Recently, at the church I attend, a deacon got up in front of the AWANA Sparks as a guest speaker. The children ranged from ages five through eight. What greatly saddened my heart was his message to the children, a message on Lordship Salvation. He began by asking the question: What must you do to be saved? Some of the children said, “Believe on Jesus,” and some said, “Trust Jesus as your Savior.” The teacher kept looking for a different answer. Finally he stopped after one girl said, “Accept Jesus into your heart.” The teacher looked at her, and said, “That’s not in the Bible.” What followed was a definition of repentance that included: Repentance equals change of mind, plus change of heart, plus change of purpose. “Jesus wouldn’t want to come into your dirty heart.” “You must clean it up!” He said that this should be done by, “forsaking and turning from your sin in repentance, only then can you believe on Christ.”
His basic point here was that they had to make Jesus Lord of their life to be born again. This was followed up by statements saying that unless you repent you will perish and that you can only be saved God’s way. These statements contained elements of truth, but were being used to perpetuate an error. The incredible thing of it all was that most of the children had it right, but the speaker changed the terms of the gospel negating faith and believing in Jesus Christ to be saved.
It truly is heart breaking to see the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the gospel spreading throughout many local fundamental Baptist churches. No church is totally immune. Lordship Salvation theology is reaching the unsuspecting through various mediums, primarily the Internet. Believers must be vigilant in watching for error concerning the gospel.
This brings up the question: What should be done about the intrusion of Lordship Salvation into Bible believing churches? The problem is complicated by several factors. This article will look at three.
First is the spread of certain Calvinistic or Reformed views. These views can cause a person to be more accepting of the Lordship position. One of the most egregious errors and pathway to Lordship Salvation is the extra-biblical teaching that regeneration must precede faith. That is a lost man must be regenerated, i.e., born again, prior to and apart from faith before he can believe in and receive Jesus Christ. (See articles below for additional study.)
I have friends who say that “Calvinism is Lordship.” We recognize there are a significant number of men who are largely Calvinistic in their theology, but reject Lordship Salvation.
“The lordship salvation view did not begin in the 1950s. In reality the view is as old as covenant reformed theology, with which it is very compatible, although not all who embrace a nondispensational theology subscribe to lordship salvation, and some dispensationalists embrace it. [Walter] Chantry was right when he said lordship salvation ‘is largely associated with Reformed theology (and rightly so).’ Supportive of this is the fact that the most recent full-scale defense of lordship salvation from one [John MacArthur] who claims to be a dispensationalist cites dozens of Reformed writers such as O. T. Allis, Berkhof, Boice, C. Hodge, J. I. Packer, Pink, and Warfield.” (Dr. Robert P. Lightner, Sin, the Savior, and Salvation, 1991, pp. 203-4.It is important for church leaders and members to be able to recognize the spread of error regarding salvation in their own church. Churches may have to make tough decisions concerning the development of a more complete doctrinal statement if the existing statement does not provide adequate protection from error. Pastors should make sure that any teaching in the church aligns with the church’s doctrinal position so as not to cause confusion. This should include classes, discipleship, youth programs, Bible studies, and special events. It could only take one person to stir up division and offense within a local church through contrary doctrine if it goes unnoticed and unchecked (Rom. 16:17-18).
Second, there are many people in churches today who are not well-grounded in basic Bible doctrine. Men like John MacArthur and John Piper have written books that cloud, complicate and confuse the gospel. Apart from being equipped to read with discernment what is being taught, and testing those things against the Scriptures good people could be drawn toward and fall into the trap of Lordship Salvation. Some Christian colleges and seminaries are tolerating and/or teaching Lordship Salvation in classrooms and chapel. Advocates of LS are being recognized and honored. Pastors and parents are facing a tough decision. Has the time come to withdraw support of those colleges and seminaries that are content on blazing a path of compromise even on the gospel? We certainly need to redouble our effort to disciple new believers on the foundations of our faith. Our churches should be full of members who can recognize error, lovingly/effectively recover those in error and put up a militant defense against the spread of error.
Third, there is a growing resentment in my generation toward the past generation. Some remember their childhood and teenage years with all the rules yet with all of the inconsistency among parents and church leaders. Some students who I went to Northland Baptist Bible College with are now bitter against the fundamental Baptist church. Others never took hold of the doctrine that they were taught. They are now being drawn and welcomed by conservative, non-separatist evangelicals who are the prime advocates of Lordship Salvation and its insidious spread. The good news is that the Lordship Salvation error does not have to continue to spread to the next generation.
In conclusion we see that Lordship Salvation has intruded into our churches and it is aided by the advancement of Reformed views, the lack of doctrinally grounded church members, and the reaction to the failures of some within church leadership. Children must hear a consistent, Biblically correct, gospel message. They must see that we practice what we believe and preach. For that to be possible we must, by God’s grace and personal sanctification, be the Christians that we claim and God desires us to be. As Christians we must, therefore, stand against those doctrines and teachings that go against scripture whether the propagators of error are unregenerate or believers. We must contend for the faith once delivered (Jude 3) to expose, retard and reverse the spread of Lordship Salvation.
Your brother in Christ,
Brother Jim Floyd is a graduate of Northland Baptist Bible College with a degree in Biblical Counseling. He worked as a Christian camp counselor for three summers, participated in short term mission work, and helped with a church plant. He currently assists with the discipleship ministry in his local church.
Can an Unregenerate Person Believe the Gospel?
The Danger of Reformed Theology
Impossible Decision, John 16:7-11
What is Lordship Salvation & Why Does It Matter?