May 24, 2011

Lordship Salvation by Rev. Michael McCubbins

The proponents of “Lordship Salvation” say that it is impossible to be saved without recognizing the Lordship of Christ. On the surface, this seems to have merit, but it does not take into account certain indisputable factors in the areas of doctrine, soteriology, appropriation and compromise.

The Doctrine
True Biblical salvation recognizes the absolute deity of Jesus Christ. Simply stated, there is no way that a man can be saved if he rejects that Jesus Christ is God.

However, those that speak of Lordship Salvation are not asking us to simply agree that Christ is God. Instead, Lordship Salvation emphasizes a total submission to the Lordship of Christ. This salvation is dependent upon making Christ “Lord of your life.” This teaching is in direct opposition to Biblical salvation. We affirm in our doctrinal statement that the Bible clearly teaches that salvation “is wholly a work of God, performed from beginning to end by Him.” Therefore, if salvation is “wholly a work of God,” which is appropriated by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, then Lordship Salvation is not the salvation of the Bible.

The Soteriology
Second, Lordship Salvation emphasizes the work of the unsaved man. The unsaved man is told to make Christ Lord over every area of his life instead of simply trusting in the finished work of Christ. Clearly, the Bible never puts the emphasis on the sinner but on the work of Christ for salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
The idea of Lordship salvation shifts the focus away from the work of Christ, who declared unequivocally, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and focuses instead on the work of man to finish his own salvation. This then would lead us to consider a couple of questions:

1. Is it ever appropriate to encourage an unsaved man to focus on his own commitment rather than the commitment of Christ who has promised to finish the good work that He has already paid for?

2. Why is the promise of the Bible “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” never stated as “whosoever committeth” or “whosoever maketh Him Lord?”

The Bible (and the IBFNA doctrinal statement) puts the emphasis on the finished work of Christ not on the work of man.

Third, the Bible clearly states that salvation is the work of God alone and is appropriated by faith. This is expressed more than 600 times in the Bible.
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (I Peter 1:5)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (Romans 4:1-3)

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (I Corinthians 1:21)
When I was dealing with a man who believed in “Lordship Salvation,” he suggested that I did not understand what the word “faith” really meant and referred to his dictionary in an attempt to define the word “faith” as an action or commitment. I suggested that we should instead use the Bible’s definition of faith which we find in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is....” His response to me was that “the Bible is not our authority on the meaning of words like ‘faith;’ the dictionary is our authority.” As a Baptist, the Bible is my authority in all matters of which it speaks, and in all matters to which it addresses itself. I will, and must reject the dictionary when it disagrees with the Bible. The Bible states that there is one way of salvation.
Galatians 1:6-10: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”
If there is only one way of salvation, then which one is it? Do we believe in salvation by faith in the finished work of Christ alone? Or, do we believe in salvation by commitment to the Lordship of Christ? Both cannot be equally true, since they are mutually exclusive.

The Issue of Compromise
Finally, we are faced with the uncomfortable fact that there is a growing trend to compromise Biblical truths to elicit favor from those who would adhere to “Lordship Salvation.” However, salvation is not a popularity contest. Paul stated “ I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10b). Tragically, those who believe in Lordship Salvation have taken a step that the Scriptures clearly declare to be the first, and most decisive, step towards general apostasy.
Lordship Salvation is not another expression of the Gospel; it is another gospel entirely.
Each and every group that has ever followed this gospel has endured the curse of God. We must not, and we cannot follow this trend of compromise. Paul’s statement to the Philippian church must also be our stand on the purity of the Gospel.
Philippians 1:6-7: Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.

THE REVIEW, February 2011, Volume 19, Number 3. Reprinted with permission from the Independent Baptist Fellowship of North America (IBFNA) which has been in existence for some 21 years. Many came out of the GARBC to form this Fellowship.

Related Reading:
Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page
“One of the most comprehensive invitations to salvation in all the epistles comes in James 4:7-10... The invitation in 4:7-10 is directed at those who are not saved...” (Dr. John MacArthur, TGATJ)
Salvation & Discipleship
“It is very important to understand the difference between believing on Christ for salvation and following Him in discipleship.”
John MacArthur's Discipleship Gospel

Is Lordship Salvation an “Exchange?”

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


  1. Future Look:

    In the coming days/weeks there will be new articles that address various issues that confront the NT church, fundamentalism in particular. Issues such as the on-going compromise of biblical separation among some self-identified separatists for the sake of fellowship with non-separatist evangelicals, and the crux of the gospel controversy, which is the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel.

    LS is primarily advocated by Dr. John MacArthur and nearly the whole of the so-called “conservative” evangelicals. Lordship salvation corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3). Thousands of believers who identify with fundamentalism do NOT “believe, preach or defend” Lordship Salvation’s non-saving, works based message that frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).

    Just this week I heard from a man in Ireland who is doing what he can to address and reverse the devastating effects he described that MacArthur’s LS teaching has brought to his country. He asked for and I sent him a copy of my book to aid his study and teaching.


  2. "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." James 2:24

    submitted by David Oestreich

  3. David:

    Thanks for sharing that important passage of Scripture. I’d like to ask you a short series of very brief questions.

    Do you believe that being born again, “justified” is the result of “faith” in Christ and the “works” of man?

    Is it possible James 2:24 blatantly contradicts Ephesians 2:8-9?


  4. Dave:

    The “good works” are the outworking of faith (Eph. 2:10). The message of salvation is not by works, but by faith in whom Jesus Christ is and what He did to provide salvation (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

    Do you agree with that?


  5. In answer to your questions-

    1. I believe that forensic justification is the result of faith in Christ by grace alone. I further believe that part of that faith is believing that Christ is Lord of all and that an essential part of repentence is surrendering my campaign of rebellion against Him.

    2. No two passages of scripture can contradict.

    3. Faith must be accompanied by works or is not saving faith.

    4. Salvation "depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." (Romans 9:16)

  6. David, on #1, What I read you saying is that the lost man cannot be born again unless he believes in the lordship of Christ (apart from His deity) over his life and he must surrender his sinful life (commit to stop sinning against God and start obeying. Is that the evangelistic message you preach to the unsaved?


  7. On #3- How much, what kind of and for how long must these works be evident to prove he/she was truly born again? What
    the carnal Christian; never saved in the first place?


    *At work now, may be tonight late or tomorrow before I can give you the time you deserve to hash this out.

  8. Lou, I don't need much time. I understand you may not be able to publish this right away.

    On # 1--I don't see how one can ignore His Lordship if they properly understand His deity, so I think your question is faulty.

    On # 3-- I can't think of a passage that tells us.

  9. Dave:

    I'm not speaking of ignoring His lordship, but just how much of what the Lord demands of a born again Christian must a lost man know, understand or commit to to be born again?

    One of the core problems with LS is that it blends salvation and discipleship to the point there is no distinction in the LS evangelistic message.


    That's all for now. Back later.

  10. They must understand that God is the source of all things in whom we move, live, and have our being. They must understand that falling short of His glory means failing to live according to the standard demanded by His holy character. They must understand that as their Maker and Source, His character is an authoritative standard by which we will be judged (i.e. He is Lord). They must understand that being a sinner means being in native and voluntary rebellion against that authority. They must understand that Jesus is God and therefore Lord. They must lay down the arms of their rebellion against Him and throw themselves on the merciful promises extended in His gospel.

    One cannot ask for mercy and retain his purposeful rebellion.

    This is not to say that believers will be perfect or never choose to sin, but they will be progressively sanctified (changed from glory to glory) or they are none of His.

  11. Regarding James 2:24, I used to take the LS view James 2 but now realize it's as clear a passage as ever there was that faith and works are completely different things. When Abraham "believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness" (Gal 3:6) was years before the works connected to that same faith in James 2:21. The key here is that Abraham's faith was credited as righteousness at the moment of belief, years earlier, not years later only after Abraham finally joined the two together as referenced in James 2:24. Works are a proper and natural expression of faith, but it's Biblically impossible to argue they are the same thing. Neither is it accurate to say the faith that saves is the faith that works because, again, the works that James 2:24 draws attention to are years later... yet clearly the righteousness had already been imputed.

    Also, James 2 is frequently used to argue that saving faith is only a particular "kind" of faith because, after all, the demons believe but they aren't saved, right? But this argument completely misses the fact that demons can't be saved no matter what they believe or do... Christ didn't atone for the sin of demons, He atoned for the sin of Adam. So, the whole "type of faith" position simply doesn't have any contextual merit.


  12. James 2 is frequently used to argue that saving faith is only a particular "kind" of faith because, after all, the demons believe but they aren't saved, right? But this argument completely misses the fact that demons can't be saved no matter what they believe or do... Christ didn't atone for the sin of demons, He atoned for the sin of Adam.


    I am so glad you pointed this out. I too find more often than not this central point is unaccountably absent from discussion of this passage.

    One other point I find notably absent from discussion is the fact that the obedience the Lord seeks, and said Himself on more than one occasion, was believing the message of the gospel: Christ crucified for our sins.

    When a person simply accepts the truth that Jesus died in his or her place and the Father is satisfied with His sacrifice, they do far more honor to God's holy Name than they possibly could by promising obedience to the demands of discipleship.

    Ironically, everything the LSers want is actually already present in the simple command to eat His flesh and drink His blood, look unto Him (crucified) and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, obey the gospel by believing the report, per Romans 10:16. But they can't see this because, whether they know it or not, the TULIP requires that God regenerate a person prior to believing but because only some people have a Savior to believe in, believing directly in Christ's finished cross work is invalid. Therefore, it must be presented in a fashion that fulfills TULIP's implications and requirements. The simple gospel requirement of believing the report is made very hard in order to differentiate between those for whom Christ died and will surely save by regenerating them unto belief, and those who have no Savior to believe in. Yet believing the report of Christ crucified for one's sins is the act of obedience that the Lord God Almighty, maker of Heaven and earth, who alone is the righteous judge of all the earth and who alone has dominion and authority to set the terms of salvation and bring about that salvation has actually set.

    But this one command is impeded or replaced with submission of self to obedience.

    I will never forget the time I heard Rick Holland preach on Christ's substitutionary death on the cross for over 40 minutes only to finish the sermon with a call to receive Christ as Lord, and He will become your Savior. He could (and should) have told the room to believe in Christ's cross work for their sins. But that would have violated TULIP's L, which he had made a (subtle) point of emphasizing earlier. So instead they are all called on to receive Him as Lord, whether they are elect or no, but not to deal directly with His cross work: to eat His flesh and drink His blood, to look to His finished work to save them.

    I have not figured out why the non elect are given the opportunity to receive Him as Lord, but are not given the opportunity to believe on His death. If they cannot believe on His cross work, why in the world are they called upon to follow Him in discipleship since they are not given the grace to do that either? If He didn't die for the non elect, He must not want them at all, not for salvation, nor for followers, so why are they invited to follow this Lord who does not want them and has made no provision for them either to be saved OR to follow?


  13. Lou, great site and full of great information. I think your questions of David should be considered a long time by him.

    David, besides recognizing that Christ is Lord of one's life, what other requirements of belief do you put on people? Do you require they hold to the virgin birth or bodily resurrection up front? Aren't those issues of discipleship like JanH has pointed out?

    Joe DeFrede

  14. By the way Lou, great work on the state of the "so called conservative evangelicals." Their union over Lordship salvation is so obvious.

    Joe DeFrede

  15. Do you require they hold to the virgin birth or bodily resurrection up front?

    Hi Joe-

    Can I just ask one thing for clarification: when you say "bodily resurrection" do you mean ours or Christ's?


  16. Dave:

    Both Stephen and Jan have given you meat to consider, which I trust you will and also continue to interact with them here in this important discussion you initiated from James 2:24.


  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. Joe:

    1) Thanks for the mention on LS and it being the rallying point for some men in fundamental circles with non-separatists evangelicals. But just try to get any man in fundamental circles who accepts the LS say he agrees with LS in unvarnished terms.

    2) Jan asked a very important question of you on the resurrection. I'd appreciate your response.


  19. Hi Lou,

    This article is a nice concise argument against LS doctrine.

    I'm finding myself becoming less and less generous with the concept of LS. It is a fundamental attack on the nature of faith.

    One might ask if they trust their mother, by asking if they are serving her like a slave. The expect answer I guess is that they never really trusted her after-all... they were merely professing sons of their mother, but not all that call her mother, mother will enter her house.....

    LS is nothing more than man's religious ambition cloaked in orthodox sounding terms. There is no reason to be offended by the fact that God justifies the ungodly sinner who believes and does not work - except that these ungodly sinners don't look "good enough" to get into Heaven. The only reason to be offended by this is a religious one. NOT a Biblical one.


  20. Jan:

    Thanks for the comments, especially citing Rick Holland’s LS preaching. In April 2010 NIU president Matt Olson along with Les Ollila, Sam Horn and Doug McLachlan went to MacArthur's Grace church to meet with JMac, Holland and Phil Johnson. They came away giving those men, and their LS message, a clean bill of doctrinal health. To make it worse, NIU’s president then hosted Rick Holland in NIU’s chapel to speak to the impressionable young people. There is no way that Matt Olson and Les Ollila do not know that men like Rick Holland preach LS. With their invitation to him they do not reject LS, but instead promoted this false teaching to their student body. NIU endorsed and legitimized Lordship Salvation.


    See, NIU Presents Executive Pastor of Grace Community Church to It’s Student Body

  21. Kev:

    The theology of LS is intolerable because it is a false gospel. To every corner of the earth we are obligated to identify LS as a false, non-saving message that corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3). The Scriptures tell us what we must do about the men who teach and will not repent of this egregious error, Romans 16:17; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15).


  22. Sorry Gents,

    Been busy the last few days. To briefly interact with some notes above:

    Stephen, I didn't say anything about the time frame of any works.

    Joe D, I don't believe someone ready to make profess faith should be given a checklist of things beyond the gospel. The authority of Christ over one's life is within the bounds of, yea integral to, gospel. Can one be saved denying that authority?

    David Oestreich

  23. Faith must be accompanied by works or is not saving faith.


    Do you believe faithfulness is part of/a component of saving faith?


  24. "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified (before whom??? God? self? man?), and not by faith only"

    Romans chapters 4-5 teach it is neither God nor self that one's faith is justified by works before.

    James 2:18 teaches that it is other men that one justifies their faith by works to, "I will shew thee my faith by my works".

    Just what works are these though? It isn't morality, because most moral people are not saved. It isn't even submitting to all the law in the Bible, because the Pharisees were not saved. So what exactly are the works that one looks for in saved people? Look at the works of the OT saints that demonstrated their faith in Heb 11.

    1) would you think that Abraham offering up his son as a sacrifice is a work that demonstrates faith through attempted murder? If so, how many have physically done this?

    2) Would you think that Noah building a very large boat is a work that demonstrates faith? If so, how many have physically done this?

    3) Would you think that lying as Rahab did demonstrates faith?

    4) How about the fearfulness of Barak in fulfilling the call of God?

    5) Or the arrogant Samson?

    Yet each of these are commended for doing something that would not PASS an LS sniff test of a work that demonstrates faith. Works of faith are unscientific, that is, they are entirely individual and unrepeatable. Works of religion on the other hand are repeatable, and it is these works that LS proponents look for to see works of faith, but in reality all that is proven is that the person has religion. If that is enough for them, then have at it, but works that demonstrate faith are found to be somewhat outlandish to the average mind, and are very seldom repeatable.

  25. James can only be properly understood when one sees with a right eye the difference between works of religion and works of faith.

  26. Jan H,

    I'm not sure I understand the question. Faith is faith. Faithfulness is its own thing.


  27. Faith is faith. Faithfulness is its own thing.

    OK. Then in what sense is a man justified by his works?


  28. Jan, I am very uncomfortable putting requirements on people when telling them they need to believe. I find that adding requirements is no different than Lordship salvation people. Either it is okay to add requirements to the simplicity of faith or it isn't. I choose the latter.

    Joe DeFrede

  29. I am very uncomfortable putting requirements on people when telling them they need to believe.


    Thanks for your response.

    I think I see where you may be coming from. However, I must disagree with you when you use the word "believe" instead of "do." If you had said you were very uncomfortable putting requirements on people by making them do something besides believe the truths of the gospel, I would agree with you. However, when you apply that same standard to believing, it doesn't quite work. There are 2 reasons (at least) for this. The first, and most obvious is that faith is not a work. Asking someone to believe something is not the same thing as asking them to do a work. The second is that the gospel, being a message, consists of various propositions that must be assessed concerning Christ and oneself, and for salvation, these propositions must be accepted as truth.

    There are several propositions that are necessary to distinguish the issue in salvation: that I am a sinner in need of salvation that I cannot provide for myself in any way and consequently the wrath of God is on me (the wages of sin is death), that Jesus Christ died on the cross to answer my need/take that wrath/collect the wage due to me. Otherwise, you are not dealing with the saving gospel message but something else. You may still be dealing with Jesus (or some kind of Christ), but you are not dealing with the gospel of salvation through faith in His blood.

    As for His resurrection, this touches on several areas that make the gospel a viable message. It proves Christ's sacrifice was accepted: the debt was paid in full and all the work necessary for our salvation is indeed finished, as He said it was on the cross. If He isn't raised we are still in our sins. A dead Savior who stayed dead is no savior at all and may as well be just a prophet, as the Muslims teach, or a great teacher, as others teach, etc. Also, it proves the power of God to save. And, it touches on His deity, which is unavoidably necessary as any Christ who is not one in essence and nature with God the Father is not the real Christ who saves us. It is a false Christ that cannot save.

    Ironically, when you say you are uncomfortable making people believe things, you-unintentionally, no doubt-sound like John MacArthur when he says "we have no creed but Christ." The obvious problem with this idea is that you must immediately ask, "which Christ?" and you suddenly find you are in the realm of propositions again.

    The point is, there is a certain set of propositions that must be accepted at truth in order for the saving gospel message to be the message believed.


  30. Jan:

    You wrote, "The first, and most obvious is that faith is not a work. Asking someone to believe something is not the same thing as asking them to do a work."

    Well said in succinct terms. I know you are familiar with George Zeller's work on this, but for Joe and others I am linking to, The Danger of Teaching that Faith is the Gift of God, which answers, just as regeneration before faith is, another of Calvinism's extra-biblical presuppositions to bolster Lordship Salvation.


  31. "Ironically, when you say you are uncomfortable making people believe things, you-unintentionally, no doubt-sound like John MacArthur when he says "we have no creed but Christ." The obvious problem with this idea is that you must immediately ask, "which Christ?" and you suddenly find you are in the realm of propositions again.

    The point is, there is a certain set of propositions that must be accepted at truth in order for the saving gospel message to be the message believed."

    Jan, you are actually saying the same thing LS proponents say. They also ask: which Christ? They insist that the Christ that saves is also Lord. You are saying the Christ who saves is Lord but doesn't have to be believed as Lord.

    You can't pick and choose which parts about Christ you believe in. When you insist on believing in the resurrection, you are on the same side as the LS people who insist on Him being Lord. This is why I am uncomfortable about picking and choosing.

    Joe DeFrede