May 22, 2013

Archival Series: Lordship Salvation: Forgotten Truth or a False Doctrine?, Part 2

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Earlier this week we began with Part One of this two part series by Dr. Manfred Kober from 1989 as it appeared in Faith Baptist Theological Seminary's Faith Pulpit. This series is as compelling an exposure of and polemic against the egregious errors of Lordship Salvation for today as it was in 1989. I encourage you to read and prayerfully consider this important ministry of warning from Dr. Kober.

Several days ago my wife and I were discussing the matter of Lordship salvation. Our eleven-year-old daughter, Christa, overheard us and asked, “Daddy, what is Lordship salvation?” I replied that it is the view that believing in Christ as Savior is not enough. A person also needs to let Christ control every thought and action to be truly saved. Christa's perceptive reply was, “Well, Daddy, then no one can be saved, can he?”

And so it is. If God expects total submission of our body, soul, spirit, heart and mind for salvation, no one can possibly be saved. Total submission like complete sanctification is only achieved when the believer enters the presence of Christ.

It is difficult to conceive of a more crucial question in Christianity than this: What is the condition for salvation? What do I need to do to be saved? The answer that Paul gives to that question in Acts 16:31 is “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Over one hundred times in the New Testament faith is mentioned as the only condition for salvation. Yet a controversy is raging in evangelical circles. Shrill voices are telling us that individuals are not genuinely saved unless they believe and submit. In other words, salvation is dependent on faith plus dedication. One cannot be a Christian, we are told, without being a disciple. Salvation by faith alone is called “a notable heresy” (Tozer, “I Call It Heresy!” p. 9). It is labeled a "heretical and soul destroying practice" (Chantry, “Today’s Gospel Authentic or Synthetic?” p. 68). Men who teach that salvation is by faith alone are “wrongly dividing the Word of Truth” (MacArthur, “The Gospel According to Jesus.” p. 197).

In Part I we discussed I. The Contemporary Problem of Lordship Salvation, and, II. The Crucial Prerequisite for Salvation. Now let us note:

III. Some Compelling Proofs against Lordship Salvation:

MacArthur continually stresses the idea that the call to salvation is “a call to discipleship under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. To respond to that call is to become a believer. Anything less is simply unbelief” (p. 30). This position is easily refuted by Biblical examples.

A. The Example of Uncommitted Believers:

1. Lot:

The life of Lot affords an illustration of a life-long rejection of the Lordship of God. If it were not for the references to Lot as a just man in II Peter 2:7-8, one could seriously question his salvation. His continuous disobedience, compromise, and carnality did not prevent him from being positionally righteous.

2. The Ephesian believers:

The saints at Ephesus were unyielding at the time of salvation. As Christians they continued their pagan practices for at least one and a half years before they were willing to submit to the Lordship of Christ and burn their books of magic (Acts 18:19).

3. Peter:

The Apostle Peter demonstrates a definite lapse from total dedication. His words in Acts 10:14, “Not so Lord” were a sign of unyieldedness after he had been Spirit filled at Pentecost (Acts 2:4).

Lot, Peter, and the Ephesians are examples of carnal individuals who nonetheless were genuinely saved. In contrast, MacArthur says that “those unwilling to take on this yoke cannot enter into the saving rest He offers” (p. 112). He insists that “‘Faith’ that rejects His sovereign authority is really unbelief” (p. 28). MacArthur not only denies that carnal believers are genuinely saved, but he further accuses dispensationalists of inventing “this dichotomy carnal/spiritual Christian” (p. 30). “Contemporary theologians have fabricated an entire category for this type of person--‘Carnal Christian’” (p. 129).

In fact the Bible speaks of carnal believers. In I Corinthians 3, Paul addresses the Corinthian brethren as “carnal,” as “babes in Christ” who are “yet carnal . . . and walk as men” (vv. 1, 3). Genuine believers are called carnal and described as walking like the unsaved in envyings, strive, and division. Similarly, Peter says that genuine Christians can be guilty of gross crimes (I Peter 4: 15).

Why would MacArthur label this Biblical concept a contemporary invention? Is the category of carnal Christians really one of the “unwarranted divisions of truth” (p. 27) set up by dispensationalists?

B. The Exhortation of Romans 12: 1-2:

The Apostle Paul pleads with believers to submit to the Lordship of Christ. These individuals had been justified by faith (Rom. 5:1), were being led by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14) and would never be separated from the love of God (Rom. 8:39). Yet these saints were enjoined to “present their bodies a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1) rather than to serve sin or let sin rule them (Rom. 6:6). According to the Lordship Salvation view, these individuals were never genuinely saved. MacArthur says “Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything” (p. 78). “Forsaking oneself for Christ’s sake is not an optional step of discipleship subsequent to conversion: it is the ‘sine qua non’ of saving faith” (p. 135). Paul says that submission, sacrifice, and service are incumbent upon every believer after salvation. MacArthur says they are indispensable for salvation.
Proper exegesis and personal experience do not support Lordship salvation.
Thomas L. Constable is correct in observing that while “surrender is certainly God's desire for every Christian, it is not a condition of salvation. If it were, it would be a work” (Walvoord: A Tribute. “The Gospel Message” p. 209).

C. The Meaning of the title “LORD”:

The term “Lord” can indeed mean Master, but in the New Testament it has various meanings. When used in the salvation passages, Lord especially emphasizes the deity of Christ. Paul’s statement in Romans 10:9-10 is “misunderstood when it is made to support the claim that one cannot be saved unless he makes Jesus Lord of his life by a personal commitment . . . Paul is speaking of the objective lordship of Christ, which is the very cornerstone of faith” (Everett F. Harrison, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol. X, 112).

Those who insist on Lordship salvation maintain that our position is one of “easy believism” or “cheap grace.” Ryrie rightly objects to this charge by noting that “it is not easy to believe, because what we ask the unsaved person to believe is not easy. We ask that he trust a Person who lived 2,000 years ago, whom he can only know through the Bible, to forgive his sins. We’re asking that he stake his eternal destiny on this” (Basic Theology, p. 339, emphasis in the original). Salvation is free. Lordship is very costly. Faith is a gift bestowed by God upon unbelievers. Discipleship is a commanded work of obedience for believers. Both faith and discipleship are absolutely important, the one for salvation, and other for sanctification. To deny the difference between saviorhood and lordship is to distort the gospel--and that is dangerous!

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, April/May '89 - Manfred E. Kober, Th.D.

For Related Study:
Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page

Ominous Signs of Lordship's Coming Storm

Lordship's "Turn From SIN" FOR Salvation Message

Can God-Given Faith Be Defective?


  1. The distinction you make in this article seems strange to me. You need to look at the flip side of your theology. It's almost as if you are arguing FOR Christian nominalism. I don't think I'm over-simplifying it. Who was Jesus speaking to in Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30? It wasn't a believer. Now I would argue as ardently as you that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. Why would Jesus tell this young man to sell everything and follow him to be saved? Because Jesus is arresting that man (and us) to leave behind what it is we trust more than him and follow/trust Him alone. Not merely that we would be willing or desire to follow him. The crux of it is this. How can a person in whom the very Spirit of Jesus is dwelling NOT be willing or desire to follow Him? If there is no desire, there is no salvation. The issue isn't the times when we languish spiritually. Your theology is the heart of nominal, carnal "christianity". Why would we go to Scripture to find examples of backsliders, carnal and nominal "believers" to defend our backsliding? Is this what we go to for hope when we sin? If it is then we are in trouble.
    J.E. Edwards

    1. I appreciate your concerns. While I can’t speak for the author I will offer some response to your comments.

      See, The Rick Young Ruler

      You asked, “The crux of it is this. How can a person in whom the very Spirit of Jesus is dwelling NOT be willing or desire to follow Him?”

      Yes, if we are talking about a person who has been born again and of course possesses the indwelling Holy Spirit then there should be a desire to live for the Lord Jesus Christ as disciple of Christ. We must not forget that there will be the warfare of the two natures. The Bible is very clear on that in Romans 6 & 7 for example.

      The crux of the Lordship Salvation is NOT what one should do as a born again disciple of Christ. The true crux of the controversy is that advocates of LS condition the reception of the gift of salvation on a lost man's up front commitment to live as an obedient disciple of Christ in exchange for salvation. That is a promise of future works for the promise of eternal life. That is a works salvation, which is Lordship Salvation’s false, non-saving message that corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3) and frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).

      I also encourage you to read, John MacArthur’s Discipleship Gospel

      Kind regards,


    2. I'd like to add that- Christ has done it all! The lost man does not have to become a committed disciple of Christ to become a born again disciple of Jesus Christ. Salvation is NOT conditioned on a promise to become a committed disciple of Christ to become a born again disciple of Christ. Yet, that IS the salvation/justification teaching of Lordship Salvation. LS is works salvation. Salvation is by faith, believing in who Christ is and what He did for me that I could not for myself.


    3. I'm sorry to comment anonymously, but I don't have any of those accounts. Your comment:
      "I'd like to add that- Christ has done it all! The lost man does not have to become a committed disciple of Christ to become a born again disciple of Jesus Christ."
      I don't find that distinction in the Bible. Maybe it's a product of our affluent, American Christianity. The Bible does assume that believers will struggle with sin (Gal. 5), but why would we want to remove the weight of the words Jesus spoke to the rich, young ruler? I've heard (fundamental) preachers say that it's possible for a person to hear a gospel presentation on their door-step, pray to receive Christ and that person never darken the door of a church, open a Bible or exhibit any sign that the Spirit of Jesus indwells them. Yet, that person will be with Christ eternally? I'm not God and I pass no judgment, but I can't find that anywhere in Scripture. James talks clearly about that. Heaven is going to be a place for people who love one else. If someone hears a gospel presentation and has no love for Jesus, they cannot trust Him and they have not understood the gospel.
      God Bless,
      J.E. Edwards

    4. Brother Edwards:

      Appreciate the come back. Just a few comments and links to tie this off.

      First, there is a very clear distinction in the Bible between the doctrines of salvation and discipleship. “The major issue and crux of the doctrinal controversy is over Lordship’s definition of how the lost are born again. Concerns in regard to the discipleship of genuine believers are an important discussion, but for me that is not where the main controversy lies. The crux of the Lordship debate is over the requirements for salvation, not the results of salvation.” (IDOTG, p. 47).

      Second: As for the person who never shows any sign of the indwelling Spirit of God: I would also have serious reservations about the realty of a genuine conversation.

      You might want to familiarize yourself with the most egregious reductionist assault on the gospel ever introduced to the NT church age by one of its own. I refer to the “Crossless” gospel that was originated by the late Zane Hodges and still taught by a small cell of theological extremists in the Grace Evangelical Society. Bob Wilkin is the executive director.

      On the Book of James please read, Summary of LS From a Single Page

      And finally if I may: Please consider reading my book. I cover all of the topics you’ve raised in substantial detail and appeal to the Bible for my answers to Lordship Salvation.

      Kind regards,


  2. Here is Brother George Zeller’s foreword to my book. I think this succinct statement sets out the crux of the LS controversy.

    The church purchased by Jesus Christ must have a clear understanding of salvation by grace through faith. It is the very heart of the gospel message. Some have turned the grace of our God into lasciviousness or unbridled lust (Jude 4), thinking that since they are saved and going to heaven they can live any way they please. Others, rightly concerned about rampant carnality in the church, have distorted the simple gospel message and have burdened the sinner with additional requirements that extend well beyond simple faith in the crucified and risen One. The unsaved person is told that if he does not turn from sin, surrender, have a willingness to obey, fulfill the demands of discipleship, etc., then he cannot be saved. Sadly, the focus is turned away from the all sufficient, finished work of Christ which is the sinner’s only resting place. Lou Martuneac has presented the biblical balance between these two erroneous and extreme positions. In this confused theological climate, his book is like a breath of fresh air and deserves a wide reading.”

  3. Thanks for the interaction, Lou. I know I've been pressing you here, but I think WE have created a distinction the Bible doesn't make but assumes. Your statement: "there is a very clear distinction in the Bible between the doctrines of salvation and discipleship" is what I'm talking about. WE have made that up, the Bible never speaks that way. There seems to be this underlying current today that it is possible to be a Christian and not a disciple of Jesus. You don't have to read MacArthur (as I haven't) to see it. Yeah, I've done some reading on Zane Hodges. Trusting Jesus isn't less than believing the gospel message. Trusting Jesus is more.
    God Bless,
    J.E. Edwards