June 14, 2011

From the Archives: What is Lordship Salvation- And Why Does It Matter?

Introduction: On June 8 I published an article by IDOTG regular contributor JanH. Please refer to Obeying the Gospel vs. Lordship Salvation. That article was powerful as a stand alone refutation of Lordship Salvation, but it generated a discussion thread of just over 100 comments. With new articles in development I decided that this is a good time to remind readers why the debate over Lordship Salvation in fundamental circles matters. I, therefore, went to the April 2011 archives for that reminder, which follows for your consideration.

There is an on-going debate over a certain segment of fundamentalists preaching and practicing a new paradigm shift for separation commonly known as “gospel-driven separation” or “gospel centric fellowship.”
“There is today a very subtle shift that, on the surface, is very persuasive…. Rather than base separatism on the Bible, the whole counsel of God, we should use as our test the Gospel. There is a plea that says the only doctrines for which we should contend are those doctrines that impinge directly upon the Gospel…. That [Gospel-Centric separatism] broadens our fellowship incredibly to include organizations and individuals who are patently disobedient to the plain teaching of Scripture and yet are somehow tolerated, vindicated and even honored in some of our circles.”1
In recent articles we have been considering why there should be no fellowship or cooperative efforts with the so-called “conservative” evangelicals. The reasons include aberrant theology such as non-cessationism, amillenialism, ecumenical compromise, embracing the world’s music in the form of RAP, Hip Hop and CCM for ministry. All of these are grounds for withdrawing from and having no fellowship with believers who teach and do these things. All of this, however, is being tolerated, allowed for, excused or ignored by certain men who minister in fundamental circles, men who are forging fellowship and cooperative ministries with the evangelicals and influencing others to follow them. There is, however, one overarching concern that trumps all of these issues with the evangelicals combined. That is Lordship Salvation!
Defined briefly: Lordship Salvation is a position on the gospel in which “saving faith” is considered reliance upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. Lordship views “saving faith” as incomplete without an accompanying resolve to “forsake sin” and to “start obeying.” Lordship’s “sine qua non” (indispensable condition) that must be met to fully define “saving faith,” for salvation, is a commitment to deny self, take up the cross, and follow Christ in submissive obedience. (In Defense of the Gospel: Revised & Expanded Edition, p. 48.)
It is virtually impossible not to know that the evangelicals, almost to a man, believe, preach and defend Lordship Salvation (LS). When the T4G and Gospel Coalition conferences convene they gather around the LS interpretation of the Gospel. Certain men in fundamental circles, however, are drawn together in “gospel-centric” fellowship with evangelicals. They are gathering around a common acceptance of and bond in Calvinistic soteriology, primarily in the form of Lordship Salvation.

Dr. Kevin Bauder published a serious misrepresentation when he wrote that Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, “believe, preach and defend the [same] gospel.”2 Kevin Bauder has never edited or retracted that statement. Following are samples of Lordship’s corruption of the Gospel for justification.
Let me say again unequivocally that Jesus’ summons to deny self and follow him was an invitation to salvation, not . . . a second step of faith following salvation.” (Dr. John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith? pp. 219.)

That is the kind of response the Lord Jesus called for: wholehearted commitment. A desire for him at any cost. Unconditional surrender. A full exchange of self for the Savior.” (MacArthur, Ibid, p. 150.)

If you want to receive this gift [salvation] it will cost you the total commitment of all that you are to the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ps. Steven Lawson, The Cost of Discipleship: It Will Cost You Everything.)

Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything.” (MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 78.)

This is what Jesus meant when He spoke of taking up one’s own cross to follow Him. And that is why he demanded that we count the cost carefully. He was calling for an exchange of all that we are for all that He is. He was demanding implicit obedience--unconditional surrender to His lordship.” (MacArthur, Hard to Believe, p. 6.)
Based on clear, unambiguous statements from advocates of LS thousands in Fundamentalism reject LS as a corrupt and false interpretation of the gospel.
When the Lordship advocate speaks of “following Christ,” he is speaking of the gospel. When John MacArthur refers to “The Cost of Following Christ,” he really means “The Cost to Receive Christ.” MacArthur believes there is a “Real Cost of Salvation,” or more accurately a “Real Cost for Salvation.” He believes that the gospel demands a commitment of one’s life, and a promise of surrender to the lordship of Christ in an up-front “exchange” for the reception of salvation. (In Defense of the Gospel: Revised & Expanded Edition, p. 82.)
Dr. Ernest Pickering recognized that LS, as MacArthur defined it, was a departure from the biblical plan of salvation. Following are two excerpts from Dr. Pickering’s review of the first edition (1988) of John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus.
MacArthur laments, ‘Contemporary Christendom too often accepts a shallow repentance that bears no fruit’ (p. 96). This theme recurs over and over again in the book. The recommended cure for this malady is to require more of the seeking sinner than the Bible requires. Instead of ‘merely’ believing on the finished work of Christ the inquiring soul must also be willing to have Christ as Lord over every area of his life. It seems evident upon an examination of this thesis that those who espouse it are adding something to the gospel that is not in the Scriptures. Charles Ryrie was certainly on target when he wrote, ‘The message of faith only and the message of faith plus commitment of life cannot both be the gospel…’” (Balancing the Christian Life, p. 70.)

“One of the chief objections to the notion of ‘lordship salvation’ is that it adds to the gospel of grace. It requires something of the sinner which the Scriptures do not require. The message of salvation by grace proclaims to sinner that they may receive eternal life by faith alone whereas the message of ‘lordship salvation’ tells sinners they must be willing to give up whatever is in their life that is displeasing to God.”
Several months after an April 2010 personal meeting with Dr. MacArthur NIU president Dr. Matt Olson announced that with MacArthur they “agree on the most substantive issues of life and ministry.”3 Then Olson hosted MacArthur’s executive pastor Rick Holland in the NIU chapel pulpit to address impressionable young people.4 NIU would not have had Rick Holland in its pulpit, or validated John MacArthur’s doctrine and ministry if the administration had any serious reservations over Lordship Salvation. With Olson’s statement on MacArthur and putting Holland in the chapel pulpit NIU stamped its approval on and endorsed a false gospel, namely “Lordship Salvation.”

Do Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, “believe, preach and defend the [same] gospel?” No, they do not! Men in fundamental circles who are converging with advocates of LS are either tolerating a known and egregious error or have themselves embraced the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel and are rallying around it with like-minded evangelicals.

It is high time for men like Dave Doran, Kevin Bauder, Matt Olson, Tim Jordan, et. al., to be transparent on the Lordship Salvation controversy. Are these men willing to state in unvarnished terms whether or not they believe LS as John MacArthur, John Piper, Steve Lawson, et. al., “believe, preach and defend” it is the one true Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Lordship Salvation is not the gospel! LS clouds, confuses and complicates the Gospel. LS corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3) and frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21). Above all other considerations (aberrant theology, ecumenism and worldliness) we cannot fellowship, promote or cooperate with evangelicals who “believe, preach and defend” Lordship Salvation.


Related Reading:.
For a clear, concise example of the egregious error that is Lordship Salvation please read, Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page. This article is a reproduction of an appendix entry by the same name that appears on pp. 284-286. In it I examine a statement by John MacArthur that appears in all three editions of The Gospel According to Jesus. You will find that there is no more clear example of how John MacArthur’s LS corrupts and redefines the Scriptures than this one.

What is the Fault Line for Fracture in Fundamentalism?
“How can there be unity within a fellowship when two polar opposite interpretations of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ are accepted as legitimate?”
1) Pastor Marc Monte, Preserving the Separatist Impulse

2) Do Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, “Believe, Preach and Defend the [Same] Gospel?”
“There is no universal ‘mutuality in the gospel’ among evangelicals and fundamentalists. ‘Evangelicals and fundamentalists are [NOT] united in their allegiance to the gospel,’ because there is a vast difference between what evangelicals and non-Calvinists in Fundamentalism believe to be the one true Gospel. It is irrefutable, and Kevin Bauder is well aware, that many men in Fundamentalism reject Calvinistic soteriology in the form of LS as a false, works based Gospel. It is, furthermore, indisputable that virtually every man in “conservative” evangelicalism is a passionate advocate for Lordship Salvation, which Dr. Bauder is also well aware of.”
3) Dr. Matt Olson, Open Letter To Friends in Ministry, November 23, 2010.

4) Northland Int’l University Presents Executive Pastor of Grace Community Church to It’s Student Body


  1. Lou, you said, "Lordship Salvation is not the gospel!"

    Rom 1:16 says that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

    My question to you if you think can be saved by hearing the LS gospel?

    If they can, then LS must be the gospel. Right?

    I am interested in hearing your thoughts.


  2. Tony:

    I have only a few moments. Would like to do more with your excellent question, but here goes with the time I have.

    What does the Bible say? How has God provided for and how does the lost man receive salvation (justification)? What is the biblical plan of salvation? We can look to passages such as John 3:16; 1 Cor. 15:1-11; Rom. 10:9-10, 13; Acts 16:30-31; 1 John 5:11-13 for direction. The active word for the sinner is to believe. Lost men are born again by faith, believing in whom Jesus is (His deity) and what He did to provide salvation. Behavior and/or front-loading faith with commitment to behavior, submission, surrender never enter the biblical plan of salvation. I have always appreciated this passage.

    John 6:28-29Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”

    Advocates of LS have forced into the gospel of grace conditions that God never mandated for the reception of the gift of eternal life. (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9) When you read LS samples from men like John MacArthur, which are in the article above, one quickly realizes that he has changed the terms of the Gospel. JMac has forced into, extracted from, redefined the Scriptures to force them into conformity with his LS interpretation of the Gospel. He and all men who preach that message have corrupted the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3) and frustrate grace (Gal. 2:21).

    Any lost person who comes to Christ in faith, plus the addition of his own commitment to do the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) expected of a born again disciple of Christ cannot be born again. He has come to Christ with a promise to perform works, and that is a non-saving, works salvation.

    We cannot necessarily know what is/has gone on in the heart of a lost man who may well be under the convicting and convincing ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11). I do, however, know this: If a lost man is told,

    If you want to receive this gift [salvation] it will cost you the total commitment of all that you are to the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ps. Lawson)

    Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything.” (JMac)

    If a lost man is told, as LS insists, that he must “turn from sin,” that is to “stop sinning and start obeying” in exchange for the gift of eternal life, he has heard a false, man-centered, non-saving message.

    Hope this is helpful. So, much more I’d like to expand on here and add to, but I trust this is helpful.


  3. I take from this comment you made,

    "Any lost person who comes to Christ in faith, plus the addition of his own commitment to do the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) expected of a born again disciple of Christ cannot be born again. He has come to Christ with a promise to perform works, and that is a non-saving, works salvation."

    that your answer is NO. You do not believe a person can be saved by the LS message.

    I know what LS is. I simply wanted to know if you think people can be saved by its message, since you stated that LS is NOT the gospel and the Bible states that only the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

    I wish in some of your posts you would spend more time clearly drawing the line on this. Don't simply say it is a mancentered gospel. State clearly that people cannot be saved by this message and that is why it is so needed for Bauder, Doran, and Olson to walk away from these so called conservative evangelicals who rally around LS. Thanks.


  4. Tony:

    Writing from my cell phone, will be brief.

    1) Any man who brings with him works, or a promise to do works cannot be born again.

    2) Glad you know what LS is; do you reject it? Many do not recognize LS and some sadly fall into it's trap. I am writing for them, the unsuspecting especially.

    3) Why do you think that rather than walking away from the LS men in evangelicalism Bauder, Doran, Olson are instead embracing and engineering greater cooperation with them? Remember the new rallying cry is, "gospel centric, it's all about the gospel." Calvinistic soteriology in the form of LS is the gospel they are rallying around.


  5. Btw, I appreciate your good, thought provoking comments/questions.

    You'd like me to spend more time on these things. Well, I appreciate that and understand your concern. FWIW, blog writing, especially comments need to be brief. IMO, blogs are the fast food venue of Bible study, teaching and debate. My 300+ page book gets into the nitty-gritty of the LS debate comprehensively.