 20+ years ago in his review of MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus. He wrote,

    John MacArthur is a sincere servant of the Lord, of that we have no doubt.... We believe in his advocacy of the so-called lordship salvation he is wrong. He desperately desires to see holiness, lasting fruit, and continuing faithfulness in the lives of Christian people. This reviewer and we believe all sincere church leaders desire the same.... But the remedy for this condition is not found in changing the terms of the gospel.

    It is shocking to read how otherwise good men go to the Bible and force into or extract from it whatever they must to float Lordship Salvation’s man-centered message that frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).


    PS: Tom, I especially appreciate your extended commentary above and I intend to give it greater exposure.

  12. Hi Lou,

    What alarms me is how cleverly these men disguise their upfront demands with the terminology of "Final Salvation."

    No Brother or Sister I am close with would deny that the demands of Discipleship reach far deeper, and cost much more than the believer's cost for Salvation. Discipleship costs all.

    However, what these LS men do is put the demands of Discipleship as a condition for "future salvation" which is to say that they are demands for Salvation period. It SEEMS on the surface like they are talking about Discipleship but they are not. They are in fact talking about Eternal Salvation. Not every saved believer is what we would call a "Disciple of Christ" (though Heb 12 shows us that we are each corrected).

    When they talk about discipleship as though it is a condition for being Eternally Saved they are in fact putting demands on the unbeliever. For until you are actually a disciple (and have continued to the end) you are not saved in their view.

    So whether someone has been "following" Christ for 10 minutes or 10 years that person is still in danger. They must still strive in the faith, or they are lost.

    Oh what conflict this has with the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul assured those disorderly corinthian believers who were denying ressurection (not just Christ's but their own) that they were in fact saved when they received the Gospel.

    I am alarmed when I see these supposed Evangelists proclaim what sounds sweet to the ear, but is poison to the soul. The problem with LS is that it sounds like how men would want it to be.

    Oh that the Lord would make me righteous!!! I with Paul exclaim, WHO will deliver me from this body of death? Who? The LORD CHRIST will! Not I, and not yet, but at His coming I will too rejoice that I will be like as to Him whom I love!


  13. Kev, I agree with your concern. When people are told they need to persevere and keep various requirements over the course of their lives to make it to heaven, they are being taught works salvation no matter what philosophy you put behind it. I believe Galatians 1:6-9 is applicable to anybody teaching that, whether Evangelical, Calvinism, Arminian, or Roman Catholic.

  14. To All:

    I appreciate the many reads and various comments above in this current series. Tomorrow morning I am posting a new installment in this series. It is titled, “Does “Final Salvation” Serve as a Cover for Works Salvation? It is drawn primarily from Ps. Tom Stegall’s extended comment above with some additional commentary of my own.


  15. Lou, the concept of a "final salvation" that depends on something and someone other than the Lord for it even happening is one issue, and as you have said, the concept of making our initial salvation (justification) dependent on our own work is a related but similar issue.

    They have this in common, that the error opponents say that it's OK to require such things, because God produces them. It's as if I offered a free piece of land, and when you came, I said, "100,000 dollars please," and when you said you thought it was free, I merely said "God will provide it to you, which makes it free."

  16. Larry:

    Interesting analysis and analogy. I appreciate what you've shared. Has the sound of circular logic; doesn't it?

    Kind regards,


  17. Yes, Lou, it does. I have a comment that comes from looking at Grudem's Systematic Theology (1994) Perseverance of the Saints chapter. You or other friends who discuss that form of Calvinism may have already picked up on this.

    Perseverance -- properly speaking, it's the idea of remaining, or as we might say "staying in."

    In Grudem's analysis, there is actually no "staying in," of any kind that is sufficient to give us any assurance, unless it is there at the present moment. A lifetime of obedience is trumped by "once they stop trusting in Christ and obeying him (I am speaking in terms of outward evidence) [sic] they have no genuine assurance of salvation, and they should consider themselves unsaved."

    i.e., those who stop having "outward evidence" (cf. Mt 23:28 about appearing to other people as righteous) should consider themselves unsaved, no matter what internally or externally has been the case in the past.

    I also want to point out another "trick" in the phraseology there. I've seen this trick from more than one author. They say something like "I'm not judging you, I'm telling you to look at yourself at your own evidence, to determine yourself whether you're saved or not."

    What is the difference between saying to someone "please consider that without current good works no one is saved" and saying "please check yourself to see that you have current good works, without which no one is saved." BOTH are certainly the same judgment about someone.

    Lord bless, and I hope you find this interesting....

  18. Hello Larry:

    I do appreciate the follow-up from you. My guest and I can learn for the study of others such as yourself.

    FWIW, Calvinism’s five points, including perseverance, is the subject of the first and most lengthy appendix in the revised (soon to be released) edition of my book, In Defense of the Gospel.

    For this edition I asked two Calvinists with earned advanced degrees to proof that appendix. Both, while disagreeing with my conclusions, agreed that I did represent the five points accurately.

    Thanks again for coming by.