September 30, 2010

Salvation and Discipleship by Dr. Rick Flanders

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

One of the most hotly debated issues in the Lordship Salvation (LS) controversy revolves around the doctrines of salvation and discipleship. Most LS advocates see these as one and the same. LS advocates blur the lines of distinction, which creates an evangelistic message that conditions the reception of eternal life on a lost man’s upfront commitment to what should be the results of a genuine conversion in discipleship.

In one of the clearest expressions of portraying discipleship as though it is the key to salvation MacArthur wrote, “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.” (Hard to Believe, p. 6.)
That teaching by MacArthur exemplifies one of the egregious errors that gave the NT church the works based, man-centered theology of Lordship Salvation.
How can the Scriptures teach that salvation is a free gift of God if the human cost to become a disciple, that is, to be born again, is very great as Lordship Salvation advocates insist? Salvation is either the free gift of God, or it is costly to man. The Bible teaches that “the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23), but discipleship or following Christ is costly (Luke 14:26-27). (IDOTG, pp. 73-74)

The issue is, How can my sins be forgiven? . . . Through faith I receive Him and His forgiveness. Then the sin problem is solved, and I can be fully assured of going to heaven. I do not need to believe in Christ’s second coming in order to be saved. . . . But I do need to believe that He died for my sins and rose triumphant over sin and death. I do not need to settle issues that belong to Christian living in order to be saved. (So Great Salvation, p. 40.)
Dr. Rick Flanders wrote an article in 2007 titled, Salvation and Discipleship that addresses this vital issue in the Lordship Salvation controversy. The article first appeared at the Baptist College of Ministry website and with the author’s permission it is being reproduced here as a multi-part series. I am hopeful every guest will read this series with discernment and prayerfully consider the plain teaching of Scripture as Dr. Flanders presents it.


“As He spake these words, many believed on Him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My Word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:30-32)

His words were mysterious, and yet compelling and powerful. They were spoken in response to the arguments the Pharisees had made against His claims that day. It was the day He had rescued the woman taken in adultery from her condemners, and then had said, “I am the Light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

After His critics objected to Him referring to Himself in such a way, He expanded on His claims. He said that He is from above, that God is His Father, that He is not of this world, that if they will not believe in Him they will die in their sins, and that He even has the right to use the divine name “I AM” in reference to Himself (read John 8:12-27). These were astounding claims, but somehow they were convincing and convicting to the hearers. Then He spoke of a day that was coming when these very critics would lift Him up on a cross.

“When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do those things that please him.” (John 8:28-30) Whenever Jesus spoke of His being “lifted up,” He was talking about being crucified (see also John 3:14-15 and 12:23-33). He said that the events surrounding His sacrifice at Calvary would convince even these hearers of His claims. His words were so powerful that many of those who heard him say them “believed on him.” Readers of the book of John recognize this phrase as describing the decision that saves the sinner and gives him eternal life. That’s what we see in John 1:12-13, 3:36, 6:47, and so many other passages that speak of believing on Him for everlasting life! The hearers believed on Him and were saved. To believe on Jesus is to depend on Him for salvation, to trust Him for deliverance from eternal condemnation, to rely on Him for the forgiveness of sins and eternal redemption. They had become believers in Christ, and therefore they were saved.

When He knew that they had trusted Him for their salvation, Jesus told them to “continue in my word” and become His “disciples indeed.” Then He promised them that if they would follow Him as His disciples, they would “know the truth” and the truth would make them free. This promise relates back to what they had heard Him say to the woman after assuring her that He would not condemn her (see verses 11-12): “Go, and sin no more.” When a sinner is rescued from the condemnation of sin, he can then experience deliverance from the power of sin in his life. He had just said that those who follow Him will not “walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Release from condemnation ought to motivate the forgiven one to follow the Savior, and this life of commitment to Him will bring the power to overcome sin.

It is very important to understand the difference between believing on Christ for salvation and following Him in discipleship.

These concepts are certainly connected, but the book of John makes it clear that they are not the same. Believers will fail to live a holy life unless they understand discipleship, and they will lack assurance of their salvation if they confuse salvation with discipleship.

Have you noticed that a distinction is made in the Bible between believers and disciples? In John 2:11 we are told that Jesus did His first miracle “in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him.” Back in chapter 1, we are told about the men who decided to follow the Lord Jesus, and in chapter 2, verse 2, they are called “his disciples.” Having seen His miraculous power, these disciples “believed on him.” They became believers.

In John 6 we read about a time when “many of his disciples went back, and walked with him no more.” It happened after they heard Him make some bold statements about Himself and about receiving eternal life through Him (read verses 47-68). “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” They had promised to follow Him as their Master and Teacher, but now they realized that He wanted them to depend on Him for their very salvation, and they just were not ready for this. When they complained, Jesus told them, “There are some of you that believe not.” They were disciples of Jesus, but not believers. The prime example of an unbelieving disciple was Judas the traitor, and the scripture says as much in verses 64 through 71. The unbelievers (including Judas) among them were real disciples of Jesus. It is the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit, that calls them His disciples. They were indeed disciples of Jesus, but they had never believed on Him as their Savior. Let us learn what the distinction is.


Please continue with Part Two of this series.

Dr. Rick Flanders has an itinerant preaching ministry for revival. He can be contacted at drrickflanders@gmail.com. Dr. Rick Flanders Revival Ministries

38 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post.

    The Lordship Salvation message takes the sinner's eyes off of the Cross.

    Salvation is not what I can do for the Lord. Salvation is receiving what the Lord has done for me.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anon:

    Very well said in concise terms. I rarely have heard any LS advocate, when giving an evangelistic message, preach the cross as you have noted. They continually drill home to the sinner what he must do FOR salvation; so wrong! The work of salvation is, as you say, done by Him.

    Check back beginning Monday for the next in the series by Dr. Flanders.


    Lou

    ReplyDelete
  3. To All:

    George Zeller just informed me he has recently revised his chart showing the difference between salvation and discipleship. See-

    A Comparison and Contrast Between
    SALVATION and DISCIPLESHIP


    For example:

    Salvation is believing on Christ (Acts 16:30-31).

    Discipleship is following Christ (Matt. 4:18-22) and learning from Him (Matt. 11:29).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Lou,

    Brother Flanders' point is well made with regard to John 2:11

    This same point is made again in the NT when Paul met the Disciples that had learned from Apollos. Acts 19:1-6

    These men knew of God, new of sin, but didn't know about the provision of Christ. They were not saved, though they were disciples.

    It's a blessing to read this so well presented in Flanders' writing.

    I would add that this is exactly what the LS gospel does for people. It makes them into disciples instead of believers. It makes the foundation of their faith their service instead of Christ's provision.

    Looking forward to Monday.

    Kev

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  5. These concepts [salvation and discipleship] are certainly connected, but the book of John makes it clear that they are not the same. Believers will fail to live a holy life unless they understand discipleship, and they will lack assurance of their salvation if they confuse salvation with discipleship.

    That is the whole thing in a nut shell.

    JanH

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  6. Lou,

    Thanks for posting this series. Bro. Flanders has zeroed in on the definite distinction between salvation and discipleship. Will be looking forward to the next installment.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Part 1

    I would have been more interested to hear Dr. Flander's explanation of the remainder of John 8, rather than splicing his understanding of earlier portions of John. Christ's challenge to "those Jews who had believed Him" a little later was "If you are Abraham's children do the deeds of Abraham". They quickly failed the challenge..."you are doing the deeds of your father...you are of your father the devil". Abraham's kind of faith brings forth deeds, just as the devil's kind of faith brings forth deeds (cf. James 2:19). The issue is not believer vs. disciple as it is Abraham's kind of faith vs. the demons kind of faith. It is interesting to me in the whole debate how the Gospel of John is used and unfortunately, abused. John is very clear in linking salvation with the cost of becoming a disciple: John 12:24-26
    “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him."
    "Loves...loses...hates...keeps...to life eternal". This is the paradox of salvation and it parallels the life of our Lord. Life comes through death. Anyone who loves his life in this world is not game for being spiritually "crucified with Christ" (Gal 2:20). Such a one may embrace a salvation offer that excludes the demand to "hate his life in this world", but it is a delusion. According to Jesus he does not possess eternal life. The truth of John 12:24-26 peppered throughout John:

    “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:19-21)

    “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

    “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)

    “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. (John 7:17)

    “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” (John 8:51)

    “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27-28)

    “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:24) (C.f. (1 Corinthians 16:22), "If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha.")

    Shalom.

    Jason R.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Part 2

    Perhaps the reason some gospel preachers harp on this point to the point that the cross seems minimized is because they are not hearing it at all from some. John emphasizes both the Lordship and Saviourhood of Jesus.

    The Saviorhood: "It is finished" John 19:30

    The Lordship: "Then He said to Thomas...do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:27-31)

    In the resurrection the Saviorhood and the Lordship of Christ meet. If the real significance of the resurrection is believed, then you have saving faith. The essence of the Gospel of John is summarized in Paul's statement: "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). The mouth speaks that which fills the heart. If the true significance of the resurrection has been believed in the heart, then it will proceed out of the mouth, "Jesus is Lord". This is the experience of Thomas and Jesus puts his seal on it as the faith of a true believer.

    "For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living." (Romans 14:7-9)

    Shalom.

    Jason R.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Part 1.5

    The truth of John 12:24-26 peppered throughout John:

    “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:19-21)

    “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

    “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)

    “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. (John 7:17)

    “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” (John 8:51)

    “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27-28)

    “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:24) (C.f. (1 Corinthians 16:22), "If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha.")

    Shalom
    Jason R.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Josh:

    For time sake and what I believe would be avery helpful study for you I am repeating the comment above. Please take the time to follow the link below to Zeller's chart. This is will show you from the Scriptures that salvation and discipleship are two separate and distinct doctrines.

    For example:

    Salvation is believing on Christ (Acts 16:30-31).

    Discipleship is following Christ (Matt. 4:18-22) and learning from Him (Matt. 11:29).



    LM

    See- A Comparison and Contrast Between
    SALVATION and DISCIPLESHIP

    ReplyDelete
  11. Lou,

    I do not know who "Josh" is and have only your half the discussion, but I fear that you are engaging in a form of logical positivism. Indeed, "believing" is not synonymous with "following" but biblically they are inseparably linked. Again, John 10:27-28 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them..." We are not saved by faith plus following, but rather a faith that follows. The issue is the nature of saving faith.

    "Believers" and "Disciples" are not synonymous, but in God's revelation they are used synonymously (i.e. they are used to speak of the same group of people, those reconciled to God). Note the ease with which Luke interchanges these designations in Acts: "believers" (10:45); "brethren" (11:1); "disciples" (11:26); "Christians" (11:26).

    There is a balance to be had between systematic theology and biblical theology. The danger is that we become system driven in our theology rather than driven by exegesis. One must only observe the hyper-Calvinist to see the fruit of a logical, system driven approach. The result is inevitably error.

    Shalom
    Jason R.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Lou-

    From Pastor Zeller's excellent comparison chart we have this:

    Every saved person is saved by faith and faith alone (not by obedience or by surrender or by submission or by love for Christ or by giving up possessions, etc.).

    contrasted with this:

    Every saved person is a follower of Christ because Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice...and they follow Me" (John 10:27). In this sense every saved person is a disciple (follower of Christ), and yet some sheep follow the Shepherd more closely than others.

    Yet somehow MacArthur still manages to consider us Jude 4 antinomians.

    From that I conclude the issue is not about discipleship as both groups insist upon discipleship but somehow our group gets labeled antinomian anyway.

    JanH

    ReplyDelete
  13. Jason:

    I meant Jason, sorry.

    You wrote, “One must only observe the hyper-Calvinist to see the fruit of a logical, system driven approach. The result is inevitably error.”

    IMO, one does not have to observe hyper-Calvinism to find a logical, system approach. Mainstream Calvinism is a system based on a 5-point circular logic, which is error.

    The Calvinist embraces a rationalistic fatalism rather than biblical faith in his approach to theology. This is how he arrives at the conclusions found in Calvinism. A good friend, now with the Lord, provided for me the following explanation.

    Rationalistic fatalism is understandable in light of dictionary usage. According to Franklin's Dictionary & Thesaurus, ‘rationalistic’ is literally: ‘reliance on reason as the basis for the establishment of religious truth,’ and ‘fatalism’ is the ‘belief that fate determines events.’ Of course ‘fate’ is a cause beyond human control to determine. Looking at the statement in this light demonstrates that those referred to rely on reason rather than revelation as the basis for their theological moorings. The ‘circle logic’ of five-point Calvinism is just that for the whole system crumbles when a single link in the chain is broken. One must approach the system with reason rather than faith. This of course leads to the fatalism just mentioned, which holds that God has predetermined the destiny of all human souls and that all the witnessing, praying, and missionary effort in the world will not change the outcome.


    LM

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  14. Lou,

    You are waaaaay off point now. I regret using the "C" word as it was a distraction. The real issue is the nature of saving faith. "The demons also believe". There is more to the Gospel of John than John 3:16. John has much more to say concerning the content, object, and nature of saving faith. See comments above.

    jason

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  15. JanH,

    I don't know as though MacArthur would disagree with the Zeller quote or accuse you of being antinomian based of what you have just written. Be careful about generalizations. Generalizations are useful, but they also lead to people talking past each other in a debate. I have read much of Zeller's stuff and I'm not so sure that he and MacArthur are that far from each other. To-MAE-to/To-MAH-to. All Believers follow Jesus. It is not faith plus works, but rather a faith that works.

    Jason

    ReplyDelete
  16. Jason:

    You gave me a teaching opportunity and that is why I went with that point on Calvinism.


    LM

    ReplyDelete
  17. Part One:

    Jason said: "I would have been more interested to hear Dr. Flander's explanation of the remainder of John 8, rather than splicing his understanding of earlier portions of John. Christ's challenge to "those Jews who had believed Him" a little later was "If you are Abraham's children do the deeds of Abraham". They quickly failed the challenge..."you are doing the deeds of your father...you are of your father the devil". Abraham's kind of faith brings forth deeds, just as the devil's kind of faith brings forth deeds (cf. James 2:19). The issue is not believer vs. disciple as it is Abraham's kind of faith vs. the demons kind of faith. It is interesting to me in the whole debate how the Gospel of John is used and unfortunately, abused. John is very clear in linking salvation with the cost of becoming a disciple: John 12:24-26"

    Jason, you fail to point out that doing outward deeds is not necessarily proof of "saving faith". If the devil can have an appearance as an angel of light, so can his servants. Many of the lost who are involved in human religions are doing outwardly good deeds. Truly godly deeds are done from a believing heart, but it is a logical fallacy to assume that a believing heart cannot fail to produce such deeds. Scripture clearly shows the existence of carnal saved Christians. See the examples of Ananias and Saphira and Simon the Sorcerer. Abraham's faith is what believers should aspire to, but to use him as proof that a mature faith is the only faith that saves is ridiculous. Abraham had been saved for many years before Isaac. John 8 can seem to be confusing, until you realize that there are two groups present - believers and unbelievers. When Jesus addresses the believers in the crowd, certain non-believers reply to Him. Also, it is a severe error to assume that James 2 is speaking of eternal salvation from hell. It isn't. It's concerning preservation of believers' mortal lives through trials and persecution, with a view to preservation from chastisement, and spiritual health.

    Jason quoted: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

    It's clear that the issue here is fruit (growth/maturity in the Christian life), and not the experience of the new birth. Just as Jesus, who as the Holy One died to bring about much fruit (a multitude of the saved), Christians as a holy people are to follow the same example to die to themselves in order to bear much fruit. This is not a call for lost people to participate in. This is not a salvific message which converts a lost person to saved. If it is, have you truly done so 100%? What is your proof if you claim to have done/do so?

    Jason quoted: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him."

    It should be obvious that the phrase "life eternal" is not limited only to usage in Scripture in describing the initial born-again experience. It connotates a certain quality of that life. Those that are saved, and who also serve God will have a greater experience of that life than the saved who do not. Jesus did not merely have the goal of giving life, but of giving it abundantly. Just as a faithful servant in this life is close to his master wherever he is, and is privy to his business, so it will be in eternity. The faithful servant will have a place of ruling with Christ. This cannot be said of the saved servant who had not been faithful in service to His Lord. Rewards are in view here, not salvation from hell.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Jason:

    One LS advocate wrote this,

    But Lordship (Salvation) sees repentance as more than just a change in dependence. It is also a change of allegiance.”

    In reply I cited the following passage of Scripture and asked a follow-up question.

    Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,” (Jn. 12:42-43).

    The Bible says they were not open about, and would not confess a “change of allegiance.”

    Jason, did they biblically repent; were they believers?


    LM

    ReplyDelete
  19. Lou,

    I would agree that repentance includes both a change in dependence as well as a change in allegiance. I believe this primarily because of the passages below. Because of these passages, I would see it biblically incongruous to say a person has truly repented (and in turn saved) if they say "I believe (depend) on Jesus, but am still serving (in allegiance to) Krishna." Anyone can say "I believe/depend on Christ", but their life tells where their allegiance truly lies (see passages below). The Bible only teaches there will be perfection in heaven. This is not about perfection, but a change in direction (or to use you word, a change in allegiance). See Below:

    (Acts 26:16-20) ‘But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ “So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.

    and

    (Romans 2:5-11) But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.

    Shalom

    Jason

    ReplyDelete
  20. Jason:

    So, if I understand you correctly you read this passage (see bold) and conclude they were unsaved believers?

    Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,” (Jn. 12:42-43).

    ReplyDelete
  21. Lou,

    In reference to Jn 12:42-43, I do feel I owe you an answer.

    1. In the preceding context, John has readied us for what he says in 12:42-43 with the words of Jesus, “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal." (John 12:25). Again, I see "life eternal" as "eternal life" (John 3:16). If John intends a distinction, I have not been able to discern it.

    2. Throughout John I see a pattern of pseudo-faith. Irony is a distinguishing mark of John throughout his gospel. The first occurrence is at the 1st passover: Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting [Greek: pisteuo] Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man." (John 2:23-25). This initial response by the masses sets the tone for the rest of the book. The next instance of irony in regard to the response of the masses is in John 6. The masses pursue Jesus again, but by the end of the chapter,"As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore." (Again, I do not see an exegetical/inductive basis for making a distinction between a disciple and a believer. I see the the 3rd and climactic instance of this kind of irony coming in the week leading up to the crucifixion. The week begins with the triumphal entry which even his enemies interpret as the masses as embracing (believing in) Jesus. Then we have statements like John 12:42-43 (you citation) which seems that Jesus is gaining ground and then boom, they all turn of Jesus and crucify Him! Again, what Irony. I see this all building to the genuine example of faith John wants us to know about and emulate - the faith of doubting Thomas "My Lord and My God" which Jesus places his stamp of acceptance. John then immediately leads into his own personal exhortation for his reads to believe like Thomas did. Thomas' response is what was lacking in the groups I just mentioned. This is how i see John unfolding. Not every instance of faith in John is faulty, but i believe the ones I have zeroed in on here were, except Thomas.

    3. I do thinks that some of the rulers did at some point come to a Thomas kind of faith. Joseph and Nicodemus were rulers and eventually openly identify with Jesus in burying Him. They are pointed out by John as exception to the categories he had been dealing with throughout the book - "After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body. Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came..."(John 19:38-39). A repentant faith starts in the heart. There comes a point when it will show its self in openly identifying with Christ.

    Finally, I would make a distinction between Peter and the rulers of 12:42-43. There are believers, like Peter who openly identify with Christ, but than fail at critical moments of testing. I believe this is why John is the only writer who includes his restoration in his Gospel. The rulers are in a different category. John specifically points them out as those who "loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God". "Loved" is a very strong word in John. Again, i would tie these folks back to 12:25.

    Shalom

    Jason

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  22. Lou,

    With reference to "unsaved believers". Yes, they were unsaved, but no they were not genuine believers. "The demons also believe and tremble". It does not matter what you believe is in view in James 2, James makes it clear that their are different kinds of faith, one of which the demons exhibit. Again, John prefaces Jesus' public ministry with "Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man." (John 2:23-25) John indicates there was something defective about their faith. "Entrusting" (v24) is the same Greek word as "believed" (v23). You could paraphrase this as "Jesus had no faith in their faith". It was defective, stopping short of genuine faith, the faith of Abraham (8:39) and Thomas (20:27-29).

    Shalom.

    Jason

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  23. P.S.

    I would also add to the list of John's use of irony the passage that began this whole discussion, John 8:31-59. It begins with Jesus speaking to "those Jews who had believed in Him" and ends with "those Jews who had believed in Him" picking up stones to stone Him. There is no mention of a separate group or subgroup in the passage. Jesus challenges their "faith" and it is soon shown faulty. Had they humbled themselves to His truth, they would have been saved and progressively transformed by His truth.

    So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are TRULY disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

    “If anyone is WILLING to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. (John 7:17)




    Shalom.

    Jason

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  24. Jason:

    In the lengthy answer above, is that your way of saying that you believe the men identified in John 12:42-44 who “believed on Him [Jesus]” were unsaved?

    Once you answer please follow up with Phil's comment/questions to you above. Thanks.


    LM

    PS: Comments will publish despite the blogger error message you are getting. Some kind of tech problem.

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  25. Hi Jason-

    MacArthur has done the generalizing when he said that the teaching of No-lordship/free grace inevitably leads to licentiousness:

    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.

    http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/sf-solafide.htm

    Zeller opposes Lordship Salvation but insists (rightly, I believe) that a saved person will demonstrate fruit accordingly. His teaching on discipleship does seem to be similar to MacArthur's but that is my point. The main difference between the LS and FG view is not discipleship. It is where in the equation discipleship is placed. Zeller says before a man can come after Christ in discipleship he must come unto Him for salvation. A full viewing of his chart makes this abundantly clear. But MacArthur calls this antinomianism because it does not require a man to come after Christ in discipleship for salvation. Your astute observation of tomato/tomahto places the burden of proof on MacArthur to show how teaching a free gospel of salvation INEVITABLY leads to antinominaism. He cannot do this, though, because it is not true. In contrast to his broad generalization there is a very long list of fine Godly men who in no way and by no stretch of the most creative imagination can be called antinomian, yet they vehemently oppose(d) Lordship salvation. Zeller, Stegall, and Lou are among them, as well as Ryrie, Ironside, Ridout, Kelly, Chafer, and many others.

    MacArthur says FG teaches that obedience to God's moral law is optional. What we actually say is it that is it not and cannot be made a requirement for salvation. So I would ask MacArthur, optional for what? For proof of salvation, with which we would agree, or for establishment thereof? Or does MacArthur recognize a difference? In what sense is obedience to God's moral law mandatory? What does that obedience accomplish?

    When MacArthur says FG "downplays the spiritual rebirth of regeneration" he says it from the view that regeneration precedes salvation. Therefore, he preaches a gospel that calls for the unsaved to be regenerated prior to believing. Tomato/tomahto becomes tomato sauce before tomatoes.

    This is why Lou, and I, and a number of other non-LS people say the issue is not really discipleship at all but what the gospel is and how a person is saved.

    (One other interesting side note: MacArthur says the teaching of FG makes sanctification hinge on the believers own efforts and then says how the inevitable result of this is antinomianism. Really, the inevitable result of sanctification hinging on the believer's own efforts is not antinomianism at all but is legalism and lots of it.)

    Anyway, all this is to say, it is not I but MacArthur who has done the generalizing.

    JanH

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  26. Lou & Phil,

    The reason I have responded at length is because I believe you are missing the big picture of the Gospel of John. When I look at the whole Gospel of John as it unfolds, it leads me to different conclusions concerning the passages you both have pointed to. "Context is King, Syntax is Queen." The Gospel of John is a UNIT written so that we may believe and have life in His name. Please don't take this as a slam, I mean you no malice, but i feel you cannot see the forest for the trees. I really feel that you are driven by your systematic view of salvation, rather than being exegetically/inductively driven. Comparison charts (I have arleady spoken of generalizations) are wonderful and very useful, but we need to establish the basis for those charts though sound exegesis. Please take this in the spirit it is intended.

    Shalom.

    Jason

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  27. Yes, those of John 12:42-43 are unsaved.

    Cf. also Jn 12:39-43 with 5:44. Both have essentially the same group in view (Jn 1:19, 1:24, 5:33, & 12:42)

    The Writer John's irony, "For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.” These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God." (John 12:39-43)

    Jesus' (who knew what was in man (jn 2:25)) assessment: “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?" (John 5:44)

    Shalom.

    Jason

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  28. Jason:

    Here is the irony...

    You wrote, "The Gospel of John is a UNIT written so that we may believe and have life in His name."

    Then you say that the men in John 12:42-43 are unsaved; men whom the Bible says "believed on Him [Jesus]." Which is it: are men saved (receive eternal life) by faith believing or are they not?


    LM

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  29. I appreciate all the interaction. It has given me much to think about. Phil, I think you had a great observation: "The main difference between the LS and FG view is not discipleship. It is where in the equation discipleship is placed."

    My point was not to make a personal attack. I am not trying to defend MacArthur or anyone else for that matter. My desire was to present the Scriptures. When I study the Bible and specifically John, inductively, I do not find a split between becoming a believer and becoming a disciple or believing in Jesus as Savior and believing on Him as Master (Thomas - "My Lord and my God"). John in his own way shows that faith contains an element of allegiance, again, "My Lord and my God". This is significant given John's purpose statement. Anyway, I've said enough to make it known where I'm coming from.

    Shalom.

    Jason

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  30. Part Two:

    Jason quoted: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him." (John 12:25-26)

    It should be obvious that the phrase "life eternal" is not limited only to usage in Scripture in describing the initial born-again experience. It also denotes a certain quality of life. Those that are saved, and who go on to serve God will have a greater experience of that life than the saved who do not. Jesus did not merely have the goal of giving life, but of giving it abundantly. Just as a faithful servant in this life is close to his master wherever he is, and is privy to his business, so it will be in eternity. The faithful servant will have a place of ruling with Christ. This cannot be said of the saved servant who had not been faithful in service to His Lord. Rewards are in view here, not salvation from hell.

    Jason said: "'Loves...loses...hates...keeps...to life eternal'. This is the paradox of salvation and it parallels the life of our Lord. Life comes through death. Anyone who loves his life in this world is not game for being spiritually "crucified with Christ" (Gal 2:20). Such a one may embrace a salvation offer that excludes the demand to "hate his life in this world", but it is a delusion. According to Jesus he does not possess eternal life. The truth of John 12:24-26 peppered throughout John: “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:19-21)"

    Three times in Romans 5, the Apostle Paul went redundant with "free gift". Isn't "gift" by itself enough to suggest free? Paul no doubt had a reason for stressing the freeness of the gift of eternal life. It's because it is free! All of the saved are positionally crucified with Christ, but not all saints are experientially crucified with Him. Can you honestly state that you are 100% experientially crucified with Him? If not, why not? If this is necessary for salvation from hell, where will you be found in eternity if you are at say 97%? Can you honestly state that you are one of the elect with 100% certainty? If not, why not? Yes, the lost who love wickedness don't come to the light because that it not their desire. How does one practice the truth? Well, first by humbly believing and receiving it. This initial coming to the light by faith causes regeneration in the one that does it. It is his first step to showing that his deeds as a saved person are of God.

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  31. Part Three:

    Jason quoted: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

    The Son commands the lost to believe the Gospel and be saved. To disobey that command is to remain lost. To twist this Scripture like you're doing here is to preach a false gospel of works. Do you always obey the Son? If obedience in all things is required to enter Heaven, then how much disobedience is allowed? How do you know that you qualify?

    Jason quoted: “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)

    The people asked Jesus what they must do to do the work of God. Jesus made it clear that they were to believe in Him, the Son of God. It is only after doing this that people can go on to further obedience.

    Jason quoted: “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. (John 7:17)

    Those who are coming to Christ in faith are doing the will of God. They are then immediately and eternally saved, and they do know that Christ's words are of God. Whether they go on to further obedience in the Christian walk is not guaranteed.

    Jason quoted: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” (John 8:51)

    If you look at verses 43-47 in the same chapter you'll see that the context of "keeps My word" is belief/faith. To make it go beyond that in regard to receiving the free gift of eternal life, is to twist Scripture.

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  32. Part Four:

    Jason quoted: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27-28)

    Literal animal sheep that follow their master are not working. They are merely trusting. This is a picture of childlike faith, and nothing more. To read more into this reveals the lack of ability to recognize and understand figurative illustrations.

    Jason quoted: “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:24) (C.f. (1 Corinthians 16:22), "If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha.")

    And what were the words of Christ concerning how a lost person gets saved? - "whosoever believes". Do you obey the Lord in ALL things? Then how do you know that you love Him? Paul's writing in I Cor. 16:22 would be silly in reference to a lost person, for it is obvious that the lost are already in an accursed state (though not an eternal one if at some point they become a believer before dying). "Accursed" does not necessarily always imply eternal damnation. It could refer to a state of fellowship separation for the believer who turns his back on his Lord.

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  33. Part Five:

    Jason said: "Perhaps the reason some gospel preachers harp on this point to the point that the cross seems minimized is because they are not hearing it at all from some. John emphasizes both the Lordship and Saviourhood of Jesus. The Saviorhood: "It is finished" John 19:30 The Lordship: "Then He said to Thomas...do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:27-31) In the resurrection the Saviorhood and the Lordship of Christ meet. If the real significance of the resurrection is believed, then you have saving faith. The essence of the Gospel of John is summarized in Paul's statement: "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). The mouth speaks that which fills the heart. If the true significance of the resurrection has been believed in the heart, then it will proceed out of the mouth, "Jesus is Lord". This is the experience of Thomas and Jesus puts his seal on it as the faith of a true believer."

    Yes, a true believer initially coming to faith, does recognize Jesus as the Lord. This does not imply an upfront commitment to obey in all things in order to validate faith as "saving faith". Discipleship obedience is only for the saved, for they are the only ones with the enabling power of the Holy Spirit with them.

    Jason quoted: "For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living." (Romans 14:7-9)

    The context here is that we all (the saved) belong to God, and because of that ought not to unfairly judge our brothers. This is not at all a support of your teaching that unless one is living completely for God, that they are lost. For if they were truly living for God, Paul would not have had to deal with them concerning such an obvious mistreatment of their brothers! But in the sense that they were living not of themselves, that was because their lives were hid in Christ as believers. To know this difference is elementary Biblical exegesis.

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  34. It seems strange that Jason would use (doubting) Thomas as THE example of the faith Jesus was looking for. In fact though Jesus accepted his faith, faith that saw and touched, he did not bless it. Rather, he said, "Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29).
    Jon T

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  35. JonT:

    Thanks for adding your observation.


    LM

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  36. Hi Lou,
    I hope you had a very Merry Christmas....
    I was reading your "Best Of" articles and I got confused in this one....I see Flanders as saying you can be a disciple and not be saved but NOT saying that you can be saved and NOT be a disciple and then I see a comment quoting Zellar sayng that you cant be a disciple until you are saved.

    Flanders:
    They were indeed disciples of Jesus, but they had never believed on Him as their Savior. Let us learn what the distinction is


    comment quoting Zellar:
    Zeller says before a man can come after Christ in discipleship he must come unto Him for salvation

    From reading the article it would seem you can follow Christ and not be saved but I dont see it sayng that you can be saved and choose to NOT follow Christ. What is your take on what these two gentlemen are saying?

    Melissa

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  37. Hi Melissa:

    I'm in holiday mode so I'll get back to you on your questions above after the New Year. My oldest son is a Marine and he is home until Sunday. His battalion leaves for Afghanistan in March. My family and I want to give him our full attention for now.


    Lou

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  38. I cannot think of a better thing to do! Tell him thank you for serving our country! Our prayers go with him. Happy New Years to you and your family.

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