Today, I am beginning a new weekend only series. Most Friday nights I will be reproducing some of the best from the four years of archived articles at IDOTG. Today we begin with an article written by Pastor George Zeller, which appears as Appendix D in the revised and expanded edition of In Defense of the Gospel. You may return to the original The Relationship Between God’s Grace & Lordship Legalism from 2006 for the thread discussion that took place then or submit your comment here.
This brings us to a teaching of our day, common in Reformed circles, popularly known as LORDSHIP SALVATION.
Essentially Lordship salvation teaches that simple faith in Jesus Christ is not enough for salvation. Something else is needed. A solid commitment to Christ as Lord is needed. A person needs to surrender to the Lordship of Christ. A willingness to obey Christ’s commands is necessary. Also the sinner must fulfill the demands of discipleship or be willing to fulfill them. This includes loving Christ supremely, forsaking possessions, etc. (see Luke 14:25-33).
What do Lordship teachers do with Acts 16:30-31? [“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”] This verse teaches that the sinner must do the believing and that God must do the saving. It teaches that faith and faith alone is necessary for salvation. It does not say, “Believe and surrender to Christ’s Lordship and fulfill the terms of discipleship and thou shalt be saved.” It simply says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” What does it mean to believe? The hymn-writer has explained it in very simple terms, “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word, just to rest upon His promise, just to know THUS SAITH THE LORD!”
Those who teach Lordship salvation are forced to redefine saving faith. It means more than just simple, childlike faith in Jesus Christ. They might say something like this: “We believe in Acts 16:31 just as much as you do, but you need to understand what the word ‘believe’ really means. ‘Believe’ means more than just believe. Saving faith involves much more.” What does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Lordship salvation teachers would say that it involves the following: It means surrendering to His Lordship. It means turning from sin. It means submitting to His authority and to His Word. It means obeying His commands, or at least having a willingness to obey. It means fully accepting all the terms of discipleship.
Consider this last statement. Does saving faith really involve accepting all the terms of discipleship? Does saving faith really include such requirements as loving Christ supremely, forsaking all that one has, denying self, etc. (Luke 14:25-33, etc.)? A saved person should do all of these things, but he does not do these things in order to be saved. He is saved because he throws himself upon the mercy of a loving Saviour who died for him. One reason why he needs to be saved is because he does not love Christ supremely. He is guilty of breaking the greatest commandment! It is not our COMMITMENT that saves us, it is our CHRIST who saves us! It is not our SURRENDER that saves us, it is our SAVIOUR who does! It is not what I do for God; it’s what God has done for me.
Avoid the dangerous error of taking what should be the RESULT of salvation and making it the REQUIREMENT of salvation: It is because I am saved that I surrender to His Lordship (Rom. 12:1-2). It is because I am saved that I turn from sin and begin to learn what it means to live unto righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). It is because I am saved that I follow Him in willing obedience (1 John 2:3-5). It is because I am saved that I agree to the terms of discipleship and begin to learn all that discipleship involves (Luke chapter 14).
It is because I am saved that I submit to His authority over every area of my life (Rom. 6:13). I do these things because I am saved by the grace of God, not in order to be saved. Do not turn the results into requirements! Don’t turn the grace of God into legalism [adding unbiblical requirements to the gospel message].
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.
Salvation involves Christ loving me (Rom. 5:8; Gal. 2:20); discipleship involves me loving Christ (Matthew 10:37). Because we are justified freely by His grace we measure up to the full demands of God’s righteousness in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). Because we are frail we often fail to measure up to the full demands of discipleship (Luke 14:25-33). The requirements of discipleship are many; the requirement for salvation is simple faith and trust in the Saviour.
SITE PUBLISHER’S NOTE:
Please visit the Middletown Bible Church site for a host of articles by George Zeller on a wide range of theological concerns.
Brother George Zeller wrote one of two forewords for my new book. Continue to Available Now: What to Expect, 4 where you may read his foreword and an excerpt from In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation.