July 14, 2010

Lordship Salvation: Forgotten Truth or a False Doctrine?, Part 2

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Last week we began with Part One of this two part series by Dr. Manfred Kober from 1989 as it appeared in Faith Baptist Theological Seminary's Faith Pulpit. This series is as compelling an exposure of and polemic against the egregious errors of Lordship Salvation for today as it was in 1989. I encourage you to read and prayerfully consider this important ministry of warning from Dr. Kober.

Several days ago my wife and I were discussing the matter of Lordship salvation. Our eleven-year-old daughter, Christa, overheard us and asked, “Daddy, what is Lordship salvation?” I replied that it is the view that believing in Christ as Savior is not enough. A person also needs to let Christ control every thought and action to be truly saved. Christa's perceptive reply was, “Well, Daddy, then no one can be saved, can he?”

And so it is. If God expects total submission of our body, soul, spirit, heart and mind for salvation, no one can possibly be saved. Total submission like complete sanctification is only achieved when the believer enters the presence of Christ.

It is difficult to conceive of a more crucial question in Christianity than this: What is the condition for salvation? What do I need to do to be saved? The answer that Paul gives to that question in Acts 16:31 is “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Over one hundred times in the New Testament faith is mentioned as the only condition for salvation. Yet a controversy is raging in evangelical circles. Shrill voices are telling us that individuals are not genuinely saved unless they believe and submit. In other words, salvation is dependent on faith plus dedication. One cannot be a Christian, we are told, without being a disciple. Salvation by faith alone is called “a notable heresy” (Tozer, “I Call It Heresy!” p. 9). It is labeled a "heretical and soul destroying practice" (Chantry, “Today’s Gospel Authentic or Synthetic?” p. 68). Men who teach that salvation is by faith alone are “wrongly dividing the Word of Truth” (MacArthur, “The Gospel According to Jesus.” p. 197).

In Part I we discussed I. The Contemporary Problem of Lordship Salvation, and, II. The Crucial Prerequisite for Salvation. Now let us note:

III. Some Compelling Proofs against Lordship Salvation:

MacArthur continually stresses the idea that the call to salvation is “a call to discipleship under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. To respond to that call is to become a believer. Anything less is simply unbelief” (p. 30). This position is easily refuted by Biblical examples.

A. The Example of Uncommitted Believers:

1. Lot:

The life of Lot affords an illustration of a life-long rejection of the Lordship of God. If it were not for the references to Lot as a just man in II Peter 2:7-8, one could seriously question his salvation. His continuous disobedience, compromise, and carnality did not prevent him from being positionally righteous.

2. The Ephesian believers:

The saints at Ephesus were unyielding at the time of salvation. As Christians they continued their pagan practices for at least one and a half years before they were willing to submit to the Lordship of Christ and burn their books of magic (Acts 18:19).

3. Peter:

The Apostle Peter demonstrates a definite lapse from total dedication. His words in Acts 10:14, “Not so Lord” were a sign of unyieldedness after he had been Spirit filled at Pentecost (Acts 2:4).

Lot, Peter, and the Ephesians are examples of carnal individuals who nonetheless were genuinely saved. In contrast, MacArthur says that “those unwilling to take on this yoke cannot enter into the saving rest He offers” (p. 112). He insists that “‘Faith’ that rejects His sovereign authority is really unbelief” (p. 28). MacArthur not only denies that carnal believers are genuinely saved, but he further accuses dispensationalists of inventing “this dichotomy carnal/spiritual Christian” (p. 30). “Contemporary theologians have fabricated an entire category for this type of person--‘Carnal Christian’” (p. 129).

In fact the Bible speaks of carnal believers. In I Corinthians 3, Paul addresses the Corinthian brethren as “carnal,” as “babes in Christ” who are “yet carnal . . . and walk as men” (vv. 1, 3). Genuine believers are called carnal and described as walking like the unsaved in envyings, strive, and division. Similarly, Peter says that genuine Christians can be guilty of gross crimes (I Peter 4: 15).

Why would MacArthur label this Biblical concept a contemporary invention? Is the category of carnal Christians really one of the “unwarranted divisions of truth” (p. 27) set up by dispensationalists?

B. The Exhortation of Romans 12: 1-2:

The Apostle Paul pleads with believers to submit to the Lordship of Christ. These individuals had been justified by faith (Rom. 5:1), were being led by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14) and would never be separated from the love of God (Rom. 8:39). Yet these saints were enjoined to “present their bodies a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1) rather than to serve sin or let sin rule them (Rom. 6:6). According to the Lordship Salvation view, these individuals were never genuinely saved. MacArthur says “Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything” (p. 78). “Forsaking oneself for Christ’s sake is not an optional step of discipleship subsequent to conversion: it is the ‘sine qua non’ of saving faith” (p. 135). Paul says that submission, sacrifice, and service are incumbent upon every believer after salvation. MacArthur says they are indispensable for salvation.
Proper exegesis and personal experience do not support Lordship salvation.
Thomas L. Constable is correct in observing that while “surrender is certainly God's desire for every Christian, it is not a condition of salvation. If it were, it would be a work” (Walvoord: A Tribute. “The Gospel Message” p. 209).

C. The Meaning of the title “LORD”:

The term “Lord” can indeed mean Master, but in the New Testament it has various meanings. When used in the salvation passages, Lord especially emphasizes the deity of Christ. Paul’s statement in Romans 10:9-10 is “misunderstood when it is made to support the claim that one cannot be saved unless he makes Jesus Lord of his life by a personal commitment . . . Paul is speaking of the objective lordship of Christ, which is the very cornerstone of faith” (Everett F. Harrison, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol. X, 112).

Those who insist on Lordship salvation maintain that our position is one of “easy believism” or “cheap grace.” Ryrie rightly objects to this charge by noting that “it is not easy to believe, because what we ask the unsaved person to believe is not easy. We ask that he trust a Person who lived 2,000 years ago, whom he can only know through the Bible, to forgive his sins. We’re asking that he stake his eternal destiny on this” (Basic Theology, p. 339, emphasis in the original). Salvation is free. Lordship is very costly. Faith is a gift bestowed by God upon unbelievers. Discipleship is a commanded work of obedience for believers. Both faith and discipleship are absolutely important, the one for salvation, and other for sanctification. To deny the difference between saviorhood and lordship is to distort the gospel--and that is dangerous!

Reprinted by permission from the March and April/May 1989 editions of the Faith Pulpit, a publication of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, Ankeny, Iowa. (bold added)

Faith Pulpit, Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, April/May '89 - Manfred E. Kober, Th.D.

For related study see- John MacArthur's Discipleship Gospel


  1. Thanks Lou, for posting this two part series. Christ told His disciples that even a child could understand and believe. Those who espouse a LS salvation have so distorted the Gospel that a child could not believe. Kober's opening illustration is quite telling, "out of the mouth of babes."

    On a different note, I have a 1994 edition of JM's book, The Gospel According to Jesus. If anyone has both the 1988 and 1994 editions and can transfer the citations from the first edition page numbers to their corresponding second edition page numeration it would be greatly appreciated. Not that I doubt Kober, but was wanting to see the original sources.

  2. Brian:

    Thanks for the comment on this outstanding series. In my intro to this second installment I think I said it all. This series is as potent a defense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ against Lordship’s man centered, non-saving message today as it was in 1989.

    I have all three editions of JMac’s TGATJ. I could give you that page numeration, but it may a while before I can get to it. If, however, I remember correctly you just need to advance a few pages to find the original quotes in the revised and expanded edition. Not all of them, but many.

    Some of the more notorious quotes from JMac’s original were partially sanitized in the revised edition, but their meaning is no less an assault on the Gospel of grace. I give some examples of this in my book.


  3. “Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything” (p. 78)

    “Forsaking oneself for Christ’s sake is not an optional step of discipleship subsequent to conversion: it is the ‘sine qua non’ of saving faith” (p. 135)

    I have come to believe that the issue in the LS debate is not really discipleship or living obediently to the Lord. I notice when we affirm salvation for the lost and discipleship for the saved, that is not enough. It does not matter that we affirm discipleship. We must affirm discipleship as a prerequisite to salvation before they will be satisfied. This shows that discipleship is not the real issue. If a shallow, disobedient church was what they were really concerned about they would be glad to have allies in everyone who urges the believer to walk in a manner worthy of his calling. But we do that and yet the battle rages.

    In another place MacArthur said:

    Biblical justification must be earnestly defended on two fronts. No-lordship theology (the error we dealt with in the November/December issue of Pulpit) twists the doctrine of justification by faith to support the view that obedience to God's moral law is optional. This teaching attempts to reduce the whole of God's saving work to the declarative act of justification. It downplays the spiritual rebirth of regeneration (2 Cor. 5:17); it discounts the moral effects of the believer's new heart (Ezek. 36:26-27); and it makes sanctification hinge on the believer's own efforts. It tends to treat the forensic element of justification—God's act of declaring the believing sinner righteous—as if this were the only essential aspect of salvation. The inevitable effect of this approach is to turn the grace of God into licentiousness (Jude 4). Such a view is called antinomianism.

    While there is much that can be said about this quote, I want to comment on the part I've bolded. MacArthur says the inevitable result of “no-lordship theology” is licentious antinomianism. He sites Jude 4 which says:

    “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    So John Nelson Darby, William Kelly, and all the original Plymouth Brethren, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Dwight Pentecost, Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, J. Vernon McGee, Earnest Pickering, Miles Stanford, George Zeller, Lou Martuneac, Tom Stegall, D. A. Waite, and who knows how many other men (and women for that matter) who clearly do not demonstrate licentious antinomianism nor teach others to do so have crept in unnoticed, are marked out for condemnation, are ungodly, turn the grace of God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Is this even remotely believable? No. Not by the any stretch of the wildest, most colorful imagination. Yet in spite of the OVERWHELMING amount of evidence to the contrary, MacArthur asserts that the INEVTIABLE result of “no-lordship theology” is antinomian licentiousness.

    ALL of these men teach (or taught when they were alive) by word and example that the believer is to walk worthy of his calling and NOT use his freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. This extremely incomplete list proves the result of “no-lordship theology” is NOT antinomian licentiousness.

    If discipleship is the mark of a true believer, then why are these committed disciples of Christ condemned as licentious antinomians after the manner of Jude 4? Because they do not make “Forsaking oneself for Christ's sake...the sin qua non of saving faith” but place discipleship in the realm of the one who has believed. They are condemned as licentious antinomian heretics in spite of their firm and proven commitment to discipleship and to Christ.

    Therefore, I conclude that discipleship is not the real issue in the LS debate.


  4. What Jan said.


    Isa 55 shows us that salvation is free, because it has been purchased for us. We are not zapped or regenerated in order to give us the moral cash flow to submit. For here is what the Prophet tells us;

    Isa 55:1-3
    1 “Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
    Come to the waters;
    And you who have no money,
    Come, buy and eat.
    Yes, come, buy wine and milk
    Without money and without price.
    2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
    And your wages for what does not satisfy?
    Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
    And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
    3 Incline your ear, and come to Me.
    Hear, and your soul shall live;
    And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—
    The sure mercies of David.

    Oh I love the middle part of verse 3!!!!


    Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God!

    Sing my soul! Praise the Lord! For He is good and has accomplished all on our behalf!


  5. Like so many other issues where one extreme is pitted against the opposite, LS salvation seems to be an overreaction to easy-believism. Neither being the Biblical view of what salvation is. JMac and other proponents of LS have swung the pendulum far to the other side and make salvation pretty much unattainable really for any one.

    If JMac is correct then we must ask about his own salvation when we consider his short-lived change of view on the eternal Sonship of Christ. One could argue that if he were indeed submitted to and completely under the Lordship of Christ, how could he have made such a blatantly unbiblical teaching his own? And then retract it and say he was wrong? If salvation consists of complete surrender to the Lordship of Christ at the moment of salvation then surely by his own standard we must question JMac's own salvation.

    Yes, LS salvation is just as absurd and unscriptural as easy-believism.

  6. That is right Brian. LS and the so-called "Easy-Believism," which in its most extreme form is the Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, GES Crossless interpretation of the Gospel are the polar opposites in the debate in evangelical circles.

    Both are non-saving messages, but from opposite ends of the soteiology pendulum swing.


  7. So John Nelson Darby, William Kelly, and all the original Plymouth Brethren, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Dwight Pentecost, Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, J. Vernon McGee, Earnest Pickering, Miles Stanford, George Zeller, Lou Martuneac, Tom Stegall, D. A. Waite, and who knows how many other men (and women for that matter)

    I forgot H. A. Ironside.


  8. What everyone else said above. :-)

    John MacArthur takes the liberty to turn grace into works from his warped view that a lost person does not have the ability to believe, and therefore must be regenerated in order to believe. Notwithstanding there is no Scriptural support for this.

    Since regeneration is predestined without regard to free will (in JM's view), the lost person essentially has no part at all in his regeneration.

    Therefore, any number of works could be made a requirement for a lost person to be saved, and since God supposedly does it all without human involvement, JM can call this collection of works grace, and therefore redefine faith to mean obedience in doing those works.

    This slight of hand by MacArthur is precisely the insidious sneaking in of false doctrine Scripture speaks of that MacArthur accuses us of!

  9. There's very little more frustrating when speaking with an LS proponent than these two arguments that they will bring up -

    You are confused about Who is responsible for salvation.


    God does the works/doesn't accept the works as payment.

    The implication is that if you say the sinner must repent (as Scripture indicates time and again) then you are reducing God to a puppet of the sinner.

    And since God actually does the works, they are not payment by the sinner... so salvation is still "free" - to which I must ask - If God does it, then why are you so concerned about getting the sinner (or freshly regenerated person...) to promise to do them? If God does them, and doesn't pay any wage to the one who carries out the works, then why does God require you to promise to do them?

    Since there is no scriptural argument for LS theology, they are reduced to philosophical arguments. Frankly I'm getting tired of being accused of infringing on God's fragile sovereignty.

    The fall came because Adam ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of GOOD and evil. God then made man subject to death because if not then man would live for ever and be "like" God.

    Surely God is able to see goodness... why can't the man who ate the fruit of the tree of good and evil?

    If God's sovereignty is destroyed because I can realize I need to be saved, and that He's able to do it... what does this say of the Almighty?


  10. Not to harp on a theme (well, OK. Maybe a little.) but concerning this particular part of the MacArthur quote I posted above:

    No-lordship theology...twists the doctrine of justification by faith to support the view that obedience to God's moral law is optional.

    Chafer says this in The Kingdom in History and Prophecy:

    "The careful student who distinguishes the various purposes of God in the ages has discovered that there is a distinct rule of life and program for service in the present age which can never, reasonably, be confused with that which has gone before, or that which is to follow. It is a serious mistake to press law-observance in the face of repeated revelations that the believer of this age is not under law as his rule of life (Rom. 6:14; 10:4, 5; Gal. 5:18; 2 Cor. 3:11, 17). So also it will be found that, at present, service is the accomplishment of divine undertakings never before revealed, and its motives are alone the mighty governing principles of grace. A real zeal in service will result and a beginning of interest in Bible study will develop when these plain distinctions are carefully taught and observed."


  11. Hi Jan,

    Another frustrating Red Herring is tossed around which goes something like this;

    So you way we are not under the Moral Law? So a Christian can just go around murdering people then?

    I've looked for the terminology "moral law" in Scripture btw and I can't find it. What I do find is the Law of Moses, the Law & The Prophets... nothing about the 10 Commandments (even though they are not all moral) being singled out as some law which must be lived by eternally.


  12. Kev, great point about God's sovereignty!

    The MacArthurites refuse to understand that God in His sovereignty chose to create people with free will, and that by Him honoring man's free will, it does not assault His sovereignty in the least.

    Free will must of a necessity be honored by God (as He designed and foreordained), for without it, love would be a sham. Since God is love, honoring the truth of man's free will also honors the concept of love, and therefore God.


  13. Hey Phil,

    While I agree with your sentiments, I hesitate to use the terminology "Free Will." I can't see how a created being can have free will, we can have volition - which within the bounds of our ability and authority has the same functioning as free will does.

    To demonstrate the difference between free will and volition try to fly.

    It is beyond your ability and authority to fly, so you do not actually have free will.

    However, you can build an airplane and fly that way, so you do have volition.

    God, the Creator, has free will because everything He speaks is so. We can exercise volition up to the point that the Creator has given us ability and authority - and no more.

    The limit of that volition is what is of primary importance with regard to Salvation. I believe that since the Bible clearly says the sinner is without excuse that is must therefore be within the sinner's volition to believe.


  14. Hello Kev, I meant the term in the sense of freedom to willfully make moral choices that one has the responsibility to make.

    I guess I was describing volition. :-)

  15. The "no lordship" folks are missing the point of salvation. We must submit to Christ completely, or else we are not saved.

    Jesus clearly said we are not worthy of Him if we love anyone or anything more than Him. That's not negotiable. He's clearly talking about salvation there. To say He will save those who do not submit to Him is to call Christ a liar in Matthew 10 and elsewhere.

    Even Romans 10:9 clearly says we must confess Christ as Lord, and verse 10 says our confession is tantamount to repentance.

    But the biggest lie I see perpetuated here and elsewhere is the idea that "lordship salvation" (to use the terminology that describes Biblical salvation) adds works to grace. That is a denial of the reality of saving grace. Yes, Christ made an impossible demand on us when He called us to believe. But He supplies the grace to have faith (Ephesians 2:8) and He supplies the grace to repent (Acts 11:18). It has to be hard to believe so that we can understand God's bountiful richness of grace to us.

    My brothers, please yield yourselves to God's word on this issue.

  16. Micah:

    I’m sorry to read and have to say that you bring the classic errors that lead to Lordship Salvation. You are confusing discipleship with salvation, which MacArthur does. You are forcing into and extracting from passages things that are not there to float Lordship’s man-centered message.

    You furthermore bring Calvinism’s extra-biblical teaching such as regeneration before faith and faith is the gift of God to the discussion.

    I’m sorry, but you have been ruined with this teaching. I am hopeful you can be recovered from these egregious errors, but I will not have them posted here and expose the unsuspecting to them.

    Kind regards,


  17. But the biggest lie I see perpetuated here and elsewhere...

    There are possibly other important points in Micah's comment that deserve a response, but this one has arrested my attention.

    Micah does not understand our position. In order for us to be lying*, we would have to be deliberately misrepresenting the LS position. This is not the case. As we see it, this is what the result of the LS gospel is. We understand that it is not the desire of LS teachers to be regarded as teaching works salvation. We (I anyway) also understand that you do not see yourselves as doing so. We are not lying about you. We are trying to explain why we see that this is what you are doing, albeit inadvertently. Yet, in spite of the amount of “cyber ink” that has been spilled on explaining our position on this, we are now being called liars. It does not seem to matter what kind of evidence we present. I myself have recently written an article on this blog that points out how it is that people come to the conclusion that LS requires works for salvation (not FROM or BECAUSE OF salvation, but FOR salvation).


    I closed the article with this:

    There is an important lesson here for Dr. MacArthur. It is the editor’s job to take unclear portions of text and reword them for clarity. It would seem that whatever Dr. MacArthur’s original work said, the editor felt it was not clear and adjusted it for clarity. The offensive sentences in the original were the outcome. Thus we see the teaching of Dr. MacArthur distilled and clarified through an editor’s eyes. In other words, the offensive text is what the editors understood Dr. MacArthur to be teaching. This is not the first time this has happened, as Phil Johnson was rebuked for the same error in his wording a number of years prior. Dr. MacArthur (and Phil Johnson) should take notice. This is how his teaching has appeared on more than one occasion to more than one audience of publishers. If he does not want to be (mis)taken as a preacher of works righteousness then he would do well to clarify and consistently present his position accordingly, lest someone else clarify it for him again in a way he does not like.

    And now I will say it again. If LS advocates do not want to have it said that they preach a works gospel then they need to change how they speak, as this is how they are heard. We do not lie when we tell them what we hear them saying.

    *I am not sure how it is that we could be both misunderstanding the point of salvation and liars at the same time. To speak from a position of misunderstanding is not the same thing as deliberately telling a known untruth. While misunderstanding will cause incorrect/inaccurate things to be said, it is not the same as lying. Lying requires the person to know they speak in error.



  18. ...Cont.

    There is more on this too. I have been told by someone in my personal life that in fact it is NOT the editor's job to rewrite text for the author. Editors request the author to rewrite unclear portions themselves. Well, if that is the case then those words in Hard to Believe were MacArthur's original words after all (or possibly Phil Johnson's, as he edits much of what MacArthur writes) and printed just as they were. In either case, there were at least two complaints about those words; one from Tim Challies who is a staunch LSer, and one from Gary Gilley who does not quite agree with MacArthur on LS but still appreciates his work a great deal. And Gilley asked because his readers approached him about it, so how many people saw works in those sentences? Either they were originally written by John MacArthur, Phil Johnson with (presumably) MacArthur's approval, or an editor who thought that was what he was trying to say. And the fact that the revised version still has eternal life as a reward that only comes from faithfully following Jesus on the back cover does not help matters at all. Add to that the fact that Phil Johnson was sent back to the drawing board to rewrite cover copy for an earlier MacArthur book per that email sent to Lou (see the beginning of my article for that reference).... I will it say again: THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME THIS HAS HAPPENED. And this is only one case! There is no lie here.

    But on the subject of lies, I would point out that this sense of being lied about is not at all unknown to us. We (and the Arminians also) have been dealing with “lies” against us for ages. They are an incredibly frustrating trial to endure. Some of those “lies” are 1) we deny the sovereignty of God; 2) we believe we save ourselves; 3) the end of what we (not the Arminians) hold INEVITABLY results in Antinomianism, as I noted in a comment above. (See the rather long, though partial list I posted of men who give the “lie” to that idea.) 4) that WE teach works righteousness! (Is this not getting ridiculous?)

    Must we now add to this list the “lie” that we propagate lies?

    As someone who has tasted what it is like to feel his position is being lied about, I would like to hope Micah would find the sensation compelling enough to investigate how the LS side uses the “tactic”* of “lying” as they misrepresent our position. Whether or not those common misrepresentations are actually deliberate and therefore lies I do not know. But I do know they are wrong, yet they are perpetuated and even relied upon to make the case.

    *Perhaps, if this is not deliberate on their part, tactic is not the best word and in the interest of Christian charity and grace I will acknowledge that. However, I cannot think of another one at the moment so I have put tactic in quotes.


  19. MacArthur is a questionable Bible teacher. He brings legalism into the gospel message. For being such a stickler on what is req'd for salvation he sure is missing a very important part of salvation. He has never made a conscious committment to Christ. This youtube video airs his idea of how it was that he thinks he came to be saved, simply by osmosis or something to that effect. One would think that if he is such a staunch believer in following the rules that he would've made darn sure he was saved by saying the sinner's prayer. He has not had a conversion experience and admits it!! I think we should question his salvation because he distorts Biblical truth and doesn't even have a true born-again experience!!? http://www.youtube.com/user/NotYourTypicalNegro#p/u/33/P26_7R7m9AE
    This is part 1 of 3 of a youtube video by a gentleman who brings to light erroneous teachings in the church.