November 30, 2011

Archival Series- Manfred E. Kober, Lordship Salvation: Forgotten Truth or a False Doctrine?

If you were Satan, which doctrine would you want to undermine? Which area of theology would you pervert, to prevent people from being saved? An individual may be wrong about the doctrine of the church or deny the millennial kingdom and yet doubtless be gloriously redeemed. However, if a person is wrong on the doctrine of salvation, specifically, the prerequisites for salvation, he misses the very heart of the gospel. One would expect Satan to attack in the area of soteriology. Indeed, he has! The informed and discerning believer soon realizes that there is a battle raging among evangelicals and fundamentalists over the matter of the conditions for salvation.

I. The Crucial Problem of Lordship Salvation:

A. The problem:

On the one hand there are those who insist that salvation is God's gift and that trust in Christ is the only requirement for salvation. On the other hand, there are respected pastors and theologians who teach that unless an individual submits also to the Lordship of Christ at the moment of salvation, he is not really saved.

B. The positions:

1. Salvation by grace through faith alone:

a. Curtis Hutson in his book, “Salvation Crystal Clear”, has a chapter entitled “Lordship Salvation, A Perversion of the Gospel.” He begins with the following warning: Lordship salvation is an unscriptural teaching regarding the doctrine of salvation and is confusing to Christians, Hutson calls Lordship salvation “another gospel which contradicts the teaching of salvation by grace through faith” (p. 302).

b. Charles Ryrie cautions that “To teach that Christ must be Lord of life in order to be Savior is to confuse certain aspects of discipleship and confuses the gospel of the Grace of God with the works of men.” (Balancing the Christian Life, p. 178).

c. Lewis Chafer writes that Lordship salvation is a seemingly pious but subtle error that in addition to believing in Christ “the unsaved must dedicate themselves to the will of God” (Systematic Theology, III, 384).

d. *Zane Hodges clearly distinguishes between salvation and discipleship. Eternal life is free. Discipleship is immeasurably hard. The former is attained by faith alone; the latter by a faith that works (The Hungry Inherit. p. 114, underscore in the original).

2. Lordship Salvation:

a. J. I. Packer rejects the idea that all men have to do is to trust Christ as sin bearer . . . they must also deny themselves and enthrone him as their Lord. (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, p. 89).

b. Walter J. Chantry says that salvation without Lordship is impossible: Practical acknowledgment of Jesus’ Lordship, yielding to His rule by following, is the very fibre of saving faith. It is only those who ‘confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus’ (Romans 10:9) that shall be saved . . . Without obedience, you shall not see life! Unless you bow to Christ’s sceptre, you will not receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice. (Today's Gospel Authentic or Synthetic? p. 60, underscore in the original). His words concerning those who preach simple faith in Christ are very strong: This heretical and soul-destroying practice is the logical conclusion of a system that thinks little of God, preaches no law, calls for no repentance, waters down faith to ‘accepting a gift,’ and never mentions bowing to Christ’s rule or bearing a cross (p. 68).

c. John R. Stott suggests that it is as unbiblical as it is unrealistic to divorce the Lordship from the Saviorhood of Jesus Christ (Eternity, Sept. 1959, p. 37).

d. A. W. Tozer labels the view of salvation by grace alone a notable heresy and a false teaching (I Call It Heresy! p. 9,19).

e. James Montgomery Boice calls the concept of salvation through faith alone A defective theology. This kind of faith is directed to one who is a false Christ (The Meaning of Discipleship, Moody Monthly, Feb. 1986, p. 34, 36).

f. John MacArthur champions Lordship salvation in his recent book, “The Gospel According to Jesus”. He attacks dispensationalists in general and Chafer, Hodges, and Ryrie in particular for wrongly dividing the Word of Truth (p. 197). No one can come to Christ on any other term than full commitment (p. 197). In his book, “The Parables of the Kingdom”, MacArthur writes that there is a transaction made to purchase salvation, but it’s not with money or good works. The transaction is this: You give up all you have for all He has (p. 108). How does one receive salvation? You give up all that you are and receive all that He is . . . A person becomes saved when he is willing to abandon everything he has to affirm, that Christ is the Lord of his life (p. 109).

Even in our Regular Baptist circles Lordship salvation has become an issue.

g. John Baylo equates the saviorhood of Christ with His Lordship. He holds that saving faith properly understood always involves trusting Christ with one’s life. . . confidence in Christ to both save and manage one’s life . . . superficial faith never saved anyone (Baptist Bulletin, February, 1987, p. 7). In contrast, Paul Tassell pleads that we not confuse the instantaneous act of salvation with the long process of sanctification . . . we must not make saviorship and lordship synonymous (Baptist Bulletin, February, 1989, p. 46). Ernest Pickering in his incisive review of MacArthur’s book states that Well over 100 times in the New Testament we are told that salvation is by faith or through believing. It is a very serious matter to add an ingredient to the gospel of salvation which is not found in the New Testament (Lordship Salvation, Central Baptist Seminary, p. 7). Ryrie cautions that the message of faith only and the message of faith plus commitment of life cannot both be the gospel; therefore, one of them is a false gospel and comes under the curse of perverting the gospel or preaching another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9). As far as sanctification is concerned, if only committed people are saved people, then where is there room for carnal Christians? (p. 170).

Which of these positions is right, which is wrong? They cannot both be scriptural. In theology we do not count noses. In many areas, such as this controversy, able men can be marshalled to support either position. The correctness of a position must be substantiated by a clear grammatical exegesis of the Biblical text.

II. The Crucial Prerequisite for Salvation.

What is the necessary condition for salvation, faith in Christ as Savior or faith plus commitment of life? It is true that some believers dedicate their lives to the Lord at the moment of salvation. The Apostle Paul immediately asked the question: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? (Acts 9:6). With most believers, dedication takes place after a fuller understanding of their spiritual responsibility. Key soteriological passages such as Acts 16:31 and Ephesians 2:8-9 teach that faith in Christ alone is the prerequisite for salvation. Ideally, every saint should recognize the Lordship of Christ from the moment of salvation, but there is a great difference between being a saint and a disciple. It costs absolutely nothing to be a Christian. It costs everything to be a disciple. In Luke 14 the Lord distinguishes between salvation and discipleship while teaching two parables, side by side. In Luke 14:16-24 he related the parable of the great supper into which the entrance was free and unrestricted for all who followed the invitation. In Luke 14:25-33 Christ taught that discipleship was only for those who gave up all.

Being a Christian means following an invitation. Being a disciple means forsaking all. To confuse these two aspects of the Christian life is to confound the grace of God and the works of man, to ignore the difference between salvation and sanctification. The gospel of grace is Scriptural. The Gospel that adds the works of man to salvation is a counterfeit Gospel.

If it was ever necessary for believers to rightly divide the word of truth, it is now, and it is in this area!

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

Faith Pulpit, Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, March '89 - Manfred E. Kober, Th.D.

Please continue to Part 2 of this compelling series

Site Publisher’s Addendum:
*Zane Hodges, had since the 1989 publication of this article, originated and introduced an extreme reductionist assault on the Gospel. Hodges’s interpretation of the Gospel has come to be known as the Crossless and/or Promise- ONLY gospel. The reductionism of Hodges is almost universally rejected in the NT church outside the small cell of theological extremists in the Grace Evangelical Society (Bob Wilkin, Exec. Director) and a very few friends who still identify with GES.


  1. Excellent post.

    When I read statments like the one MacArthur makes, I have to wonder which is applicable to him; that he a) has never believed the Gospel or b) once believed but afterwards fell into the error of LS.

    Lou, are you aware of any print or audio material wherein MacArthur ever stated or gave the impression that he beleived salavation is a gift received by faith alone in Christ alone?


  2. It may exist, any time I have read or heard JMac stating specifically what he believes to be how a lost man is born again faith alone, belief in the cross and resurrection of Christ are not part of his formula.

    Of course, when he and LS advocates speak of "faith" or "believing" they have twisted the biblical meanings out of shape to fit their man centered message.


  3. I realize the post here is not about JMac, but his testimony at Grace To You's website is quite revealing IMO:

    For example, responding to Phil Johnson's question, "So you're saying...are you saying it would be difficult for you to put your finger on when your conversion took place?", MacArthur answers:

    "Yeah. I've never been able to do that. And it doesn't bother me. I think I'm one of those kids...I was one of those kids that never rebelled and always believed. And so when God did His saving work in my heart, it was not discernable to me. I went away to high school and for all I knew, I loved Christ, I was part of the ministry of the church. I went away to college and I wanted to serve the Lord and honor the Lord. I was certainly immature. But at some point along the line, I really do believe there was a transformation in my heart, but I think it may have been to some degree imperceptible to me because I didn't ever have a rebellious time, I didn't ever revolt against, you know, the gospel or not believe. And I guess that' some ways that's a grace act on God's part. So that all that wonderful training found some level of fertile soil in my heart and none of it was wasted."

    John MacArthur was "one of those kids who never rebelled and ALWAYS believed".

    No one but God knows if JMac is born-again. One thing is for sure though, there's nothing in his answer to Johnson (nor in the rest of the interview titled "John MacArthur's Life Testimony") to warrant statments like:

    "That John MacArthur is a born-again believer we have no doubt, but..."

    We will never know this side of eternity the far-reaching effects such a statement might have had in the lives of others.


  4. I don't know that his experience is all that different than a lot of other people. If you are raised in a Christian home and taught to believe in Jesus with good morals by your parents, there probably won't be this radical event that changes your behavior except what is within his heart. What he described was a lot like my own.


  5. Lordship salvation is neither a forgotten truth nor a false doctrine. From the NT and then the earliest writings, we see that people believed in the Lordship of Christ for salvation. There are some today who confuse salvation with discipleship and try to divide Christ's Lordship from Him being Savior, but that is a false dichotomy on their part.


  6. Roger:

    The Bible draws a clear distinction between the doctrines of salvation (justification) and discipleship (sanctification).

    JMAC/LS blends the two so that for the reception of salvation the lost man must make a commitment to live as an obedient disciple of Christ to become a born again disciple of Christ. That exemplifies the man centered, works based message of LS advocates such as John MacArthur.

    LS is a false, non-saving message that corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3) and frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).


  7. Lou,

    The lost person who believes in Christ must believe in who He really is, otherwise it is a false Christ. Believing in a false Christ will not bring about salvation. Failure to believe in the Lordship of Christ is what is truly man centered.

    What you are advocating is what is truly a recent doctrine. It cannot be supported from the NT or through church history.


  8. Actually LS likes to redefine what Lordship of Christ means. At the moment of salvation you have really accepted him as Lord you don't need to say the exact phrase,(If he wasn't the sinless sacrifice salvation would be vain) BUT the sanctification comes after NOT before. Sanctification is discipleship not a growing into your salvation otherwise why are we sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption?

    Eventually all unsaved and saved alike will admit Jesus is Lord.

    There are three sanctifications- positional=saved in Christ happens immediately at salvation.
    Progressive = discipleship, growth in the knowledge of Christ.
    permanent- when we receive our glorified bodies.

    To me LS likes to combine the positional with the progressive and say that you are not saved until you've been progressively sanctified? Does that make sense? So how many steps are there to salvation? My Bible indicates one- John 5:24 Believe on Christ, his death burial and resurrection.

  9. LG, can you show me one LS proponent who says that a person must have a clean life before he can be saved?


  10. LG:

    "To me LS likes to combine the positional with the progressive and say that you are not saved until you've been progressively sanctified? Does that make sense."

    That is exactly right, there are more errors from LS, but that is one of them. Consider these statements from John Piper and R.C. Sproul in turn-

    There is no doubt that Jesus saw a measure of real, lived-out obedience to the will of God as necessary for final salvation.” (What Jesus Demands From the World, p. 160).

    Endurance in faith is a condition for future salvation. Only those who endure in faith will be saved for eternity.” (R. C. Sproul, Grace Unknown, p. 198.)

    See, Does "Final Salvation" Serve as Cover for Works Salvation?


  11. Roger:

    I just did. See Piper and Sproul above.


  12. Roger:

    In this article you will find additional examples from John MacArthur.

    Lordship's "Turn from Sin" FOR Salvation

    The true crux of the LS controversy is that LS men believe and teach that a lost man cannot be born again unless faith has been front-loaded with submission, surrender and commitment to do the "good works" (Eph. 2:10) expected of a born again disciple of Christ in exchange for salvation, justification. MacArthur said it "Salvation [justification] is for this who are willing to forsake everything." There is no way to misunderstand that statement and it implication. JMac has never retracted or disavowed that.


  13. To All:

    I strongly recommend to you the following series by Dr. Rick Flanders, Salvation & Discipleship


  14. Gentlemen:

    I can provide you with example after example from the advocates of LS themselves that affirm they have corrupted the Gospel of grace. That they have made not just an upfront commitment to works expected of a born again Christian, but also the performance of those works their condition for salvation. Here is another from John MacArthur. See,

    Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page, which appears as an appendix in my book.